She felt exasperated. The incessant rains were now a pain in the neck. How dreadful the roads were! The weather report reiterated – no respite from rains.
“Hey, rains to continue! Fun, isn’t it?”
Priya felt like slamming the mobile.
“Ha, ha! Joke?”
“Relax. Rainy day, holiday, jolly day… never happened when we were kids. Let’s enjoy now.”
“Fun? Hardly that. No cabs, buses delayed. Not to speak of metro tracks. Office, a must. No more WFH. Literally praying.”
“For rains or WFH?”
Smriti is insufferable.
Priya trotted across to the window. Gazed at the sky. No hope. To continue.
“Maa…. hot pakoras and tea.”
“I too am busy on my laptop. Come down and help me chop onions.”
“Me? Rather go without snacks. Won’t ask. Never. Never ever.” She was cross. Obviously. Rightly so.
Her dad sauntered into the room. He looked the perfect host with an apron slung around his fat neck and a plate full of pakoras. That’s what made him so endearing to Priya. He jumped into action when her mom deserted her.
“Dad, how sweet of you. But shouldn’t have taken the trouble. I would have….”
His impish smile gave away the secret.
“Swiggy? I should have guessed. But poor thing. It’s pouring for him too. Shouldn’t have, dad.”
“So, you never wait for answers. Non-stop like the rains.” Dad’s humour was always infectious.
“The duo is up to it.” Her mom’s banter was royally ignored.
“Priya, start taking responsibility. If you are working, I too am. How about sharing chores? And you Atal Mehta sahib, teach her some basics of life. There is much more to life than pakoras and cutlets. I agree they are too tempting and in such messy weather all the more, but ordering from swiggy or some other online food joints isn’t correct. Just now you were complaining about potholes, no cabs. Isn’t it difficult for these delivery boys to swim through on their two-wheelers to reach the given address and deliver the packed food? And just imagine how distressing it is when they fail to reach on time and the customer unceremoniously screams for not being on time. Wouldn’t he be there if he could?”
“Mom, you are emotional for no reason. Aren’t they appointed to deliver food on time? I can’t see any reason in your argument. Dad, please put some sens…..”
Priya checked herself. Her dad glared at her. Her mom was startled at her daughter’s audacity.
Indisciplined? Impetuous? Naive? Or all?
Her mom turned abruptly and whisked away.
Her dad stood rooted to the floor.
‘Is our grooming faulty?’ He ruminated.
Nowadays children know the price of everything, not the value of it. Bad parenting? Peer influence? Values not instilled? Societal pressure and expectations? What made this generation so blunt and harsh?
Priya, 24-year-old, ought to know LOC. She grew up in a joint family, Upbringing? Values that their family was proud of didn’t seem to have made their home in her life. How utterly disgusting!
What they considered childhood pranks, turned out to be behavioural issues!
Wait. Hold on. He alerted himself. Was he digging too deep and allowing a trivial incident to shake his faith in his offspring? Should he connive at this rash talk and let go it?
For the first time in his life, Mehra sahib was in a dilemma. Parenting was not an easy task. By no means. Not at all. No.
How did his parents bring up four children? Unimaginable. Irrefutably appreciable. With little means, they could make both ends meet and also guide, support, and cater to their needs without complaining. He remembered his mother clad in faded sarees, glass bangles and one thin gold chain, maybe the ‘Mangalasutras’ held the chain tightly, otherwise, it too would have been resting luxuriously on the wooden table of the ‘Marwadi’. This angel, otherwise a monster, came to their rescue each time they hit a crisis.
The Marwadi, true to his name, taunted him.
“Babuji, jaanta hoon, byaaj bhi nahin de paayenge.” (Sir, I know you won’t be able to pay even the interest)
It hurt senior Mehta ji immensely but it was the stark reality. Inescapable. True.
His mother had innumerable excuses not to attend any functions. An open secret. Her sarees had lost their sheen long back and those quizzical glares of the ‘near and dear’ pierced through her. Unbearable. It pinched her soul but her smile hid the pain. Realities. Rude ones.
“Dad!” Priya’s sharp voice got him out of his reverie.
“Mom gets piss….. irritated for the smallest of things. She needs counselling. I suggest…..”
She checked herself. Her father’s rising anger warned her of dire consequences.
She buried herself in the laptop.
Sneha Mehta, too was brooding. Anger? Disappointment?
She knew it was beyond these emotions. More like discontentment.
