Friday, 6 June 2014

The Homecoming



Through her kohl-lined eyes she saw the white Volvo bus leave for Roorkee from between the greasy window rails of her own bus, which was still waiting to fill up. A small bag with her belongings was all she carried, tucked between her cracked feet adorned by a silver payal and the unseen dirt under her seat. It was hot, so hot that she looked at the AC Volvo with a parched gaze. Her eyes burned. 

Why don’t I take one of those white buses to Roorkee this time?’ she had half-implored her husband of some months. ‘You know, it’s quite hot and even the doctor says I should travel comfortable since it’s the initial few weeks and ...’ She stopped as he knotted his brow and looked at her. As if he did not understand. He thought her mad for asking for money worth an AC bus ride. ‘What a queen I have married. Spoilt totally. She thinks her father bought me, doesn't she?’ thought he, but only said ‘This Rs. 120 should be enough for a UP Roadways bus ticket to Roorkee.’ He also gave her a coin for Rs. 10. ‘Take a rickshaw from the bus stop to your parents’ house. 10 men will look you up if you walk to Chawri bazaar looking all dressed up as if you’re going to run away with another man.’ And then he had left. 

She had bitten her lower lip then, and now as she remembered the parting remark. Embarrassed. Slowly licking the maroon lip-stick which she had worn. Specially worn. It had only stood for happiness. A celebration that she was going home to be with her parents. A new sari draped, matching bangles, bindi in place and sindoor so deep so neat so red as if it was disciplined to stand at attention on her forehead. She over-did it, perhaps, her … happiness, thought she sitting on seat number 5B. The white Volvo with cool interiors had long left, leaving behind nothing but a cloud of dry mud. And a raging thirst, for cool air and cold water. 

Campa, campa, campaa’ sang the nasal voice of a young boy with chilled soft drinks, clanging to be picked and delivered from the crowd in the aluminium bucket. She looked at the shirtless boy first and then at his hands. Maybe I can buy myself a Campa? Looks so cold. I do have Rs. 10 with me. I could just quickly walk home. What will he know … But before she could make up her mind, temptation had left. Been pushed out of the bus by the conductor for it was time for the bus to leave. The boy had come to her slow-moving window for he had read the indecision in her mind and the decisive thirst in her eyes. And she in his, for her Rs. 10. A gust of wind devoid of any mercy blew. She was made to turn her face away!
    
The conductor slammed shut the creaky door and the bus began to pull out of Meerut Bus Depot. The journey has begun, maybe I should just drink a sip of water now? She pulled out the old dented Bisleri bottle she carried from home. She put it to her lips, dry terrain what was once glowing maroon, and swallowed just enough to wet her mouth. She grimaced. The water was already warm. Still, she had to save it for later. God knows how cruelly the hot wind blows over sugar cane fields, and through leafless poplars. The dust from pot-holes and the mirages of water on the road ahead merge to become genies, asking you to come take a dip. Luring you, falsely. It is then that she will need more water to drink. Her stomach rumbled empty. 

Maybe I should not fast today, maaji’ she had mustered enough courage to ask her mother-in-law that morning. ‘I have to travel far and alone, and I feel so tired already. Plus, I’m 6 weeks …’ and she could not say another word. For maaji was muttering apologies to a certain God to excuse this girl’s innocent crime already. Looking disturbed and shocked and sorry, only for the God, all at the same time. ‘You should know better than to skip a holy Monday fast and break the sequence, bahu. It is for the son you could be carrying.’ She wanted to add ‘Shame on you. Seems like your mother had not a single significant thing to teach you’ but kept it for another day. 

By the time she reached Roorkee Bus Depot, the weather the thoughts the hunger, all had taken their toll. One at a time. Raping her of comfort – within and without. Her stomach was cramping and the bumpy ride had not helped matters at all. Neither had the stares of the man sitting diagonally ahead of her. She had strained her eyes away and out of the window most part of the journey, forcing her face into the hot winds, braving the burning skin. Holding the bag tight between her feet and her hands joined, as if praying for the journey to end. Soon. Now, back stiff and feet swollen, she waited her turn to step down.

She knew exactly where the rickshaw stand was. For 21 years she had come to this bus depot with her family to enjoy Prince Chaat Wala’s famous chaat-tikki, often when the two sisters passed their exams. But just as she was walking towards a rickshaw to take her home, she spotted a new stationary store next to Guru Nanak Juice Corner. She stood staring at the glass façade, with pretty posters of princesses and calendars with Goddesses calling one forth. 

Yes. She went in and spent the Rs. 10 her husband had given so she did not walk home in full view of strange men. Instead, she bought a tiny diary for her sister who was going to be married soon. So tiny, it fit on her out-stretched hand. She wanted it that way.

Home was as home is. The welcome. The sudden outburst of feelings that only some relations feel. The questions the food the rest and how is damaadji? They liked her sari, her payal, oh you look so dressed up so pretty! She liked her sister’s sagai outfit, her mother’s new idli maker and how terrible I feel for I left the bag of gifts I carried for you from Meerut in the bus! The ‘doesn’t matter’ and ‘you are our daughter’ that followed. And then, the unspoken in their minds, thoughts oft brushed off as only hunches, coming from seeing but not saying anything. For what if they were wrong? Wrong to think their daughter was badly kept? Or even worse, unhappy? 

