“If I had the wisdom then, that I have today, I would have convinced dad that you had the right to be the master of your life, … It took a daughter to explain to me, what a sister must have gone through.”
I am living this minute twice. 5.30 AM at Melbourne, I was at the gym, trying to wade off the dread, and now 5.30 am again at Mumbai. I wish it was possible to time travel like this, in life too, and rewrite certain chapters.
I looked at my fellow passengers, and wondered why they all were impatient to get out of the flight, were they rushing to families, to loved ones? Would they be received by eagerly prancing eyes, with flowers and hugs? I know how I’ll be received, a chauffeur holding a placard – Anirudh Deshmukh, a lonely drive to dad’s house, and Aarushi’s cold eyes. I was in no hurry to go anywhere.
I switched off the airplane mode and no sooner did I do it, the mobile rang with Sara’s picture on it.
“Hey hon, I just landed” I could sense a sigh of relief resting on her. She never misses to keep track of my flights, regardless of how many miles I clock. “At the hospital?”
“On my way, had to drop Liv at her practice” there was a pregnant pause, “will you be fine?”
“Yes Sara, I sure will be. Love to Liv and you take care”, she understands that I’ll have too much to handle, and will call her up only on my journey back home, a week from today.
“Yes uncle, the priest did promise that he’ll show up on time. I’ve explained to him clearly that tomorrow is dad’s first year death anniversary and we need to ensure that nothing is amiss at the puja. Thanks indeed for your support uncle, goodbye”, I hung up the phone.
I could feel the exhaustion in my bones, but that’s not why I was restless. In another hour or so, Anirudh would be here. And what would we do? Of course, there’d be a thousand things to prepare for the puja, but then, the rest of the time, would we just retire to our rooms and live like the other one didn’t exist? On second thoughts, isn’t this how we’ve lived life these past few years, acknowledging each other only for society, and not as family?
I had more questions than answers, and this plight wasn’t new to me.
Anirudh & Aarushi
The last of the guests had left, and we’d given the day off for the servants. Now, it was just the 3 of us, Anirudh, Aarushi and the elephant in the room. If the elephant wasn’t there just as a metaphor, this is the scene, it would have witnessed, unfold.
“I happened to see this in the mail today” Anirudh handed her the envelope, which had the university logo on it. It was the first time in many years, he noticed a flicker of emotion in her eyes.
“Thanks”, she took it and was about to walk away, when he reached out to stop her.
“I am sorry”, tears filled his eyes. He just couldn’t stop himself, he feared that he’ll miss this moment too, like many others in the past, when he had tried gathering the courage to talk to her, and then miserably failed.
“Sorry….. what for?” she stood there, unfazed by his tears.
“I should have sensed, should have felt, that all was not well in your life. I should have been there for you”, he sounded earnest.
She wasn’t prepared for this, “You have a flight to catch tomorrow. It is time you go to bed”.
“Why did you endure it? Why did you not tell any of us? If you weren’t able to open up to our parents, you could have at least shared it with me? I am your twin brother Aaru, did you think I wouldn’t have believed you, had you told me that you were abused by your husband? And you lived through it for 10 long years?” his sense of guilt was palpable.
All the memories that she had kept locked up and buried, never to ruminate ever, were now choking her. She held on to her last ounce of strength and tried to appear nonchalant “What good is it doing to either of us, talking about the past?”
“I didn’t intend to distress you Aaru, I honestly didn’t. All these years am haunted by this thought, what would have happened if Raghav hadn’t divorced you to marry the other woman, only to be exposed by her, that he victimized his wives to domestic violence? Would you have continued to tolerate him? There is never a moment of peace within me, thinking just this. I may appear to have everything in life, a successful business, an accomplished doctor for a wife, and a loving daughter. I am indeed blessed to have Sara and Liv in my life. But without your happiness, I feel completely empty inside”, he wept inconsolably.
She too was on the verge of tears, but she stood still, guarding her emotions.
He gently led her to be seated on the sofa and knelt beside her, “I see you in Liv, she is your splitting image, not just in looks, but also in your grit and resolve. When she explained to me that she isn’t interested in bharatnatyam or ballet classes, but wanted to enroll in the junior rugby team, that’s when it struck me as to what you were denied in life. You too had come to our dad, willing to share your dreams, trusting that he’ll whole heartedly support you in whatever you’d choose for life, just like Liv came to me.”
Aarushi could vividly recollect that day. She had spent hours explaining to her parents that she didn’t feel ready for marriage. She couldn’t understand why they behaved differently, they were the same parents who had treated Anirudh and her as equals until then. But now, while they were extremely happy about his decision to do MBA in Australia, they were apprehensive about her aspirations to pursue Masters in English and be a writer. Like most other parents, they convinced her that she could indeed accomplish her dreams, but only post her wedding to Raghav, who apparently to them, was the perfect son-in-law, well-educated with a successful career, coming from a family of compatible social class. And she, like most daughters, prioritized her parents’ wishes over hers, knowing very little that she’d be scarred for life. Raghav wasn’t the same person she thought she had married, days turned to years and she silently endured his abuse, fearing that any complaints from her would only embarrass her own family. Thankfully mom passed away without any knowledge of this, but dad took it hard on himself and it had impacted his health. She had felt helpless all through this ordeal. She couldn’t reach out to her twin brother, who wasn’t there when she needed him the most, who didn’t realize that her aspirations should have mattered the same as his.
Anirudh waited for her to speak something, anything. But she maintained her silence, though he could see in her eyes, the pain she was living with. “Aaru, if I had the wisdom then, that I have today, I would have convinced dad that you had the right to be the master of your life, and we would’ve been there to support you when you needed us. What am trying to do for Liv today, I would have done it for you then. It took a daughter to explain to me, what a twin sister must have gone through. Aaru, if there is ever a way I could atone for the past, I would do it in a heart’s beat. You only have to tell”, he held her hands tight.
“Rudh, it’s getting late and am indeed tired. I need to rest, goodnight” she released her hands from his grip, picked up the envelope again, and walked towards her room.
The elephant felt that it was already time, it left too.
I watched her walk away to her room and close the door. She had called me ‘Rudh’, which she hasn’t done in years. None in my family, other than her used to call me so. I knew she may not have realized what she had done, but I felt elated, light inside. Tomorrow, when I’d be leaving to the airport, she may not hug me goodbye, but I’d know for sure that she’d wish me a safe journey and wouldn’t be averse to a phone call from me from Melbourne, once I reach. And that in itself, would keep me hoping for more.
Tears were streaming down my cheeks. While Rudh’s apology had left me undone, my hands were trembling, holding the envelope. It was my attempt to claim my life back, my dreams back. I had applied for my Masters, as I had come to realize that it never was too late to become a writer. And don’t I have a story to tell, my story of lost and found, my story of resilience? And life didn’t disappoint me this time, I indeed got admission in the university.
Isn’t hope the last thing to die? I may soon have answers for many of my questions.