Winning

Winning is about having the courage to fail and rise again.

Conquest

I flit in and out of night,
A dark passage without a light.
And then, again it is bright.
Sunshine blinds my site.
Happiness dulls the pain
That recurs again and again.
I see the gold that lines the clouds.
I see the rainbow the storms announced.
And, yet, when I am hurt, I shout.
My pain twirls me around.
All I can see is black.
There is a lack
Of air.
Claustrophobia sets in.
It hurts.
My lung hurts.
My brain hurts.
My body hurts.
My heart hurts.
I wait for the end.
Again, I am lifted by a gust and carried
Beyond the pain.
Everything is righted again.
The rainbow glitters bright and clean.
Till I encounter another gust of wind
That carries me back to darkness.

With each cycle, I become more oblivious to the change.
The darkness recedes faster.
I can see the light pierce through the night.

I become strong and bold
For fire only purifies gold.

Cleansed

I pour the anguish of my soul,
The pain in my heart, all into one bowl
And then drown it
In the middle of the turbulent river.
I see it sink, sink to the bottom.
Inky, muddy, sodden, it lies there
Till it is picked up by a strong current
And carried to the ocean
Where it breaks
Against the jagged rocks,
Letting out the screams, sighs and tears
Which are drowned by the sound
Of the waves that lash against
The broken bowl,
Shattered to smithereens
By the sea.
The angst is cleansed,
Cleansed by the infinite ocean,
Evaporated to the skies,
Lost in the clouds …
And then,
Sprinkled by the rain…
Till the anger becomes minuscule,
Smaller than a subatomic grain.

And you notice again,

How blue the ocean,
How vast the skies,
How wonderful the entire creation…
And,
Where am I?

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Humor fiction

My Uncle…The Chef

I had an uncle who loved to visit doctors! He was 75, with grey hair, a walrus moustache and huge sideburns. To look at him, you would think he was a major in the army. But, actually, he was an accomplished ladies hairdresser who made it good in life. He retired owning a chain of prosperous hairdressing salons! He was a rich man. As a rich man, he wanted to savor life. To savor life, he felt he needed to be healthy. To be healthy, he needed to visit doctors!

Just as other retirees frequented clubs, my uncle frequented doctors. Doctors were terrified of him because if they pronounced him healthy (which he was), he would be upset!

On Mondays, he would go to an eye doctor. He had about five eye doctors in tow. He would visit each one once in five weeks. So, each doctor thought he was seeing an eye specialist once a month. Each one assured him, he had no signs of cataract and didnot need glasses.

On Tuesdays, he would visit the physiotherapist. Again he had about five physiotherapists in tow. They massaged his back and joints as he was afraid of developing old age aches and pains. So, each physiotherapist thought he was doing a maintenance massage once every five week.

On Wednesdays, he went to a heart specialist…five different ones on five different weeks. Each one did an ECG and assured him that he had no heart issues. Each time he went with a complaint of a palpitating heart. However, his pulse, blood pressure and heartbeat all had no aberrations from the healthy norm.

On Thursday, he went to a general physician to get an okay on his blood sugar. Again, he went to five different physicians five weeks. On Friday, he went to an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist. Again his five weeks were distributed among five of them.

On weekends, he didnot visit doctors but the golf course and his hair salon, where they waxed his moustache to fine pinpoints and trimmed his semi-bald pate. He also went through pedicures and manicures for the flawless look. And, then there was a visit to a tailor … From suits to cravats,everything was custom made as were his shoes.

This uncle had only one child, the beautiful, sultry Smita. She was a photographer by profession and the apple of my uncle’s eye. He doted on her. When Smita touched the ripe old age of twenty two, her father worried about her matrimonial prospects. When he liked a candidate to fill in the position of his future son-in-law, Smita was sure to disapprove of him. When at twenty four Smita still remained fancy free and unattached to a man, he decided that he would try to woo over one of her male colleagues, many of who visited her home. Smita was passionate about photography as he was about doctors. He decided to win them over with his culinary skills. The logic was most of these boys would be hungry after their bouts of photography and would be attracted to her home with good cooking…free,tasty food.

Perhaps, my opinion differed a little about my uncle’s culinary skills, which he himself rated rather highly. His passion number two was cooking.

