As usual, I was home on Saturday night. Mummy prepared fish curry for me. She always tries to feed me my favorite foods in the weekends.
“You know di, today I saw Sarita didi.” Mini said suddenly.
“Oh, really! Sarita is here? Why you did not tell me?” I looked at maa. “After long time I’ll be seeing her.” I was excited.
“You can meet her anytime. She is here, perhaps for ever.” Mummy was serious.
“For ever? What do you mean?” I asked in great confusion.
“Her husband is in jail.” Mummy informed me.
“It was supposed to happen, sooner or later.” Dadi maa said before I could say anything.
After finishing my meal, I went to bed. I could not wait to meet Sarita but it was late. Mini was reading today’s newspaper which I brought with me.
“It’s good to see your picture and articles in the newspaper.” Mini chuckled. “You are enjoying your work. Aren’t you? However you know I miss you a lot didi.” She said fondly.
“I miss you too sweetheart, but what to do? My job is important too”.
“I also want to become a journalist like you. You know I have written a poem, shall I show you.” She said excitingly.
“Oh, really! That’s great but I’m a bit tired, you know. I’ll see it in the morning. okay?” I said.
“Ok, good night.” She kissed me on my cheek, and I reciprocated.
I tried to sleep but it refused to claim me. I could not resist thinking about Sarita.
Sarita was my childhood friend and neighbor. She was a bright student. Everything was going fine until her father died in an accident. We were in 9th std. then. Losing father in such an early stage was painful for her. I helped her in her studies as much as possible for me. It is said that time is the cure for every wound. She too gradually adapted herself in the swing of things.
Now there was no significant source of income in her house. Her mother anyhow tried to run house by stitching clothes for others and by rent from their two tenants. Her brother was 7 years older than her but was good for nothing. They possessed some pieces of land which her mother kept that for Sarita’s and her younger sister Sunita’s marriage. Though her brother was unemployed, yet he married. Meanwhile we passed our board exams.
According to my interest, I took science in 12th Std. and Sarita took commerce. Due to different stream, our interaction abated.
We both did well in 12th Std. One day she came to me in despair. She told me that she was said to leave her studies. I encouraged her to fight against this unfairness.
“What will she do by studying more? We should now search for a suitable boy and get her married.” her bhabhi was saying.
“I want to study further.” Sarita said resolutely.
“Who will pay your fees?” Her bhabhi widened her eyes.
“You don’t worry, I’ll manage.” Sarita was determined.
“Her well wisher friend is speaking through her mouth. She agitated her for sure.” Her bhabhi declared finally.
Sarita started to take tuition and continued her studies. But before she could complete her first year, her bhabhi searched an incongruous man for her. He was only 10th pass and 14 years older than Sarita. The most excruciating thing was that Sarita had to leave her studies. I was shocked to know this.
“How could you do this aunty?” I asked in astonishment.
“What to do beta? This is her destiny.” She told frailly.
“Throwing off in a well intentionally is not called destiny.” I fumed.
“Look Shruti, you don’t interfere in our personal matters always.” Bhabhi said furiously.
“But that man…”
“Shruti beta, please. Marrying a girl is not an easy thing. I have one more daughter to marry off.” Aunty pleaded and I had to keep quite.
Finally, she was married to the so called “suitable man” at the age of just 18, and left to her so called ‘destiny’. The situation completely altered for her.
After few months, we heard that Sarita’s husband was involved in some antisocial kind of things. Within a year Sarita delivered a baby girl.
“My in-laws were expecting a baby boy. They are not happy.” She told me when I visited to see her new born baby.
“This is my first child Shruti, I am very happy. She is precious to me.” She fondled her baby girl, and a sweet smile lingered on her upset face.
And then another baby girl next year.
I completed my graduation and enrolled myself in an institute of mass communication and creative writing in Kolkata. I had always been fascinated by the personality of a journalist since my childhood. After few months, I got a job in a prestigious newspaper as apprenticeship training.
Spattering of water interrupted my train of thought. It must be dadi maa. She had a habit of going toilet mid night. A glance at the clock told me that it was half past 2. I closed my eyes and I did not know when I slipped into slumber. Mini wake me up in the morning. It was 9 o’clock. After having breakfast, I rushed out. Nobody asked me anything as they knew where I was going.
As I entered Sarita’s house, I heard a harsh voice of her bhabhi.
“We spent lots of money in her marriage, and now she is back with her three children. I can’t bear this burden.”
Three children in 5 years? It’s disgusting. I thought.
“You were the one who was so desperate to marry her off.” I couldn’t control my anger. “And with the guy who was 14 years older than her, possessed no education and who had criminal records.” I continued, ignoring that I was so loud.
“Here she is. Look shruti, I have told you not to...”
“…to interfere in your family matters. Isn’t it? But this is the matter of my friend’s ruined life. Who is responsible for that? She needs your love and support right now, not your cheap annotations.” I was seething with fury. Suddenly, Sarita appeared there. She had become so frail. I stomped out from there. After a while, we were sitting in her room.
“How many times I’ve told him to leave these antisocial things, but all in vain. Now my in-laws say that I am an ineffective wife and failed to control my husband and bore only girls for them. What will I do Shruti? My life is finished.” She was crying.
“Not finished, it’s a new beginning. A real test Sarita. Every cloud has a silver lining. Pick up your life where it was left. Complete your studies. Start taking tuitions again. Don’t turn out to be ‘burden’ on anyone.” I emphasized the word burden loudly.
“Definitely, you will get a decent job at the earliest. These girls are your responsibility and motive of your life. Don’t do the same thing with them that you had gone through. Education and financial independence are very important for girls in the present scenario.” Sarita seemed to have encouraged by my words. “And yes…” I continued. “Always remember, your friend is with you whenever you need her and I really mean it.”
I returned with a heavy heart. But I was glad to see tranquility and a ray of hope in her eyes, which was welled up with tears.
Submitted to: 3WW