Two Worlds – Concluding Part – Muse India the literary e-journal, 28 Aug. 2021

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As I was passing through the Café Coffee Day on my way, I saw a few couples. I stood there for a second and was glad to see that at least some people found a way to take a break from their mobile phones and spend time with their loved ones. And suddenly, in that instant, I was reminded of the story of the owner of Café Coffee Day and my heart suddenly felt heavy.

At the bus stop, I saw a boy moving very close to a girl to tell her something. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was saying something inappropriate and scanned the girl’s face for any sign of distress. I could see that she was a bit uneasy. In this era of mobile phones and few words, how sad is it that the few words that remained were ones designed to trick you, lull you into a false sense of security, and finally trap you? How many girls could I save? And that very thought made me laugh. Me, saving girls?

Doesn’t Sasi always speak of self-efficacy? Our families used to live in the same street about ten to fifteen years ago. Sasi was in her tenth grade then. She used to look up to me, given the fact that I was an educated, working, independent woman. My mother used to tell me about the financial difficulties that Sasi’s family used to face.  The elder daughter, who had been married, had a lot of marital problems and was staying at their house, with both her children. Once every month or two months, her husband used to come here, threaten that he would take her back only if she earned any money and then leave. This fact was known to all of us neighbors. One fine day, we heard Sasi’s raised voice “Didn’t you know that my sister didn’t even complete her tenth grade before you married her? How do you expect her to earn any money when she doesn’t even have a basic education? If you want her to earn money, get her educated yourself, and then she shall earn money.” This was quite the scandal in our neighborhood. She got beaten very badly by her father that day.

She came to our house that evening and was telling my mother her woes. “I am not sad that Dad beat me today. But the responsibility of my sister and her kids is beyond the abilities of my father. He is already deep in debt. My sister is crying and refuses to study further.” My mother consoled her saying that she would talk to her elder sister about getting educated further. True to her word, she had her appear for exams and even found her a small job. Sasi studied further and took on the responsibility of her younger brother and sister. She is now looking after the studies of her elder sister’s children. After her father’s demise, she became the head of the family.

The bus I was waiting for arrived and leaving all thoughts of Sasi and her family aside, I boarded the bus.

 I stood to one side of the jam-packed bus and looked around. The people milling around, talking among themselves, oh! It was such a great feeling to travel like this. People who sell their wares all morning and finally board the bus trying to get home, with their baskets empty, how enjoyable it is to see their happy faces! The majority of the bus was filled with women getting home from their colleges or from work. Everybody had the same sense of urgency – to get back to the worlds they left behind in the morning. For the curtains to fall on the stage of the outside world so they could get back home. After all, for women, home and the outside are two different worlds. Both the worlds questioning them and having to fight for their way in both places.

Meanwhile, the conductor was trying to get all the passengers inside quickly. A woman boarded the bus with a child in one hand and a heavy bag in the other. She put the kid down, asking her to hold on to the end of her saree, and was trying to make her way inside.

“Enough with all the drama. Get inside quickly” said the conductor brusquely to the woman to which someone from the back shouted back “This is not your house to shout whatever you want. Mind your tongue!” And that gladdened my heart.  

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