Thursday, February 27, 2014

Foreign illuision

Foreign illusions

Sikshya’s joy knew no bounds. At last Abhinash’s success will be her pride and the envy of  all the pompous, sniggering relatives. Sikshya hailed from an affluent family with most of her relatives settled abroad. Her parents had however always been down to earth modest individuals who prided themselves as Indians. Siskya too was strongly influenced by these qualities. She found all these attributes reflected in Abhinash. It was inevitable for love to bloom between the two. Her love translated into marriage with the consent of her parents. Abhinash unlike her was born into a humble household. It was through sheer grit and determination that his career soared. When Abhi (as she lovingly called him) received the award for the youngest achiever in his company he rushed to her side. “Siki Baby, you are my lucky mascot! Our wedding is still a fortnight away and you have already started waving your magic wand.”

Shishya was deliriously happy. Soon her wedding date drew near and relatives started flocking around inquiring about the lucky groom to be. Nilu Aunty was first to pass the snide remark. “ Siskshya could have got the best in the market. What a nice proposal I had got for her. Bikas is such a good and handsome boy. He is settled in Australia too!!” she started shaking her head and clicking her tongue remorsefully. Sikshya just couldn’t control her self. “Aunty I didn’t buy Abhinash from any market and he is better than the best. I don’t want to be a trophy wife to any foreign settled spoilt brat.” Her mother had pulled her away startled as much by Aunt’s remark as by her outburst. “Shikshya, is this what we have taught you? How can you talk to Aunty like this?” Almost simultaneously she turned to Nilu Aunty and said  “Nilu, every body has a right to their life and their choices. We respect Sikshya’s decision and commend it. I am happy to have a self-made man like Abhinash as my son-in-law” Nilu Aunty’s jaw fell flat that day but Sikshya could not ignore the constant buzz of disgruntlement reverberating among all. “ Madhu’s children will be born Americans you know…..” Geeta Chachi just couldn’t stop gushing. The constant comparison didn’t stop even after marriage. Lavya, her cousin was to visit Sikshya’s new dream house that day. Yes’ Sikshya had always dreamt of a small cozy yet comfortable house with some one like Abhinash. With her tasteful touch she had transformed her 2 bedroom house into a paradise. At least that is what both Abhi and she felt until that day. “ Sikshya Didi, how can you live in this suffocating flat and what tout locality!” Lavya screamed instinctively as Sikshya opened the door to her. Looking at Sikshya’s grim and tearful face she said it was just a joke and hugged her. “Thank God Abhi was not around to hear this.” Sikshya thought. Sikshya knew that her relatives could never credit Abhi for the man he was or realize his worth unless he too had a stamp on his Visa. Shikshya had no doubt about Abhinash’s capability. In fact Abhinash had refused 3 lucrative job offers from abroad because it meant leaving India permanently. Sikshya had no fascination to become a foreign resident she wanted all to know that Abhinash could stand up to the status parameters that had been erected. She never voiced her feelings explicitly. Sikshya would however become extremely animated each time Abhi informed her about the offers and then her face would fall involuntarily when Abhi rejected them. She didn’t want to push Abhi or make him commit to anything against his wishes. Abhi couldn’t fail to notice all this. He was also aware of Sikshya’s relative’s attitude towards him. He could empathize with her anxiety. So when the right opportunity had come Abhi had grabbed it. “Siki baby come on pack up!!! We’ll have to leave this place in 15 days.” Abhi said when he stepped into the house that day. “Why Abhi did you get transferred somewhere? This is mean; you should have informed me earlier. I could have prepared myself mentally to live in a city away from Mom and Dad.” Sikshya said a little disheartened. “I’m sorry Siki, but now you have to prepare yourself to live in a different country from Mom & Dad for a year.” Abhinash said smiling mischievously. Sikshya’s eyes had popped out and she screamed in excitement and hugged Abi. “Ok, ok my opportunist wife. I get a hug only when you get to travel abroad.” Abi said laughing out loud. Sikshya had shared the good news with enthusiasm, especially after coming to know that Abi would be posted in Florida. An added bonus was the prospect of getting to meet her Cousin Madhu who was also in Florida since 4 years. Although Geeta Chachi was a show off Sikshya was fond of Madhu. Fate had drawn out a trump card in her favor and she had got a chance to mute her fastidious relatives.

