Sunday, 10 June 2012

Short Story 2012 Longlist, Niharika Pandit

Right or Wrong?

She had stayed at home all afternoon, waiting for the children to come home after school, so that she could tell them that the giver of ‘gifts’ was gone. She wanted to tell them that there would be no bruises anymore; no unending nights, no longing for a better life. She wanted to tell her children; she wanted to celebrate their triumph. But something held her back. Something unknown, unusual.

Roma was forcibly married to Arun. Her parental background was never too ostentatious. They were simple people maimed by financial crisis. A pile of loans on her mother’s name and a drunkard father; this marked the beginning of Roma’s sterile career. She worked with an overseas firm, let go her education. A bright future in opposition to a sterile career! But she never had an option. A girl who topped her batch, had intellectual potency was just another damsel in distress then. In a couple of years, things changed. Now she could earn enough to support her mother; her family.

Things were beginning to get better when started buzzing her relatives “Sudha. She is of age now. Look for a suitor before it gets too late. I have a friend who is looking for a perfect match for her only son. How about fixing them up?” reverberated her aunt’s words.

Roma was a free spirit. She could never survive the chains of matrimony, she knew. Technically less educated, she was intelligent and of pivotal importance in her home. Still she was made to marry in the age of twenty, situations were so. While fate abandoned her, she cast off her life; in the hands of those who made her slog. For whom, women were no less than objects of pleasure and once done with gratification, had to be thrown away. And Arun was one of the kinds.

Initial years with Arun were pleasing. Evenings were fun; they usually went out for dinner every other day. Arun catered to every single need of Roma. Everything changed in a bit; lifestyle, priorities. It was a princess like experience. She had never felt it before, never lived this way. Roma could experience a sense of freedom; her life, her house and her husband. What more would a woman want?

But the evening of December 23rd changed her life in many ways. She was happy; she was pregnant. Arun would be happy too, she knew. She was excited to break the news. That evening would be epic, she knew. After all, things were getting better and a child in their lives would mean a lot. To Roma, it meant a lot.

Restlessness was at its peak. She wanted to tell Arun as soon as she could. “Should I call him up? But he must be busy with work. I can wait for another hour. He will be back soon” thought Roma. And this reality was bliss. She decked up, wore his favourite perfume. She knew he would be happy.
When Arun stepped in, she couldn’t wait. She broke the news out of sheer excitement. But Arun stood there unmoved, unaffected by everything; Roma, his child, rather appalled at the reality. “What makes you worried Arun? Aren’t you happy? Are you worried as to how we would manage our child? Answer me Arun!” asked Roma.

But he said nothing. His loathsome eyes tore her apart and an undefined silence pervaded her thoughts. Time and its conspiracies. All promises seemed like a vicious lie.
Arun remained silent, then and forever. Every single day worsened their relationship. Arun never wanted kids, not even a family. Roma was happy; she hadn’t realised what lay behind her happiness; how farce their relationship was.

In next few weeks, she was exposed to the stark reality of her marriage; Arun was in another relationship with his female colleague. She stood there, silent, unable to comprehend the situation. And how could she? She was pregnant with his child and she loved him dearly; time and its conspiracies.
“Arun! How could you do this to me? I am pregnant with your kid? What is wrong with you?” asked Roma.
“I told you I never wanted kids but you were adamant. Things were going smoothly but you had to make it worse!” retorted Arun.
In a minute, her world had shattered; castles built in air had dismantled. Roma stood there all alone; trying to figure out what went wrong, trying to stay calm, trying to be loved once again. But all in vain.

The next few months were terrible. She was pregnant without anyone to look after her. And Arun’s negligence was at its peak. The time when she needed him the most was when she didn’t have him at all. Initially, he tried to persuade her to get an abortion done but Roma’s resistance worsened Arun’s behaviour. He started coming home late; there were times when he didn’t turn up at all. He used to remain absorbed in alcohol; was too open about his affair. And of all this mess, Roma was the target. Her life had become miserable. But there was something she lived for; someone who would care for her, love her. And that someone would be her own child; the bearer of her bruises, the yield of her pain; her child. And this hope made her live.

