by Mini Kapur
It was a hot sultry evening. Simran sat in her extravagant, plush room gazing at herself in the mirror as she combed her long lustrous hair. She was getting ready to go to her friend Anisha`s engagement party and wanted to look perfect for the evening. She finished brushing her hair and leaving it open, her cascading locks falling over her face. She lined her big oval eyes with kajal, enhanced her eyelashes with mascara, crimson red lipstick with her zardosi black and white outfit and she was raring to go. She glanced at the watch. Naveen would be there any minute. Naveen her faithful beau who loved her immensely and unconditionally. He had proposed to her twice but she was reluctant to say yes. She feared marriage would destroy her relationship.
Ding dong. The bell shook her out of her reverie. She opened the door and flung her arms around Naveen.
”Wow !!! you look gorgeous Simran.”
They reached the party late as overcome by their carnal feelings they ended up spending some time in the apartment. Simran blushed at the memory of Naveen’s soft lips against hers. The party was in full swing when they reached, loud music blared and people’s feet moved in tandem with the music. The ambience was refreshing and rejuvenating.
Simran loved these expensive parties, she enjoyed the company, the high society life and pulsating music, People dressed in designer clothes carrying their Loui Vitton and Guccis, men dressed in Armani, with grey goose, single malt and colourful cocktails flowing with ease. Parties seemed to be an emotional outlet for her where she forgot her fears and worries. She was doing well in life and her six digit salary took care of her financial needs effortlessly. But there was a void embedded deep in her, a never ending loneliness that stayed eternally clutching at her heart. She missed her mother and longed to see her, longed for her love but things were complicated right now. She suddenly realized Naveen was not with her. She scanned the crowd but couldn’t spot him anywhere. She decided to go to the bar and help herself with her drink. She sipped her drink in slow measures and felt its soothing effect in her mind. Her mind wandered back to the time when she had met Naveen. He had swept her off her feet instantly. He was charming, intelligent and loved her immensely. One could define it as an unconditional love. He had been very lucky for her as within two months of meeting him she had landed a prestigious job in one of the most reputed companies of the world. She had performed well and her boss and colleagues were in awe of her. Her boss loved her accuracy and precision in her work. Some colleagues were jealous but she didn’t care; she knew she was good at her job.
“Hi gorgeous!” A voice called out she turned around to see Anisha standing there.”Naveen is chatting with your boss. Come along what are you doing here.” Her voice had a nonchalant tone.”
“You must be mistaken, Anisha. Naveen doesn’t know my boss . They have never met.”
Anisha looked at her surprised. “I have seen Naveen in important meetings with your boss.”
“I think you are mistaken.” Simran lost her footing for a second and decided to go and see for herself.
There behind the bar Naveen and her boss chatted animatedly like two friends cheering their drinks over a plate of chicken tikka .Naveen noticed her and his smile vanished.
“Naveen what are you doing here? Do you know sir?”questioned Simran.”
“ I had meant to introduce you today..but seems you know each other, seems you are friends…am I missing something here?” and after another volley of questions, Simran baffled at Naveen`s silence peered into his eyes looking for an explanation.
”Anisha says you come for meetings to office with sir too?”
Naveen looked flustered. “Let’s take a walk Simran.”
Simran turned around losing her balance. She had gulped her vodka too fast and now her heart moaned in pain and her mind swirled. Naveen slipped his hand into hers and lead her out of the booming party. Thousand thoughts raced through her mind. How could Naveen do this to me? So once again I am useless just as my mother had predicted. I couldn’t even procure a job for myself. Her mother`s words rang in her ears echoing deep down to her very core, her very existence.: You can`t do anything in life; you are a useless girl.”
Naveen opened the car door for her. She sat inside mechanically losing all sense of reality. “I didn’t need anyone`s charity, I wanted to make it on my own.” She paused. “You have ruined everything completely. Everything. You got me the job. Why? I didn’t ask you to.” She blurted.
Naveen moved closer taking her hands in his. Simran shrugged, pushing him away. Naveen`s face contorted in pain, his eyes stared blankly at her. “I wanted to tell you but it has been so difficult to communicate with you. If I would have told you would have never taken the job. Believe me I just gave your cv to Sanjit. You got the job on your own merit. You have proved yourself , you got your company a great deal. That is what Sanjit was telling me the company has made a lot of profit.” But Simran wasn’t listening. Her mind just repeated like a melancholy song playing again and again. Simran, you are useless you are useless.
“Simran.” Naveen shook her by the arm. “Are you listening Simran. Please don’t do this.”
“Naveen I need some time to think about this. I need to go. I need to be alone. Can you please drop me home?” she said calmly but with an assertive tone.
Simran`s calmness and poise irritated Naveen.
“Simran. I am here for you, please talk to me.”
“Naveen, I said I want to go home.”
Naveen put the key in the ignition and the car revved up drowning Simran’s rage and Naveen’s frustration in the sound.
Naveen had never been able to understand why his love wasn’t enough for Simran. She was always running away, searching something. Her eyes filled with pain wrenched Naveen`s heart. But he could not take this anymore. She needed to resolve her emotions, let him in or their relationship was doomed. He dropped her outside her home. She got off the car never looking back to say bye to him. He clenched his teeth, his hands tightening his grip on the steering wheel. He felt helpless.
