I can’t wait for this day to be over. I whispered to myself as I walked home. My friends must be wondering why I acted like a bitch the whole day. My best friend even came forward to defend me saying
“ Leave Lila alone. She must be having a bad hair day.”
And it actually made me feel worse. I should have at least confided in her. But what do I tell her? That I am a coward who just lets other people direct my life?
A quick glance at the watch said it’s nearly 6 pm. In two hours, I am expected to pack my bags and wait for my mom to come from the hospital so she can take me to her brother’s home. New school, new friends...A shiver ran through me at the thought of the changes awaiting me. I am not someone who adapts very well to changes. All my life, I have been tucked inside a protective shell, provided with all the care and comfort I want, without ever having had to fight for anything. Now that I am getting a clearer picture, I can see things from a different perspective. What I thought was a protective shell was in fact a glorified prison. The care and comfort I got? It was in reality me being controlled. Not ever having had to fight for something? Because I am too chicken to stand up and fight.
As I approached the house, I was surprised to see my mom’s car parked outside. She doesn’t usually come home before 7 pm. Maybe she wants us to start early to avoid driving late at night. That also means I will have to leave sooner than planned. A painful sigh escaped me the moment that thought entered my mind.
I was expecting my parents to be sitting in the living room, bags packed, all ready to go. But the house is very quiet. I opened the door to my bedroom and there she is. My mom. Going through my books. A note of guilt crossed through her face as if she got caught doing something I am not supposed to know. Honestly, I don’t care.
“Oh..Hey Lila. You are back already. Your dad and I are thinking of leaving early so I can come back and get a good night’ s sleep. I have to attend a medical conference tomorrow morning. I will leave it to you to do the packing. Your dad will be back from the office soon.
And by the way...there is no need for you to carry those novels with you. You can read them whenever you come home for breaks.”
She said it all in one breath.
So that’s what she was doing. Filtering my books to see which ones are ‘acceptable’.
She left the room, closing the door behind her. Polite. Formal. Always has been. My dad’s family calls her coldhearted. Maybe that’s what she is.
But I don’t want to fully blame her for the situation I am in. I am responsible for part of the mess too. The mess that is more than a decade old.
Living with a mom who is a reputed surgeon- I had always been fascinated with the medical profession. My mom encouraged me; in fact she started grooming me for what she thinks will be a prestigious career for me in future. It started off innocently with small gifts- doctor kit, toy stethoscope and the likes. Then came the heroic part of the profession- the glorified tales about how the doctors save the lives of so many people and how it’s the most dignified profession in the world etc.
By the time I turned eight, I knew without a doubt what I wanted to be. A doctor, like my mom.
They also made sure that the friends and relatives knew about what a wise choice their daughter had made. A friend of theirs commented once, with a chuckle - ” You should seriously think about getting a seat for her in the medical college now itself. If she is lucky, she might get an early bird discount.”
My dad replied- “ I don’t know about the tuition fees discount. But I can guarantee that you will get a discount on doctor fees from my daughter.”
Till now, I don’t know what happened to the relationship between those two after that subtly insulting spat.
It wasn’t easy for me as well. My friends teased me all the time, because of my obsession with anything and everything ‘medical’. And when it reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore, I went to my mom.
She said. “ Don’t worry Lila. They are jealous.’’
I thought my mom shouldn’t have called them ‘jealous’. My friends didn't understand my dream because they may not be having a dream like I do.
Some dreams have a short span of life. Mine did. It was the day after my fifteenth birthday, a few months ago. We were coming home after watching a movie and the road leading towards our house was blocked because of a car accident. They were trying to rescue the passengers who got trapped when the car hit a tree and turned over. I saw them being taken away in the ambulance. The injuries weren’t life threatening. But the sight of blood and the screams of pain haunted me for weeks. I started having frequent nightmares about it and my parents were worried. Gradually the nightmares became fewer in number and finally they stopped. Even though I was happy that my fearful nights have come to an end, something else shifted in me after that incident. Like a reality check... If the sight of blood gives me nightmares, what kind of doctor will I make? Is this what I really want? Was I just being brainwashed into something I hadn’t really given a deep thought about? But at the same time, I was worried about disappointing my parents too. Though it started as a dream of mine, over the course of time they became more invested in it than I ever really was.