Disciplining Priya was quite a challenge since her childhood. It sure was. Whatever the reason she found that Priya was, by nature, unyielding. Initially, Sneha thought it was individuality and she appreciated her sense of ‘self-worth’. As a caring mother, she supported her decisions and fulfilled all her demands, however unreasonable they may be. Contrary to her expectations, Priya grew to be an impetuous young adult. Her obsession with self was a trait that Sneha couldn’t reckon with. Her inordinate demands grew along with her. They did. categorically. She had no qualms about it. A right. Birth right at that!
Sneha tried to reason out but to no avail. Her fear that Priya would remain a loner owing to her personality traits.
Digging deep. Was she?
Was she becoming paranoid? Overthinking? Overprotective?
She justified her thoughts and actions. Had to. Or else would become the victim of her own obsessive thinking.
The more she dwelled on the issues the more nightmarish Priya’s future looked.
What was worse was that Priya’s behaviour changed as per the situation and people around her.
What was more shocking was that Priya was rash only with Sneha. And this hit her where it hurt most. The heart. She squirmed.
No outlet to relieve her anguish.
Any/All corrective measures rubbed on the wrong side and Priya’s outbursts only added to Sneha’s misery.
As time passed, Sneha’s patience started waning. She yearned for an outlet. An Escape?
Mehta ji caught between the two, could hardly smoothen the relationship.
Did all parents go through this hard -to- accept phase or was Sneha a bit too much?
The triangle of the trio!
The tug of war was on, and would continue….
Daughter’s unconcealed defiance, Mother’s overcautiousness and Father’s complacency, were at war with one another. Truce? Hardly that.
‘Why am I behaving like an imbecile?’ Priya, when not in a foul mood, brooded over the incidents that caused friction between her and mom. Why was she so rash with her mother? Her social skills were undoubtedly matchless. Not a single friend or colleague ever complained. Her peers found her company enjoyable, her cousins found her conversation amusing and entertaining. Why, then why?
She couldn’t go to the crux of the issue when her mother came into the picture. The frame fit well with everyone except mother. Annoying! She felt, maybe for the first time, that she needed to sort things before it became irredeemable. Time was running out? Or time was ripe? She felt drained. Answers evaded her.
Little things that her mother did for her meant so much in her childhood, and then something snapped and the equation went through a drastic change as she grew up. Her childhood tantrums took bigger dimensions and before it could be checked hell broke loose and she wrapped herself in a ‘shroud’ that created a wall tough to cut through.
Her father, composed and cheerful, remained a silent spectator through this transition. Unconcerned or obdurate? Or something else that she couldn’t define? Would any father be so ‘cool’ when relationships were at stake?
She was perplexed. She could neither understand herself nor her father. Two of a kind? Or each to his own? Weird family.
Then that day, for the first time ever, she experienced her father’s ire. And that shook her to the core. It made her introspect. Dig deep into the self to know herself, the true Priya; her likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Her relationship with her parents, friends, kith and kin…. what shocked her most was the realization followed by the acceptance that she had developed a kind of prejudice, grudge against her mother for reasons unknown (honestly?).
She peeped into those years of adolescence when she started drifting from her mother.
Staggering revelations. Unpalatable. Disconnected relationships.
She was carrying baggage that not only hurt but also reeked foul. She had never had the courage to confront and question, ask for clarification and had allowed herself to move away from the person whom she loved the most. She was guilty of not being open and she expected her mother to accept her disrespectful behaviour.
‘How I wish I could talk to her about my impressions and opinions!’ Dare to? Wish to?
Her memories were anything but cherishable. The memory of that devastating day still haunted her. She could never shake off that ill feeling from her mind and it kept gnawing at her mind. Indelible impressions. Harrowing.
The day had dawned bright and shining. The flowers blossomed cheerfully. The dew drops on the leaves smiled and merged with the cool breeze. How refreshing nature was! Priya was excited about the college programme where she would be felicitated for her academic achievements. The world awaited that moment. surely. Thrilling.
The much-awaited moment arrived. The auditorium, packed to the brim, gave her goosebumps. Her eager eyes searched for the smiling faces of her parents. A proud moment. Tears welled up in her eyes. Happy moments. Rare and precious.
The moment came and went. Went away too early. Quickly. Swiftness personified.
Exhilaration and disappointment -which overruled the other, difficult to say. But it was as though suddenly someone had throttled all her hopes and dreams. Suffocating. Endless pain.
She couldn’t contain her anger. Furious and dejected she hopped into an auto.
“Do I know where you stay?” The auto driver’s sarcasm hit her with double force.
She could have hit him but for the timely intervention of her mobile phone. It kept buzzing till she took the call. Audacious caller! Senseless.
The driver waited patiently till her conversation was over.
By then her anger had dissipated.
