Rohini wanted Susan to come to terms with life. A considerable long time had elapsed. By now she should come out of her cocoon of grief. No doubt, it was difficult for a woman to take blows from different strides. She did not know that her husband was a crook. But he was. She did not know that he was already wedded. But he was. She did not know he was an illegal immigrant. But he was. She did know that he was posing to be very rich while, he was not. The police came, hand-cuffed him, dragged him and pushed him into the jail. Susan was totally devastated and heart-broken. Luckily Rohini was there to lend her support. Had it not been for her, what would have happened to her and her baby Sherly? Difficult to imagine herself virtually begging on streets.
Rohini took a day’s off from her establishment to meet Susan. She told Susan that she wanted to discuss certain important issues with her. All important issues hover around only one point. Vitamin M. MONEY. Susan must realise that she was no more a wife of a rich man. An ordinary woman now living on the frugal support from Rohini. Susan must learn to change her lifestyle. With very little income that Rohini earned, it was certainly not possible to satisfy all members in the family. Susan and her lavish lifestyle of living, Sherly and her growing demands were added burdened though she did not put it that way. Praveen and Rohini were from a very long time accustomed to living on the edges of bare necessities. Otherwise how could she carry on life to this extent! She also had a big burden of clearing her debts. She also had to create a buffer for Praveen’s future and his ambitious goals. His siblings were also there in the waiting.
Rohini explained in simple terms that in order to cope up with growing expenses it was necessary to augment their resources. She asked Susan if she could seek employment. A job in hand would certainly boost everyone’s confidence. Susan was not at all happy with the very idea of her going for a job. She was furious and howled abuses on all.
“What do you think of me? Hmn? I am not born to till and toil. I swear I will drag that dirty crook to court and seek divorce. Why should I suffer for his nuisance?” She kept blabbering more and more on these lines. Rohini asked her to calm down.
“Of what use is there in beating the bush? Do you know divorce is costlier than marriage? If you have money for meeting the cost of legal fees and divorce proceedings. Why don’t you give it to us for our survival now? Our daily expenses are soaring.”
Susan spurted, “Are you teasing me? You want to show off that I am at your mercy. Did you forget that you came here to serve us? More than we needed you, it was you who needed us. Don’t forget that. No need for you to show any favour on me. I will take care of myself.”
Rohini clearly understood that Susan was still in a different world. She wanted her to understand that even if she succeeded in getting divorce there was absolutely no hope of getting any alimony from ex-husband. What alimony could be offered by a prisoner? Susan must realise that she was not alone. Sherly also required to be attended. A baby grew up her demands also grew – right from nappies to nourishment. For the time being, the toddler’s toys and dresses could be set aside as luxuries.
Again, Rohini started from the beginning. If Susan wanted to live on her own, how was she then going to do it? It was most welcome. But what was her plan? Forget about clothing from the basic human needs of food clothing and shelter, what about the remaining two --food and shelter? It seemed that the apartment they lived was a rented one. Would she be able to pay and continue? If so, then Rohini had to think of shifting Praveen. She would not be able to take him with her. The hotel where she was employed might not allow. Rohini wanted to explain more and more on these lines. But before she could carry on, Susan broke down emotionally and wept bitterly.
“Oh! My God! What will I do? Why am I living? You cruel man!” She yelled at her unseen husband.
Rohini allowed her to vent out her anger. A while later, again she resumed her old discussions on plans for augmenting resources. The only option available was that Susan should seriously think of getting a job. Praveen still a school boy could not be thought of as a helping hand. No country prefers to encourage Child labour even if the child wants to.
Susan slowly understanding her grim situation, agreed to look for one. She picked up the list of contacts on her phone and started browsing. Rohini cautioned her. Susan being a young lady and when she would set out on job and get exposed to outside world was sure to encounter problems. As a measure of precaution and in self-defence, it was essential for pretty women like her to be equipped with special skills like Judo, Karate Kung-fu or Tai Chi exercise. After having acquired a bit of training in such self defence skills she could think of enrolling herself in Ola or Uber as cab driver.
Susan was again about to shed tears on imagining herself as a driver meant to serve others. Because, all along she was accustomed to calling them on hire for her personal use. They were at her beck and call but now the circumstances were different. She had to look for being beckoned. It pained her a lot to be reduced to be an employee. She was once a giver of employment now had to be a receiver seeking employment.
Praveen who was elsewhere comforting Sherly was cajoling her with his usual stints of clapping and singing. His favourite slogan ‘Struggle ahead. March on. March on’ amused her and was asking him to repeat the same again and again. Rohini drew the attention of Susan and told her that whatever Praveen was singing was though meant for Sherly, it actually was hinted to her.
Rohini once again assured Susan that till such time Susan was ready with her job, the present status quo would continue but made a gentle request to cut down all unwanted and unnecessary expenses. A strict control on her stringent purse would only ensure their survival on a hand to mouth basis for some more days. She also hinted on sale of some of her belongings so that her fees for self defence course could be met. Tears welled up again in Susan’s eyes at the thought of selling her prestigious furniture one by one. Reluctantly she agreed. She could not think of Rohini as her saviour. To her Rohini appeared as a dangerous woman trying to push her down under.
‘If I am left in her control, she would simply crush me under her feet’.