Much later, in a quiet corner of her home, she gave the diary to her younger sister when they were alone. To note down every little unhappy thought or thing that will come her married way. To write out on its pages chapters she never signed up for. Write it. As loud as she wishes. Just … take it out.

Her sister cried. For she now saw what she had actually not seen. In her sister's life. Or around the bend where marriage waited looking all showy like a fairy-tale. It was a passing on, of something the elder sister had not the courage to do. Never could. To document. To write. To voice. The pain.

The diary was small, but it came with a big prayer. That it may never be full enough, and always big enough to collect within its folds all the troubles her sister was to face.

[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts. The prompt for today was - Never – Tell us about a thing you’ll never write about]



72 comments:

  1. Oh Sakshi you made me your loyal fiction fan!
    All my bygone experiences with UP paribahan flashed clearly before my eyes... ahh the sugarcanes, arid weather and dusty mostly bad roads and not to forget the pudiya chewing conductor saab :)
    See you again...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a road I have to travel on to reach what I call my home-in-the-hills, Anunoy. And have done those buses all of my college life - to and from Delhi. :)
      I am glad you liked this enough to want to come again. Please do. Many thanks! :)

      Delete
  2. Sad story. I hope she finds some happiness in this marriage or somehow finds a way to speak up. Maybe she should have bought a diary for herself too, or maybe she will someday. I really hope so. Surprised that her parents too don't want to see it.
    Liked the rich details in the narration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think she will buy a diary for herself someday too. Her younger sister will inspire her to. Though, I too hope neither of the women need it. I have no idea. This story for me ended where I ended it. If I think more, it gets too real for comfort.
      Beloo, why surprised. There are still parents who make-unseen the troubles their daughters face in their married lives. We are fortunately very far away from such minds.
      Glad you liked it, Beloo. I liked how 'involved' you got, enough to think ahead for the characters. Always appreciate your presence here. :)

      Delete
  3. This was very real, almost a slice-of-life. You moved me with this story

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) Thanks for reading, Ritu ma'am.

      Delete
  4. A very pretty, very sad story. Perhaps the sister's will be happier tale.

    ReplyDelete
  5. A touching and engrossing tale.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very moving! I feel so sorry for your protagonist :(

    ReplyDelete
  7. Extremely sad tale, and yes I hope too that her sister gets a better life to lead.. I think what really made this tale work is your narration, it brought out her sorrows and pain really well...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Seeta. It's quite a bleak one, yes.

      Delete
  8. This was just such a hauntingly beautiful and poignant tale. And like Rickie says, here's hoping that the sister never gets to write anything in that small diary of hers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Roorkee brought in a lot of memories..i have been travelling there a lot recently. This story was laced with a lot of sorrow. Problems in marriage is something I have been pondering over lately (I am not married) almost making me believe that a good marriage is a utopia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is just one tiny story, S. All marriages unfold their own way, and I am sure you have nothing to worry about/ponder over in that department. There was nothing good in this tale, and I hope this isn't seen as a norm.

      Delete
  10. I loved the descriptive details and setting of scene. The way she dressed just so her parents feel she is happy, the parched throat, it's sad yet so beautifully written. I hope her sister never had to write in her diary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like how you read it in detail, Rajlakshmi. Yes, the details were significant to the story. There is no real story, really speaking. :)
      Thanks a lot for reading! :)

      Delete
  11. A very sad tale woven beautifully. Your narration have made it wonderful and again I must say I love you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Parvathy! Glad you liked the narration.

      Delete
  12. I love the detailed narration. I felt and experienced, everything she experienced. I wish she voices out her opinions, someday, soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ditto that wish for women who live under circumstances which I can only narrate through imagination, having not experienced them myself.
      Thanks. :)

      Delete
  13. Oh I actually shed a tear. In office!! :'(

    This was so poignant and beautiful Sakshi! I am a fan of your fictional tales now. No one can beat you in this! What emotions, what feeling! Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You really cried? :)
      Oh, lots of us are writing fiction. And this is only my 5th or 6th attempt at it. Ever. So I hold your compliment very close to my heart, Soumya. I am glad you connected with the emotions I was trying to convey. Big thank you! <3

      Delete
  14. That was beautiful! Hope her sister doesn't have to fill many of those pages! Beautifully written Sakshi!

    ReplyDelete
  15. The guises we hide our agonies in. Why, just oh why is it hard for the women of our country to break free?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder with you. All I know is, it has to be difficult for them to make it their daily living.

      Delete
  16. first tell me have you travelled the same route.. because to know the places and what route is taken is.. quite astonishing.. such details.. shop names and all .. AWESOME MAM..

    I remmeber Roorkee , I have been to that place a couple of times..

    and a sad but lovely story.. Everytime I come over here I read such amazing stories.. you are gifted Mam.. Well done

    Bikram

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have. But the names could be made up? :)

      Thanks, B. Always so kind. :)

      Delete
    2. you can make up the names .. but even that requires some intelligence.. you cant write .. going to roorkee on a Rajasthan Transport or punjab roadways ..

