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The Birdsong

It was an afternoon in June when the little child of six got her first Class Monitor badge. It was a proud moment for all parties concerned, but for some members of the extended family, the time of reckoning had arrived.

“What have you decided?” They questioned her mother over large sips of tea. “Will you choose your career or your daughter?” In their opinion, this was the ultimate choice and the home-truth all women needed to face. Eventually, the mother chose neither. She decided to grow up again with her daughter, while pursuing a very busy career as a teacher, dietician and health expert for the little one, all at once. It wasn’t a loss, or a compromise, to have given up her corporate career. She had decided to do so for greedy reasons. For the peace she felt singing her daughter a bedtime song. For the gratification she received in teaching her daughter the essential lessons of life.

The daughter grew up to be a child prodigy and an angel of sorts. (There are times when you absolutely need to trust your narrator.) Aside from her mother, the grandparents had a lot to do with it. The reality of the grandparents, however, lent to sections of society another interesting subject to talk about.

“I thought they were your husband’s parents!” The tea party conversation would begin. “He loves them like his own.” Her mother would smile.

The mother, the only child of aging parents, had chosen to live in the house she grew up, together with a husband who understood this perfectly. “Shouldn’t you live in a house of your own?” She had chosen not to. Though, true to tradition, she had moved to her husband’s place after marriage, he had eventually been transferred to her hometown. They saw this as a perfect opportunity to let their daughter grow up amidst the grand love that only grandparents can provide. 

With time, the mother and daughter grew to share the birdsong on monsoonal mornings, the chill in the first flush of winter. They walked with the sun to new places, to see new celebrations. She taught her daughter the importance of travelling. They read to broaden their perspective, and she jumped with glee when books arrived on Mothers’ Day. She didn’t choose between the colours of the rainbow which was sometimes visible from their terrace. It was a better proposition, she figured, to bring them all alive within people around her.

A couple of years ago, the mother had taken fiercely ill. Onlookers had expected her to choose between bedrest and misery. After all, there was only so much that the womankind, fragile and weak, could take. Instead, she had taken charge of her life and chosen to shower her family with the love of a lifetime. She shared with her daughter moments that can never be forgotten, and protected her husband from pain by promising she would never leave his heart.

We still hum the birdsong together, these winter mornings. The koel’s melody, the confidence of the crow – you name it. My mother and I then become the voice of the wind, the thought by the window, the aroma of a new day. To me, she is all that and more, receptive to the world but not affected by it, attuned only to her heart and the people in it. 

Mom

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This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus.

Matrimony

She had often sensed the extended family had a thing against her, though she could not pinpoint the reason behind their continued apathy towards her happiness.

Their cold-shouldering was endurable as long as the disregard pertained to her choice of career, style of dressing, and even her mental sanity, but when they started commenting on her relationship with her husband, it became unmanageable.

Her husband, bound to her by shyly enounced wedding vows many years ago, and love that had grown ever since, had always protected her from the woes of the world.

Although she knew her blessed matrimony aroused jealousy in some of the extended family, she thought it was unwarranted that they mask their true colours by looking at her suspiciously and proclaiming her marriage as dead.

Little did they know that every bedtime, when she had silenced the world’s judgment of normalcy and bereavement, he came to her in her dreams, rising from his funeral pyre to hold her close to his heart.

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Five Sentence Fiction

Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week, Lillie McFerrin posts a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate can write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in the five sentences, and is just for direction. This week: BEDTIME.

Now every Friday on Saddi Delhi.

Counting Sparrows

She wondered what had made her laugh in the picture taken at India Gate, no less than ten years ago. She had visited more recently than that but then, the newest trend which she had failed to catch on to was selfies. He no longer bothered to click pictures of her. He no longer bothered to come along, really.

At a stone’s throw from India Gate was Children’s Park. This was where their son had got his first bruise. He wore a Band-Aid over the wound very proudly for a week, after which she had to cajole him with a chocolate to get rid of it. Like the other happy families, they would snack on sugar candies and sweetcorn on Sunday evenings at the park. Once, when their six-year old had fallen asleep in the car afterward, he held her close and kissed her.

One twilight, they had sat with their faces against the wind, India Gate looming majestically behind them. Couples walked about hand-in-hand, very much in love. He had corrected her, like he often did. Like he told her she was getting fat, or didn’t cook well enough, or should learn to accept his many girlfriends as inevitable aspects of successful living. He had made sure she realized how love was only a dream that breaks when you wake up all groggy-eyed and stupid. Love did happen though, she eventually learnt on her own, when it came to his colleague at work.

