Rohini couldn’t take her eyes off her reflection. Was this really her- Rohini Sankar , the fifty six years old retired school teacher?
She had never before looked so gorgeous. Her bushy eyebrows were neatly plucked. Her face glowed after the gold facial that she had got done the previous day.The awkward looking facial hair was removed from above her lips and around her cheek. Her graying spring like hair looked sleek and lustrous after the saloon visit that had cost a fortune .Her lips were painted a rich shade of plum.Her wide eyes sparkled with a hint of kohl and the apricot colored eye shadow brought out the sensuality of her long , thick eyelashes..
The deep crimson dupion silk saree complimented her wheat colored skin. The pallu of the saree was neatly plaited and pinned, something which she had quite forgotten to do lately. She wanted to let her hair loose, but later decided that it would look too reckless and inappropriate. She had now put it up in a bun.The single gold necklace which she wore looked exotic with red stones. The matching earrings and bangles added to her charm.
“Mom, you look stunning”.Her daughter, Sanya ,commented after a while. Rohini tore her eyes away from the mirror and looked at her daughter. “I swear, you look at least ten years younger.And..I almost forgot how pretty you used to look” Sanya walked up to her mother and gave her a quick peck on her cheek.”Wait till the others see you, they will be mesmerised”.
Rohini gave her a shy smile. It felt nice to be complimented after such a long time. Her eyes wandered back into the mirror for a closer look.She looked far from perfect.Still on the heavier side,a hint of paunch was peering from under her pallu.The makeup had not concealed all of her sagging skin or her wrinkles.But she still liked what she saw.
Fifty six might still fall under the category of ‘middle age’ somewhere else in the world. The age where women still wore skirts, had routine parlour appointments, went on long vacations,had kitty parties where they drank champagne and laughed out loud at silly jokes, took up something new citing a mid life crisis. But for Rohini, fifty six meant old,very old.For her it was the age where people wore old worn out clothes, never bothered about their looks,never kept tab of their weight, stopped putting any effort to be happy and started waiting for the last call to come from beyond the boundaries of life.
And it was as if she was shook awake from a calm lazy slumber. The quick realization ran up her spine like a jolt. Her life still remained. Looking pretty still mattered, feeling young did lift her spirit. She still had that longing towards life that she had thought never existed anymore.
From the age of eighteen,she had heard her mother grumble about the need to marry her off.But the combination of a rare condition in the horoscope and her father’s failed business venture stood between her mother’s biggest dream.Rohini had turned twenty four , way over marriageable age according to her mother , before her father finally found her a groom.The guy worked in a private marketing company and was thirty one, just seven years her senior..
”You are lucky my girl” Her father had given her a triumphant smile as he handed her over two bags, her wedding dress and jewellery. The marriage was in a week, her father had announced.She remember hating the color of the wedding saree-it was a shade of dark green. She wished it was something more brighter, more pleasant.It didn’t occur to her that she had never seen her future husband before. Was she naive or was it the relief that her mothers darkest fear, that she would remain a spinster all her life, never came true?
She still remembered the jewellery her father had bought, none of which were her selection.There were six bangles, a necklace and two chains,her mother kept gloating to the relatives all week long. But other than that the memories of her wedding day are quite vague.
Rohini tried to remember what her husband wore on the day. May be the same attire that all grooms wore to their weddings,white shirt and white dhoti. That was what even her son Ravi wore on his wedding, three years back. But he had selected a very costly suit for his reception. There was nothing like a reception those days.She didn’t remember much of anything of her the day except for the bitter taste in her mouth that kept getting worse as she followed an absolute stranger into his room.
Eleven months later the twins were born-Darshini and Akshatha.Two years later Ravi followed and after a year and a half came Sanya. She got her job when Sanya was three.After that life was a race.Thirties went by like a raging storm. Kids, school,exams, home loan, doctor visits,household chores, her job, more household chores, more exams and so on.
She tried to dig more into those memories.All she could see was her kids.Their smiling faces, their grumbles, the tricks they played, the day when all of the four fell sick after eating from outside, the first day of their schools, the dance classes, the day Ravi came home with a bleeding nose and ripped shirt after a fight, the day Darshana secretly showed her the love letter she had got, the days they brought in their friends.Those were her most treasured memories, the ones that kept her going.
But she barely remembered her. She couldn’t figure out what her thoughts were then. How did she feel about the life, what did she enjoy doing besides being with her kids. And her husband…what about him.What about them as a couple, were they happy? Did she love her husband? Did she accept him as a part of her life when she added his name next to hers? May be love was a strong word. If what she felt towards her kids was the feeling that was defined as love, then she had never felt the same towards the man of her life. Because with her kids, she never had to pretend to care.Her heart skipped a beat each time they came home late.Her inside swelled like a balloon as she watched them grow.She couldn’t hug them enough, she had to tell them that she loved them again and again.Because she felt she could never express all of her feelings, all of those love.
But it was not the same with him.Sankar, her husband of thirty years.He was a decent man, a great father.She owed him that.He paid the bills on time, he cared for the kids, he never hit her, he never raised his voice, he always polite and never forced him on her. What else did a woman want? She was happy.Did her love for her kids eclipse him from her life?
She knew she cared for him, she never regretted marrying him.But she never even wanted anything more from him. It never bothered her that they were not close enough, it never even occurred to her that he should have shared more about his life with her. Was that because their relation lacked the passion of love? Was it because the marriage was just a convenient arrangement to raise their kids? But she was happy,always!
Except when the kids moved out , life started feeling empty. A blanket of boredom just enveloped her life. Without the kids around ,the silence between her and her husband kept growing bigger and deeper. There was nothing left to talk. The more they became conscious about each others presence, the more they were forced to engage and support each other.They both had put in efforts to blend in.But they only drifted apart! It was like an unwanted responsibility,a heavy liability.
In the initial years they acted as if everything was normal.They ate their meals together, went on long walks,tried to make small talks. But gradually it all started feeling futile and very much artificial.Slowly they reserved the show for the times when there was an audience around. They started sleeping in different rooms, except for when the kids visited.The television was always left on just to distract the two of them, to avoid the need of filling up the eerie silence with awkward words.
It’s been a year since she had retired. With nothing to do, nowhere to go, her life had transformed into an endless wait. She awaited for her kids to call, to visit. After all the four of them got married and got settled in different parts of the world, the visits were reduced to one in two years and so.But the anticipation kept her alive, that was her only hope.The dreadful loneliness and the pressure to appear happily married crushed her from all sides.
May be it was that monotonous rhythm of life that caused her to age faster.By the time she had turned fifty, half of her hair had turned white.Her wardrobe was now filled with sarees in cream and off white shades. But wasn’t she always like that ? Even in the prime of her youth, she had never been gaudy and loud.She always tried to blend in to the surroundings, she always wanted to be ignored.Had she ever dared to celebrate her life?
Being stuck in a life that lacked the very joy of living is a torment in itself. She had always consoled herself that it was just a few more years. She had held on for a big portion of her life,now it was just few more years and then it will all be over. The show will end, just an year or two.
But as she gazed into the mirror she realized, it might not be a few more years. What if she lived till her eighties or her nineties? Thirty more years of silence,thirty more years of boredom! A shudder passed down her as she visualized another thirty years in her house that had ceased to become her home.Another three decades of pretentious happy marriage.
For the first time in years Rohini broke down and cried!