I parked my car near the station and got down. All around me girls were chattering and giggling. I let out a long sigh of longing. They were so care free that it made me sigh with longing again. I was also like them once, so full of life and bubbling with joy. I was so sure of myself and what I wanted from life.
I followed a group of giggling girls on their way to the college. It was the same route I took some fifteen years ago. There were totally four of us. Karen, who loved to enjoy life, found that her true vocation was serving god, became a nun. Kamini, the timid one who was once so scared to speak to any strangers is setting up business deals in a jiffy. Madhu who scorned at the idea of love fell in love with her brother’s friend and is in the United States. I got married immediately after I completed my under graduation and am the mother of precocious twins.
I came back to my car filled with nostalgia. What have I achieved in this trip down the memory lane except pain? I drove the car like an automaton and did not really notice where I was till the watchman of the apartment block where we stayed knocked on the window. With a start I looked around and took a bearing of my surroundings. “Get a grip Nandita”, I admonished myself.
I let myself into the apartment and flopped down on a chair after fetching my college photo album. I looked at the bunch of girls grinning in the photograph. Karen now enjoys her life by helping others. Kamini though timid has an eye for organizing things and has an obsession for perfection. Madhu though scoffed at the idea of love marriages is very much in love with her husband. When I spoke to them all last month they were all happy and content and doing what they wanted. The same cannot be said about me, I thought. I always wanted to be a home maker, the core of the family. My interest in decorating houses comes next to my family. Many of my friends and Pramod’s family wanted me to decorate their house for them. His cousin even went to the extent of saying that I could pursue it as a career and that he would back me up financially. I did not want to devote my time and energy in anything other than my family. I wanted to be there for my family anywhere and any time.
I did not make any unnecessary demands on my family as my mom made. We had to give up one night a week for her moonlight dinners even though we might have had other important engagements. We always had to cancel. My dad used to say that “lets indulge her”. I wanted to be liberal with my children and always stood behind the screen so that I might step in whenever my kids wanted me and never impose my self on them when they did not need me. I wrung my hands in despair, trying to find out exactly where I went wrong.
It all started yesterday. It was my wedding anniversary. I wanted to spend the day with my family as it was a holiday. I announced it to them over breakfast only to be met with an uneasy smile.
“Mom I am going for shopping with Megha for her birthday”, that was my daughter Shreya.
“Mom I’m off to Vinnet’s place they have got a new DVD and we are going to watch some awfully good movies”, that was my son Shreyas. I looked at my hubby Pramod who was looking guilty.
“Er… Nandita I am off to party given by Sanjay and it is a bachelor’s party.”
I couldn’t believe what I heard. My husband was saying that he wanted to spend our wedding anniversary with his friends.
I blurted out, “You guys could have discussed with me before you made any plans right. I wanted to spend the day with you”, with pain.
My son looked at me peculiarly and said,” Mom, you never used to bother so what’s the big deal now”.
And they all started to leave pretending as though they couldn’t see the pain that was evident in my face. On top of it Pramod didn’t even wish me. I thought he might surprise me later. My daughter was the last to leave as her friend Megha came to pick her up. When Megha came I offered her a piece of cake that I had baked and left them alone.
In the kitchen I over heard them talking.
“What’s the occasion for the cake Shreya?’
“It’s my parents wedding anniversary Megha”
“Then you’ll want to spend the day with them. I can understand that. We can go for shopping another day”
“Oh no its okay. My mom and I do not have anything much in common to talk about. And any way she will not mind”.
I was a bit hurt when she said that. And the passing remark of my daughter to her friend before she shut the door hurt me the most, “…just a house wife”. “Serves you right”, I scolded myself. Eaves droppers do not hear anything good about themselves.
To top it all Pramod came that evening without as much as a bouquet of flowers and promptly fell asleep. I spent a sleepless and depressed night.
Today morning over the breakfast table I kept very quite hoping that someone might notice. My silence went unnoticed. Pramod absent mindedly pecked my cheek and went on. When I thought about all these it made me realize that I was being taken for granted by my family. Even when we were at home there was no sense of belonging between us. My kids and my hubby had a sense of bond among themselves but not with me. I was just like a piece of furniture.