Siksya’s parents and Abi’s only close kin his elder brother came to see them off. Sikshya’s spirit was way too high for her mother’s teary eyed farewell. “Mama, please! We’ll be back in a year. So don’t give any wrong impression to all the people here. The security might give Abhi a tough time while checking in if they go by your wails.” Soon Sikshya was alone in the flight with Abhinash. She grabbed his arms and planted a romantic kiss on his cheeks. “Hey mam, what’s the motive?” Abhi joked naughtily. After a stiffed kneed 18 hours journey they reached Florida. Sikshya was bowled over by all the glitter, extravaganza, neatness and convenience right from the time they stepped out of the flight. How sordid India seemed in contrast to this sheen. Her parents were rich enough to afford vacations abroad, but they always wanted Sikshya to have her feet firmly grounded. They had visited every nook and corner of India but foreign territory never figured on their agenda. For the next 3 months Sikshya hungrily relished everything Florida had to offer. She felt a little bored when Abhi left for office during the morning hours especially since she didn’t know any one around. But soon she found out ways to keep herself occupied. From raiding malls, to preparing new dishes for Abhi to surfing channels and reading books. The evenings were mostly spent in sightseeing trips with Abhi. Most of the week ends were spent with Madhu Didi and family, at farm houses, in the tropical beaches of Florida and barbeque dinners.  Everything seemed like a dream, an extended vacation, and Sikshya was giddy with happiness. Life abroad was indeed a feast.

