Short Story#3: Can’t Have It All

“Mother, Isha’s parents are checking out prospective grooms for her. She told them about us and now they want to meet my parents”, Abhay said. Mother retorted, “But you are not ready for marriage yet! You are still studying and yet to make a career”. “Isha told them that! But they still want to meet you and Father. They are willing to wait for a few years, given the assurance that their daughter is engaged to me” Abhay replied. Mother calmed down a bit and replied, “Let me talk to your father”. “Love you Mother!” Abhay chirped excitedly.

She was listening to the conversation from her room, between Mother and Abhay, the older of her two younger brothers. Abhay was in the second year of his graduation and Vijay, the youngest of siblings, is studying in the twelfth standard. She had just completed her graduation and still contemplating what to do next. Her elder brother, Rohit, is working in a MNC and stays in another city with his wife. Father is a government servant and Mother is a homemaker.

She had always been the pampered child. Being the only sister and daughter, she had everybody’s attention. Sometimes, a way too much she felt. But being pampered had its perks! She would get new dresses every month while brothers got them only on the major festivals. Unlike her brothers, she just had to name it, and she would get it. She even got more pocket-money than her brothers. She could sprawl on her bed anytime and for any long she desired. She wasn’t expected to help her Mother with household chores until specifically asked to. She had the power to get her brothers spanked and punished by her parents at will. But a slight scold in her direction would trigger her tear glands instantly and ferociously. And then someone or the other will always be ready to wipe her tears. Oh! How are brothers envied her. But her parents exclaimed, “Let her relax and be pampered for now. After all, she will have take up responsibilities once she is married. Let her be till she is still in her father’s home.”

She is not expected to make a career after completing her studies. The only motive of getting her educated was to ensure that she could make a living in case her married life goes wary in the future. You never know what life throws at you, right! But of course, her family will choose her future husband.

She had known Vikram since childhood. His father and her father were colleagues, not though on best of terms. They went to the same school and often met outside school in family gatherings. They had become good friends over the years, even though Vikram was a year senior to her. As they emerged into young adults, they realized that both were harbouring romantic feelings for each other. Once they professed their love for each other, they felt like the happiest people on earth. Late night phone calls and secret rendezvous followed. Vikram was determined make a stable career so that they could get their parents’ approval and show her parents that he was worthy of her. After a couple of years, it was time for Vikram to move to another city to pursue higher studies in a elite university. Thanks to technology, they could keep their long-distance relationship going and they felt their love growing day by day.

Then, on a fateful day, Rohit chanced upon her chats and photographs with Vikram on her cell-phone. He was furious. Mother and Father were told. Mother became hysterical and Father simply turned silent on her.​ The two people, who loved her like anything, were devastated. It was their honour, their reputation in the family and social circles which were on the line, they said. She was lectured, was kept an eye upon at all times, looked at suspiciously when she got a little late in reaching home from college. Her friends were spoken to and advised not to encourage her in this relationship. Vikram was called and asked to keep away. It felt as if doom had descended on their lively home. “This is what she repays us with, after all the love we showered on her!” they exclaimed sadly.

Three years had passed since her family had found out about her and Vikram. She had broken all ties with Vikram since then. She had explained to him that she won’t be able to bear the burden of guilt of hurting her family, that he has to let her go. With time, normalcy resumed in her family. She was back to being the pampered daughter. She had earned back her parents’ affection with her sacrifice of love.

Two years back Rohit got married. A love marriage, that too an inter-caste. They had dated for five years before tying the knot. Abhay have been seeing Isha for four years now. Even little Vijay had a girlfriend. Mother had always known about her brothers’ girlfriends. Sometimes, she even sends gifts for them! Even Father had an inkling about them and is amused secretly. Guys having girlfriends is the sign of growing up after all. “Oh really?” she thought bitterly. And as if she was responsible for shouldering the family’s honour alone. “And what about the family honour of those girlfriends? Or did they become honourable by the virtue of being dated by their sons?” she questioned herself. She felt so bitter at times. But she has also resigned to the fact that her husband will be chosen by her parents. Even if she still misses Vikram, she knows she doesn’t have the strength to face the hostility of her family, particularly of that of Mother and Father. In her lonely moments she imagines that Vikram rages back into her life, to fight for his love. And that her parents relent. But that is only her wishful thinking, isn’t it?

For the moment, she is busy fulfilling her own superficial desires. Shopping has become her new hobby. Evenings are mostly spent on phone-calls with her BFFs and most weekends with them again having lunches, window-shopping and going for movies. Of course, she has to be home by sun down.  Mother and Father are letting her be again. In her mind, they are compensating for her love loss with material love and a little freedom. And she is indulging herself and having fun before she is married off to a stranger. She understands that being born a girl in a society like ours, she can’t have it all. She can only make the most of whatever she gets.

First published on Women’s Web on February 02, 2018.

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