Friday, September 4, 2015

The disclosure

I landed in Mumbai; this was my usual once in a two-year trip to the city. The warm air, the familiar slums all strangely welcomed me to the city. They were a far cry from my cushy surroundings in Houston Texas. I took a cab and asked the driver to take me to Powai, Mumbai. I had a comfortable apartment there. In some measures, life was comfortable in India, as you didn't have to face the harsh cold weather of US. However, Houston was not cold. The other blessing in India was it was easy to find servants.
I reached my apartment. Kept my bags in my bedroom and decided to take a shower. The warm climate in Mumbai demanded that one had a cold-water bath. Meanwhile, the maid had prepared tea and some snacks. My husband and I sat down to have a cup of hot relaxing tea. The jet lag was wearing me out and I felt like taking a long nap. I settled in my bed and went off to sleep. I don’t know how long I had slept but when I woke up it was 11 a.m. I had gone to sleep at 8 pm the previous night. More than 10 hours of sleep! the jet lag had sure taken its toll. I brushed my teeth, had a bath and asked the maid to make some coffee and breakfast for me. I went to the dining table as the delicious aroma of breakfast hit my nostrils. I ate a sumptuous breakfast and the hot cup of coffee revived my spirits. I suddenly realized I had to go for my fund-raising session the next day. I sat down to unpack my bag. One by one I lovingly hung my clothes in the wardrobe, my eyes fell upon the sari gifted by my grandma. It was a jazzy affair with a lot of zari work. I didn't wear it regularly but once in a while when I wore it, it invited a lot of compliments. My grandma had gifted it to me on my 18th birthday.  More than eighteen years had passed since my eighteenth birthday. I had got married had two sons and life was good. My husband was loving and considerate and encouraged me to do my own thing. I involved myself in social work to keep myself busy. My work comprised of helping women become self-sufficient. We would raise funds to help women in need of it.  The women I worked for were very different from me in some ways that is life had not treated them as well as it had treated me. 
Then I thought of my grandmother and my mother, had life treated them as well as it had treated me? I suddenly became uneasy as I recalled my overbearing grandfather. He was strict and though I saw little of him, as a husband he was not very caring. My grandmother was treated very shabbily. She was confined to her quarters and she was only allowed to come out in the veranda. She met guests in the huge living room that we had in our haveli. 
My mother's life was not so bad, but she also had an overbearing husband that is my father. It was she who ensured that history wouldn't repeat itself in her daughter's case. She educated me and married me off at 25 to a nice guy. Whenever I look back and think of my grandma and mother my eyes are full of tears. But strangely, they were not unhappy with their lot they accepted the fact that in their times it was the lot of women to be confined. 
Even my mother, who had an overbearing husband, that is my father, was happy with her life. I wondered whether I was as satisfied with life as my mother had been with hers? Considering, I had all the comforts in the world and a supportive and loving husband. What more could one ask for? I brushed the thought aside as complaining about my lot was not how I wanted to live life. 
I picked up my bag brushed my hair applied lipstick and set out for the fund-raising venue. I had to give a talk on how important it was for all of us to help the unfortunate. I believed in the validity of my endeavour. As God had not made all of us equal in terms of prowess or the facilities each one of us had, we had to help each other. With these thoughts in my head, I reached my venue. I walked towards the podium. With all eyes on me, I addressed the audience. I shared my story. How I was blessed however I had seen my mother and grandmother suffer. Many women raised their hands as they also wanted to give their inputs. I welcomed them to the stage. Among the women who walked towards me there was a tall good looking woman, she was looking at me strangely. She approached me and said she wanted to talk to me personally. I agreed, I went into the room attached to the hall and sat down. The woman gave me a quizzical look and said that was an inspiring talk. I thanked her she shrugged and continued, are you happy in your life? I was taken aback. I said reasonably so, she replied what if you discover that your lot is worse than your mother and grandmother? I was surprised by her question, however, I asked the woman what made her make such a statement. She introduced herself as Anagha and said what if you discover your husband has another wife? I became angry but kept my emotions under control. I asked her how was she making such a statement, she said because I know. I'm your husband's other wife. I was flabbergasted, however, I asked her, what proof did she have to support her claim? She pulled out her mobile and showed me a picture of my husband with his arms around her, shaken, I  called my husband and  asked him whether he had another wife. He said yes and further added that he had sent the woman to make the disclosure as he was planning to leave me. I became belligerent and told him that I would sue him for bigamy. He said go ahead. I was shocked beyond comprehension and wondered whether I was luckier than my mother or grandmother? They had overbearing husbands and I had an unfaithful one. I suddenly realised that my lot was no better than the lot of the women I was supporting and I too would have to take up a job at this stage in my life to financially support myself. I decided to go home and began looking for an apartment for myself. Then I pulled out my certificates and applied for a teacher's job. I would have to forget my cushy lifestyle and support myself. Though my husband said he would financially support me and my sons, I refused. My sons were grown up and one was pursuing Engineering in the USA and the other had taken up a job in a software firm. I wondered what their reaction would be to this shocking revelation. I, however, decided not to wallow in self-pity and moved towards the door to begin a new life for myself.  

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