ETWA|Ch6a: Universe, A Bollywood Movie

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Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Samyukta aka Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. This is my first attempt at writing a novel. I started this project as part of #NaNoWriMo2020 before I fell off the wagon. Hope you will read along as I get back to writing it. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page. Subscribe to my writing here.

“What can you do, ma? You hug her tight and pray that she doesn’t have bad thoughts. I will also pray for you”, said Sudha upon hearing the news. She was Sreeja’s best friend and neighbour.

She found Sudha’s response to be incredibly calming. It was precisely the kind of response Sreeja was looking for when she rang her doorbell. A practical response though Sudha was not a realist by any measure. She believed deeply in the supernatural, was devout to a fault and inclined to mysticism. She believed and therefore she was. 

Sudha’s response might seem non-committal to the untrained eye but it was precisely the balm Sreeja was looking for. It was the kind of reaction that both her husband and her son were unable to give her. An assurance that Ammu’s prashnam was the result of a larger scheme of things, much larger than her 1400 sqft world. An iron-clad surety that whatever had come to pass was as per the divine plan that ran the world. An unwavering faith that in the end, everything would turn out well.

The unexpected incident, much like a gust of wind on a clear day, had landed her right in the middle of moral outrage territory. 

It had been nearly 24 hours since the prashnam had surfaced, turning her head into Shivaji Nagar during St Mary’s feast. The confrontation with Sam had given her a solid headache. The subsequent late night argument and fitful sleep had only made it worse. She had put on her brave face in the morning but it was her child at the epicentre of this fiasco. The unexpected incident, much like a gust of wind on a clear day, had landed her right in the middle of moral outrage territory. Panicked and surrounded by emotional outbursts, she was unable to orient herself and had lost her way back to love. 

The call with Siddu had stuck a knife in her and twisted it. Her conversation with him had gone as expected though he shouted at her a lot more than she had accounted for. At one point he said, “You are mad. You spoil her silly and then complain that she is going off track. You know nothing of the real world.” Sreeja felt a twinge of resentment as he twisted the knife further with more jibes. “Staying at home has made you rotten”, he had said. He was also her child. He had come out of her. She had not realised when he had taken on the role of her guardian.

By the time the conversation with Siddu had ended, Sreeja was at her wit’s end. Both father and son had blamed her for everything that went wrong. As if they had no role to play in Ammu’s upbringing. As if a solution would appear out of thin air if they argued enough about it. If only father and son would harness the enthusiasm with which they shouted at her, into finding a solution, they would be halfway there already. Maybe we should all just let Ammu live life the way she wants. And fend for herself. Sreeja smirked at that laughable thought. 

When she realised that she was sitting alone at the dining table, smirking to herself, she decided that she had to speak to somebody about this situation. That’s how she ended up knocking on Sudha’s door even though they had decided as a family that this news would not leave the house. But it was Sudha. It was just a matter of time before she got to know. If not from Sreeja, then from their maid or from the atmosphere itself. Both Sreeja’s husband and her son seemed to think that secrecy was the only way forward. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to find you the peace you’ve misplaced in the house. And everyone knows that you need a calm mind before you can apply yourself.

Justifying her actions thus, Sreeja found herself knocking on the neighbour’s door in the post-lunch lull before the hustle and bustle of the afternoon coffee began, offering up the news. And Sudha in turn opened the door into her sanctum sanctorum, graciously gifting her that merciful short sentence. I will pray for you. 

Sreeja instantly felt better. Unburdening her concerns had made her forget her headache. She felt her vision clear in the knowledge that someone other than her knew the secret. By watching Sudha’s face mirror her feelings, she felt validated. For a fleeting moment, she felt that she was not alone in this. Someone else was listening. 

All along, Sreeja was hoping that Sudha would tell her husband, Mani, about it. Mani and Sreeja’s husband were colleagues, morning walk buddies and car poolers. One half of her hoped that her best friend would keep the information to herself. The other half wished that Sudha’s husband would bring it up with her husband. Of course she knew that if her friend told her husband, she would tell others. But it was a risk she was willing to take. 

Sreeja knew that her husband was drowning in the aftermath of the news. He was flailing in anger, making it difficult for help to reach him. And he would never hold on to her for support. Help had to come quickly, from another man he respected. Mani was the perfect candidate. But if word ever got around that she had made it happen, they wouldn’t call her resourceful. They would call her a manipulator. Sreeja had to be discreet about it. And if things went south despite her plan, she would play her designated role as the helpless housewife.    

The universe is a Bollywood movie. For the most part it is predictable. There’s action, drama, romance… something for everyone, wrapped up into a short time period, and perhaps a packet of popcorn and a loo break. And yet again, the universe did not disappoint. Departing from their daily routine, on the way back from the morning walk, Mani anna walked right into their living room.

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Next Chapter | Ch6b: Universe, A Bollywood Movie