My uncle believed in authentic flavors. A potato needed to taste like a potato, and not a spicy potato. His meat had to have the authentic smell of unwashed animals. Julius Caesar might have made him the chef for his prime troops that set out to  conquer the world…but a restaurant would go bankrupt if they hired him. Oblivious of weak-willed opinions, my uncle decided to cook his way to the heart of his intended son-in-law.

That Friday, when one of her colleagues came to drop Smita home after a photographic assignment, her father invited him to dinner. A hungry, lean, poor photographer is always willing to risk it. He accepted, unsuspectingly. My uncle outdid himself by cooking mince meat, a watery chicken stew and fish that smelt five days old.

The unsuspecting colleague took a heap of rice and a huge helping of all the delicacies revved up by my uncle’s culinary expertise. Smita told me, her colleague fell sick after a few bites, pleaded a sudden onset of diarrhea and made a run for the bathroom and then home, except the diarrhea sounded awfully like retching. He made it a point never to drop Smita home again.

The next candidate pleaded a sudden onset of gastric flu as he threw up on the plate.

Now, Smita’s colleagues took to dropping her at her gate and pleading appointments so that they wouldnot need to enter her home and be victims of my uncle’s gastronomic ‘delights’. My uncle was very disappointed. His scheme had not worked, despite his ‘fantastic’ cooking. He confided in me,”Boys nowadays have weak stomachs and do not appreciate gourmet cooking.”

Then, one day Smita met a young man, called Dipak, at a party. They fell head over heels in love. Dipak was a young interning doctor. Smita was scared to expose him to her father’s cooking and yet she wanted them to meet. Therefore, she invited him home in the afternoon, well after lunch and well before dinner. My uncle made him a potato sandwich dripping with butter and hot chocolate, both of which Dipak enjoyed.

Six months down the line, Dipak and Smita tied the knot.

To this day my uncle boasts of how his culinary skills wooed a fantastic husband for his daughter, and a doctor at that!

Eventually, he gave up his passion for visiting doctors for the pleasures generated by his baby grandson. Then, the only doctor who attended on him regularly was Dipak.

Beyond Darkness

These poems are dedicated to all those who have had passages of darkness in their lives.

Hope

I have no more tears left.
Only my heart is bereft
Of happiness and sunshine.
It is time to take a step,
To seek hope,
To take hold
Of my life,
Learn to take things in my stride.
It is hard, almost impossible,
To see the bright side.
I look around.
I see darkness abound.
But, what is there beyond the tunnel?
Is that a distant light
In the darkness of the night?
I reach out, it seems to recede.
I stretch, I stretch
And I touch
The beam.
The thin beam
Turns into a stream.
Again, I see hope.
Again, I feel bold.
I have crossed the dark threshold.
I am free.

My world

Step out of it
And look beyond
Into this bright, wide world.
Of happiness and light
Look at the aura of the vibrant sun rise,
At the birds that fly so high,
At the colors of the sky.
At the beauty of the night.
Hear the hum of the fireflies,
The soft swish of waves,
The rustling of the leaves,
And the murmur of the trees.
Feel the wind among the greens,
The fulfillment in the breeze.
Touch the water over the sand.
Race with the waves receding from the land.
Reach out,
Reach out to the skies
And say,
This world is mine.
Mine to hold,
To feel,
To conquer
And
To dream…

Short story

The child bride

Snehalata sat decked as a Bengali bride in a red and gold Benarasi saree ,with red and gold ribbons woven into her hair ,under a diaphanous red and gold veil. She also had on many gold bracelets, necklaces, rings and huge dangling ear rings. It almost seemed that she was weighed down by the weight of the gold. She wore a white mukut made of shola, the traditional bridal headgear. She was fourteen, excited to be getting married , so many new sarees and jewelry. Actually, it was the lure of exquisite possessions that finally persuaded Snehalata to agree to marry a man ten years older than her.

Snehalata was an excellent singer and dancer. She was also skilled at swordsmanship. However, she had no interest in academics or formalized schooling.When her parents were approached by her uncle with an ‘excellent’ match, they agreed to it. They had three daughters to marry off. India had gained her independence more than a decade ago but society still had the same norms. Having unwed daughters was unacceptable to any parent.

