Life’s Second Chances

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

The Lost Promise

My grandmother was an active lady who loved and lived for her family. Her life revolved around her husband, children and grandchildren. As a little girl, I remember her always busy, attending the endless relatives who used to visit our home. She had great culinary skills and she loved to feed people. She always made sure that who ever visited our home, should never leave in an empty stomach.  

It was during one such day, when I met Durga. I was fourteen years old and she was around eighteen. She used to work in one of our relatives house,  and had hence accompanied her to our home.  Durga sat in one corner oblivion to all the noise and chattering.  She looked very quiet and shy.

My grandmother, who had by that time served all the guests,  looked at Durga and called her to the kitchen. I was curious to know why my grandmother had called her. In the kitchen, I saw my grandmother put a plate for Durga, filled with all the delicacies she had cooked that day. It was obvious that Durga was not used to such attention.  She stood still looking at the plate. My grandmother then took her by the hand and made her sit on a small chair. Then she handed over the plate to her and very politely asked her to eat. 

At night,  when all the guests had left, I saw my grandmother sitting pensively near the window. She was quieter than usual.  At first, I thought that she was tired, but after a minute or so I realized that there were tears in her eyes. That was the first time in my entire fourteen years life that I saw her crying. I asked her very gently what was the reason for her sudden grief. She hesitated a bit and then started narrating a story – a story about a girl called Durga.

As a young girl of around eight years,  my grandmother used to live in Rajshahi, which is now a part of Bangladesh. This was before our country got independence from the British rule. My grandmother had a very dear friend named Durga. They were like soul sisters. They spent the entire day playing with dolls, running on the fields,  climbing trees, and swimming in the pond.

Since Durga belonged to a much poorer family, she used to have her lunch and dinner at my grandmother’s place almost all the days. This friendship continued like this for almost a decade until the time my grandmother got married and shifted to Calcutta, now called Kolkata.  Before the final goodbye,  my grandmother promised her friend that she’ll come to her wedding whenever that happens.  

After shifting to Calcutta, my grandmother became busy with her new life.  They did exchange letters,  but slowly that decreased in number, until one day, when it finally stopped. My grandmother waited for a reply from Durga, but that never came. In the mean time, India got her much deserved independence. There were riots everywhere.  Rajshahi became a part of East Pakistan. Fearing the loss of life, many people fled their homes and ran away to Calcutta and adjoining places. 

My grandmother who was by that time had become a mother, asked her relatives about Durga’s whereabouts, but it was not known.  Some said that they were killed in the riots and some said they fled to Calcutta. She became busy with kids, family and responsibilities and slowly forgot her promise, until today when she remembered it again seeing another Durga. She shed tears not only for her lost friendship, but also for the unfulfilled promise. She felt guilty for not trying hard to find her friend.

Hearing this story as a child I cried for the friendship and the promise that was not kept. Today as a woman myself,  I feel lucky that we have the technology to keep in touch with our friends and families across the world.  But what about those women, who didn’t have such technology during their times?  Their desires, wishes and promises got sacrificed in the name of duties and responsibilities.  I wonder, did they ever live for themselves? Nobody knows the answer! 

Image Credit – Pixabay

The Story Of The Missing White Rose

Julia kept down the phone and adjusted the sofa cushions. The summer sun was streaming into the living room through the white honeycomb window of her duplex house. It was her seventieth birthday and her close friends and family were calling her to know how she was doing. Just five months back she had lost her husband, after battling with cancer for a long time. It was the first time in forty-five years that she was all alone on her birthday. She looked out into the garden and inevitably her eyes fell on the rose plant that had a beautiful white rose till yesterday. However, today morning when she woke up and went to the garden to water the plants, she was shocked to see it gone. She couldn’t understand who would do such a lowly thing as stealing a rose from someone’s garden. She knew that if George would have been alive, he wouldn’t have let that rose go missing. In this world, if she loved anything more after her husband, it was those white roses.

There was not a single birthday when George hadn’t gifted his beautiful wife, her favourite white roses. Along with the roses there would always be a handmade card with a lovely message for her. Those roses were not just flowers, but they were the witnesses of her entire life’s story. They were the symbol of the everlasting love that she had experienced with her husband of forty-five years. Today on her birthday, she missed the presence of them both.

She sighed at the thought of how carefully she had nurtured the rose plant, after George left for his heavenly abode. Two days ago, when the rose bud had finally blossomed, she was sure it was George’s gift for her on her birthday. But now everything was gone. She wiped the tears and turned away from the window, when the doorbell rang. She was surprised as she wasn’t expecting anyone. When she opened the door, there was nobody outside. She was about to close the door when her eyes fell on the white rose that lay on the doormat. Along with it, there was a handmade card. Her heart skipped a beat when she slowly opened the card. Tears trickled down her cheeks again as she read the message.

“To my bestie, my love, my wife,
Happy Birthday to you. I had made so many plans for your seventieth birthday, but God had
already made his own plans. I love you and will always do. Never think that you are alone,
as I’ll be by your side forever. Remember, wherever I may be, I can always see you.
Whenever you miss me, look at the white rose in the garden and know that I’m also looking at you.
Yours always,

Julia couldn’t believe her eyes. The handwriting was that of George’s. She couldn’t understand who had left the card and the rose at her doorstep. That entire day she thought about George, the missing white rose, and George’s writing on the card. The next day, when she was watering the rose plant, behind the brown coloured pot, she discovered a note on a small yellow paper, which read “Please check your mailbox”.

A bit surprised, she opened the mail box and found a letter inside it.
It read,

“Dear Julia,
I’m sorry that yesterday morning I had plucked that beautiful white rose from your
garden. You see, during the last stages of his illness, George had visited me one day. He
gave me a card which he had made for you. He was so certain he wouldn’t make it till your
birthday, that his conviction brought tears to my eyes. It was his last wish, that I should keep
the card along with a bunch of white roses outside your door on your birthday. He was sure
that your first birthday without him would be miserable, and he wanted to make it happy for
you. But I couldn’t find a single white rose yesterday because of this lockdown. I saw from
my window, how you were staring at the rose plant when you came to water it. Please
forgive me for the misery that I had caused you. Hope the card brought a smile on your
face. Stay strong

Next door neighbour”

Julia looked around at the windows of the adjacent houses. She hoped to have a glance of her kind neighbour, but all the windows were barren. She smiled to herself and thanked this person for keeping George’s last wish and making her birthday bearable.

Image Credit – Pixabay

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