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People say to think of wrinkles and grey hair as signs of wisdom. You often feign to project yourself like that wise old woman who at sixty-two has sagacity and pearls of life-altering anecdotes. But you fail!
You waddle towards the kitchen and stand there as the orange-hued sunrays slither inside, parking themselves in a lone nook of the kitchen. The rays warm you.
The water in the pan gurgles as the gnarled-looking knob of ginger seems to gawk at you almost gingerly. You hold your morning cup of tea and perch on the coffee-coloured couch.
Without peeking at the clock- the one with the picture of running horses- you know it must be seven-thirty. Mundane sounds begin to erupt from below your balcony. The sounds of children going to school and women going for walks.
The subtle rustles of newspapers and the recurrent sounds of doorbell. You take a deep breath. Then another. Inadvertently your thumb and finger synchronize as if practicing a mudra. Yes, pranayama wards away all ailments, they say. It ensures a long life.
Longevity of life suddenly doesn’t look enticing to you. You rub your hands and turn on the radio station. Lata Mangeshkar croons, ‘Tere Bina Jiya Jaye Na…’. You feel a pang of anguish stabbing at your chest.
It rips you and before you know it a lone tear dribbles down your cheek falling like a rivulet on your cotton saree. You stare at the space next to you on the couch with longing eyes.
Your reverie is broken by a thud sound. The morning newspaper has arrived. You grab your straying hair and secure them in a tight bun. The strands are greyer now with an exception of a few black ones. You peer at your reflection on your way to the door and grimace.
The few black hair seems to be deriding you. People say to think of wrinkles and grey hair as signs of wisdom. You often feign to project yourself like that wise old woman who at sixty-two has sagacity and pearls of life-altering anecdotes. But, for the life of you, you fail.
As you flip the newspaper, a big flashy advertisement catches your attention. The sepia hue that was characteristic of newspapers of yore is long gone. And today it dazzles all the more as red hearts and red roses leap out of the pages like a rabbit from a magician’s hat. Valentine’s Day week is making its presence felt and there is mush splattered across the newspaper.
As you smirk looking daggers at those grotesque roses, the advertisement shrieks of free dinner for sexagenarian couples at an exquisite-looking restaurant.
Yet again you are reminiscent of the years that galloped faster than you would have wished. You are reminded of those surprise birthday gifts, the furtive glances which as time went by metamorphosized into birthday parties of the kids and family celebrations. But your heart did flutter when in his own way he expressed love.
When he slept on the other side of the bed knowing you read near the bedside lamp before going to sleep, you felt loved. The early morning medication was never missed as he was always there reminding you to not forget.
Love transitioned and took so many shapes in the forty years you spent with him. And when he was gone, one day without any forewarning (does death ever gives one?) each day became like a cliff which you climbed alright but could never look around when you reached the top. It did not matter to you what lay ahead.
For you, life came to a standstill when he left you on that wretched day.
Love was now akin to an expired medicine. It helped you walk the path keeping all the maladies at bay but once it reached its expiration date, it was done for. The expiration date had arrived for you the day he died. Children were there for you but they had their own lives to lead. And you never wanted to burden them.
Pushing the newspaper aside, you pick up the book that is lying on the brown center table. The Bridges of Madison County is a thin book that you finished in a few hours. The significance of the lovey-dovey month of February was not lost on the members of your society book club as well. Hence, this book found its way and became the month’s pick.
The monthly book club meet is the only thing that you look forward to with anticipation. But rom-coms are something you steer clear of as it doesn’t make sense at all now. You feel like someone who got her share of love and now it is just putting one foot after the other and prodding your way through life.
The Book club’s monthly meeting happens to be today. You look into the large ebony mirror and turn your face away in a jiffy. Once upon a time, you preened in front of the mirror and your kohl-eyed eyes were your most admired feature. But not anymore.
Adjusting your unostentatious saree, you step out of your humble abode. You amble towards the elevator and almost bump into someone.
You look up.
A man with a grey beard and a big hat stares at you. You excuse yourself and try to look away. He smiles. His magnetic smile and flamboyance make you ill at ease. You feel knots forming in the pit of your stomach. Your hands turn clammy.
You meet him again at the book club meeting. You are made privy to the fact that he has recently moved to the flat adjacent to you. As someone living a cocooned and timetabled existence, you are not surprised that you have hitherto never met your new next-door neighbour.
The book discussion commences in full swing. To your bewilderment you find yourself peeking at him more than once. The knots in the stomach are replaced by butterflies. You are taken aback. You mentally reprimand yourself.
It doesn’t help when he cites his favourite quote from the book, “The human heart has a way of making itself large again even after it’s been broken into a million pieces.” You listen to him with rapt attention. His lopsided grin inadvertently makes you blush like a teenager.
You come home and make an attempt to grapple with these newfound feelings. You grab the old photo album and revisit the memories of him- your husband and companion for forty long years. You love him. Death cannot obliterate it.
