Like most mornings, the moment I opened my eyes, I could see the radium solar system on the ceiling. Observing the blue rings of Saturn, I picked up my phone to check the time to be 6:24.
Walking on the cold marble floor, I reached the living room to find Rahul skimming through the daily Eenadu. As I turned to the kitchen, he informed, “Your coffee is waiting.”
Approaching him, I could see Renisha sleeping in his lap. I kissed him on his cheek before picking up the lukewarm coffee cup on the black table.
As I did, he asked, “Have you thought about her fancy dress competition? We only have a week left.”
Resting on the adjacent sofa, I enquired, “I never get you. You remember her fancy dress competition but don’t even have a clue about my entrance exams.”
With a smile, Rahul folded the daily, before replying, “You’re old enough to take care of yourself but she isn’t.”
With a teasing smile, I enquired, “When did you wake up?”
After a yawn, he replied, “You play with me before you go to sleep and she plays with me after she is done with her sleep.”
With a smile, I replied, “Yet she gets kisses and I get rebuked.”
Observing me, he replied, “I’m not even giving her one-tenth of what your father did for you. What are you complaining about?”
Looking at Renisha asleep, I teased again, “My father didn’t play with me every morning nor did he have the time to let me sleep in his lap.”
Caressing the little one, Rahul replied, “He’s a banker and I’m a software engineer. We start our days and end them at different points in time. I’m sure your evenings were rejoicing and just not television.
Observing the light blue clouds and trees dancing as the cold wind pushed them, Rahul stated, “She’s too young to comprehend what this decision could mean for her.”
Observing Rahul staring out of the window, I nodded in agreement while resting on the sofa. The view from the third-floor was always wonderful and after a moment of silence, I replied, “I agree but without savings, we can neither afford Renisha’s college admission nor buy ourselves a comfortable home. Traveling around as we planned looks difficult as well. Rahul… we have to plan for the long run.”
Turning around patiently while looking at me, Rahul said, “You cannot stomach the fact that we cannot have a lot of what you just mentioned, can you? Your ambitions and aspirations must always be met.”
Knowing the truth, I just replied, “You will thank me for this Rahul. This is for our future. This job offer would keep you away for a couple of years and it would deeply pain you and leave you in isolation... but it would secure us our entire future.”
Continuing to stare at me, he replied, “My daughter is twelve years old Ritu and she needs her father just as much as her father needs her. If I seek money now, I can never forgive myself.”
Without a moment of hesitation, I mentioned, “You wouldn’t forgive yourself too if you’re forced to gift her a loan the moment she starts earning.”
I could see him stay silent for a while before mentioning, “At least... Let’s stay together. We will manage with the expenses.”
Considering the amount of savings, I nodded in disagreement. Observing me, Rahul shouted, “You think you are right, don’t you? When our daughter would start sharing about her personal life to a stranger whom she would love more than us, you would know what you have started.”
Before I spoke another word, he left the room.
As I chopped vegetables, my mother asked, “When will he be returning? It’s been three years you have been living away from each other.”
I just didn’t want to talk about my marriage life and stayed silent. Observing me, she asked, “Ritu, whatever you’re hiding from me doesn’t help either of us.”
I stopped chopping before turning to her. She could see it even before I stated, “We haven’t been the same… I think he is in love with another.”
For a moment, I could feel tears in my eyes. My mother for the first time in a while, stayed silent for a few moments.
Looking at her getting worried, I assured, “It’s just a suspicion maa. Rahul mentioned nothing.”
Holding my face in her arms as she wiped my tears, she mentioned, “Wives always know Ritu. You don’t have to lie to me. I should have warned you in advance.”
Looking at her, I defended, “It happens when you are three years all by yourself, ma. You cannot blame Rahul.”
With a smile, she asked, “Then why don’t I see you loving someone else? Don’t defend him Ritu. For me, it doesn’t matter how much you love him.”
For a few moments, silence prevailed before she asked, “Does Renisha know?”
That question broke me again. How could I tell my mother that Renisha speaks with her often and considers her dad’s decision to be fair because I was always a greedy mother who never loved her father after a certain point.
Ten minutes after Rajesh left, Renisha changed her dress before meeting me in the kitchen. The moment she saw me, her first question was, “What do you think of him?”
Continuing to clean dishes, I replied, “He seems good but I would never agree to your marriage.”
The very next moment, she mentioned, “Just as pa predicted. Is it because he doesn’t own enough property or a good job?”
After a moment of hesitation, I nodded in agreement and the very next moment, Renisha declared, “I don’t care!”
Her words reminded me of myself. That’s what I told my father when I brought Rahul home. I even remember my father’s words, “A software engineer from private sector? I rather marry you to a soldier. I’ll be certain of your future.”
As I continued cleaning dishes, Renisha got furious before stating, “I’m not you. I don’t see wealth and I’m marrying him!”
Finishing her sentence, she left to her room and on her way, she continued shouting, “Your greed killed my childhood! Killed my father’s love for you! I’m not going to let it kill my choice of companionship!”
What could I say? With a smirk, I just continued cleaning.
I know these are only a couple of incidents in my life and there are so many others that could be worth sharing. However, I just wanted to tell these few because as hard as it might seem, I’m the stereotypical villain in most movies.
The mother who always disagreed and destroyed everyone’s life in the family. Maybe I’m greedy. Maybe I knew what I was doing would harm me but I still did it.
When I sent my husband away, I knew that would affect our marriage. Yet for our future, I did it. I did it in my own greedy way that I paid my marriage as its price.
That decision reflected on Renisha’s childhood too. It in turn reflected her choice of companionship, thereby earning me a lifetime label; I must admit, I’ve earned.
What I’ve also earned was loneliness, despair and anti-trust in life. The only force that pushed me was Renisha and no matter what anyone says, I just wish they would consider how much I’ve lost in this too.
I don’t expect anyone to sympathise and I know, I have started this but don’t you think I wouldn’t have felt happy to hug him to sleep every night? Have another child who might say a sentence about me without calling me greedy?
But, worry not ladies and gentlemen, I have given my daughter the education I hoped. I have traveled across the world and I’ve lived!
This short story is based on an kids story by Maneesha Pujari titled “Ritu’s Favourite Teddy”. Read the original online and support the community by ordering a paperback.
This short story has been published in an anthology of eight stories titled “Eccentric Endings”. Our artists would benefit if you could order a paperback to show your support. Order your copy now!