Monday, September 19, 2005

Progati - The tale of Progress (Part X)

After approximately a fortnight, here is the next episode of Progati - The tale of progress. As promised, its longer and sooner than the last couple of episodes. The links to the last episodes are in the previous post. ( Just feeling lazy to post them again, he he! :D )
I worried about getting home in this weather; I worried about the kids getting home from their activities. My kids did all sort of activities at school - drama, debates, singing, dancing, sports -just like Rewa. Unlike me, they were free to do whatever they wanted, and unlike Rewa, they were not forced to do them. The right to choose was a wonderful gift my children had. And only now, when I heard Rewa' story did I fully appreciate it. The right to choose meant you could do whatever you wanted, and it also meant that you didn't have to do what you didn't want to.

"What are you thinking?" her words brought me back to the cafe.
"About something both of us didn't have", I was still glancing out of the window.
"Whats that?"
"The right to choose", I turned to face her and for the first time since I had known her, my gaze met hers. All those years of looking upto Rewa were behind me. I had realized she was as human as I was. She had her flaws like all humans. She wasn't the Goddess that I had once thought she was. The expression in her eyes was intense. I knew that she agreed with me, but would probably never admit it.

She surprised me, again.

"Yes, we never did have that."

My cell phone buzzed at the exact moment and that allowed me a chance to hide my surprise and avoid gaping at her. I answered my phone. It was Abbu.
"Where are you?"
"Close to college Abbu. What about you? And the kids?"
"When I saw the signs of the approaching storm, I went over to their school and picked them up. Don't worry, they are fine. Aftaab also called. He has started for home. When are you coming?"
"In a while. I'll call you while leaving"
"Ok. Should I ask Aftaab t pick you?"
"No Abbu, I'll get a taxi. Don't worry. If there is a problem, I'll call you"
"Ok. Be sure to call me"
"I will. Don't worry"
"Ok. Bye"
"Bye"

"That was Abbu" I told her. "I have kids of my own and he still worries as if I am a little girl"
"You are lucky", her voice quivered when she said this.
"Yes, I know"
"I don't have anyone to take care of me - except Rachna"
"Why? Nabin doesn't take care of you?" the words were out of my mouth before I could stop myself.
"No. He doesn't think there is any need to."
"Why?"
"Because he married an intelligent, independent, steel-willed lady, who doesn't need to be taken of."
"But you are an intelligent, independent, steel-willed lady. Aren't you?"
"Yes, but even an intelligent, independent, steel-willed lady needs to be taken care of. And Nabin doesn't think thats necessary. I guessed I impressed my independence too much on him. I always wanted him to think that I can do everything. I don't need anyone, much less a man."
"Then why did he..."
"Marry me?"
"Yes?"
"Because I wanted him to."
"You...."
"Yes"
She paused a while before going on. Took a breath and said "If there was anything mami hated more than Rachna and me, it was taking spending money on Rachna and me. Other than basic necessities and school fees, she didn't spend a penny on us. Rachna Liked to read. She wanted books. They were expensive. I liked to play. I wanted sport shoes. They were expensive. Rachna wanted to join the library. That was expensive. Everything we wanted was expensive. Each and every thing that we wanted. Each and everything that we needed." Her voice was bitter. Her face was like a filmstrip, with expressions passing over with every word spoken.

But there was no self-pity. She wasn't feeling sorry for herself. She wasn't crying. Perhaps the clouds saw that too. They were shedding lesser tears.

"And so, I decided that if they weren't going to give us any money, we had to earn it for ourselves", she said "I wasn't sure how, but I was lucky. Like Alice, I found my magic hole."
"Magic hole?" Was this too emotional for her to handle? Why is she speaking gibberish?
"Yes", she giggled at my confusion.
Rewa never giggled. She had this dignified chuckle. Not a schoolgirl giggle. But hen again, this wasn't Rewa. This was Progati. And I didn't know Progati. But then, did I know Rewa? No, I didn't.
"Yes, I found a talking rabbit. Mrs. Krishnan. Do you remember her?"
"Mrs. Krishnan...... sounds familiar", I was trying to place the name.
"She was the English teacher at our school."
"Oh yes. I remember now. The lady who spoke with a lisp."
"Yes, she was my talking rabbit, and she showed the magic hole through which I found my wonderland"

Her delight shone through her eyes. I guess Mrs. Krishnan was another person she cared for. She was as animated talking about her as she had been while talking about Rachna.