“Maharani nagar, near Siva Cinema.” He smiled at her and said, “Madam, aap tension mein hain. Sab theek.” (Madam, you look tense. Is all ok?)
Priya turned away lest he should see the tears that threatened to flow out at his concern. Empathy, ah!
As she alighted he assured her everything will be fine. She thanked him for being so understanding.
The moment she entered the gate all fury returned with renewed energy.
She would have banged the door but saw it was left ajar. At home? Damn the….
She heard muffled voices as though someone was trying to control her anger.
“Don’t bring her into it. You have to explain whatever I have witnessed. Shameless. Utterly.
“You have misunderstood. Sometimes what you see and hear also can be misleading…”
“Then explain…… Waiting.”
“When we should be at her college attending the award function, we are here… no, you made me skip that and if I had not witnessed that scene between you and my friend, trust me I would have continued to believe myself to be the happiest person. Betrayal. Shocked.
Where was all this leading to? Priya started trembling. What was that her father referring to? Who? What?
Her throat went dry. She had never heard their raised voices in any situation, then what had caused this outburst? Her father’s voice was low but firm and demanding. Her mother seemed to be pleading. Mercy? Apology?
What she needed at that moment was an assurance from her parents that all was good. But she knew it wasn’t so.
She pushed the door and entered trying to show off her happiness on receiving the award.
“Mom, dad, I missed you both in my best moments. I am sure you would have shared the joy and jubilation on the stage had it not been some urgent matter. Is all ok, mom?”
Deafening silence. The silence that could kill.
Neither spoke. Each expecting the other to reveal. Reveal. That one word made her feet turn to jelly.
‘Am I about to witness an offensive scene here?” Priya felt a stab of fear. The joy of the evening melted away as though it never was.
“Dad, mom now I am nervous. All the happiness has vanished into thin air. I can’t bear the silence or the suspense. This is no drama. A life that we need to live…. and together.”
Dad walked away and mom slumped on the floor.
Priya gathered her mom in her arms and hugged her, reassuring her that she would handle the issue at hand.
“Noooooo.” She shrieked. “Don’t. Pointless.”
Priya jumped out of her skin at the sting in her mom’s voice.
What was brewing? Why this foul mood?
“Mom, let that whatever is nagging you come out, it will….”
“Are you, my mom? Enough.”
“Let go off…” she snarled, “easy to say.”
“Your father says I have betrayed him… betrayal, deception.”
A pale smile spread on her face. It was worse than a sob.
Something snapped. Cut. severed. Chopped.
What snapped that day remained forever. Her father’s words reverberated in her mind, heart and her whole being.
Her approach changed, and her confidence in and respect for her mother started waning away. And a time came when the very sight of her triggered unhappy memories.
Her father’s complacency provoked her.
She spurned her mother.
Life became unbearable. Lifeless life.
What led to discord was never revealed.
Life went on. Hitches? None.
“Priya, I have a confession to make.” Mom’s voice jolted her into the present.
“You have always thought I have deceived your father. His composed and complacent behaviour reflects his loneliness. You have not understood that. My suffering you will not understand. Never ever. Your behaviour hurts me but I don’t show it. Your father misunderstood my friendship with his close friend Bhuvan. We were colleagues and shared common interests. That fateful day, when your father came home, he saw me in his arms. He was holding me and calling out my name. Your father did not even wait to find out what the situation was. Unfortunate. Destiny.
He lost control and lashed out at Bhuvan.
Bhuvan kept asking him to get medical help but he turned a deaf ear.
Bhuvan left in frustration.
I had fainted. Your father did not even notice that all that while I was unconscious and Bhuvan was trying to bring me around.
Guilt or shame, your father has not spoken about that incident again.
Your rude, disrespectful behaviour has angered me and hurt me but I could never bring myself to talk about it.
Your father spoke to me today after these many years and apologised. I wondered why. Your rash talk today angered him. Call it the passage of time or ageing, he has realised that his word has impacted you adversely and has made you into an unsympathetic person. It happens. Sometimes we wait all our life for good things to happen and life bypasses us. And then suddenly one day, as though some magician has waved his magic wand, the clouds start disappearing and a clear picture floats in front of our eyes.
This actually has happened with all three of us. Destiny again. I am not pleading with you to sympathise or change your approach. I call it confession not because I am guilty of deception or betrayal, but because I see you becoming insensitive. This will mar your future. Your negativity will start spreading and you will gradually lose all your goodness. I can’t bear to see that happen. I have no ill feelings towards you. …..” She choked on her words. Nemesis. Would it again play foul?
The moisture in Priya’s eyes didn’t go unnoticed. Sneha’s infectious smile lit the room.
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