I hummed a tune as I got ready. No I did not need any starched sarees today. I could be casual.So I wore a churidar and long kameez. Tied my hair in a pony and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked young not the upcoming politician with the starched saree and the tight bun. I smiled.
As I sat down to have breakfast. Anju looked at me from top to bottom and said, ‘how come the woman who is supposed to rock the political scene is suddenly demure’. I couldn’t overlook the sarcasm in her voice but Shishir, my husband held my hand and stopped me from retorting. ‘Ma, is meeting her childhood friend after 20 years’, he said. ‘Oh… that is why the starch went away’, said my other daughter Sayee. And then both giggled. Shishir held my hand even more tightly. And then both got up and left for college.
I felt tears pricking my eyes. ‘Sonali, ignore them, they are immature’, said Shishir.
‘They are young adults now, Shishir not toddlers. Why are they so harsh to me. They have whatever they need for a good life, then why this sarcasm? Can’t I have dreams or ambitions’, I asked.
‘Don’t spoil your mood, you are meeting Preeti after so long, go now or you will be late’, he said.
It was a long drive and while the driver battled with the traffic, I leaned back and reminisced.
Preeti and me had studied together since our first standard but had never been close.Until we both took the same subjects in our 11th. We knew no one else in the class and so grouped together. While I was the underdog, she was the topper. I gave the wild streak in her life while she grounded me. She would teach me, groom me in all the subjects and if I got good marks, she would get jealous. Yet,next exams she would train me again. Yes, she was a bundle of contradictions.
Though I was excited to meet her but I was a bit apprehensive too. While I was relatively well off owing to the fact that Shishir was a rich businessman. We had a couple of factories. While I had heard that Preeti was not that well off. Also at a young age had to have a hysterectomy and she had some other medical complications. Will she be jealous, will she be angry with my success’, I thought.
‘Reached madam’, the driver said.
We had reached a modest building. Preeti lived in the first floor.
I rang the bell. The door opened immediately. I saw a radiant Preeti, she smiled and I could feel my anxieties melting away.
As I hugged her I could smell coconut oil and the jasmine.
‘Come, she held my hand and dragged me to the sofa. Made me sit. And over tea and snacks we chatted. Of the past and the present. Two hours passed by talking of our friends, our families. ‘Let us go out for lunch Preeti, I said. ‘No, I have prepared lunch, your favourite bisi bele bhaath is one of the items’, she said,’Also my younger one Tanmay will be back from school any moment’, she said.
As we sat eating, I said, ‘Preeti, this is all so tasty’.
”That is because this is Prasadam’, said Tanmay.
‘Huh’, I said.
‘We offer everything to the Lordships before we ate anything. So this becomes prasadam because it is blessed by the Lord’, Tanmay said pointing to the altar.
It was then that I noticed the altar. The deities of Radha Krishna stood there. Their smiles were enchanting. Were they the reason of this positivity in the room?
While I was introspecting, Preeti cleared the table. Tanmay helped her. I could hear mother and son chatting away pleasantly,while they did the dishes. When was the last time me and my daughters had a talk.
The bell rang, ‘I will see ‘, I said.
A young lady stood there. ‘You must be Sonali aunty. I am Tanu’. She came in and talked so sweetly. When Preeti came out both the kids excused and went inside. I looked at them thoughtfully.
‘What happened Sona,’ Preeti asked.
‘Your kids are so nice Preeti, so obedient and so very caring’, I said.
Preeti didn’t say anything.
‘And you too look so peaceful, what is the secret’, I asked.
She sat smiling. Then she said slowly, ‘I understood the futility of this life long back Sona. We struggle like a fish out of water but the fact is that everything is predetermined. Once you accept that nothing is in your control everything falls in place.
I was more confused.
I have been in and out of hospitals Sona. A time came when I stopped asking-why me and accepted that this is life. Like it or not. That lead me to a search of my identity about who am I and then everything fell in place’, she smiled again
I was mesmerised by her voice, her talk, her vision, she was so peaceful.
She continued, ‘Krishna said to Arjuna,
‘ hato va prapsyasi svargam jitva va bhoksyase mahim
tasmad uttistha kaunteya yuddhaya krta-niscayah
Today is Day 5 of Write Tribe Festival of Words