Sita still cried every day. In her family, it would be a potential crime to love out of her marriage. She feared about her parents’ downfall all the time. Her relatives would never agree. But she loved Ram dearly. He came into her life bringing in all the love and passion she had wanted.
She had felt very guilty after she first made love with him. The experience itself had brought tears of bliss to her eyes, but they had been compensated by the guilt afterwards. She had cried again in Ram’s arms, saying God would never forgive her for what she had done. She felt so pathetic telling all this to him, the one who had given her so much contentment. But, she had no else to share.
The society. That was all that stopped her. What would people say? Everyone was so curious about each other’s lives.
The woman across Sita’s house had also asked her subtly and sarcastically whether Ram was a very good friend of hers and why he could be seen hanging around the house always.
“Does he stay for the nights sometimes too, Sita?” she had asked, smiling artificially. “You must be very good friends then!”
Sita had not known how to react. It was almost asking her if she was making love to another man while her husband was in the house. The woman had not bothered to see the angst and the hardship Sita had been through, but she had a problem when someone had volunteered to help her.
Sita had been very hurt. She had sat in the bathroom, a blank look on her face, as silent tears escaped her eyes. What if someone told her parents? Or her parents in law? What if they came and got into a fight with her parents? Arjun? What about him? She could not bear to lose him now. Would she have to take a divorce? The thought in itself, was unbearable. But, she could not leave Ram alone.
It would not be long before someone got to know. Sometimes, she felt too exhausted to think. Ram was very patient with her. He took her tears and her tantrums as much as he gave her joy and love.
People make choices to lead a better life. But though Sita had given in to Ram’s love, nothing had got better, except a shoulder to lean on to. The tears were still the same, the misery was still there, and guilt had added itself to the list. She had to make a decision, and soon.
The bell rang. “Sita?” a familiar voice cried. For the first time in her life, she felt a dread in her heart that she had never known before, hearing the voice.
As she rushed to the living room, she saw her parents in law standing near the door, a smile on their faces. Had six months passed by that soon? Sita swallowed, and felt responsible. Forcing a smile on to her face, her hands shaking, she went to welcome them in.
“Ma”,she said, touching her feet, as her mother-in-law blessed her and touched her head. She did the same for her father-in-law.
“How are you, dear Sita?” she asked, as Sita made them sit down.
“I’m fine, ma”, she smiled. “How was your trip? I hope everything went well.”
“With the Lord’s grace, Sita. Everything went well. How is Arjun?”
“He is fine, ma. I will get him right now”, she said, and went to the bedroom where Arjun was playing around.
“Arjun! Look who’s come! Amma came! Amma!” she exclaimed, holding his hand.
Arjun looked back at her, his eyes round. “Ammmmaahh!” he clapped his hands.
“Yes, yes! Shall we meet them?” she said, leading him into the living room.
Arjun’s mother’s eyes lit up when she saw him. “Arjun!” her eyes full of tears, she went up to him and hugged him tight. Arjun was laughing loudly. Sita smiled at the happiness.
“How is our Arjun?” she asked him, still holding his hands. Arjun’s father also came forward, smiling as he patted his son’s face.
The new rush in the house was a lot for Arjun to take. He felt immensely happy. He rushed about the house, singing loudly. Sita went after him, smiling to herself as she tried to control the excited Arjun.
She slowly calmed him down, and took him to the living room, where his parents were sitting. She made him sit beside them, and she went inside to make coffee for all of them.
As she set the tray to take out the coffee, she heard the door bell ring. As she made her way out with the tray, she heard her mother in law answer the door.
“Sita?” her mother in law called.
“Yes,ma! Coming”, she cried, and rushed out and set the coffee on the table, and turned towards the door.
Ram stood at the door, a slightly alarmed and confused expression on his face. He seemed to understand who it was. Sita froze completely. She could not say anything. She looked from her mother in law to Ram and back. The moment had finally come. But she had to stay strong.
“Who is this, Sita?”she asked, puzzled.
“Ma, this is my friend, Ram”, she replied.
Her ma regarded Ram suspiciously. “Come in”, she said curtly. She had to know about this man.
Sita looked at Ram, and Ram nodded gently. She could never repay Ram enough. Even in a difficult situation like that for him, he volunteered to stay with her. He entered the house, and as he passed by Sita, he gently brushed her fingers with his hands, and gave her a small smile, just to assure her. She wanted to hold on to his hand, but she held herself.
Ram sat down inside. Her mother in law gave Ram a good look before turning away.
Arjun looked at Ram, and his face lit up in happiness, as he pointed to Ram. “Raamm, Raamm!”, he said.
There was a silence except for Arjun’s restless movements, moving his head, and swaying his hands and legs. Sita was taking in deep breaths to calm herself. Her mother in law was looking at Sita, surprised.
“How does Arjun know him?” she asked. “Has he been coming regularly?” she demanded.
Sita exhaled loudly, and looked down, as her eyes glazed over. She was responsible for all this. Her parents was all she thought about.
“Sita? I am asking you a question. Does Ram come here this regularly? Arjun seems to know him very well” she asked.
Sita sniffed as tears fell silently onto her lap. She felt very guilty.
“Sita?”her father in law said. Her father in law rarely talked to her. All the time, it was only her mother in law who spoke with her. To hear him speak shot through like an electric current through her. Her head snapped up.
“Who is this man?” he asked.
“I love him, ma”, Sita cried out. “I know what I did was wrong. But I needed him. I cannot live without him, ma”, she wailed loudly, her breath coming in gasps.