I shook my head at the way the trains of thoughts were progressing. My family loved me I was sure of that. Only that they have forgotten that I am a person with my own ideas and feelings. And may be with reason too?
All of a sudden I remembered the conversation that I had with Madhu when she visited India last month. She was staying with us for a couple of days. Though I enjoyed having her with me I envied the easy rapport my children had with her. Even Pramod discussed things with her. I even told her how I felt about that. And Madhu’s reply still echoes in my ears, “well Nandita they might have thought that you might not like it”. I was dumbfounded by her reply. She even went on to say that my family was taking me for granted and my idea of staying in the background was not good enough. She said that I was too accommodative. I wanted to ask her what she really meant by that but unfortunately we were not able to continue that conversation as her husband came in at that moment. She left shortly after that and I was not able to discuss it with her further. But the discussion I had with Madhu kept on worrying me.
I realized then that in the past one month I was subconsciously trying to find out whether Madhu’s observation was true. With a bitter taste in my mouth I realized that she was telling the truth which I had lamentably failed to recognize. I thought I was being very liberal with my family only to find that I have failed miserably. It felt as if I only exist for them like a piece of furniture and I didn’t even know what my children thought about me. After a lot of self analysis I found that that I hadn’t realized that my family was drifting away from me. I couldn’t even remember the last time Pramod and I went out for dinner.
I thought about my childhood and realized that my mother played a prominent role in whatever discussions we had. And I realized that we were a close knit family. My uneducated mother was able to hold the family close where as me, with my fancy ideas was not able to hold my family together. I had become a piece of furniture to them. We could not treat my mother like that and get away with it. I did not know where to begin to clean the mess that I have made of my life. It was my fault.
I got this sudden urge to talk to my mother. She was real surprised to see me at her door step. She took one look at me, got me a glass of my favourite juice and sat down next to me. I just poured down my misery to her and broke down. She let me cry and get it out of my system. She helped me to wash my face and after I had calmed down considerably she said in a gentle voice, “Try having a moonlight dinner dear”. I looked at her as if she was out of mind. I did not want to do it as I detested it. Then slowly I thought again. I did not detest the idea as I foolishly believed so. I thought about it leisurely and found that, that the moonlight dinners were one of the best things that happened to me at home. I used to fight with my brother, discuss things with my father and I used to get my opinion about so many things from my mom. She was holding the family together and did it so subtly. She saw to that we understood that she was a one to be reckoned with. Foolishly I thought that those dinners were a waste of time while they have been the most stimulating ones as my mom started to point out to me that all the important decisions about my life were taken during those dinners.
As my mom watched over me I began to trace back the events to find out how things have deteriorated enough to this extent. It has been happening for the past five or six years. Whenever Pramod was disturbed I used to maintain a distance feeling that if he wanted to may be he would tell me and that he needed the privacy. It did not strike me that it might be misunderstood as that I do not care. And I had let my children get away with treating me as if I do not mater to them that much. Some how, I have given a message to my family that it was okay for them to ignore me and it did not bother me if they did not want to spend time with me.
I had a heart to heart talk with my mother and it was very clear in my mind what I was going to do. Once I reached home I called Pramod’s cousin and told him that I was interested in his business offer. It was also decided that I should get a certificate in Interior decoration. That night when my family came to the dinning table from their respective rooms for dinner they found an empty table.
I told them in a no nonsense tone, “from here onwards every Saturday of the week the dinner will be at the terrace. We will call it the moon light dinner”. My daughter looked as if she was going to argue. I continued in a stern tone, “I do not want any arguments about it. And I will not be available at home during the day time as I am going for classes.” They had nothing to say as they tried to come to terms with the different person they were looking at. They were bemused through out dinner and when Pramod slipped his hands around my waist in such a tender fashion which he had not done in a long time I was sure everything was going to be al right. My moonlight dinner was going to be a success as it was for my mom.