      Delete
    3. Yes, I have travelled this route in a bus. :)

      Delete
  17. Touching story. You have beautifully expressed the story with vivid details. Loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Scary and sad...I got goosebumps reading it. May no woman gets such chapters to write about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen.
      Thanks for reading, Sugandha. :)

      Delete
  19. This sounded more like a narration of a real life incident than a fictional story. The detailed imagery almost made me feel like I was watching a film. Brilliantly gripping.
    On a optimistic note...I do hope both the sisters write and record in their own diaries their happy moments in future. Who knows the birth of a child might actually change things for better for them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Vinodini. Good to know it kept you interested till the end.
      I really wonder if child-birth is the solution to such problems or another one added where there is usually no more room. Yes, unlike what I "used" the diary for in the story, it can stand for happy moments preserved too.
      Thanks a lot for being here!

      Delete
  20. So real. This could be happening right now. The bus journey was vividly narrated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good to see you back, Alka. And thank you for reading this. :)

      Delete
  21. Welcome back Sakshi. You know from where :) There is so much of reality in this piece that I would term it as "real fiction" (not to be confused with the group of similar nomenclature started by the great Mr. Passey). There is a poignancy about your posts which I've come to admire and to be honest, feel. And this one was a perfect example of that. Again. As for the sisters, one can only hope for the best and do out little bits which collectively can and will make a difference. Slowly and steadily. Nicely done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know from where - from where you did not 'understand' my posts or where I did not really remind you of 'me'. :)
      Thanks a lot, Sid. Your opinions, here or in Vegas, really really help. :)

      Delete
  22. I am a loyal reader of your short stories..... your style of narration always succeeds in helping the reader connect with your characters... waiting for ur next one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for telling me what works, Feeling good now. :)

      Delete
  23. Amazingly well written and very evocative..very poignant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suresh, you make me happy. I love your stories and I know you take your writing as seriously as anyone should. Good to see you read me and leave me with a wide smile. :)

      Delete
  24. It touched my heart deeply, made me cry. Beautiful story.

    ReplyDelete
  25. It could be a real story somewhere for sure. Very touching narration again. another fan for your friction :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so too. No matter how hard I try, I end up writing something that threatens to be unravelling in some house around us as I write.
      PS - I am not a 'friction' kind of person. So lets think of a better typo for 'fiction', shall we? ;)
      Thanks a lot for reading!

      Delete
    2. Lol...sorry for the typo..I really meant 'fiction' and not 'friction'...yikes..how did I type that? scratching head...

      Delete
    3. Let me tell you. When you typed 'f' the 'r' got pressed too. :D
      No worries at all. :)

      Delete
  26. The description of the cracked feet , silver payal , the sindoor in the parting of her hair bring alive the character in front of my eyes. I have travelled by State Transport buses in interiors of Karnataka and guess Sakshi India is the same , whether its north or South.

    The protagonist will never ever write down her feelings read unhappiness in a diary but are preserved never to be forgotten in the recesses of her mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have done buses in Karnataka too. I agree with you, Kalpana.

      I guess you are right. Perhaps, that is true for each one of us - to varying degrees?
      Many thanks for reading me. :)

      Delete
  27. Very vivid. Very real. Happening to more people than we may ever know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True that, Jas.
      Thanks for reading. :)

      Delete
  28. Beautiful, moving story Sakshi, loved the narration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to know you read this and liked it. :)

      Delete
  29. Fantastic story, Sakshi! Fiction and yet so real. The bus journey; the matter-of-fact emotions of the husband, the emotional ones of the lady and her family and then the sad ending. Little pieces of facts as we see in life around us. Hope she finds her peace and that her sister in her own imminent marriage. Each one of us with middle class roots will identify with this tale. Once again, masterfully narrated. Your The Oranges and two ladies in the park tale are still fresh in my mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rachna. Love your comment.

      Delete
  30. There are many many women who are actually buying such diaries for others and hiding all their pains. I feel that they should learn something from you and make their pens and their feelings swords like you.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Beautiful, vivid, fascinating... Not enough words!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Poignant and gripping very well written! Interesting blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Dilip.

      Delete
  33. For a moment I saw myself in her. Then I corrected myself, that I'd have bought the diary for myself. I wish I could buy her one. What is it with us women, that we don't voice it out to our parents if we aren't kept properly ? If our lives are taken for granted ?
    I wish she learns. I wish she writes out her hurt in her own words. I wish she sets a good example for the little one in her womb, yet to taste the mortal air.


    Take a bow for this, dear. Matchless fiction !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All your wishes for her are mine for her too, Sreeja.
      Thank you, my matchless-in-appreciation reader. :)

      Delete
  34. Spot on, Sakshi. Pain and anguish of a woman struggling to find her way coupled with a crushed identity. The post is a dedication to several women suffering in this world full of lies and deceit. I pray she finds freedom from such pain and shackles of society. Emotions very well expressed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for reading, Vishal.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...