Unmasked

#honey #cute #lovebirds 

Radhika eagerly updated her Instagram account with the hashtags along with a selfie with Raj embracing her. All filters set, the clicks had to be perfect today! It was their second wedding anniversary and Radhika and Raj were out on a romantic candlelight dinner. Radhika looked ravishing in her designer red gown and glass stilettos. 

Raj too looked crisp in his black tuxedo suit. 

Strange! They both looked aloof! 

Raj was busy on business calls while Radhika desperately clicked selfies with food and wine.

Raj, suffocated under his ‘Best Hubby’ mask finally lost his cool. He rudely shoved her away as she stooped over him for a perfect anniversary click. 

Splash! …Crash!

Radhika stared at her stained dress and the broken pieces of her ‘Happily Married’ mask lying scattered across the floor.
*******
Sarla rushed to clean the broken glass pieces. “Mam, could I help you?” offered Sarla. 

Sarla, a young girl from an underprivileged background was desperate to break out of her deprived, middle-class life. She was extremely proud of her crisp black uniform with her designation badge of ‘Head Stewardess’. It was her passport to a life of dignity. 

Sarla stealthily entered the house after her late-night shift at the restaurant. She was worried about waking up the monster. 

Her Father!

Karamveer, a drunkard, often bad mouthed in anger. 

“You are back!” 

“You wretched girl! My unlucky charm!”

 “You will bring shame to the family!” yelled Karamveer, hurling abuses at Sarla. 

“You serve food to others at the bar and your father is sleeping hungry without food!”

“I will end this story today!” bellowed Karamveer as he flung Sarla’s badge into the gas stove. 

Tears streamed down as her pride and independence charred black. Her prized mask of “Life of Dignity”, burnt before her eyes. 

*******

The crackling fire, charred the brinjal crisp. Anu smiled inhaling the aroma.

Ravi loved baingan bharta! she mused. It had been four years since he left for America. 

Anu had been so happy when Ravi, her only son got admission to Stanford University. Studies, placement, friends, job, something or the other always held Ravi back. He had not visited his mother for a long time now. 

Anu, in her early sixties, often bragged to her friends, about her son’s achievements. She was so happy and proud that he had gone to the best university and made a fantastic career for himself.

 “It must be Ravi!” muttered Anu as she answered the phone. 

“How did you know I made your favorite bharta today?” chirped Anu on hearing Ravi’s voice.

“Ma, I am occupied. I just called to tell that I cannot make it for Diwali!”

“Natasha, my girlfriend’s parents are visiting this year so we need to be here to receive them.” blurted Ravi in a detached, indifferent tone.

Anu, held the hung up phone for a long time as the endless stream of tears washed away her mask of a “Happy proud Mother”. The mask cracked open, revealing her grief and cravings. 

***Glossary:***
Baigan Bharta: mashed Eggplant curry
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