The Red Sari by Pallavi Pundir





It's so hard to leave home and settle in a place of which you are least aware. But my destiny has changed, and now it has brought me to a place called katol, near to Nagpur in Maharashtra. I joined as a Block Development Officer. It is an administrative post under Maharashtra State Government, which I qualified through State Administrative service examinations. This was my first posting, and I met many new people there who speak Marathi, a language which I can’t understand, made me more open to the Marathi culture. I was even learning Marathi from a very dear friend of mine, Swara who was soon going to be my wife.  
I met Swara at Nagpur regarding an official project. She was appointed as a minimum wage Inspector by the government. We instantly became good friends. I knew I was in love with her, the first time I got massively sick, and she just took care of me. I brought her home to meet my mother and saw how she interacted with her. I saw how well she could fit with the person I loved the most, my mom.   
And today; I was visiting Mysore my hometown for my marriage. Swara and her family were going to join us in a week. My mother wanted me to get married in our hometown. That was the only request my mother made from the family of Swara; which they readily accepted.    
My mother was a woman who sacrificed many precious moments in her life so that I could have them in mine.  And my father was dead for me even when he was alive.
Twenty-two years back
As a young child of five, as soon as my dad started yelling at my mom, I was locked in my bathroom in the dark, crying while my dad belted my mom. I could hear everything-the screaming, the abuses and the sobbing. In the morning my mother always tried to present everything healthy, but both of us knew what we were hiding from each other. I felt a heap of different emotions whenever my father talked to me. I was scared, angry, guilty, and shameful. The home was the dark shadow of my father. He was a manager in the bank, and his people's skill was remarkable. He was not even an alcoholic and had never touched drugs in all his life. He was a very bright student of his time, and I was not. That was his reason of hurling abuses at me. He used to beat me and slap me regularly. I always wanted his attention and love, but he'd still embarrass and belittle me.             
My mother, Anupama Wadiyar was a strong woman. Not because she faced so much of violence but because of her few firm decisions which she made for our life, in spite of living with a monster.   
I don’t know when the abuse started with my mom because it’s not a subject that I ask her about very often, but I was pretty sure that it was all started since they got married. My mother was just 18 years old when her parents married her off to a 32 years old man, Mr.  Prakash Chandra Wadiyar. He had a controlling patriarchal behavior, who felt entitled to abuse his wife. It all started with sexual and emotional abuse. She was no longer a woman who was born with the gift of the gab. She became less talkative as my father did not approve of a woman who talks or contribute to discussions. He confined her to the kitchen. If he was around, she continually checks for his approval of every move she made.           
She never walked into a room with her shoulders back, and her head held high. My father never allowed her to open up with any of his friends and colleagues. My mother even lost all her contacts with her own family.  She had to walk around with downcast eyes because eye contact could compel her to open up to people. My father had isolated her from rest of the world.
He had all control on finances of our family. There was no money for mom, and he even never let her work. But she was a great cook, and she started giving culinary classes. This was a big decision she made because my father would have never allowed her. He spanked her when he came to know of her work. She was six months pregnant then; but that never stopped her from giving classes. She knew that sitting idle was also not going to save her from that ordeal but working would definitely give her emotional and economical support.
My mother was 20 when I was born, and at that tender age she made a firm decision of not having any more kids. While abusing her, my father often uses to call my mother a barren woman. He never knew about the real cause behind this in all his life. He always felt that due to some medical complications happened during my birth, my mother could not conceive again.       
There were many spoken and unspoken rules for my mother in our home. Everything had to be spotless before my father gets home. Dinner had to be cooked by nine and the menu would be of his choice. She was only allowed to go to grocery shop and that too on the day detailed by my father.    
My father was not a good-looking man, but my mother was a lovely woman. This made him even crueler. My mother was not allowed to wear any makeup on her face.      
Red was the favorite color of my mother. I still remember the day when she wore that red sari of her and was looking extremely pretty. Everyone at the family function praised her. We enjoyed at the function but were not aware of the storm which was waiting for us at home.
When we reached home, my father asked me to go to my room. I knew what it meant, so I was not ready to leave my mom, but she insisted me to leave. He punched my mom, and I saw it before walking out of the room. He was yelling at her for wearing that red sari, and I could hear it in my room. From the last ten years of my life, I watched him beating up my mom. But this night was different for me. I stepped out of my room and went to the bedroom of my parents. There were ripped hairs of my mother on the floor; the wall had shots of her blood, which I wiped with my tiny hands. I had a vague recollection of that time when I tried to get between them, jumped in front of my mom and faced my father with every ounce of courage my tiny little body will hold, screaming at him.
“Leave my mummy alone.”
I don't remember what happened after that because I had blocked it out. So it was not at all good. My mom got it the worst. But that incident made her clear that she would not let me stay in that house anymore.  
I was sent to a boarding school, to save me from my monster dad. Coming from what I had been through to finally be somewhere, where I felt safe and happy was amazing. I can't tell how my mom dealt with my father or how she convinced him for my admission. But after that day, I never saw my mom wearing any colorful dresses. Her wardrobe was left with four pairs of suits; one was black and the other three were white. And her beautiful red sari has vanished abruptly.  
I use to visit my home very less as long as my father was alive. I got the news of his death when I was fourteen. But I never felt anything because for me he was dead long back before. In fact, I was relieved and happy for my mother.
When I visited home after his death, my mother was sitting surrounded by many neighbors and relatives. There I heard something which was agonizing for me.
“Poor Anupama, now she is a widow. Pull out all the bangles from her hand. Now onwards she is not allowed to wear colors also.”
“No red color for her.”
Colors were already out of her life, long before they would have known. I tried to attempt to convince my mom for wearing color again. But neither had she any interest left nor was I high enough to make her do what she always loved.       
At Present
Now I am an adult, strong enough, but still not gathered sufficient courage to convince my mom. So when my mom asked me to purchase an off-white sari for her, I couldn’t say no to her. I ordered the sari online which was about to reach today.
When I reached home, my mom was standing at her usual place with a slight smile on her face.  
After touching her feet, she embraced me for a minute. Then I asked….
“Have you received my gift?”
“Yes…”
“You liked it.”
A long  pause.
“But I asked …”
“Not for me but for you.”
"I have stopped being the slave of anyone's desire, son."
“Mom, you have changed for good.”
“Hemant, life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. So, learn from your mistakes and don’t ever repeat them again.”
“Maa…….”
But she stopped me in the middle.
"We are left with many unfinished works. Soon we will be joined by the bride and her family. I don't want any work left undone till then.”
We never talked about that issue after that. My mom was smart enough in disregarding that topic.       
At the wedding
I was sitting there in front of the priest, waiting for my bride. Tears came to my eyes when I saw the most sumptuous woman, coming towards me. My bride, Swara had a broad smile on her face as she walked beside that woman, my mother, draped in that bright red sari gifted by me,   
My solitude is my gain, living alone is not a pain
Broached towards the new expedition
Yesterday I fell and today walk again.

(THE BEGINNING )



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