Snehalata knew her groom was a very handsome and educated man. He came from a good lineage. Subir’s family was not well-established financially. But that was a minor consideration. What mattered most was that the family had good education and good values. These were things that the parents considered. For pretty Snehalata, the only consideration was the glamor of being a bride.

When Snehalata stepped into her new home, the reality of marriage struck her. They had no honeymoon. It was not considered at all by anyone. But, she did have a huge battalion of in-laws to please. And please them she did in her own way…

Her father-in-law was half blind. She helped him with his passion for gardening, fed him and helped look after him. Her mother-in-law and sisters-in laws were harder to please. But she did manage to gain their affections over time with her cheerfulness and willingness to work hard. As long as she didnot need to study, she was willing to please. She had been taught by her mother to please all around her. Her brother-in-laws regarded her as a friend and treated her as such. Snehalata was never left alone, even though Subir was out from 7 am to 7 pm. He worked hard as an accountant in a bank, gave the right exams at the right time and rose to be a trusted officer.

However, here was an issue. Snehlata’s mother-in-law insisted she go back to studies…just the thing Snehalata had wanted to avoid for the rest of her life. Now, she couldnot refuse as the whole family, her in-laws and her parents, insisted on it. When she was big with her first child, she had to appear for her graduation exam. Snehalata was cross with her mother -in-law and mother for making it happen. She felt embarrassed. While her batch mates wore fashionable skirts and talked of movies and concerts,she had to avoid crowded places for her baby and cover her pregnancy with a saree, for in those days most married Indian women still wore sarees. Her batch mates were not married…she was. So, she felt she was missing out on the fun and had worst of the two worlds. She had to study and she had major family responsibilities!

She passed,if not with flying colors with decent scores,thanks to the supervision of her husband and in-laws. She had her first baby…a little doll-like girl, who they decided to call Durga. Snehalata just fell in love with Durga as did the rest of her extended family. She was like a cherubic doll with a pink and white complexion and black curly hair. To put the rebellious Durga to sleep, Snehalata sang her melodious lullabies. When Subir’s family heard her sing, they wanted her to develop her talent. Subir’s elder brother, Harish, ran a music school. He was a gifted musician. He pushed her to sing on the radio. Snehalata sang like a lark and enraptured not just her husband but whoever heard her sing.

“You should study music,” said Harish. He wanted her to do her masters in Indian vocal classical. Snehalata tried to shy away from the suggestion.

Snehalata just loved to sing…she didnot really want to be tied down to exams and tests. She wanted to look after her baby doll, Durga. By now, Subir’s family had stabilized financially. Snehalata would design exquisite frocks for her baby daughter and get the tailor to execute the design. It was like dressing up a doll! She was also expecting her second baby.

” No. Let her wait a while,” said her mother in law. ” When her children are a little older, she can pursue her masters. I like my daughters-in- law to be accomplished. Then, they can have a life outside of home and think bigger.” Snehalata’s mother-in-law had never been to university but she had figured out that to give the future generations a better life, she needed educated daughters-in-law. Snehalata adored her mother-in-law but could never empathize with her sentiments regarding women’s formal schooling. She had married to escape the tethers of formal learning and here she was being forced to go through all the things she didnot want. She didnot want formal schooling.

She still remembered the time her English teacher had made her stand outside the classroom for not being able to recite a poem that she had been asked to memorize. She still remembered the way the numbers danced awry for her when her maths teacher explained complicated algebra to the class and the low math grades she had! She was terrified of having to study and that too, something she loved…she was scared of under-performing in a subject she loved. She knew she would be safe for the time being… at least as long as the kids were young.

Snehlata’s second baby was a boy. He was bouncing and big and loved smiling. They called him Probir. Probir and Durga had a merry childhood surrounded by loving grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. As they grew older, Durga and Probir both seemed to have a flare for math and music.When the children were fourteen and twelve, Snehlata’s mother-in-law again broached the subject of her formalized training in music. Harish and Subir were all for it . This time the kids were on their grandmother’s side.