In the beginning when she arrived here from India, Susan was the provider and Rohini was seeker. But very soon, the tables were turned and a new game started. Rohini was standing tall as a provider with Susan and her daughter reduced to mere seekers at her mercy. Susan vowed to herself. “Come what may! I will not allow her to rule over me. First, she told me ‘cut down your expenses’. Then she added ‘sell your belongings’. Then she says ‘Go for Karate class’. Endless orders. I must cut her nose. Time being, I will pretend to do whatever she says. But very soon, I will find a way for me. My goals are different. I am born to rule. I won’t remail subdued.”
As advised by Rohini, the furniture got sold. She got some handsome amount. She first got sufficient quantity of Enfamil Enspire Baby Formula milk powder and Gerber fruit foods, Beech Nut baby foods and such other branded stuffs. Then top brand diapers too. Rest all could wait. She joined Karate classes. Apart from fees, she had to shell out quite a lot for karate dresses, accessories and fuel for car.
Slowly she was getting hold on the new skill. Whenever she was asked to strike on unknown enemy, she thought of Rohini and struck strong strokes in the air and satisfied her animal instincts. Once when Rohini called Susan and enquired about her development in the new course, Susan was very happy to explain her about her getting stronger and stronger. She deliberately added, “You can test and see the difference. If you stand before me be sure, you will be knocked down.”
Rohini was truly happy that Susan was taking interest in life. She advised her to go ahead in pursuit of suitable jobs. Actually, Rohini wanted her daughter or sister in law in India to be trained in Tailoring or Food processing. Acquiring additional skills could enable them to get a few more rupees.
But as for Rohini, her destiny was that, instead of her own kith and kin she was mentoring her co-wife. She had to console herself that Susan was also a part of her family. Her thoughts ran high. Soon Susan would be employed. There would be additional income into the family. Slowly her mountain of woes would be melting away. She was nursing fond hopes for their future – all of them here and in India. She was waiting for the good news of Susan picking up a job.
Praveen called her one day. Rohini was anxious to know about Susan. But instead of any news on Susan, she heard Sherly crying aloud on the phone. “Amma come home urgently. Sherly is unstoppable. Aunty also not yet come home. She was not picking her phone. It seems to be on silent mode. And….” He hesitated and then added, “I am also hungry.”
Without losing a moment she rushed. Even in that hurried moment she had the presence of mind to purchase a few food items from her hotel and took it as a parcel. Her colleagues urged her to take it free but she insisted on paying and said ‘no unethical practices’. She also told them to mark her absent for the day and then left.
She at first, gave the food parcel to Praveen and took Sherly in her arms to soothe her. The baby had developed nappy rashes. Rohini applied cream and gently patted the area. Baby was given milk and supplements. Sherly was put to sleep. By then Praveen too finished his lunch. Then she asked for details about Susan like when she left, what she said before leaving, or any other instructions. Praveen had no answers. In fact, he was sad that he could not go to school. Daily he would rush to school as soon as Susan came home.
All he could give was the phone number which she had given long ago before she joined the Karate class. Rohini tried that number. It was the same silent mode and dead phone to her also. Then she looked for phone number of Karate school. She got it. But there was no one who could reply her. On repeated trials she got the security-man on line who replied that the class was over and all had left the school. She still insisted on knowing what happened to Susan. She deliberately told the security-man that Susan was missing and her baby crying at home. Might be that the lady was kidnapped, otherwise no mother would abandon her baby. Before lodging a police complaint, she wanted to collect information.
Security-man on hearing this and fearing some complications told Rohini that he saw her going with the trainer and that was all he knew. She badly wanted to know more details. She had a premonition, but could not conclude. She felt something churning in her belly. She had to find out. She had no choice. She called the police and informed them of her absence. The police took serious note of the lady absconding from Karate school. They probed and drilled a few people and found that the lady had gone on a picnic for few days with a fellow guy. No kidnapping no absconding. They shut and closed the case with that.
Rohini was not stumbled or shocked. Because she had a feeling, she sensed her premonition. All she wanted was it should be false. That it should not happen. The hard fact remains --- Susan eloped with her boyfriend. ‘Susan as I know was very fond of easy cosy living. I cannot give nor can meet her expectations. So, she found her way on her own.’ What hurt Rohini the most was her total avoidance of her close relations including her baby. Humiliations apart, call it snobbishness, utter selfishness, she remained silent on her moves.
Had Susan told her or at least hinted about picking a new relationship, Rohini would have gladly accepted it and blessed her. Susan, ignoring Rohini and Praveen was something understandable. But Sherly! Her own child! She abandoned her kid also and marched ahead on attaining her goal. Little did she realise that while she was steady and firm with her goals, she had totally dismissed their relationship and cut off herself from others. Her obsession to easy and cosy living lifestyle was cutting across Rohini’s goal of providing a life of comfort for all those depending on her. Now Sherly whom she was fondly calling junior Shreedevi, was also added to her list of dependents.
Junior Shreedevi woke up from sleep and demanded attention. Praveen took her in his arms and tried to make her laugh by singing his usual song. Struggle Ahead. March on. March on. Rohini was also caught in the wave length. She had to rejuvenate herself with new vigour.
Life keeps throwing struggles. She must have the nerve to march on. Let the devil Saturn above laugh at her. She will surely find a way out. Surely not the Susan way.