A Short Story.
Supriya looked at her watch restlessly for the umpteenth time. She cursed Bangalore traffic which was moving at a snail’s pace. When would she get to office, will she have enough time to prepare for the meeting? She couldn’t afford to mess up anything, the margin of error was very low. This was a crucial year for her she was due for promotion to VP. Making it to VP was not easy. It was a complex combination of many factors your performance, luck, the boss’s choice, the super boss’s likeliness to choose you over a dozen more all over the globe who were competing for this coveted post.
She knew that she possessed technical expertise, was an SME, had good presentation skills but wasn’t someone who was the pet of the boss for reasons not completely unfathomable. She had decided to put her best foot forward but off late was finding it difficult to focus. Being a Mum of a 2-year-old left her exhausted – her days started at the crack of dawn, running around preparing Rehan’s food for the day, instructions to the maid for breakfast, lunch, getting the laundry done, waking up the little munchkin and coming out with a new story and new antics each day to amuse him as she coaxed him to eat one more morsel of food from his plate. By the time he had finished his breakfast, she got into a mad rush to get ready for work
The chaotic Bangalore traffic meant she had to leave well in time. At office it was an altogether different ballgame – multi tasking with efficiency and negotiating with so many stakeholders. The stakes were too high, any lapse on her part could go against her promotion. She had to tread cautiously. Then there was the challenge of leaving work in time to be with her little boy so that she could feed him dinner and tuck him into bed for he refused to eat a morsel unless Mumma fed him. She had no time to enjoy her dinner as she had to jump on calls at US time and by the time she was done with her calls,her appetite had died. She knew it managing a career and home is not easy but the thing that bothered her the most and was the reason for her lack of focus was her MIL. Suraj’s mother lived with them right since the time they got married but she was never much of a bother. She never interfered in their life and gave them the space they needed. But after the baby had come she spent her day looking after him and off late she had become irritable and grumbled over every little thing-right from how the food Supriya cooked for the baby was not properly mashed to his sleeping time not being very erratic. Supriya tried to ignore it at first thinking it was just a different school of thought about child rearing but off late it had started to get at her nerves. Suraj’s muteness over this got her more infuriated.
As she stepped into office today in a foul mood- her promotion, MIL’s attitude, worry about if she was a good Mom, all these conflicting thoughts swam in her head. She had no time to ponder over them time was very precious and she couldn’t afford to waste it. She briskly walked to her cubicle and started unlocking her machine.
There was an IM by her super boss Pratam Shukla asking for some information.
She took the print outs and decided to walk over to his office to explain him in person. As she came in, she was greeted by a smile. After the pleasantries were exchanged, they got to work. At the end of 15 minutes, the discussion was complete. He was happy by the work. As she was about to leave she couldn’t help notice a family photo of Pratam, his wife and their twins on the desk. She smiled and said” Reena mam is lucky to have you – I saw her interview yesterday, what an inspiration she is to so many women like me who aspire to reach the top. Who says you can’t have it all? Reena mam has just busted that myth she has a fulfilling career and family life, I wish I had the magic potion”.
“There is no magic potion Su”, he laughed. “You know our true story? Come over and let me order some coffee as you hear that bit which is not in the interview.”
“Reena has always loved her job and aspired to reach the top. I have been supportive of her but when we got to know that we were expecting twins, things changed drastically. Her mom came over to help us with caring for the kids but it lead to frequent squabbles between me and her Mom. I looked at my MIL as interfering and always trying to show her superiority in any matter, to me it looked like she was taking advantage of the fact that we were dependent on her. She thought I am a lazy buffoon who never shouldered his responsibilities at home. Poor Reena was trapped in between. The fights became so severe that Reena decided to forego her career and become a SAHM just because she couldn’t take this any longer. That’s when it hit me hard I was ruining her career and our peace. There was no denying that my MIL cared for the twins just as her own kids, I could see them grow as fine gentlemen. Maybe she and I had differences but we both had to swallow our pride somewhere in the larger interests of the kids and Reena. I couldn’t control her thoughts and actions but I decided to change mine. I started helping in running errands, offered to babysit the boys when I came early and gradually her attitude changed too. We are now at peace, not best pals and we still clash at times but it’s rare”.
Supriya was surprised she never knew this reality he has never opened up to her about his personal life but it left her with a new-found respect for him. She could co relate it to her own situation at that moment. Somewhere she realized why it was difficult for Suraj to reprimand his Mom and how changing her attitude would be mutually beneficial to all. It was a lesson learnt.
She was in a good mood that day due to her talk with Pratam and work pressure was comparatively lesser. As she went to the canteen to warm her food, she was surprised to see Ratna bai come towards her with a box of sweets. “Tai my daughter has cleared her SSC with 1st class,” she said her eyes shining “have some pedha”s. Supriya was delighted and congratulated her and took a sweet. She asked Ratna bai to join her for lunch. After much persistence she agreed and as they sat in the cafe, a rare luxury for both for completely different reasons .
Ratna bai started opening up about her struggles and why this meant such a triumph for her. “Tai you know for us its hand to mouth existence. My husband deserted me when Meena was a kid because I gave birth to a girl child and after that wasn’t able to conceive. I was left to fend for myself and my child. I started working in people’s house as a maid. I was determined my daughter will have a chance at building her life and that’s why I enrolled her in a convent school. The people around me laughed “aree mad lady why waste money over her when all she will do is wash utensils in people’s home”. But I paid no heed. Times were bad leaving girl child all alone at home was risky and I had no money to pay for a day care, so once she was back from school I locked her at home and kept food and all that she needed ready. The poor girl couldn’t even play with her friends but her safety was more important. I never gave up tai on myself and my child and today see who has the last laugh. My daughter and I proved them that yes we are women but that doesn’t stop us from dreaming and making our dreams come true”.
Supriya was speechless. She had tears in her eyes. Here she was cursing her life – earning a 6 figure salary, sitting in a AC office, with all the comforts at home, a secured life and this woman here who had nothing in contrast had risen against all odds and carved out a destiny for her and her daughter. I need to be thankful for all that God has blessed me with and rather than cribbing, I should extend a helping hand to the likes of Ratna bai, she resolved. This was a second lesson which changed her perspective and came in the most unexpected way.
That night as she sat by her dressing table combing her hair and looked at her son and hubby blissfully sleeping, she thought of the events of the day and how they had changed her as a person. Sometimes you don’t need great drama or a big thing to happen, it is these little things which make a huge impact as the conversations with Pratam and Ratna bai had done. She mused as she thought that usually good or bad things happen in 3’s and she was somehow awaiting the 3rd lesson but it hadn’t happened. That’s when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and stared at at- wasn’t she an inspiration to herself- a feisty young woman who dreamt of reaching the stars, who dint give up on her dreams, who aspired to break the glass ceiling at the same time raise her little boy right. Life had thrown numerous challenges at her, there had been setbacks but she had fought them all and risen stronger like a phoenix from the ashes. There was moments of despair and those ones when she lost her path but God had been kind and helped her find her way back like the way he did today. She was a lesson to herself- of erring and accepting that she had erred, making amends and moving on.
She rested her head on the pillow beside her little boy and said a little prayer thanking God for this fateful day that changed her life.