Lately, on weekends, she sometimes drove to India Gate and sat in the lawn like before. The wind hadn’t changed over the years and continued to be merry. The kids counted sparrows and wondered whether life would bring them sorrow or joy. In this, she was fortunate. She didn’t have to wonder.

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Dilwaalon Ki Dilli

For all the badmouthing that Delhi receives, there lies herein undying charm. Every Wednesday, find on Saddi Delhi a fresh story from life in the capital. Right from delicious food in Delhi’s alleyways to dreamy winters that paint the skies white.

For a tour through Delhi, from then and now, click here.

Talking To The Wind

Quintessentially good girls from good households will always dream about topping their class, especially when they sport two thick braids and thick-rimmed spectacles. True to the anonymous prophecy, I remember trudging along to school each morning, on mornings that now seem from another era, and devoting tremendous attention to what the teachers said. My eyes, always on the smaller side, diminished further in size due to the excessive squinting I subjected them to.

“Would you like to come for the Christmas carnival?” The hyperactive class coordinator asked me one December, to an uncontrollably giggling audience. Class toppers, it seemed, especially ones who never bought anything from the canteen, are a terrible misfit at such social dos. Never mind that Mom and I spent the greater part of our evenings putting up handmade Christmas decorations at home. In Mom’s eyes, I was the painter, plum-cake lover and carol-singer who always performed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the family on Christmas Eve.

As time passed, life was generous in offering me plenty of choices. When I decided to take up writing, I was offered the choice of taking up management or sticking it out in my present job for the money, which “wasn’t bad at all for a girl”. I was offered choices of “plenty of good Bengali guys” for wedlock because love marriages happened – and worked – only on the silver screen. Subsequently, I was up for severe lamenting from crushed “choices” when I decided to take up writing, move to a city away from home, and marry the man I had fallen in love with, notwithstanding the fact that he wasn’t Bengali.

Ghosts of the long trail of choices I have rejected so far often find their way to several aspects of my present life. “Can you either share the first draft tonight or early tomorrow?” I am sometimes told at work, at around 6 PM on a Friday. “No.” I often venture to say. “I leave office on time, take the weekend off, and work on this on Monday.” On my days off, I become the experimental cook, the movie buff, the sunshine addict and the party planner.

Choices, I have found, often come padded with preconceived prejudice, gender-based restriction, refusal to believe that a girl can decide for herself, and general apathy. The only choice I love is one that sets sail to my dreams, allows me to breathe. It isn’t the choice between taking a year off or more after marriage, but whether I need to quit in the first place. It isn’t the number of children I should have, but when, if at all. 

I sit by the window sometimes and listen to the wind flapping away, oblivious to the burden of dishonest and hollow choices in the world. There’s the choice between being a responsible homemaker and a fulltime professional, a doting mother and an ardent traveller, a free woman and one bound by restricting relationships. I tell the wind of my resolve to chuck the claustrophobia-inducing “or” and instead use my “and” to do and be everything my heart tells me to. The wind, after such a conversation, blows twice as merrily and the world around me fills with sparkling new colours.

Deboshree Bhattacharjee

Talking to the wind at Amba Ghat, Maharashtra. It helps that the wind is a great listener.

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This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus.

The Republic of Peace

Books

*Picture from http://s4.favim.com/

Some things in life are meant to be cherished. Like a stolen kiss, or hot chocolate with marshmallows, or a holiday on that otherwise most dreadful of days – Monday! It can be easy to overlook the multi-layered blessings that come with a day off on Monday, hence necessitating this post. Say, for instance, I could wake up without the fear of risking my sanity in boarding the crowded Metro, and I have at my disposal the whole of the afternoon and the evening when I can be as lazy or as productive as I please (something that is likely to depend on the temperament of the sun which is yet to come up).

In many yesterdays, I would spend Republic Day watching the parade on television, with Mom planning on ordering in food later in the day. I also remember trudging along to Aga Khan Palace in Pune, with R taking me through the various moments in Indian history that have been captured there so beautifully. This year, the air is resplendent with new friendships and promises – courtesy Prime Minister Modi and US President Obama, photo-ops of whom are splashed all over Indian media and wherever else I look.

I plan to dedicate the rest of this Republic Day to living up to the most important rule in my life: do whatever brings you peace of mind (which can very well imply cozily staying in with a book and doing absolutely nothing else).

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