Two Worlds – Part – 2 – Muse India the literary e-journal, 27 Aug. 2021

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How did such moments ever go by when I was a kid? Our schools used to suddenly declare holidays due to the rains. It wasn’t like how it is now and the mothers used to stay home. We used to get home somehow, drenched from the rain, and mom used to wonder why they couldn’t have let the children go after the rain calmed down a bit. We used to dry our hair and get into warm clothes.

After making sure I got home safely, my brother used to throw his bag in the house and run away before mom could get a hold of him. Where was that childhood love? To talk rudely to me, a working, independent woman who is more than forty years old! Why do I keep being silent? Is it out of some misplaced sense of respect? Fear? Or a certain sense of detachment? This silence is what must be giving him the confidence to keep on doing it. Oh! Mindfulness!

No one was at the office by the time I arrived there. It was still continuing to drizzle outside. Sharath, who works in the other section, arrived next. “Hello, Madam! I’ve heard that our boss has assigned a male attendant to the male section of the office and a female one to the female section. Is that really necessary at a place where we all work together?” he asked me casually.

“Well, let’s see how this fares” I replied and thus ended that discussion.

A couple of days ago, after work, Esther came to talk to me. She said that a few days ago while leaving after work, Mr. Devanandam offered her a lift home on his motorcycle, as he was headed in the same direction and people were now behaving a bit weirdly around her. All this brought on a round of tears on her part and I tried my best to console her, telling her not to pay heed to such baseless things. To still suffer the indignities born out of such trivial things! Maybe these men don’t remember the women at their houses when they torment women outside. Anyway, who’s to say that they treat the women in their houses any differently? Aren’t the school and college kids organizing a rally, braving the rains, for the safety and dignity of women in public spaces today? To only think of what happens behind closed doors at home!

The rain finally let up for a bit in the evening. While going to the bus stop, I saw Sasi, who hailed me “Hi Akka!”. “Hi Sasi! It’s been so long”. Continuing our conversation, we moved into a sweet shop nearby. Four young girls were taking orders and packing them at great speed. All of them appeared to be under twenty years of age. Maybe they were working part time here. How self-confident they seem to be! That must be the reason they looked to be more beautiful and attractive. Me and Sasi, sat in a corner not to be interrupted in our conversations.

“How is Mom, Sasi? How are your sister and her kids? It must have been more than a year since we last caught up”. Sasi answered all of the questions patiently, exhaustion written all over her face. “I’ve received a proposal for marriage Akka” said Sasi smilingly. I knew Sasi was one who had very definite opinions about life.

“Apparently I should not work post marriage. I should be at home “resting and relaxing”. This person who says that he understands me is a distant relative. My financial freedom is my strength, my courage. It is part of who I am. It’s not something I’m willing to lose ever.” A moment later, she said in a low voice “Back home, I’m being pressured to get married”.

“He’s someone who knows something about financial struggles. His own mother raised him single-handedly. He says that he doesn’t have to work hard in his entire life as his mother. I even tried explaining to him that none of my current responsibilities is a burden to me, but he doesn’t seem to understand. To not work is the one thing that is objectionable to me. My younger brother says he will support our family back home. He’s stopped his studies and has gotten some small-time work somewhere. My mother has tried to convince me that all will be well. But Akka, I find my present life very satisfying. Anyway, let’s see. Maybe I will find someone who can truly understand me.” Seeing her talk about her life so confidently, I felt my affection for her shot up even more. She got up saying she had to leave.

Small streams of rainwater were now flowing into the sides of the roads. The street lights flickered to life. People were walking peacefully under the cloud-filled skies, the humidity of the past have just gone and the light breeze is wonderful. The intoxicating smell of the flowers from the nearby shops was calling to people invitingly. And in that instant, a rain-filled cloud, which could no longer hold itself back, let go in one torrential downpour of rain. People started moving helter-skelter into whatever shelter they could find.

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