Simran changed out of her lehanga into her cotton pyjamas and lay on bed. Useless, useless echoed through her mind. And she began to drift. She was 15, she was pretty and demure, her heart full of kindness and dreams and love but, fearful of things. Her home was always a cacophony of sounds, of fights, of resentments and bitterness brewing everywhere.
It was somewhere in June. Her best friend Suhani called her. “Simran, Shikha didi had a baby girl this morning. I am so happy I am going to the hospital. You come along too.” Suhani sounded delirious with joy, her happiness almost contagious. I replied in affirmative. I told my mother and ran out of the house to meet her at the bus stop. Mother told me sternly not to be late. The sun was setting and darkness was falling around us by the time we reached the hospital. Suhani’s entire family was there. The baby was adorable. Amidst the oohs and aahs everyone made on seeing the baby and the celebratory mood of the whole family, I completely lost track of time. By the time we left the hospital it was 9. I was in a happy mood, but little did I know what awaited me at home. It was almost 9.30 when I rang the bell. My mother opened the door. She looked angry, fierce, her eyes puffing red, and before I realized I got a hard slap on my face. Tears streamed down my cheeks.
“What happened mom? Why did u slap me?”
“You shameless girl!” My mother’s voice reverberated in the whole house.”Do girls of good, decent families come back at such a late hour? What will the neighbours say? What will your uncle and aunt think? What example are you setting for your sister? Your father is so upset.”
I entered the room to see my father holding his head in his hands wailing away. I was flabbergasted and said meekly, “I haven’t done anything wrong I was merely at the hospital. Why r u both so angry.”
“You insolent girl,” shouted my mother. “You have brought shame to us, you useless girl. You can never do anything right in your life.”
By now I was weeping uncontrollably , not understanding what wrong I had done. I felt confused. I looked at my father but to my dismay he looked away. The disgusting, disappointed look on my parents’ faces made me feel like I had failed them morally. I was just 15, an innocent girl and I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I didn’t know, didn’t realize that my transformation from a child into a woman was a matter of deep concern to my parents. I was not a child anymore and my parents tactics were means to control and handle me to protect me from the outside world. They didn’t realize that they were crushing my innocent spirit, killing my confidence in the process, and that also for the fear of what society would say. Was society that important? Was it more important than a girl’s dreams, a girl`s feelings, her desires and aspirations. This was just the beginning and I didn’t know the next 9 years of my life would be hell for me. Every time I would fall short of my parent`s expectations of being a morally upright daughter adhering to the so called dictates and norms of our shallow society, where a girl can`t breathe, but dies inch by inch, day by day as I was told again and again, “You are good for nothing, you don’t know anything. You can’t go here, you can’t do this, you can’t say this, you can’t feel that,” as if I didn’t have feelings of my own. With these thoughts and memories playing like a movie in her mind Simran finally fell asleep.
It was about 1 in the morning when Simran got up with a splitting headache. Her whole body ached. She picked up the phone and called at the office, saying she was sick. Fear gnawed at her. She felt nervous and restless. What was she to do? Will these memories ever stop haunting her? She was an adult now and didn’t need her parents approval but everything she did her mother`s voice nagged her, “You are good for nothing.” So everything had been a struggle. People knew her as the confident, enterprising business woman but inside she was broken. She had to work upon her confidence every day. It was a struggle and now she felt exhausted. She saw two missed calls from Naveen. Naveen had always been very encouraging and appreciated her efforts at the drop of a hat as if in some eerie way he knew she needed to hear that. Her life had changed dramatically after she had met Naveen. He treated her with a lot of respect and listened to her opinions. Naveen`s parents too adored her and loved her simplicity and kind heartedness. They made her feel loved and appreciated in a way which her own parents could never do. Naveen encouraged her to take her own decisions unlike her parents who just forced their viewpoint on her. Naveen may have got her the job but it was her sheer hard work and determination to succeed that she had performed well. Her mother`s remarks had actually pushed her to work harder. She needed to prove to herself that she was competent, efficient and not useless. And Naveen had supported her whole heartedly. He had never questioned her mood swings and her detached attitude towards him. She was scared of commitment. She fretted thinking of the times when all Naveen wanted was her love and she had pushed him away. It was time to break the wall around her. Life was compensating her now by showering her with so much love.
She picked up the phone. “Naveen.”
“Simran, how are you, dear?”
She spoke again controlling her tears. “ Naveen , I am sorry but do you think you can forgive me.”
A pause, a deep silence and then Naveen answered. “Yes.”
Simran mustered up her courage and looked at herself in the mirror in front of her bed. This was the moment of change, she was going to let happiness in, she was going to let love in her life, and so she spoke in a soft, pleading, voice. “Naveen I love you.” She paused again, measuring the few words. “Will you marry me?”
A pause ensued at the other end. Simran’s heart fluttered. Her palms became moist. She dabbed her forehead with the sheet.
Naveen’s voice was slow and measured before it reached a crescendo. “YES. YES. And YES SIMRAN. A thousand times YES.” Happiness meshed with his voice.
Sunshine flowed in Simran’s bedroom, the wind breezed in and somewhere a mynah cooed and Simran smiled to herself.