Sep 13, 2014

The Poor Thing

After packing her children off to school with hasty goodbyes and rushed hugs and kisses, Asha came back from the school-bus pick-up point and realised that her maid had not turned up today also. Grinding her teeth and muttering irrelevant things to vent her ire, she started scouring the dishes. She was almost done with the dishes when Saraswati, the maid, stepped into the kitchen, noiselessly, startling Asha.

"Where have you been for the past two days?" Asha questioned Saraswati with visible irritation. Saraswati did not say a word, just plopped on the floor and began crying inconsolably. Asha's anger changed to concern in no time and she sat down beside the weeping woman. "What happened Saraswati? Why are you crying? Is your daughter alright?"

She knew that Saraswati lived on her own and had a little daughter to take care of.Her husband had left her for another woman two years ago, but Saraswati had put up a brave face. And, taking her husband's atrocity in stride, had increased her work hours to be able to take care of her daughter by herself. Recently, she had even started sending her to a small school nearby.

Asha always thought "Poor thing, she earns, runs her house, sends the child to school, puts up with her husband's beatings and now that rascal has left her for another woman." Though she admired Sarsawati's courage about taking the responsibility of her child single-handedly, she always thought of her as 'poor thing', who could not go back to her family because she had left her family to elope with this man some years back.

Meanwhile Saraswati had regained her composure and was narrating how her husband had come and taken the child away. She said "I don't want my daughter to live with her father, didi. He will not send her to school or take care of her in any manner. My daughter will grow up to become a maid like me only." And Asha could not help but say the same thing in her mind- poor thing.....

The same evening, when she was telling her daughter how beautiful her illegible scribblings were, her husband called up to say that he would be late that evening also, as something important had come up at office. She heard him and said 'ok'. But did she hear a muffled female laughter in the background? "It could be one of his colleagues", she reasoned with herself.

However, she could not stop herself from recalling things that she had been noticing in the past few days- faint smells of women's perfume on her husband's clothes, inflated credit card bills and frequent extra work at office. Alarmed, she called him up and asked him, "Ashok, are you really at office? What is going on?" And her husband replied "What do you mean Asha? Come here and see for yourself." Without saying another word, she hung up the phone but could not bring herself to believe him. She tried to brush it off, but the feeling of betrayal and shock kept coming back. Angry, hurt and disappointed, she stayed up till he returned home.

He came at 1 am and was visibly happy - she heard him humming as he was near the door. Though he was shocked to see her awake and waiting for him, he masked it soon and asked her "What's with you? Why are you up at this time? And look at your face dear...what's the matter?" And she could not help but shout "What's the matter? Where did this smell on your clothes come from? What is keeping you in the office for so long so often?"

She was not prepared for what she heard. Though she had been seething with anger, she also had just a little bit of hope that her assumptions could be wrong and everything was fine. But here he was, her husband, telling her that he was, indeed, in love with another woman, a colleague at office. And she dare not open her mouth about it, or else he would not think twice before separating from her.And she could also take the kids with her if she wanted.

She spent the night in a daze.....after sending the kids to school, she called up her brother and told him everything. And she was not prepared for what she heard this time, too. Her brother was telling her to forget about it and go on as if nothing ever happened. She had to think about her kids, after all. They went to expensive schools and lived a decent life. Would she be able to support it on her own? He, her own brother, was pained at her predicament but could not do much about it as he had his own problems in life. And she, who had never worked in her life in spite of being well-educated, could not probably now find a means to take care of her children by herself. So doing what her husband wanted was the wisest thing to do, he advised her.

She hung up the phone, dejected- she knew she could not go back to her family, though she had married a man of their choice and followed all the unwritten rules of being a good daughter, sister, wife and mother. She was still lost in thought as Saraswati came in through the door. Seeing her, Asha could not help but smile sadly and say to herself....."who is the poor thing?"


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