Seema restlessly fidgeted in her chair. The wrinkles on her forehead made her seem a decade older than she was. She waited impatiently for the cause of her accelerated aging to come home so she could give him a piece of her mind for being a self absorbed asshole.
Her reverie was broken by the scent of her bahu’s special ‘adrak wali’ chai made specially for her. She looked adoringly at Simran, her lovely daughter-in-law. Fair skinned, rosy cheeks, and eyes that seemed drawn by Raja Ravi Verma, she looked like Maa Durga. She was not only skilled in cooking both traditional and fast food but also had a head for finances and budget. Without splurging on clothes and cosmetics she managed to exude radiance and gorgeousness. She herself however seemed completely unaware of her own beauty. Soft spoken and mild natured, she was always respectful of her elders and cared for every member of the family. Seema never had to tell her anything twice and they never had any argument. She felt more at peace and relaxed ever since she passed on the reins of the household to her daughter in law. She could not have been prouder of her choice. She loved her more than she would have loved her own daughter
Which is why she could not fathom why despite a year having passed since her arrival, Simran’s smile had gradually diminished to the point of non existence. She had prodded her a lot for answers but she always managed to evade the questions with a fake smile. But of late Simran could not hide her puffy and red eyes or the sunken cheeks.
Ever since the wedding her son had grown more and more distant. She initially ignored it, thinking it was the pressure of starting a new family. But he could now rarely be seen around in the house. He would leave early, come home late and go to sleep as soon as he had his dinner. Grunts and nods were his only means of communication. He would rarely look up at her when she tried to talk about anything.
She then realised even the new wife was subject to the same treatment. She finally decided enough was enough. It was time to knock some senses into her stupid son and remind him of his duties as a son and a husband. Today she was determined to corner him and force him to speak. Which is why she was awake way past her bedtime.
She heard footsteps, and a key turning in the lock. Deepak walked in, looked at her sitting up awake. He didn’t ask why or what and sat down on the sofa, taking off his shoes. Seema could no longer stand his indifferent attitude.
“At least you could care enough to ask why i am up so late?”
“Why are you up so late?” he asked mechanically, still focussed on his shoes. Her patience was now evaporating fast.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to pretend to care about me. I am old now, I am just a baggage waiting to be dispatched off. But can you at least pretend to care about your own wife? Have you asked her how she is?”
“Why? Did something happen to her? I don’t remember saying or doing anything to upset her. I stay out of her way, she can do anything she wants, she doesn’t need my permission. She even manages my salary. I never have asked her to justify any money that she spends.”
She looked aghast at her son. This was not the boy she brought up. When did that cute, naughty and sweet boy that played in her arms become this cold, unfeeling man.
“What are you saying Deepu? Is that all you care about? Is that all you think there is to life and relationships? Have you become so money minded that peoples feelings don’t matter to you anymore? How much time have you spent with her in the past one year? Have you even noticed how much weight she has lost and how little sleep she gets. I can forgive you for ignoring me. Even though I did everything I could to show my love for you -“
“THAT’S a lie.”
A deafening silence exploded in the room at his eruption. Seemas eyes widened in shock. Not just at the fact that her son raised his voice against her, but at the ferocity that glared in his eyes as for the first time in a year he looked up at her.
“It’s a lie that you love me, Ma.” Deepak now spoke gently, but firmly, still looking her in the eye but with a softened gaze, as if explaining to a child
“What you love is ‘a son’, but that son need not necessarily be me. In fact, had anybody other than me been your son, you would have been a lot happier. Whatever you decided for me, you did thinking of the son you wanted, not the one you had. I don’t blame you, you did not have a choice in that matter. Like children cannot choose their own parents, parents too cannot choose who they are giving birth too. But they can try to shape them up in the image they have pre-conceived. But try as much, there are some things that you cannot fundamentally change. Children will grow up to be who they are. I was never and I can never be the son you want, Ma. But I tried my best to pretend to be. I will forever be grateful for the love and care you gave to me. But I feel like an impostor who cheated you by pretending to be your son, or rather, the son you wanted. I never wanted to marry Simran, or any other girl. I had told you why. But you refused to listen, refused to understand. You threw a tantrum and forced me into this marriage. You ignored my feelings. You pretended like everything was going to be fine. Because I was your son, and you thought you knew best. I realised, you were not thinking about me, because you didn’t even notice how heavy my heart was on the day of the wedding. You turned away when Sahil came at my wedding to say his goodbyes and I was left a staggering, teary mess of nothing. You dragged me into the altar even when all I wanted was to die. All the while smiling and pretending everything was fine. After Simran stepped into the house, you wore the proudest smile and flaunted her to all your friends and relatives. But you never paid attention to how crushed I was. But I bore it all, for your sake. I was not the son you wanted, but she was the daughter in law you always wanted. You could not choose your son, but at least you now had a daughter of your choice. You asked whether I think money is all that is there in life and relationships? A year ago I would have said no. But today, I have learnt to live for it. Because providing you two the comforts brought by money is the only happiness I can give you. It’s the only way I can right the wrongs I have done to both of you. By both marrying her, and being born to you, in deception. I have nothing else to give. If you want grandchildren, I can try, with Simran’s permission. I will provide for them, and their education. You and Simran can try finding your joy with them. I will learn to be content the way I am. I have gotten good in a year. Don’t you think so?“
Deepak didn’t wait for an answer. He walked away into his bedroom, leaving the food waiting for him on the dining table untouched.
Seema sat motionless in the couch. Streams of tears flowing down her cheeks. Her chest hurting with the pricks of a thousand pieces of a shattered heart.