It was a Friday and Sikshya had prepared something special to commemorate their 4 months of stay at Florida. Apart from this there was extremely happy news to share with Abhi. Abhi picked her up and kept on grinning and glowing when he heard that Skishya was pregnant. “Baby, take good care of yourself. We’ll break the good news to your Madhu Didi when we visit them this weekend. She’ll be able to give you some good advice and tips. After all she is the mother of 2 kids.” Madhu Didi was happy to hear the news. Since Sikshya was advised to take less stress and strain they all decided against going out to any farm house. In fact it was the first time that Sikshya was to have an overnight stay at Madhu Didi’s place. Sikshya tried to help Madhu Didi as much as she could in the kitchen. Although Madhu Didi always tried her best to be cheer full the strain of having to take care of 2 small kids had always been evident to Sikshya. Sikshya thought it was a part of motherhood and had never discussed it at length with Didi. That night after packing the two kids to sleep Madhu Didi sat down tired beside Sikshya. The men were on the Balcony enjoying a puff. “ Didi how do you manage all this. Lav and Kush are really a handful. I’m very scared now that it’s going to be my turn to be a mother.” Didi looked down for a long time as if she had not heard Sikshya’s question. Slowly as she looked up at Sikshya there were tears in her eyes. “What is it Didi? I’m sorry if I said anything wrong.” Asked Sikshya, rather startled at seeing Didi break down like this at an innocuous question. “ No Sikshya it’s not you. It is this life that I have here. It’s taking a toll on me. Do you think this is what a 31 year old should look like? I already look like a bag, my hair is almost non existent, and my eyes look like I have been hit black and blue.” Didi cried covering her face. “No Didi it not true you are judging yourself too harshly.” Although there was a lot of truth in Didi’s statement, Sikshya had to be supportive of Didi in the present state. Didi raised her face as if she had not heard Sikshya, and kept on talking as tears cascaded down her face. “I too was so attractive. Now I don’t have time to take care of myself. Don’t I feel a piercing pain when Pravir look’s wide mouthed at those attractive women out there? But can he lead me a helping hand, no. He has to earn those big bucks to afford this big house, bringing up two children and what not. May be I’m being too harsh on him. He does try to compenstate by taking us out on weekends and helping me with kids once in a while. But Sikshya it’s simply not enough.” Didi, why don’t you hire a helping hand?” Sikshya suggested.” Don’t you think we have tried that out? Everything and everyone is so materialist here. Even the few close friends we have can’t be relied upon in emergencies because everybody has too busy a schedule. There is absolutely no moral support system of close family members like in India. In any case we don’t even have any family members here. Day care and a house help is so expensive we just can’t afford it. More ever their system of child rearing is so drastically different I just can’t digest it. I have had to drag myself out of bed even during sickness because there is no body to take care of the children. When the children are sick sometimes it only me who has to cope up with all the extra physical and psychological strain because Pravir is way too busy. Today when you told me about yourself I just couldn’t control my self. In you I found my old happy self reflected, one I have lost long ago. No Sikshya life is not worth it away from all near and dear ones, away from home land. I will not have to put up with so much of stress after the children are grown up but I would have lost the best years of my life. Do you think even then I will have any peace? This culture will always be alien to us. May be the children will make it there own, but that will cause us even more tension. What with live in’s, dating and all. Can we as Indian’s ever accept it?”  Sikshya looked on at Didi perturbed. It was like watching a long dormant volcano erupt with all force. She had little words of consolation to offer. All she could say was “Didi please you are thinking too much. This a passing phase. You have had a bad day please take some rest. Every thing will be all right.” On Sunday she returned with a heavy heart. Perhaps she had been little envious of Didi’s NRI status. But after all that transpired the day before, she felt really bad for Didi.  She was only a visitor to this country but for Didi it was a daily torment. Perhaps Didi was just exaggerating. So many NRI’s people do live here don’t they? They learn to cope with life. May be not all can and may be she too was one of them. Then again she thought life is too short to run after material pursuits and sacrifice the pleasure of being away from people who really matter. May be some day Abhi will be transferred to a different city in India and she won’t enjoy the proximity she has with her parents. But at least she won’t have a cultural shock, and she doesn’t have to worry about her children becoming too ultra modern and out of sync with Indian culture. More over she was sure that Mom and Dad can easily visit her anywhere in India but to expect them to spend long periods and be comfortable in an alien civilization is unreasonable. Sikshya didn’t discuss any of this with Abhi. She didn’t want him to think that she was worrying herself in this condition. More ever all this discussion was immaterial. After all they will be leaving for India soon in a few months time.
In the month’s that followed by Sikshya realized the truth of Didi’s words. It was difficult for her to travel frequently to Didi’s place. Although she would have liked the presence of some one close during her pregnancy, Didi too couldn’t always come over to her with two demanding small kids in line. Abhi was there during weekends and evenings and he did his best to cheer Sikshya up and cater to her many whims and mood swings. Some times she would crave for the pampering and attention that a new would be mother wants. Mama’s rasogola’s, Dohi Mach, and many such delicacies had to be postponed till the time she was back in India. Ho! India how much she missed it. No sniggering remarks from her relatives could ever make her feel uncomfortable again. She had re-learnt the lesson she had in childhood. The Grass always seems greener on the other side.


PALLAB said...

indeed a message straight from heart,,,, and i presume the character of sikshya does resemble the author in another madhu didi in making..

chor aye hum woh galiyan..

u are just a magician in authorizing the scripts..

Mimi said...

Humbled !

Sonal said...

so well written Minakhee...!! enjoyed reading..!! and so true the Grass is always greener on the other side...!!!

Mimi said...

Thx. Sonal you have stayed outside the home country. What is your experience? You think that it's preferable to stay within home town or the avenues and convenience abroad are more preferable?

lopavirgo18 said...

nice story......the inner feeling of most of us staying abroad,far away from our near and dear ones, has been beautifully put into words.......keep writing!

Mamina said...

fortunately this is the have written it so nicely that i could feel the same when i was reading this................this phase comes in our life in every 3 to 4 days gap or probabaly after the weekend when we are all alone at home.
kya baat kya baat kya baat.............please keep writting.

Mimi said...

@ Lopavirgo and Mamina....Thx for the high five

Sonal said...

Well Minakhee...each one has a different opinion and since u have asked me for my opinion i think that everyplace has something to teach us and its up to us to choose our pattern of life....i totally agree to what your friend has written about the similar phase that comes in everyone's life...but now i feel after living abroad for years ..and unlike my earlier conjectures and from the past morals that life has taught me in these years is that life is always happy and becomes better when u start thinking that Grass is green on both the sides...!!!(though difficult to think in certain conditions..hehe!!!)whether it be at home or far away...!!!

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