Snehlata realized that the children really wanted to see her do well. It was important for them. Snehlata’s conceded. She started training with the famed Singbandhu brothers. Her children helped her study rhythms, which involved some amount of math,in the process developing a love and understanding for Indian classical. Probir wanted to learn the tabla and his sister wanted to pick up vocal classical. Mother and children trained. The children didnot appear for exams. Snehlata did and came out top of her class. She had tears in her eyes when she got the result. She had so enjoyed the whole process !

She didnot know who to thank…her husband, his brother, her mother-in-law or the kids!

Snehlata , who had married to avoid formalized education, became a music teacher in the secondary section of her children’s school. She performed on stage and on radio. She was really happy to go to school now and was very popular as a teacher.

Over the years, she had overcome her fears and developed deep endearing relationships with her in-laws and husband. From a child bride, she had matured to a wonderful human being. The lure of sarees and jewelry had given way to a passion for music and family.

The child bride had bloomed.

Hope and Happiness

Here are some poems of hope and happiness.

Dawn

In a burst of golden song,
The sun each day heralds dawn.
The light spills from behind the cloud
And sings a lilting melody out loud.
It lifts my heart to the skies
And to the rising sun I fly.
Bathed in a glorious orange light,
I watch the sun climb up and shine.
Outlining the clouds with silvery lines,
Exploding with molten lava-like mines,
It chases out the dark night.
Rising on a crescendo of light,
Pirouetting, I rise higher and higher,
Deeper into the orange skies
And become a part of the sunrise
Till strengthened by the healing day,
I walk back on a sunray.

A glimpse of paradise

Today,
I brought home a bit of paradise with me.
The bright plumage of an exotic bird
Wrapped in music from eternity,
The purple shine of the seashell
With bits of sand and sea,
A rosebud with dewdrops
Like crystal clinging
And lending rainbow hues,
A window with a view
Of rippling water
Reflecting the clouds and sun,
A white butterfly flitting from tree to tree
Sipping nectar from the yellow bloom amid the green,
A little pebble that gurgles and laughs
Echoing the notes of a hilly brook,
It’s original nook,
An exquisite embroidery
Of a cherry blossom tree….
Memories of spring and snow,
Things that make my heart soar
With happiness, freedom and love.

The Plea

Here are some thoughts on the Nepal quakes.

Why?

Why is it that people die?
Why is it that wails keep rising up to the sky?
In unison,the souls cry
Burdened by pain, incessant rain,
The earth shaking again and again,
Torn by what unbidden force…
Is it anger?
Is it hatred?
Is it violence?
What is it that shakes the earth so?
Can we help?
Can we heal?
Will the earth stop it’s rigmarole?
Perhaps,we can all pray
And plead to make the stillness stay.
Perhaps, we can all join hands
And pull the people to safer lands.
Maybe,
It is the beginning of the end,
Or ,
Is it the end of the beginning….
It is all the same.
The creation starts again and again.
Except,
Mankind writhes in loss and pain…
Pray,
For the hurt to stop.
For the breach to heal.
Pray,
For a fresh new dawn
That sings a a song
Of happiness
And of joy.
Let us all kneel and pray
For many more glorious days.

Short story

The Irony

Shailya was born a few years after India gained her independence in the hilly town of Shimla. She spent her childhood roving among the Himalayan slopes covered in lush green. She loved to climb trees and sit on a branch and sing lustily. She was a gifted singer.

Home was a place where she ate,slept and did her homework. She had eight siblings. She was the fifth. Most of the time, she tried to keep out of trouble and avoid the abundant beatings meted out by her father to all the children. Her father, Benimadhav Mukherjee, was a rich man’s son. He grew up in the holy town of Benares and rode to school on an elephant. He was a brilliant scholar too. His passion was history. He was an idealist. He was from a zamindari family. They owned land and lived by exploiting the peasantry. Beni didnot like that. He fought with his family, and left his ancestral home for Shimla. He had a young wife, the beautiful and intelligent Parvati.

Though Benimadhav had ideals, he was not a very good breadwinner. So, after, eight living children and two in the grave, Beni was always short of cash. Other than working in a government office, he did tuitions at home. But, funds were always low. Parvati and the children had to make do without daily necessities. The milk in the house went to the youngest and to Beni, who couldnot do without his daily dose of sweetened, thickened milk, a habit that held on from his opulent past. Shailya had stopped drinking milk after the age of three. Not that she minded but when she realized as a middle schooler how nutritionally deprived that could make a child, she argued with her mother to let her younger siblings have milk.

