It was a Monday morning, yet our heroine got up in a palpable sense of excitement. Many of her all-time-firsts materialized that Monday – her first flight journey, her first step out of the stereotyped society, her first testimonial to the subdued women who don’t acknowledge their ability to multitask, her first self-satisfied smile that starts from the heart and travels to her lips en-route her eyes.
Our heroine doesn’t have a name. She could be Mala, Sheela, Aiysha, Sona or Diana. She is what you call a common (Wo)man. She represents the entire woman fraternity who makes the ride of Life easy and enjoyable but don’t have the privilege to enjoy hers. She is an ordinary middle class homemaker with a normal routine of cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, packing, getting the children ready to school and the oblivious last-minute rush. Being the second week of the month she has to also rush about to pay the electricity and telephone bills. Had she been able to afford a PC and Internet connection she could have avoided standing in the long queues. If she gets late to office half a day’s salary would go down the drain and she would never be able to excuse herself for this. The thought of crowded buses and trains give chills down her spine. Tormenting thoughts. She gobbles the leftover breakfast and pours a cup of coffee, prepared an hour ago, down her throat.
Looking for the man of the house?? The one who wears the pants?? Oh! He is busy in his office. All these are just household chores for him. The woman would/should/must be able to manage these. Why does he have to bother? How can he devote time to such petty things? When he comes back from office he wants coffee the next minute and doesn’t even bother to ask his wife if she had any. Even if he comes in early he would wait for her to come and prepare it. She isn’t expected to rest. And mind you, if she fails in any of the above tasks she would be deemed as incapable, a bad family woman and definitely not a good wife. Can she question the credibility of a good husband at this point of time? Of course not! This one remark will make people forget her strenuous lifestyle and earn the title of a bad wife straight away. So she learns to suppress her views and endure the pain. But how long?
She reaches the saturation point and questions herself. She reflects back on herself – What am I doing? What am I putting my talents into? Why am I leading a life of misery? Why am I not able to juggle between my interests and that of my family? I am a strong woman of great caliber. I would not let fate decide my destiny. I would not go where life takes me; I will lay my own roads.
Again a doubt creeps in her mind – I have been striving to succeed for years now but have never been able to strike the chord. How will this time be any better? What was that I lacked all along – was it the conviction to emerge out successful or was it that I quit when I could have won with another blow? It’s said – When you are the hardest hit, rest if you must but don’t you quit! As Arundati Roy has stated all through her book The God of Small Things, we have always worry about the Big God – the society, the family and the laid out rules but never about the Small God – we ourselves, the individual. The thoughts, the feelings of the Small God are suppressed in the fear of the Big God. But she decided that this time she wouldn’t let it happen. She would listen to her Small God come what may. She would put her foot down.
She goes to her husband and says, “I am leaving the town tomorrow on an important project assignment for 20 days. You will have to manage the kids and the house.” She knew after how much ordeal this opportunity materialized. All along she herself was apprehensive of taking up such assignments and the company too tossed of applications from ladies, especially married ones. Their justification being the woman would be thinking about her family back home more than the assigned work. Fighting for her right, her seniority and convincing the team that even she could perform on par with, if not outshine, her colleagues who have been taking up this project was no easy job. She had to first reassure herself which was the most difficult part and assure her team too. Half the stream was crossed. The other half was before her, relaxing on a Sunday afternoon with a newspaper in hand. He had a What-are-you-nuts look on his face. She dint flinch, she said that she is set to redefine her career. She knew that the easiest way of getting his nod was to kindle his ego. She remarked with an authoritative tone, “All you have to do is to take care of the children, cook, wash and clean the house. I have been doing this for years but I am not sure if you would be able to take up the reigns. Would you want to give it a try or should I..” She couldn’t complete her sentence. The husband forgot about the wife leaving the family for her job and retorted immediately, “The world will not stop rotating if you aren’t here. I will handle things better than you. The house will be in a better state when you return. Now go pack your bags right away.”
That Monday morning she broke free from her cocoon and fluttered about like a butterfly. Is it only that if you do something great you would be appreciated? Women from various strata would agree that proving their worth to the society itself is a magnum opus. Commanding the respect they deserve is itself a herculean task.
She made people realize that she possesses the inner strength that amazes men. She made her husband and children realize her selfless sacrifice and her team that women are capable of doing any job like Sudha Murthy who took up the job as the first lady floor engineer in Tata Steel. She was the Queen and Highness of her life. Her husband put his arm around her and whispered, “I am proud of you dear!”
Looking back on that day, she thought to herself, “You have definitely arrived”.
P.S: This essay was written as part of “Build-a-story” contest where the first and the last sentences were given and a story had to be built in-between.