I got married at the age of twenty, just after finishing college and without even knowing how my husband looked. Those days, matrimonial ties were decided mostly by the parents. I was told that the groom gave his nod after seeing my photograph. Well, I was beautiful to say the least. He worked well, was of good character and had a decent place to live. What else would a girl want? Yes, they were right! I really didn’t want anything more.
On our wedding day I saw him for the first time; tall, slender with a wheatish complexion. Our eyes met during the exchange of garlands. Did I see a tinge of smile in them, I cannot say! However, they were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. In the initial days of our marriage I wished to tell him many times how beautiful his eyes were, but felt shy every time I thought of it. Women were not supposed to be vocal, and those who dared to express were condemned as a product of western culture. It was the early seventies, and the influence of western culture was visible in our cinemas, yet the women from the middle class families were expected to act demurely. In a year’s time we welcomed our first born, a girl and in another couple of years later, my second child was born; a boy this time. Our family was deemed complete.
My husband was a caring, responsible and a complete family man. Among the two of us, I was the one who would talk most of the time. He was a man of few words and would love to listen everything to the minutest of details. Occasionally he would give his opinion or advice to something that he thought was of importance. He never really imposed any restrictions on me, yet there was an invisible line which I dared not cross. We lived our lives as per the societal norms, and were a typical Indian family and a happy one too.
Years passed by, both our children were well educated and were working. We thought it the right time to get our daughter married. She was already twenty-six and was working in the US as an IT professional. Before we could vouch the subject, she called up one day to announce that she was getting married to an American boy. She said he worked in her company and loved her a lot. We were invited to Los Angeles to give our blessings. To be frank, we were shocked beyond words. Our middle class mentality, conservatism and the society rule book came in the way to accept this alliance whole heartedly.
As we were coping with this bit of news, my husband passed away just like that in his sleep. With my daughter in a faraway land and my husband gone forever, my life seemed meaningless. Yet I had to carry on for the sake of my son. When my son got married, I felt my responsibilities were over. I could rest and enjoy my old-age in the company of my grandchildren. However, I soon realised how wrong I was. In the pretext of living near the office, my son shifted to a single bedroom flat within a few months of his marriage. I was left lonely and broken-hearted. I couldn’t believe that my son, whom I took care of all my life, would desert me in that manner when I needed him the most.
I cursed my daughter-in-law and brooded for days to come. As I sat retrospecting on my life, I was transported back to my twenty-year-old self. I remembered how I was told that my marriage was fixed, and nobody even asked me if I wanted anything else. I was not given any choice to lead my own life. But now that my responsibilities were over, and I was all alone again, is it true that I didn’t have anything better to do with my life? I realised that for the first time I could choose what I wanted to do with the remaining days of my life. Along with it came the realisation that all these years I had lived only for others, and this was the first time I was about to live for myself.
The very first thing I did was to enrol myself in our society’s yoga class. I was surprised to see so many ladies of my age. I formed a circle of like-minded people, and we started spending quality time with each other. This took out the bitterness that I was nurturing in my heart, and slowly but eventually I forgave my son and daughter-in-law. In fact, I started seeing everything from an entirely new perspective. I realised how the choices they made were not related to me, but to them. They were both working, had a hectic life which was quite different from mine. Yearning for some privacy was nothing wrong after all! I knew that even though my son was staying separately, he was just a call away. This newly found wisdom renewed my relationship with them. I started seeing everything from a different angle and was in awe to see the equal partnership that my son and daughter-in-law shared; something that was missing in our times.
The second thing I did was something that I always dreamt of; I took up writing. I always had a flair for writing stories and poems but was shy enough to put my thoughts out into the world. When my daughter-in-law came to know about it, she helped me publish my first story in a local magazine. Since then I have never looked back. I published my first book when I was sixty-one years and earned quite a bit of recognition in my writer’s community.
They say life gives us a second chance. I would say that it’s not life, but it’s us who should snatch a second chance from life. Sometimes we wait for the right opportunities without realising that the opportunity had come and left. We stop ourselves thinking about the people, who only exist in our minds. If we are not doing anything that would harm ourselves or any other person, and are morally correct, then there’s no age to start anything new. Learning is a constant process, and it ends only when we die. The choices we make shape our lives. When my son left me, I had the choice to brood over, curse my daughter-in-law and be an agony aunt, or I had the choice to do what I did.
This story is inspired by all the women I have known or got to know till date. It amazes me how they sacrifice their wishes and desires for the sake of their family. They walk on the path that has been decided by this society. Yet, once in a blue moon, there’s someone who rises differently. They give life a second chance at an age when everyone expects them to take rest, as their responsibilities as a wife and a mother are over. I wish every woman get or snatches this second chance in life, that they truly deserve.
Image Credit – Pixabay
5 thoughts on “Life’s Second Chances”
I have to confess that I read this as being autobiographical until I saw your About page.
And I squirmed with discomfort at the alien – to me – concept of arranged marriage.
Women as second-class citizens is, to my Western eyes, just so wrong.
And thank you for following Sound Bite Fiction.
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Thank you for your words of appreciation. This story was written keeping in mind our mothers and grandmothers. Although arranged marriages still exist in our India, things are definitely changing for the better.
I’m very glad you decided to go to yoga class, took up writing, and created a full, meaningful life sharing your wisdom and talent! Thank for the follow!
Oh, I just read your about page. Well, I’m glad the person you wrote about found a meaningful life! 🙂
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Thank you for your valuable feedback. Yes she did. 😊
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