Shailya studied hard, won a scholarship and went on to studying engineering. She moved to Delhi to study. She was beautiful. She had admirers in plenty. One day her eldest sister , who was a school teacher, asked her to visit some friend’s home . What Shailya realized was they were matchmaking for her. She had been invited so that the boy and his family could meet her.The boy, Shishir ,was handsome and kind but very shy. He didnot look at Shailya. Shailya was asked to sing a song. She obliged. They liked her. The boy’s father dropped her back to her hostel in a car. A car was a luxury that Shailya’s family couldnot afford.

Shailya was a free spirit. She loved the mountains. She loved the wilderness . She loved music and physics. When the boy’s family put forth the proposal for marriage, Shailya was urged by her family to accept. Shishir was from an affluent family. The money was very important to Beni’s family, not so much for Shailya though. Shailya accepted.

They were married during Shailya’s summer break. Shailya, who had never had too many possessions, was amazed at the number of gifts she received. She was fascinated with the number of sarees and jewellery she received. She wanted to hold them all. She had never had so much!

Shishir and Shailya left for their honeymoon to Ooty. Shishir was fascinated with his wife. She looked good in sarees and in slacks. She could sing all kinds of songs.

She was smart and could discuss engineering issues with Shishir. Shishir was an engineer too. He was working as he was four years older to Shailya.

When they returned from the honeymoon, realities caught up. Shishir went to work. Shailya still had a few days off. She had to stay at home with the Shishir’s two sisters and parents. Shailya was really upset when Rima, Shishir’s younger sister asked her for a saree from her trousseau. “Boudi (elder sister in law) , I really like this saree . Will you give it to me forever?”asked Rima.

Shailya,who had lived on mainly hand me downs till she married was really upset and threw a tantrum . She threw all her sarees out of the cupboard and shouted,”Take them. Take them all. ” She walked out of the house in anger.

Shishir was at work. His father,who had recently retired, drove behind his daughter-in-law and brought her home. Rima was weeping. Her elder sister, Seema, was furious, spouting venom against her new sister-in-law. Seema, though married, spent a large part of her life still in her parental home, complaining about her in-laws and the hard work she was put to in their home in Calcutta. She was not allowed to wear slacks. As it is, she was seething with fury and envy seeing their honeymoon pictures where Shailya was in slacks! Seema, who was very beautiful, married at eighteen because she didnot want to study further. Her husband doted on her for her looks but she was not fully happy with him because he had had a girl friend while he studied medicine in England. Her husband was ten years her senior. He had never looked at a girl after he married Seema but she found it hard to accept his past and look beyond to the future.It was an arranged marriage, like that of Shishir and Shailya.

Rima was as yet unmarried. She was very good at sports and not good looking. It was difficult to find a husband for her. She could neither sing nor dance, attributes Bengali families cherished in the 1960s. She was not gifted and was academically not very good. She was sitting at home after completing her BA, waiting to get married like a lot of her batchmates.Rima was also a little envious of her new sister-in-law. Shailya was so pretty and smart!

One day, a proposal came for Rima. The boy was handsome, rich and doing well as a doctor. The boy would come to their house and check out if Rima could be his bride! Everyone was excited. Shailya was asked to take good care of the family and serve refreshments. Seema dressed up Rima in an elaborate Benarasi saree and lot of jewellery. Elaborate snacks were prepared.

The boy arrived with his family. Rima was brought in by Seema dressed to the nines. Snacks were served by Shailya. And everyone tried to talk…turned out the boy could play the piano and loved music. Poor Rima sat in the corner,looking more and more dejected as she could see how ‘inferior’ she was to the boy with his brilliant attributes and achievements. At the end the family rose up to go. Shailya’s father-in-law asked what they thought. The parents replied,”It is upto our son and your daughter. We like the family.”

“Perhaps, they can meet and talk,” suggested Shishir.

The boy replied,”That will not be necessary. If your sister were as beautiful and talented as your wife, I would have said yes instantly. But, looking at her ,we have nothing in common. I am not going to marry her!”

Everyone  was stunned at his audacity and rudeness,except for his parents who said, “Then,it is off.” And went off in their motor car.

