It was Riya’s
first Durga Pooja after marriage. She was excited and anxious all at the same
time. She had gone along with her husband, Subhro, to her in-laws’ place in
Delhi to celebrate this festival. Little did she know what was to transpire?
Riya wasn’t much
of a favourite with her in-laws which really wasn’t much of a surprise
considering she was Subhro’s choice and not his parents’. Any opportunity to humiliate
her would be seized with vicious accuracy by them. If it wasn’t for Subhro
their one and only son, they wouldn’t have in the first place let her enter
their household even. Ten months had passed by since Riya and Subhro had been
married but not a week had gone by without Riya being subjected to bitter words
from them. But in all this it was Subhro’s faith in Riya that got her through
and was her silver lining. Their bond was strong and no matter how much effort
his parents put in breaking that, their love always came out on top.
Riya was a girl of
today; educated and independent. She wasn’t one to take blows without
retorting. However infront of Subhro’s parents she had to keep quiet as no
matter what they did or said at the end of the day they were his parents. Well
isn’t it the story around households? A daughter-in-law has to keep quiet and
suffer in silence in the name of respect for elders and such system of beliefs?
Riya was tall, had
dark brown eyes and lustrous straight hair that gave her an angelic appearance.
She was respectful, though upto a sane limit, but that clearly wasn’t enough
for Subhro’s parents. She was perfect for Subhro, the quintessential tall, dark
and handsome lad. They made a very good pair; were in synch with each other but
that was irrelevant to them. Everything was perfect in their lives except for
the constant fight for acceptance of Riya by her in-laws.
Since it was her
first time at Subhro’s place for such an auspicious occasion after marriage Riya
had taken lots of presents for her in-laws. She wanted to do everything
possible to make them happy, because she knew that Subhro’s happiness was
linked to theirs. On the eve of Sasti as Riya was busy preparing sweets in the
kitchen there was a storm brewing outside in the living room. Subhro’s mom, Usha
couldn’t find her gold chain. She rummaged through the cupboards and every
possible place she could have kept it but couldn’t find it.
‘Subhro I cannot
find my gold chain’ said an agitated Usha.
‘Maybe you kept it
somewhere else Mom like you always do. Relax and search again.’
‘You think I
didn’t search. How can the chain go missing just like that? Someone must have
taken it’ an exasperated Usha retorted.
‘Mom who would
have taken it? Apart from you, dad, me and Riya there is no one else here so
there is no question of it being stolen’ said Subhro. He could very well figure
out what was going to come next.
‘Riya must have
taken it’ said Usha bluntly. Yes what Subhro feared for was now out in the
open. His mother has blamed Riya for it.
‘Why will Riya
take it mom?’ Subhro could only manage this much when his dad, Shankar, spoke.
‘So you are now
siding with your wife and not your mom. You think your mom is lying?’ Subhro’s
dad had a foul temper. His rage would be visible just from his eyes. It was
scary and there was no way any sort of argument would cut across him when he
was in that state of mind.
While all this was
going on, Riya oblivious to what was about to come her way, was struggling with
the sweets. She had not once before spent so much time in the kitchen. She
never had to and she had always imagined she wouldn’t have to in the future either
as she could always afford to hire a help. But she was wrong, inspite of help
being there she had to do all the chores as that was what was expected of the
daughter-in-law. She would often ponder about the hypocrisy of the society. Toiling
in the kitchen and the house made one a good daughter-in-law; how ridiculous
‘Riya, Riya get in
here’ shouted her father-in-law. She wasn’t used to people yelling at her and
for a moment she froze in fear wondering what could have happened now?
‘What did I do
now?’ she thought!
‘Yes Dad. What
happened? said Riya as she ran and entered the living room. Subhro, his mom,
Usha and Shankar stood there with grave expressions on their faces.
‘Did you take my
chain?’ asked Usha.
chain? And no I didn’t take anything Mom.’ It didn’t take Riya even a moment to
understand that they were accusing her of stealing something. After all that
she had seen over a span of ten months, it wasn’t a surprise that this was
happening. Infact she was curious why it hadn’t happened before!
‘If you didn’t
take then who would? Before you came none of the things from our house went
missing. It has to be you. Riya if you need anything you should ask us, why
steal. Is this what your parents have taught you?’ said an infuriated Shankar.
Tears rolled down
Riya’s eyes. She was being blamed for theft. While being spoken to like a
criminal she looked at Subhro. He stood there, all quiet without even looking
at her. She felt hurt and betrayed. She felt a rush of temper run down her
spine being insulted in the manner she was. As Usha and Shankar went on and on
about how it must be Riya who had taken it, Riya felt violated. It was like
they were ripping her off her self-respect.
It was more than
she could take. Maybe they were just saying this because it had gone missing
and since it had never happened before they found it reasonable to think it was
Riya who had done it. But was that fair? Certainly not by Riya, she was Subhro’s
wife, a member of their family and this was not the way for them to treat her.
Finally she shot back. Perhaps she shouldn’t have but it was too late for any
‘I didn’t steal
anything. I never do. I earn enough to sustain myself. Infact I do not even
take money from your son. How dare you speak to me like that and who gave you
the right to talk about my parents in such a maligning tone? Riya shouted in rage
while tears continued gushing down her cheeks.
