The weather was pleasant and talking about nineteen to the dozen thing, Boogie and I were walking down towards his badminton classes, when somebody suddenly held my hand from the back. Turning around a saw a face I had known long ago!
The girl used to work with me almost a life time back. Then she was always in sarees, with the thick line of vermillion dotting her forehead, the mandatory marital signs for Bengali women of Sankha and Pola always in her hands, even when she would be working. She was a demure and shy girl when she had come to work first with a recommendation from someone. She knew nothing. Could hardly speak and belonged to the remotest tribes of the Technically Backward Class or TBC as I call. I too am one of them... but she was worse!
With a couple of months down, she hesitantly came to me and asked if we had some vacancy in our accounts department and if I could put in a word for her husband. We had and yes, I could. But first I needed to meet the husband.
The husband came. A man almost double her age. Almost blind in one eye and ugly in looks and soul. I was appalled! This was the husband of the petite and vivacious girl whom I see every day?! Yes it was, and that is the match her parents had ordained for her. I couldn’t recommend him, I told her, my heart heavy. I heard that he had gone ahead and met the powers to be somehow, making the girl invite the top rung people in their house so on and so forth. He managed to get the job.
I moved on, but gossip reached me, that he was using this girl to further his position and that a certain somebody was a regular at their house etc. another couple of years, and I heard that the husband had done a fraud. I lost all touch.
Cut to a decade later, Mahuya stood in front of me, in a pair of jeans, a short bob, sans the thick vermillion smearing her forehead – marking her as someone’s property, wearing a baby pink jacket. She looked good enough to be my daughter’s senior. The transformation was phenomenal. I started on a slow smile and it filled me! ‘What have you done? Where have you been’? I ask. She keeps holding on to my hand and asks if we can sit somewhere and talk… I promise to drop Boogie and meet her. She says she is standing right there.
I meet her on my way back, hesitantly asking if things were all right. She laughs twinkly and says that she is marrying! I look at her askance. She says that it took years and years for her to make her parents realize that social taboos and family heirlooms (she belonged to one of the oldest families in Kolkata) didn’t matter when it came to her life. After a much fought bitter battle, they gave in and here she was.
I meet her would be husband too, and her daughter while she came out of her tuition. They looked happy together and I promised to be in touch. She took my coordinates so that she can invite me to her marriage.
While writing this, the thought that she could rise up against a mean, ugly in soul husband fills me with hope. The hope that there are women all over who are rebelling against the tyrannical ways that the society or certain set relationships had ordained for them. Why, I wonder does one need to live a life without the basic decency, love or respect that a relationship commands? Is it the financial insecurities or social taboos or parental pressure? Have we been brainwashed to believe that marriages are sacrosanct and irrevocable?
In this day and age, when the concept of an afterlife is almost diminished, where people are battling against time and is living life to the full, why are there still women apprehensive of giving life a second chance? When the younger next-gen are using abbreviations like YOLO, or You Only Live Once, why is there still an almost insurmountable amount of taboo regarding this?
Don’t all of us deserve a second chance at happiness? After all we only live once, don’t we? There may be relationships which have gone past expiry dates, relationships which are nothing but an arrangement. Relationships where strangers inhabit a common space they showcase as “HOME”. Abusive, loveless relationships, or mere adjustments for the sake of a so called greater picture.
I wish Mahuya and all other women like her will take that leap of faith. They should have that belief in themselves. The belief that they deserve and can have a better life, that it is this one life that they have, and it is this one life that is to be lived. That there is a Bridge Across Forever.
Gather Rose While Ye May
Love and Light.