उसकी बायीं कलाई पर पहले ही दिन मैंने एक छोटी सी गुडिया का फीका नीले रंग का गोदना देखा था. अजीब था क्यूंकि अक्सर गाँव की प्रथानुसार इन में से अधिकतर औरतों के हाथ में कोई फूल पत्ते या फिर पति के नाम के अक्षर गुदे होते .
मेरी गुडिया की आया दस दिन की छुट्टी पर गयी तो इसको रख गयी .बालों और चहरे से साफ़ पता चलता 40 से तो ऊपर ही होगी। पहले ही दिन जाने से पहले , शाम के नाश्ते से दो मट्ठियाँ उसने एक अखबार में लपेट ली ,खुद ही बोली ,"दीदी मेरी लड़की है 6 साल की, उसको दूंगी। "
मैंने ज्यादा नहीं पूछा बस दो मट्ठी और रख दी .अगले दिन मैंने पूछा "तुम्हारी मुन्नी स्कूल जाती है?", तो वो मानो चौंक गयी बोली ," हाँ,हाँ दीदी जाती है। "
उसकी हडबडाहट से से मुझे गुस्सा आया, सोचा देखो झूठ बोलते शर्म भी नहीं आती इनको , ज़रूर बच्ची को कहीं काम पर भेजती होगी।
वो कम बोलती और मैं अक्सर सोचती मुझे तो सबसे यही सुनने को मिला था की सुशीला तो पूरी बस्ती में सब से अच्छा गाती थी , खूब मुंह फट थी ,क्यों ? वो सच था फिर यह।
दस दिन बाद वो चली गयी। दीवाली पर जब सब को कुछ देने लगी तो सोचा सुशीला की बच्ची के लिए भी कुछ भेज दूं। आरती को लिफाफा दिया तो उसने मुंह पर हाथ रख लिया, कुछ देर बाद बोली , "दीदी आप भी उसकी बातों में आ गयी ,उसका कोई बच्चा नहीं ,पहली बार जब उम्मीद से थी तो वो गुडिया का गोदना करवाया था उसने पर वो गुड़िया गोदना ही रही ,कभी उसकी गोद नहीं भरी।
वो सुशीला तो पागल है। कोई कुछ कह न दे इस डर से सबको झूठ बोलती है।
मैं सुन्न खड़ी थी। एक बज रहा था , मेरी गुड़िया स्कूल से आने वाली थी।
This was first published on the PARLE-G parenting blog here.
I am no longer the little toddler who wanted to be teacher like my mom or the mad little girl who was fascinated by how electricity gets transmitted to the whole town from her dad’s office.
In my teenage years the ordinariness of my parents and their professions used to bother me. But now as a parent I know that even in their ordinariness both of them made great parents.
My openness to gender roles comes from the fact that the division of labour in our household was never gender-based and neither was respect for any kind of work. My dad would iron my school dress, make a tiffin as easily as my mom would watch a cricket match and manage the finances.
Me being their only child was never raised to be like a son ( bete jaisa),but be a confident and strong willed person. They respected my choices and accepted my male friends, my late hours at theatre rehearsals, my travelling alone, though I now know how scary it must have been as a parent to let their little girl explore the wild world alone.
Today I thank God for making me their daughter. Happy parents day Mummy & Papa!
She is the eldest of four sisters in her family, a petite quiet girl who is much stronger of will than her small physical stature. Lets call her EM. We have known each other for more than two decades now.
She was a classmate in school, we went to different colleges but our shared love for books and meetings at the public library forged a deep bond. We would discuss anything on this planet over endless cups of tea and knew each other as the back of one's hand.
We were thick of friends, lived in the same university hostel later in life and are now both moms. After all these years that one phone call that sealed this bond as a lifelong commitment will always remain etched in my memory.
Who said friendship is only about happy memories? Her father had passed away after a long illness, after cremation there were hushed up discussions happening as to who would sit for the ceremony where the mantle of the family gets passed on to the children, generally the eldest son.
In that house full of relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues, siblings my friend held my hand and looked at me. Without a word between us I knew what she meant.
The detractors were a majority, but we held our ground firmly and finally she sat in her father's place a place that was rightfully hers as his oldest child.
The detractors became even more non-cooperative labelling us rebels ,we never exchanged a word about it and managed the next day's ceremonies quietly.
That day as I stood by her I wasn't the one giving her strength or supporting her, it was mutual. The empathy, the perfect understanding of someone else's thought process, the unquestioning support you can only give someone you fully trust - all these incredible moments happened in that one moment and we both graduated from best friends to soul sisters.
Today in our busy lives we don't talk often but we understand mutual silences and pauses, we draw a lot of strength from each other and we know that the other one knows.
Finally after 20 years she had bought that house back in Banaras. The agent had called to confirm her flight details for the next day and now she was having cold feet. She was back in Delhi after a decade and tomorrow she would be where it all started five decades ago- her story, her life.
Baba had passed away ten years ago here in AIIMS and mom two years prior to him. She never came back after that. Anil and his wife had thrown ma-baba out from that house and the long drawn legal battle cost her parents their life.
Anil's extravagant habits and drinking had resulted in the house changing several hands in the last ten years, while she toiled tutoring Hindi to Japanese children in Tokyo, to save enough money to reclaim what was hers as much as it was his.
It was raining when she reached there, but there were no hot chai and pakoras waiting for her, no warm words, no smiles. She walked to the backyard, there it was the huge neem tree. Every time mom preferred Anil over her, every time baba told her ' arrey beta tu toh byah kar chali jayegi" (you will get married and go away", she would come here and nibble on a bitter neem leaf.
She plucked a leaf and pushed the bitterness deep inside. She did not even realise when she had dig her manicured nails into the soft earth, it hurt ,but she kept digging as if a demon from the past had overpowered her till she hit the metallic lid. She took the pot out, spread the pebbles out and diligently counted 967 times she was put down as a girl in this house.
Only 20 years to undo hundreds of insults, not bad she told herself. Next week was the opening of her Indo-Japan cultural museum in this house.