Adventure Desi Fiction

How would mother react, if she left without saying goodby? Would she even miss her? Daksha wrestled with these harrowing thoughts as she packed her small suitcase with essential items like clothes, makeup, toothbrush and books. She planned to sneak out in the evening and catch the 9:15 to Delhi. Nobody would miss her, not even her pesky, little brother who tagged along and never lost sight of her. The little monkey was probably busy harassing the workers brought in to build the Mandap in the center of the courtyard. Preparation for her sister’s wedding ceremony were in full swing. She was to be married and dispatched to her in-laws tonight. Then it would be her turn!

With trembling fingers she opened the letter and read it again. It was from the principal of the medical college in Delhi, inviting her to join their prestigious institution. She had won the scholarship. They would take care of her education, room and board for seven years. It was an opportunity of a lifetime that she could not ignore. It was useless pleading with father, who did not believe in higher education for daughters. He would be looking for a groom as soon as she turned twenty! Before that she wanted to live her life! Go out with friends at night to the pub, dance and have beer with spicy chicken wings. To see Gone With Wind with Clark Gable and beautiful Scarlet! They showed couples kissing not flowers like in the Indian movies.

She fancied watching movies in big theatres, with wide ceilings and leather seats not the cinema house, with its musty interior and tattered seats, where they showed old Bollywood movies like Anand. After the movie they walked over to the dusty daba and order chai and samosas and talk in low tones, in case the old decrepit, Bhiku, the sly and suspicious owner, overheard and reported her incorrigible behaviour to her father. Ordering beer was out of the question!

Daksha at 19 years had blossomed into a beautiful, independent woman, who craved freedom and adventure. Living in this sleepy town was like living in a zoo, with all eyes upon you, be it family or intrusive neighbours. Every Tom,Dick and Harry pried into her whereabouts and considered their civic duty to report any signs of waywardness. She was tired of sharing her room with her little brother and following rules that did not make any sense to her. Father was strict and dogmatic with old fashioned views of women’s role in society. Mother was sympathetic but feather-brained and too busy to worry about her daughter.

An odor of garlic and masala clung to her as she moved around the house, her sari draped like a sackcloth, unlike Leila aunty who looked sexy and alluring in a light, blue, chiffon sari with a low-cut blouse and heels that sparkled with rhinestones. She despised and shunned the local sari shops and instead ordered the latest designs from Delhi’s fashion driven bazaars. She was a great inspiration! If it hadn’t been for her, she would not have taken this bold step. But she couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to mother.

Her suitcase packed and concealed inside the closet, Daksha hurried downstairs towards the kitchen to look for mother. She cringed at the sight! Mother was busy rolling chappatis. The folds of her sari were tucked up to her waist, exposing her wobbly knees. Her oily hair was covered with a beaded hairnet and a dirty apron adorned her wide hips. If only, mother would apply deodorant more often? Her armpits reeked of onion and garlic! She listened to the jingle of the gold bangles as her wrists moved in a circular motion. A robust, little woman, who probably presented a ludicrous image in front of the world but to Daksha she was the most precious thing-a real gem!

She perched beside her on the counter and grabbed a green mango from the basket hanging above her. She took a bite and then declared with pride.

“Ma! I won a scholarship to medical college in Delhi!”

But the shrill whistle of the pressure cooker drowned her voice. Mother without looking up, scolded her.

“Don’t sit on the counter! Take your shoes off! We never enter the kitchen with dirty shoes!”

Daksha took another bite and with her mouth full mumbled.

“A scholarship to university in Delhi, Ma!”

Just then the vegetable vender poked his head from the back door of the kitchen and shouted.

“Bibiji! Fresh tomatoes and bhindis.” and thrust a ripe tomato in her face.

Mother wiped her greasy hands on the apron and shouted.

“ How much?”

“ Only 10 rupees a kilo.” He croaked and his crooked face lit up with the prospect of making a sale.

Daksha bit her lip in frustration. She needed to say goodbye to mother. Explain why she was headed towards Delhi. She glared at the vendor who immediately retreated and continued to the next house, his whiny voice, a floating leaflet, promoting his fresh vegetable. She watched her mother clean the bhindis with her sari and continued.

“Ma! I am going to Delhi tonight!”

Just then the second whistle of the pressure startled them both. It shook and rattled, ready to explode! Mother quickly turned the gas off, panting heavily from the effort.

“Stay way from it, Ma! It might explode in your face.”

The commotion attracted father and her pesky little brother. An argument ensued between them and her opportunity was lost! She dragged her feet upstairs to her room, sat by the desk and started writing a goodbye letter. When finished she folded it carefully and placed on the dressing table against the mirror, where mother was bound to find it. Then she got ready for her sister’s wedding. A salwar kameez with bright sequins like stars in the night and garlands of fresh mogras in her hair. She would attract a lot of attention when boarding the train but she didn’t care. This was the only way to escape from home, without causing any suspicion!

At night, after the wedding, she mingled with the barat escorting the bride and groom to the car and disappeared round the corner into the cold, still night.

April 14, 2021 13:47

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