Rima was crying copiously. Seema started abusing Shailya,”It is all because of you, you unclean siren…first you ate up my brother and now, you eat up other men. See, how vile she is!”

Her father said,”Stop and apologise! The boy was too inhuman to be married into our home. That is not Shailya’s fault. I am sure we can get a better proposal for Rima.”

Shailya had walked away to her room. Shishir ran after her.

Rima and Seema stopped talking to Shailya. They were never too nice to her. Now, they were outright rude. It was lucky for Shailya that her classes had restarted. It was the last year of her engineering degree. She worked hard. On weekends, her husband picked her up and they went to her in-laws’ house. Seema returned to her husband. Rima still viewed her with a hostile eye. The cold war continued.

Shailya’s mother-in-law maintained a distance from Shailya as adored her daughters but she was not hostile. Her father-in-law doted on Shailya and her husband loved her very much.

Shailya completed her engineering degree and started teaching in the university. Rima had got herself a job as a teacher in a kindergarten at the insistence of her father. The kindergarten was walking distance from home and she walked back and forth to work. She had also found herself a sweetheart…a boy her father thoroughly disapproved. Aditya was good looking and a flirt. He had no steady job,acted in plays and chased women. Rima was rich and an easy prey. She loved him desperately. She confided in Shishir that she couldnot live without Aditya. Shishir persuaded his father to let them marry and they helped Aditya find a job in the newly started TV broadcast channel in New Delhi, Doordarshan. Rima and Aditya married and moved out to a small one bedroom apartment.

Seema had come for the wedding and stayed on as she was expecting her first child. She would have the child at her parent’s home and return after she was rested and strong. Seema continued her war against Shailya. Aditya was sympathetic to Seema and Rima. He was not too fond of Shailya as when he tried to flirt with her one day, he met with a cold shoulder.

Shailya herself was unhappy, not so much with Shishir but with environment at home. Her own family made it clear that they would do nothing more for her though they did love to criticize her in-laws and husband. They added to the distance already created by Seema. Shailya,the mountain sprite, now sat curled inside a stern faced woman with no sense of humor.

Shishir loved Shailya but he loved his family too.

When Shishir got a posting in Bombay, he was happy to take it up. Shailya and he moved to Bombay. Shailya conceived. She had to return to her in-laws in Delhi to have the baby as Shishir couldnot manage his job and her needs. She gave birth to a tiny little girl. Her mother- in-law and sisters-in-law criticized her for having the baby in her husband’s home at her husband’s expense. “This goes to show how less her family loves her. Everyone is terrified of her.” said the perceptive Rima. That Shailya’s parents were struggling to make ends meet went unnoticed by the two sisters.

The baby girl was named Sushila. Shishir came down to see her. Shailya had stopped working since her move to Bombay. She looked after the baby and put up with constant criticism about her own uncaring parents. One day, Shailya burst out in a fit of rage. She screamed and shouted. Shishir was still visiting. He was really angry with her. They had a huge fight. But Shailya was tied down to the hostile environment around her by the helpless little Sushila. Shishir returned to Bombay in a huff.

The only person who was kind to Shailya was her father-in-law. Six months went by. Six horrible months where Shailya was declared “abnormal” by her two sisters-in-law. Seema and Rima,despite being married, spent a lot of time in their parents home. They gave out that Shailya was abandoned by her parents and dumped on them because she was abnormal…

At last, Shishir came to take Shailya back to Bombay. He was hurt watching the bitter interactions between his sisters and wife. He noticed his wife had become very harsh verbally. Baby Sushila was also cranky, underfed and crying all the time. Seema advised her brother to divorce his wife and take custody of the child. Shishir said nothing. His father had advised him to stand by his wife all his life.

After they returned to Bombay, a month had barely passed before they heard that Shishir’s father passed away of a sudden heart attack. They rushed back to Delhi for the last rites. Shishir got himself transferred back to Delhi as someone needed to be with his mother.

Life jogged on unpleasantly for Shailya, who still stayed at home to look after her baby and mother-in-law. Her two sisters-in-law had children too now. Seema had a son and daughter and Rima had two sons and a daughter. Rima and Aditya were always hard up and looking for doles. They resented the way Sushila was pampered by Shishir’s mother, who doted on her son’s daughter.

