“Papa, can I come back to you?” She murmured hesitantly in her cellphone, standing in a corner of her verandah, just outside her marital home. Sudha spoke as softly, as she could, lest her husband would hear her conversations. Sudha’s father, Mr Kumar just knew what her daughter was saying, but he pretended ignorant and said “sure beta, do come, is Shailesh also coming with you?”. Sudha understands it clearly how she, her feelings and her thoughts have been crushed all her life by this very tone of ignorance by her parents. Still, she gathers herself and says “No, I am coming alone”. there was a pause, but Mr Kumar again echoed “ok, come”.
Next morning, Sudha was there, in the simply furnished flat, where she had spent her entire childhood. It looked empty with only her old parents there, as her brother had studied, married and settled abroad. She could sense that the welcome was superficial, she was unwelcome without her husband and with her two big bags (which said I have come to stay, even if you don’t ask me to). The smiles of greetings had faded in a few minutes of her arrival.
“But, what is the problem?” Mother, Mrs Kumar asked. Sudha’s blood boiled, but she had decided not to lose her cool, so she answered with weighed words, ” Ma, you still need to ask me? Does a woman needs to be beaten black and blue to prove, she is exploited? I have no way to prove to you that I am taunted and teased on one pretext or the other. In last 10 years, the issues have changed from how bad was the marriage arrangements, how little and cheap gifts I got for them, how bad I look, how inefficient I am in the kitchen, how useless I am as a mother and now…. I really don’t understand why I had to study and be financially independent, to be taunted and ridiculed by a man, just because I am married to him, a man who himself could not anything in his life? Why should I pay the price of his failures and his fragile huge ego? No, Ma, I cannot take it anymore. I hid all this from you and Papa for a long time so that you don’t get hurt and worried. I wanted to be a good daughter, but not anymore. If you as parents cannot read the unspoken words of your child, then I will have to shout and scream to tell you. So, please let me live here. And yes, Shailesh did not let me bring our child along. I guess, you’ll have to talk to him about it or else, court would be the answer.”
Kumars were not stunned, they knew it, but kept denying it for all those ten years, believing that one day their daughter will also learn to deny her marital problems. But Sudha could not, despite all her efforts, all she wanted was to stay away from that man or else someday, her hatred, her silent anger would make her violent enough to kill him. She broke into tears. Why she was being made to say all that everyone knew, all these years?
Her parents consulted each other, they shared great understanding, and pat came the reply from Sudha’s mother, in her most practical tone- “We live in a society, and we have to answer them, how can we keep a married daughter? what will the society say? How will we face them? And how will you live alone all your life? And if you want to live here, you have to contribute some money from your salary and also do household work. And about your child, let me tell you clearly, he is the lineage of that family, he is not our blood, why should we take his responsibility? If you want to separate out from your husband Sahilesh, forget about your child, let Shailesh and his parents take the responsibility. ”
The words first boiled her blood, and then chilled it, completely. She wanted to shout back “WHO IS MORE IMPORTANT YOUR CHILD OR THE SOCIETY? AND IS MY SON NOBODY TO YOU? HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT MA?”
Sudha, with frozen eyes and clenched fists, asked her parents for her right as a daughter in that house, where she was born. That was the final straw on the camel’s hump, the hump of superficial support given to daughters when they are married off. As a practical woman that she was, before being a mother, said “listen, we have already spent a few lakhs on your marriage, that’s it, you do not have any right on this house, talk about all this when we are dead.”
The whole day had passed, talking about these issues, Sudha slept at night with tears slipping out of her eyes all the time. All these years, she bore the brunt only to protect these parents, and yes because she was so weak, she was taught to be week, and today, when she wants to break the shell of this fake marriage, her very parents have refused any help to her. Her mind was flooded with memories of her past, which had all the shades, white, black and grey…..
Next morning, Sudha picked up her bags, with a heart that had a broken picture of her parents, her eyes refusing to meet theirs, tears welled up, but with head held high, she said “Goodbye” to her parents and walked towards the auto stand. But this goodbye was not the sobbing goodbye she had said to her parents and family at the time of Vidai (the ceremonial farewell to daughter in Hindu marriages) on her marriage day. That goodbye said by her parents was a token farewell to say, girl, you are becoming a part of another man’s family; but we are always there for you.
This was the real goodbye, the final goodbye, akhiri (final) Vidai. She murmured to herself, as she walked on the road “aaj sachmuch vida kar diya Ma” (Mother, today you really bid farewell to me).
This walk was the march towards releasing herself from the imagined support system of her parents, it was a journey towards snatching back her self respect from the man, who just because was wedded to her believed he had the right to humiliate and torture her. This was the final goodbye. Sudha never turned back, she never looked back, she was not bothered now, she knew her way. She could walk strong because she had actually said Goodbye.
A Restless Mind