His love is imprinted on your heart. Then why do you suddenly feel the urge to go to the house adjacent to you and talk to the man with the lopsided smile? You take a deep breath. Do people get infatuated at the age of sixty?
The next few days you bump into him umpteen times. Was he looking to bump into you? More than once you felt it wasn’t a coincidence. Then one day you are in the elevator together. He strikes up a conversation and you come to know he is a divorcee, he stays alone. He paints and reads. He invites you over. You find yourself knocking at his door the very next day.
You talk incessantly. You laugh. You don’t just smile but you laugh uproariously at his subtle and witty humour. He compliments you for your tasteful sarees. Your cheeks turn a crimson red.
You come home and weep your heart out. You look at your reflection in the mirror. You smirk when you see your kohl-coloured eyes. Yes, you decked up today. The red bindi sits on your forehead mocking you. You look beautiful. You cry again. You smudge the kohl vehemently. You do not want to look pretty for the guy with the lopsided smile.
Thereon you are mostly cooped up inside your flat. You avoid his gaze like a disease. Till today…
The doorbell rings and almost jiggles you from your afternoon siesta. You wake up and move towards the door with languor written all over you. The lopsided grin flashes in front of you like a rainbow which sketches the sky bright all of a sudden.
“Mrs. Mehta, do you have a spare gas cylinder? I was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. But, then the gas ran out.” He smiles.
You hesitate but just for a second and soon he is in your kitchen. He effortlessly drags a gas cylinder to his flat. He also asks you to join him for tea. He is a tea fanatic like you. The aroma of the ‘best ginger tea in town’ (as proclaimed by him) wafts through the aesthetic living room. He loves to cook for himself and eat enjoying his own company. But it wouldn’t hurt if you join him, he states unabashedly.
You talk about The Bridges of Madison County, the conversation veers towards love and infidelity. You agree and then you disagree. Soon you realize that the distance between the two of you has been bridged both literally and figuratively.
He clasps your hand and you do not move away. The night is magical and you find yourself gushing and smiling from ear to ear. You look at the mini calendar on the mantlepiece.
It is Valentine’s Day. On a whim, you tell him about the free Valentine’s dinner advertisement. He leaps up and asks you to accompany him for dinner. He can go anywhere for a free meal; he says as he winks.
Soon you are eating a candlelight dinner with the man with the lopsided smile. You feel guilt gnawing at the innermost chasms of your being. But the happiness that his company brings, shoves that voice of guilt into a corner.
He tells you about his ex-wife. He opens up and his vulnerability is laid bare during those few minutes amidst the dim ambiance of the candle-lit table.
You find yourself talking about your husband. You realize that up until now you have never spoken of him in the past tense. This is new ground for you. Leaning on to the past and accusing destiny of all that’s wrong in your life has become your comfort zone.
You crack your knuckles to hide your discomfiture. But after an hour you feel light-headed as if someone has taken a load off your chest. You drink a hearty glass of wine after a hiatus. There are young and old couples in the restaurant all around you.
Red roses and red balloons make for most of the décor today. But unlike earlier you do not find roses grotesque, rather they seem exquisite. For once you take in the air of gaiety that emanates from the room as well as the man sitting next to you.
You look at the man with the lopsided grin and heedlessly adjust your bun that is hanging low almost touching the nape of your neck.
You come back home gleaming. You sit on your brown coloured couch and on a whim pick up the family album. You sift through his pictures. But this time around you do not feel that familiar pang of sadness. Something has shifted in you.
You stand in front of the mirror and preen at your kohl-coloured eyes and the bright red bindi. You let your hair out of the bun and let it fly free. The grey tresses shine with radiance. You put on the radio.
Lata Mangeshkar croons in her melodious voice yet again, “Aajkal Pao zameen par nahi parte mere…”. You laugh and sing along because the Gods of music couldn’t have said it better.
Image source: Pamela J Peters, free and edited on CanvaPro
Meha has worked as a Business Analyst in an elite IT firm and as a full time professor in management colleges. Having earned an MBA degree in Human Resource Management and an MA degree in read more...
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"There is a story and a vision which makes us gravitate towards cinema. Even as we worked as assistants on ads, we realised that cinema was our true calling," say Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh Raseen.
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Let me introduce to you the talented designer duo who have worked on these, and can be considered today’s upcoming costume designers for the screen. Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh.
Having studied at NIFT, Gunpreet Kaur Mann sent her portfolio out to several designers. Her first gig was as an assistant stylist with Manoshi and Rushi, who also happen to be a designer duo. She worked on an ad film starring Saif Ali Khan and eventually landed a full time job with designer Vikram Phadnis. Years of experience as assistant costume designer followed, which eventually led her to getting a break.
A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
There is never a day when she pushes off her own burdens. She knows not to give up on people she loves. Women in general, are givers by nature and hence, give without asking anything in return. They have been the care givers and lovers since centuries however receive no appreciation.
It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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