Expenses went up when Sushila started going to a private school. Shailya went back to work as a physics teacher in high school. She started teaching in Sushila’s school. Things improved for her. She could step out of the conflicts in the home and put her being in her work. Shailya was very popular. Sushila saw such a positive aspect of her mother at school that the negative feedback she heard from her aunts had no impact on her.

Sushila grew up to be a beautiful and smart girl with a tremendous aptitude for mathematics. She finished her schooling and at the end of her graduation from university won a scholarship to pursue her passion for physics in Massachusets Institute of Technology. Her parents and grandmother adored her and were very proud of her.

The breach between Shailya and her mother-in-law had healed somewhat as the old woman saw her young granddaughter flourish. She felt Shailya was doing a good job by her daughter. However, Shailya’s relationship with her sisers-in-law worsened as they writhed with envy. Her husband’s ardor had cooled over time. He was a weak and confused man. Shailya was not very happy at home but, professionally,she became the head of the science department and was regarded as an excellent teacher. After Sushila left, she became a little lonely at home. She had no one to turn to. Her mother-in-law had been diagnosed with mild dementia.

Shailya had kept a maid to look after the old lady. One day,her mother-in-law accused the maid of stealing. The maid was very honest. She was saddened and offended. She wept and left the next day. Shishir took his mother to Rima’s house for a change of scene. However, he made up his mind that Shailya needed to stay at home to look after his mother.

He wanted Shailya to give up her job.

“I am going to retire in a few years from now. Why do you want to waste money and hire a maid? Why don’t you just quit,stay at home and look after ma. After all, Sushila is already out of our hands. There is no need for the extra money. ”

Shailya was very upset. She loved her job. With her salary,she could afford a very good nurse cum maid. She still had many years of work left. Shishir also was in his early fifties. He had still more than ten years to go before he retired. Shishir was asking her to give up her only source of enjoyment and relief!

Of course, Shailya argued against the decision. Shishir fought back. Both were adamant. Shishir wouldnot approve of a single nurse cum maid she brought in. Not that they were bad,he just wanted Shailya to be submissive. It had become a battle of wills. They fought everyday. Rima sided with Shishir as did Seema. The three were against Shailya working for different reasons. Shishir felt his mother needed personalized care that could only be given by the family. Rima and Seema wanted to punish their sister-in-law for being smarter than them. Rima was also sick of having to look after her mother. She wanted to pass back the ‘burden’ to Shishir and Shailya.

After a week, Shishir went off to Rima’s house to stay the night with his own family. Shailya continued alone at home. The next day,he returned home with his mother and said,”You need to stay at home and look after her from today. She will not go anywhere else.” Shailya took the day off,found a trained nurse cum maid and employed her. When Shishir returned home, he was furious. Shailya had disobeyed him and kept a help!

They had a raging row. Shailya was considering a divorce. Shishir wouldnot give a divorce. Shailya was ostracized by all her husband’s family and her husband. She continued teaching. Shishir and Shailya lived in the same house as strangers. Shailya paid the nurse cum maid, who learnt to ignore the taunts and rude behaviour of Shishir and his mother.

One day, as Shailya was crossing a busy traffic intersection on foot, she was hit by a car . Shailya died instantly.

Sushila came home for the funeral and went back to her studies feeling broken hearted. She saw that she could do nothing by staying on. Her father encouraged her to go back and live out her dreams, of which her parents had been so proud.The school, where Shailya taught till the last day of her life, published an obituary in newspapers praising her in glorious terms. Shishir received a lump sum of money from the school.

Shishir’s anger had evaporated after Shailya’s death. He was overcome with guilt for the treatment he had meted out to her in the last few years of her life. He spent sumptuously on the funeral and drifted away from his sisters. He paid the nurse cum maid as his sisters had refused to help look after their mother. They said they were too busy to take care of their mother.

He missed Shailya now and recalled the old days when he had eyes only for her. She became his idol. He could not stop doing enough for her after she died. He held all kinds of prayers and fed the poor in her memory every year . He was even thinking of starting a charitable trust in her memory with his retirement money.

In life, Shailya had been neglected, ostracized and criticized. In death,she was glorified!