Was she being selfish? Having a child was another way to soothe her wounds? She knew things wouldn’t change. She knew Arun would still ill-treat her. They why trouble another soul? Arun would equally ill-treat her child or maybe more. She knew it. Then why? Such thoughts often bewildered her. But she wanted someone. Maybe she was being selfish but to detach a part of her was something she would never have done. She wanted her child, desperately.

She was right. Arun became careless. Along with turning up late, he now started drinking.  And yet again Roma became the victim of his frustration.
“Arun, I am in my eighth month and I need you. Why are you doing this to me? Isn’t this your child too? Am I the only one responsible?” she often asked him.

“I told you I never wanted a family but you didn’t understand.” was the only reply she would get.
“And why don’t you understand? I want my child. And I want you to act like a responsible father. I didn’t make a fuss of your relationship with Reena that doesn’t mean I will take everything you give me. I don’t want my child to grow up with someone like you. What about the love that we had? Did you never love me? Was it all sexual, which you got from me? Answer me Arun. How can you be so heartless? Your child is in me, our child Arun. All those promises, do they mean nothing to you? Answer me Arun. How I am to handle this?”

And that was the night of her life. She was his victim; the victim of a wild, drunk beast. She lamented but none could hear her cry. Her screams were condoned by tacit silence. And there she lay; helpless, devastated. Following nights were no great. Arun used to return home drunk. And every night Roma was his victim. But things began to change; Roma found a reason to live. She had someone; not one but two. Yes, she gave birth to twins. After all those smirks, life had finally smiled at her. She had smiled. Arun was the same but her priorities changed. 

Nurturing kids isn’t an easy task and at every step you grow up, become mature. Roma experienced something similar. Her motherhood was mature and much loved. But Arun’s behaviour never changed however, she had found another reason to live; a support; true giver of love.

The twins gradually grew older and for them Roma was their world; their life. She never let them feel the need of having a father and Arun meant nothing to them. The three had their own life to live, they had a reason to smile and a reason to cry, none of which was Arun a part of. But his behaviour never altered. He became more brutal. Along with Roma, the twins too were his victims now. Nights were horrifying. Every night Arun would lock himself with Roma and beat her up while the twins tried hard to break the door open. Why wouldn’t they try? Why wouldn’t they cry? After all, every night, their world was destroyed. And it was too much to ask for. But they were helpless.

When life doesn’t give options, one has to seek for them. And for Roma, life never gave an option. Soon enough, Roma joined as a Montessori teacher. She admitted her kids in the same school. Life had become easier; more beautiful. And what more would Roma want? Her children, her world. And once again, life had smiled at them.

While things became easy; bruises soon healed. Arun was transferred to another city for a company’s project. And those two months were like heaven on earth; life was at its best. They used to be happy, go out for play, to shop, to grocery stores, cook food in the kitchen, watch cartoons, eat ice-creams, laugh together and live their life. Roma had finally explored herself. Her life had a purpose, a meaning to it. After all the hardships, she got time to relax, to live freely.

Roma and her twins. But this happiness wasn’t forever. The two months had finally come to an end. Arun returned that night but without a job. He was terminated. Unprofessional behaviour, complex account statements were the charges. And of course, his much talked about relationship with Reena.
Things began to deteriorate. Arun was no less than a live beast. The giver of ‘gifts’ as twins called him. This time, not only Roma but the twins became his victims too. Victims of heinous crime; every night they cried, they yelled, they tried to kill him but all in vain.

Their screams were still condoned by tacit silence…
She was horrified. She couldn’t take it anymore. “Why not kill him?” thought Roma. But something held her back. But the thought lasted. That day, she didn’t go to school. She chose to stay back home and did something she shouldn’t have ever done; for her sake, for the sake of her twins, for happiness, for life.

She killed Arun. She stabbed him to death. Their problems were solved; those screams were dead, forever. Those eyes won’t cry, ever. “Everything is now fine.” she thought, unable to realise that she was in a bigger mess; a race between life and death. She knew she had committed a legal crime. She knew it was punishable. She would be punished too but all this seemed so baseless. Their happiness was all she cared for. The twins were all she cared for.

     She waited for them to come home from school, so that she could tell them that she had simplified their lives. The giver of ‘gifts’ was gone, forever. But something held her back; something unusual, unknown. The brief realisation, had she simplified their lives or made it worse?

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