I was waiting for the perfect moment to break out the news to them and I finally got the opportunity two days ago. We were having dinner together at the dining table when mom introduced the topic of my grades. I thought that was the best time to talk about my change of plans.
A deep breath later,
“Dad, mom. How about I take some time...and decide about what I really want?”
I avoided looking at their eyes while I continued speaking.
“All the talks about becoming a doctor. Now when I think it was more of a fascination rather than a real passion. I don’t think I will make a good doctor. ” I was blabbering.
“I would like to explore other opportunities and see if there is something else I am really passionate about.” I confessed, feeling so much lighter now that it’s finally out of my chest.
I waited for their reaction, my eyes still down.
After a moment of awkward silence, I glanced up from my plate.
My dad had a stricken look on his face. My mom, on the other hand, looked very calm as if she was expecting me to say exactly that. Then came the storm, in its full glory.
“ I knew this would happen one day. She doesn’t have that drive in her anymore!”
I flinched at the disdain in her tone.
“I don’t think she is with the right circle. She has been wasting a lot of time away with her friends anyways. None of them knows what they want to do in the future. They won’t even have an answer for what they want to do tomorrow. Future is way too far.”
I sat there, shocked, listening to her berating me, my life and everything else that I have come to love. I knew they wouldn’t take the news lightly. But I didn’t anticipate the insults. I looked at my dad, my eyes pleading for something- help, support, anything…
He opened his mouth as if to argue, but closed it quickly because he knew there is no point in starting an argument where his chances of winning are close to zero.
“That’s it. I am going to call my brother now. He is good friends with the principal of Oxford Grand High School. Let’s see what he can do. I should have done this a long time back.”
My uncle lives in another town, almost 60 kms from here. And his house is only 5 minutes walking distance away Oxford Grand. I know where this is all heading to.
Oxford Grand is known for the brightest and the most successful students they send out every year. Unfortunately, the snobbiest too.
My uncle and Aunty aren’t any better. Who celebrates their cat’s birthday with a themed cake and fifty people? They do. Need I say more?
I quietly walked to my bedroom after that conversation, leaving my parents to discuss the groundbreaking decision my mom just took and my dad nodded his head to. And I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t notice my absence at all. From my bedroom, I could hear my mom talking to her brother on the phone. She sounded so happy which means her wishes had been granted. My father disappointed me again. He is a good man. But mom has him on a tight leash. I don’t want to sound harsh and call him hen-pecked. All these years of living with them and witnessing what kind of married life they had, I don’t think I would ever marry. What if my husband is too controlling like my mom and I never open my mouth like my dad?
If my grandfather was still alive, he could have made my mom see some sense. He was the only person she ever listened to.
I wish my dad was stronger...I wish my grandfather was still alive...I wish...so many things.
But unfortunately, life is not a fairy that grants all your wishes. For many like me, life is a witch that turns you to a toad and makes you wait for the mercy of a prince, who probably never turns up.
And today morning, I received the news- Oxford Grand is ready to accept me. Neither I sat for an entrance exam nor I filled out an application. How did they manage to get a place for me in two days? It helps to have contacts at the high places I guess. And just like that, my fate is sealed.
Before I left for school, my mom was kind enough to remind me that today would be my last day in the current school and she will be doing all administration formalities by herself so I don’t have to worry. Thanks for lifting a heavy weight off my shoulders, mom.
“ Lila, are you ready?” My mom’s question brought me back from the scattered thoughts.
She stood at the doorstep, waiting anxiously.
“Is that all?” She asked, eyeing the suitcases near the door.
“Yes. Mom.” I replied in a neutral tone.
“Ok. Your dad will be late. So he won’t be able to come with us. He said he would call you.”
“Is there anything you want to talk about before we start?”
Yes mom. At the moment I might not be sure about what I really want to do for a living. I don’t even know where I want to be in a few years. My thoughts, my dreams- they are all messy. It might take awhile before I bring them to order. Thank you for not supporting me. Thank you for not being there when I need you. Because if there is one thing I am still so sure about, it is that I would want to be a better mom to my children than you are to me.
“ No…Nothing mom.”
“Do you need help with your suitcases?”
With a nod, she turned around and walked out of the door.
I gave my room one final glance-the baby pink walls sprinkled with the mural paintings I did, neatly made up bed, the desk sitting at one corner, the wall shelves filled with books and photo frames. And I closed my eyes, waiting for the world to convince me that everything will be okay.