Arts and Entertainment

Note to redemption

- Sarthak Byanjankar

Dec 30, 2018-

Truth be told, he wasn’t an emotional man. His emotional moments could be numbered in finger tips. The world saw his vulnerability, once when he saw his mother shouldered by four people, then when he shouldered his sisters’ palanquin and finally today when he shouldered his daughter’s pyre. He was what you called a typical macho man, fearing nothing and challenging everything. Yet, as he saw his princess rising with the flames he began to wonder why her, why now, why did he fail to notice the signs?

It had only been six autumns since Swastika embraced ‘Poudel’ as her identity forgoing her father’s ‘Subedi’. As Hari Subedi brooded over the flaming pyre, he questioned himself, “Were there no signs or had I just not cared enough to peep through her eyes into her soul?” What he thought to be the love and affection of his

son-in-law in the form of expensive and branded make-up, was that just a ploy to cover up the bruises, her Kashmiri shawls and sweaters covering up the night’s conquest of her husband’s, his masculinity?

Amidst all these flashbacks, he recalled many incidents but none of them were what he so dearly sought. Frustrated, he rummaged through the once cherished room of hers while Pun Maya with her eyes full of grief sat at the door, helplessly staring at her husband. Her room looked like a battle field once he was done with it. Papers, notebooks, clothes scattered through its floors. Just as he was about to exit, he recognised some swollen pages adorned with her handwriting.

“Maybe this is what my mom meant when she said faith isn’t in one’s hand, it is written by a higher power presiding over the throne above the sky, and who are we to question his judgment. For whatever the judgment he passes—must be just and must lead to a grand design of his, of which we play a miniscule part. Our faith is rigid, especially for women. It is a testament written in blood on a tablet of flesh. I still remember our history teacher preaching ‘see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil’. Though at the time I couldn’t fathom its notion it dawned upon me in my teenage years when I saw my father bestowing his worldly frustrations upon his wife, doing what he couldn’t to those more powerful than him to her. The next morning when I saw her bruises, her bulging eyes, she simply used to brush it aside to be a misstep in the ladder and an emotional episode of ‘Kasauti Zindagi Kay’, a Hindi-language television serial.”

He sat under the door clutching his forehead. For two decades, Pun Maya thought she had seen all the emotions there was to see in her husband’s eyes. But never before had she ever witnessed what she witnessed now—remorse and guilt, which she thought she’d feel the brunt come nightfall.

“After a while, she got better in covering and I got better in ignoring them. Nobody bothered to question the elephant in the room. What once was a closed door ordeal transpired into the living room as I transcended from teenage years. And with time it spilled over our life. I assured myself that he isn’t a bad man but how am I supposed to overlook the demon that alcohol brings out in him every fortnight. ‘A son seeks his mother in his wife and the daughter her father.’ It seems I have verified it. Ravi isn’t a drunkard. We had a happy first married year, after which Ratika was born. It was evident he wanted a son, nevertheless he seemed pleased enough. A couple of years later Swaravi came to enlighten and strengthen my world. But the children who were the light of my life seemed to cast shadows in their father’s life. To state the fact, he has a Master’s degree and knows very well that I have no control over the gender of his children. And still he blames me, sees me at fault. Why?

Drinks weren’t for him and neither was he for the drinks. But ever since Swaravi came into our lives, he has found a new buddy to share his woes with and in me, he finds a punching bag. Now, I too find slips in the bathroom a bit too common. I know I shouldn’t give in to his whims but I am chained to the iron rules and norms as set forth by the society. The struggle within me is too great and I wish I could share them. But neither do I want to add to my mother’s sufferings nor do I want my friends to ridicule or sympathise and be a hot topic of discussion, for I too have been one of the sympathisers. I once tried to consult with my father to know what made him tick, pacified him, appeased him but was too busy and later I thought the better of it. Maybe my mother is right, it is our faith, our path to redemption. I know I am supposed to weather this silently as my mom did for us.  It’s not that I don’t love the two best things in my life. I do more than my life. But I’m not as strong and resilient as her; I just can’t take it anymore. My only qualm is for my daughters and the ominous faith that awaits them. Maybe she hasn’t committed any sins and can carve out a niche, reshape her faith! For her mother couldn’t.”

And this was the fourth time Hari allowed his tears roll down his pupils, but this time it wasn’t for himself. The cries were his heartbreak for the faith of his daughter that went in vain and for his deeds which shaped his princess’ mindset and her future. His daughter relinquished his identity and embraced her husband’s, never for a moment searching, building her own. Yet the unsought was what doomed her. Had he known what his transgression to his ‘property’ would do to his ‘asset’ he’d have changed his ways.

But this was a little too late.

The only redemption he saw lied in the laps of his wife and he too lay beneath the shade of the ever forgiving tree. He looked at his daughter’s daughters, embracing his two little princesses and vowing to go in a voyage in search of their identity—when time comes. Seeing his state, Pun Maya caressed his hair and whispered, “What is in the paper? Is it something from her?” To which the only reply he could muster to give was a sob and a nod.

Published: 30-12-2018 08:36

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