The Other Life

Then she woke up.

She didn’t want to. She really didn’t. For a few minutes, she tried putting herself back to sleep, tried to dream the same dreams that she had been having. But alas, that wasn’t to happen. Sighing, she got out of bed to make herself a cup of tea.

As the tea brewed, she sank back into the chair, closed her eyes and relived those dreams that had left eyes minutes ago.

Girl on chair

Photo via Pinterest

The girl was six. It is strange how in dreams you just know these things; age, feelings. She was sitting on a swing, laughing, while her parents looked at her lovingly. What was surprising that nobody told the girl to get down and let her brother sit. Nobody told her not to laugh so loudly. Dreams were so abstract sometimes, she mused. It was as if it didn’t matter that she was a girl.

The dream changed the scenes suddenly, as dreams usually do. One moment she was giggling on the swing, a mere child, the next moment, she was twelve. She wasn’t really afraid of the stain that she had found on her bed sheet that morning, just curious. Her mother was smiling at her, carefully explaining her the red, but she didn’t say anything about keeping away from others. She didn’t say that for five days every month, she would be untouchable. She didn’t say that her childhood was suddenly, brutally over. Dreams glossed over the truths of everyday life.

Time passed so quickly in dreams; it was the one quality that dreams shared with reality. The dream began to gather speed now. She saw quick frames of her school, her university, the scholarships, her office. Dreams had an uncanny habit of concentrating too much on the minute details while breezing through the major happenings. She saw her home, her own home, with cream curtains and bookshelves that scaled entire walls.

Only, it was a lie. All of it, the school, the university, everything. She never went to school after she got her period. She helped around the house, minded her younger brother. One evening, she was told to wear that new sari that she had got on her birthday. Some guests were coming. Six days later, she was married.

The dream didn’t show those initial days after marriage, nor the subsequent years of abuse that followed. It didn’t show that endless wait for something; anything; the wait for life to happen. She was still stuck in the same heartless, loveless, bourgeois marriage. It was strange; all she saw was an alternate life, the life that she could have had, but didn’t.

For five whole minutes, she allowed herself to go over each minuscule detail of that other life. She roamed about her house. Lovingly, she browsed through her books. She felt the smooth silk curtains in her hands. She admired the artwork on the walls.

Then the tea was made.

The husband woke up then. He came to the kitchen and grunted for tea. She poured him the cup and started brewing some for herself again. Her husband wasn’t an evil man. He just never knew any other way to live. She looked at him for a long moment before turning away with regret and helplessness.

She went to the window sill to feed the pigeons. Then suddenly, she gave a wry smile. At least she had her cream curtains.

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11 thoughts on “The Other Life

  1. I am working right now with a young Bengali woman, and she had recently told me the same kind of story. I’m in the US and it’s very easy to take for granted what we have here. Thanks for this.

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    • I suppose I’ve been fortunate enough to have been born in a well-educated liberal household. And perhaps it is easy for me to write about such things. But I feel I have to. By writing I somehow feel that I’m fighting against it in my own small way. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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  2. “Time passed so quickly in dreams; it was the one quality that dreams shared with reality.”

    Other than this being a WONDERFULLY written story, it also presses an issue without being overtly sentimental and outspoken about it. Truly, it’s the rejection that we are supposed to feel in the words of the woman. Beautifully bitter.

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