Arjun’s mother looked at her husband, and looked back at Sita sternly. “We thought our daughter in law was a dutiful woman. I had my doubts that very day. You had a choice. We never forced you into this. We did not take a dowry too. We bore all the expenses for the marriage. And yet, you betray us this way!” she shouted.
Sita jumped at the last sentence, and cried harder. Ram was disturbed to see Sita like this, but he sat where he was, because he knew that even though Sita had been through a lot, she was one hell of a strong woman. And he knew, that she would have to make a decision.
“Ma, that was never my intention! I swear, ma”, she screamed.
“Then what was your intention? Your parents should be blamed in the first place. What values have they taught you? How can any Indian woman do this?”
Sita shook her head. “Ma, amma and appa had nothing to do with this! This is my doing. I was lonely, ma. I needed someone to talk to. I felt I would explode otherwise.”
“Oho! So, Arjun was not enough for you? Will you think only for yourself? Have you thought about him at all? Having an affair with another man, while your own helpless husband is sitting here, ignorant?” she demanded, her eyes breathing fire.
Ram closed his eyes at her words. He hated listening to all this. He knew Sita was not to blame. But here, people gave more importance to morals, respect and the impression created on the society than on feelings, emotions and love. The outside was all that mattered. Even though the inside was rotten out, no one cared.
Sita wept bitterly. “Why are you crying now? After having done all this? Even after you have wronged us, you want to gain sympathy?” her mother in law asked.
Sita shook her head weakly, as more tears slipped out. She still could not decide if what she had done was right or wrong. Was thinking about herself that wrong?
Her mother in law suddenly got up, and walked up to Sita. She grabbed her shoulders , angry tears in her eyes, and shook Sita roughly. “What have you DONE?” she screamed, shrilly. “What wrong has my Arjun done to you? What wrong have we done? ANSWER!!” she released Sita, and Sita fell on to the floor, weeping. “What should we tell people now? That our son is mentally challenged, and the person we considered our daughter is a cheater? What will people think? Did you think of our respect, our standing in the society, at least once? The image we have in our society will be spoilt now! Selfish traitor!!” she shook Sita’s knees unkindly.
Sita could do nothing but cry. She deserved to cry, she thought to herself.
It was quiet in the living room, for a few minutes. Only the women’s sniffs, and Arjun’s movements could be heard.
Sita’s mother in law finally cleared her tears. She came near Sita. She folded her hands in mock reverence. “Oh, great mother? What do you plan to do now? You got us into this? What do you plan to do now? You tell us. Please”, she said, her voice, firm.
Sita looked at her mother in law, her eyes red, but they had none of the determination that she had possessed when she had gone to her father to tell him that she would marry Arjun.
This question. A matter of her life. She had to face it. Being born into a society like this, she had to face it. This question, which had been haunting her for a long, long time. The question that would need her to sacrifice. Did she have to sacrifice at all, considering she had already done so much? How could a woman choose between her son and her life?
She sat there, and looked at her mother in law, and then to Arjun, and finally at Ram. He had not taken his eye off her. She knew how much he loved her. In another society, would she have to choose? Would she be in a position like this, in the first place? Was money everything after all? She had to make a decision. She knew what she wanted.
“Ma, I need Ram in my life. I cannot live without him. But, but” she said, tears streaming down her face, “I need Arjun too. I will take care of him well, as I have done all these days. He loves me too, ma. Please do not separate us. As long as I breathe, I will love and take care of him. He is like my child. Please give me this chance, ma.” She fell down at her mother-in-law’s feet and cried, holding her feet.
Before Ram could do anything, or before her mother in law could react, Arjun was there . He fell down beside beside Sita, and tried to nudge Sita deliberately. “Siccha”, he cried.
As Sita raised her head, still weeping, Arjun tried to wipe her tears away. “No cry, Siccha”, he said, holding her hand. Sita hugged him hard and held on to him. How much she loved him.
Ram came to the other side of Sita and put his hand on Sita’s head.
“Ma, I will always be there for Arjun. Even you might have left Arjun for a while, but I have never left his side, even for a few minutes. I was always there for him, ma. I love him from the bottom of my heart. I cannot be away from him”, she folded her hands.
“I don’t care what people say about me, ma. Arjun matters to me. I’m sure you would agree that he matters the most to you too. His safety, his happiness. I will never let him go.”
She took a huge breath. She had almost reached the shore. Life had offered her his hand, and she held on to the hand with all her might. She smiled weakly at their proximity. Now, she had hope. She was almost there. On her back, responsibility still held on to her, trusting her blindly, as he sat, mindless of the sea. Suddenly, a huge sea weed caught on to her leg. She grappled against it but could go no further. Life tried pulling her, and the seaweed, which was a part of the sea, Society, pulled her back. She bobbed in and out at the horizon, tears fast slipping into the Society.
She was exhausted now. She looked up at the setting sun, and sighed loudly. She looked down, and gave up trying. She looked once, at the seaweed clinging on to her. She patted at the weightless burden on her back. She looked at her hand being held on by Life. He had a troubled expression on his face, but he never let go. She smiled at him again.
Despite the position she was in, she looked beautiful as ever. And radiant, with the orange glow of the sun on her.
Finally she closed her eyes, with a serene smile on her face. Still smiling, she floated upwards, supporting her life and responsibility at the same time. She never knew she had so much strength in her. As she rose, the weed got slashed, due to the pressure. She smiled more widely at the sudden liberation. She rose more forcefully, yet with a grace about her. Responsibility slept on her shoulders, as Life gazed at her, admiration and intensity written in his eyes.
As the beautiful warmth of the sun touched her slowly drying body, she knew she was safe now. Slowly, she opened her eyes. She looked down upon the raging sea, and heaved a sigh of relief. She knew she was home now. She felt complete.
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