Short Story- The turning point
“Oh that must have been tough for you, such a tender age, but why did this happen?”
She had heard this time and again from so many people whenever they got to know that her parents were divorced, Divorce- a word which is associated with stigma in our society and however progressive we claim to have become, we still can’t seem to take this without the- ooh and aah, the I’m so sorry for you and Why did this happen?
Asmita’s parents had been divorced when she was 10 years old, why they parted ways is probably something that she would never fathom but the bitter truth hit her time and again. She was 24 now and had a life of her own. She had focussed all her energy into academics and had secured a good professional education and a job at one of those companies people dream to work for. She earned a good salary which she splurged on herself to buy all those things which she had only dreamt of in the past, she travelled the world and was content with her busy life.
She longed for a family. A husband and kids, she absolutely adored kids and wanted to have 2 of her own. She would shower them with abundant love, something that was snatched away from her in her growing years. She made a promise to herself that she would give them a a good childhood to remember, where they had Mummy and Daddy standing by their side, they will not go through the same fate like me. We will be one happy family. She met Rishabh through a common relative who was actually looking at match making for the two. They hit off well. He was not doing very well in his business, not as well as her but that was never an issue between them. He was jovial, good natured and a calm person and she was the one who got all excited about everything, overly emotional ,the expressive one. She felt like she had met her soulmate. They got married and had 2 lovely kids in a few years.
Rishabh continued to have issues with his business, they only worsened as time passed. She watched quietly for a few years but sensed she couldn’t rely much on him. She wanted a secure future for herself and her kids. She bought an apartment and went for a bank loan. She made investments to secure the kids higher education and some other blue chip stock investments for the future needs. She had risen to a very good position, the organisation was minting money and she was among those who were benefited with good bonuses and hikes. So money was not an issue. But it always irked her that he had started taking her for granted. Knowing that she was slogging her butt off spending close to 12-14 hours at work daily, 5 days a week and it wasn’t easy. He still went about his old ways. Wherever she asked him to leave the business and take up a job elsewhere if it wasn’t working out, he said that he was too old to get a job, besides he had never worked for someone else in his life. Who would give him a job now and he couldn’t just work at any throwaway salary? He assured her he was trying his best to find a way of selling off the business and he would start something new with the money he got.
Time passed but little changed. She was finding it difficult as the pressure mounted at her workplace. The banking industry came under a turmoil with collapse of Lehman brothers, one of the top investment banks. The US economy was at its worst, the big bubble had burst and the tremors shook the world. The entire banking industry bore the brunt, people were asked to leave, pay cuts, high stress had become a part of everyone s life. She knew she was good at her job but have never foreseen an event like this, she knew in her heart if she lost her job, they would be on the roads, Loans to be repaid, children’s fees and almost everything depended on her salary.
As she stepped into the house one night, it was way past midnight. The day’s hard work and stress had taken a toll on her, she looked pale, had hardly eaten, there were dark circles beneath her eyes.
He was busy watching tv. He dint even bother asking her how she was. In the years, they had somehow drifted apart. In her heart she detested his complacent attitude and she knew she was being taken for granted, somewhere she held herself responsible for it.That love in the initial days of marriage had blinded her, she had conveniently shared all her money matters with him, her plans and at times though she felt he was too lax about his job and career she kept quiet. She thought things will improve once they have a kid. The additional responsibility would make him realise he has to work hard. But nothing changed. He always knew about her fear of divorce and that was one thing she certainly wouldn’t do unless things went to the extreme. He played that to his advantage time and again.
Today was no different but she had to talk. She switched of the TV and spoke to him. She told him about the risk to her job and that they needed to sit together and think of a plan in case the worst happened. He seemed unperturbed. Her daughter woke up and came to drink a glass of water, she saw them talking, said nothing and went back to her room.
Kuhu as they fondly called her was 12 years old, innocent and content in her world of books and with her friends at the same time wise enough to understand what as going on at home. The next day was Saturday. As Asmita sat sipping her cup of tea in the balcony Kuhu came and confronted her. Her first words were” Ma why don’t you leave him?” Asmita was stunned. It was too profound a statement from her innocent child’s mouth. Kuhu continued “Ma I have been seeing you toiling so hard since so many years, you have been spending long hours in office and we know it was not because you loved doing it. It is so that could could give us a good future, At times you had to miss our functions, our competitions, had to travel out of country for many days and we missed you Ma, But I know you missed us as well. I have heard you speak on the phone to Shweta aunty so many times saying how you don’t really enjoy working any more , you want to leave the corporate world and spend time with us, something you have been yearning for so many years. You are just waiting for this home loan to get paid, and then you are waiting to collect enough money to fund Rehan’s further studies in the US and then on and on. Its never going to end Ma and the reason is because you are doing this alone. Where is Daddy’s contribution Ma? Isn’t it his duty as well to provide for the family. Its not necessary it has to be in equal proportion but just not being involved at all or handing over some parsley sum to you which will only cover the grocery bills, I don’t buy that. And its not that he s taking up the responsibility of me or Rehan .We would be more than happy if both of you switched places, he became the Stay at Home Dad and you become the bread winner of the family. But he doesn’t do that either. How many times is he there when we need him? How much does he help in the daily chores, in our studies, when we are ill? Its of course your decision Ma but I think you are doing a great injustice to yourself and us. Happiness and self respect is what matters at the end not what society and people think. I am with you ma always remember that”.
Tears were streaming down Asmita’s cheeks, she had got it all wrong hadn’t she. One childhood incident which had left her bruised and she had made up her mind she would never take that step her parents took. But looking at her situation now, she was doing more harm to herself and her kids. What example was she setting before her daughter? The lady who held seminars on women empowerment in office was herself reduced to a victim within the confines of her home. She smiled after a very long time, and not the boardroom smile, She now knew what she had to do. The cup of tea lay cold,but Asmita felt refreshed, something she had never felt in a very long time. She looked at Kuhu’s photo on the mantlepiece, Her baby had grown up, the little one whom she had been teaching and imparting knowledge and values for so many years had taught her life’s most important lesson today.