Subhro was still
quiet. What could he do? On one side were his parents and on the other his
wife. Perhaps it was the best way for him to react. He could always make Riya
understand why he behaved the way he did but he couldn’t hurt his parents. He
looked at Riya, she was withering the harsh words all alone and all he could do
is watch silently. He felt bulldozed by the pressure of being a good son. But
he was a husband too wasn’t he? Was he failing in his duty to shield Riya from
all possible pain? But what could he possibly do? He was in a quandary! But he
knew Riya was strong, she could handle it. Yes perhaps she would cry and fight
with him, but she would handle it for sure.
Riya on the other
hand was unable to take any more of the blame and fearing saying something in
the heat of the moment ran up to her room. Her eyes were red with fury. She
wanted to rush out of that house and never come back again. She sat there
crying for hours. Subhro also hadn’t come upstairs. How could he not take her
side she thought?
‘Subhro is cruel and
he let them hurl all sorts of charges at me while he sat there looking. I will
not speak to him anymore’ she thought.
Just then there
was a knock at the door.
‘It’s me Subhro,
open the door.’
Riya opened the
door thinking Subhro had come to tell her that all will be fine. As always he
would be by her side and support her. He would not have her insulted any
further. She was happy, all the anger she felt towards Subhro vanished in a
moment. It was always like that with them, one ray of hope from Subhro and Riya
would forget all bitterness. But Subhro wasn’t alone; he stood there with Usha
and Shankar behind him.
‘They want to
check your bags’ he said not looking into her eyes. He was embarrassed that
something like that was happening; that Riya had to go through it and he
couldn’t stop it. He hoped for Riya to understand as he just couldn’t stop it.
Riya was so angry
that she could have shut the door at their faces but she decided to let them
see for themselves. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding they had and they would
finally realize their blunder.
Usha and Shankar
went through her bags. They looked everywhere possible, inside ever piece of
cloth; inside every jewelry box and every cosmetic cover. But Riya hadn’t stolen
it so what could they find! She was confident that they would get nothing but a
small part of her was also scared. She had watched enough television to know
that they may have hidden it in her bags. No sooner than she thought that, she
told herself that probably they wouldn’t go to that extent. She kept looking at
Subhro the whole time. The man she loved, the man she left her home to be with
having being reduced to a mere puppet. But then she also knew it was easier
said than done, he couldn’t possibly fight with his parents. A part of her
understood him while the other blamed him for being unable to do anything.
‘It’s not here’
said Usha looking at Shankar.
‘Maybe she hid it
‘Enough!’ said Subhro
in his cool and collected manner. It was strange how he managed to control his
reactions at such moments.
‘Mom and Dad, you
insulted her because you thought she stole. You wanted to check her bags. I
didn’t stop you even though I knew the whole time that she couldn’t have stolen
anything. I thought you would see with your eyes and realize your mistake. But
no, you still want to blame her Dad. Why?’
His parents didn’t
know what to say. They knew and saw it too that the chain wasn’t in her bag or
her room. They didn’t want to accept it but Riya hadn’t done anything wrong. They left the room and went downstairs without
saying a word. Riya stood there not knowing how to react anymore.
‘I am sorry Riya
but I couldn’t have shouted at my parents. I know in a way I have wronged you
but I also tried as much to tell them that you didn’t steal.’ Subhro knew Riya
would be hurting. She was sensitive that way. Though she would get angry in an instant
and retort to any allegations against her, but every time such things happened
it left a scar on her. He knew that she was suffocated now to be in the same
house with his parents. Who wouldn’t be? But he also knew that just for him she
would bear it all and he would make it upto her once they go back home.
That night Riya
didn’t say a word. She didn’t even fight with Subhro like the other times. She
went about the household chores, prepared the sweets and served dinner.
Everyone else began to act like nothing had happened. No one apologized to her
or even patted her back saying that it’s alright and won’t happen again.
and Shankar behaved as though they had not wronged her. Infact they asked Riya
to make an apology for her behavior earlier in the evening. What could Riya
have done? She had to ask for forgiveness even though she wasn’t the least bit
wrong. It pained her; it scared her self-esteem to be made to do things her
heart didn’t agree with.
As Riya laid down
that night, her life so far flashed before her eyes. When she was with her
parents, life was so rosy. Nothing could harm her or hurt her; her parents had
given her that environment. But now she had to face every damn thing alone. Yes
that’s right she felt lonely inspite of Subhro being there. She couldn’t decide
what she wanted Subhro to do. Was she miffed that Subhro had not strongly
supported her or was she unhappy about the allegation?
As the days went
by, Riya started keeping more to herself. The otherwise chirpy and happy girl
that Riya was had now become quiet. She would spend the whole day doing the
household chores and waited with baited breathe for these holidays to end. In
her mind she played the incident over and over again. She felt ashamed for
having to stoop so low to ask for forgiveness for something which wasn’t wrong.
She felt miserable as she would always advice her friends to not take nonsense
lying down and instead fight for it. But when it happened to her, she just
couldn’t do anything.
Subhro on the
other hand knew what was going on in Riya’s mind. He knew perhaps he could have
handled the situation better but he couldn’t undo what had happened. He tried
to speak to Riya, he even wanted her to let out her frustration and fight with
him and even shout at him if required. But she seemed to have withdrawn into
her own shell.
On the day that
Riya and Subhro were about to leave, the laundryman came with their clothes. As
he took out the bundle of washed and neatly ironed clothes in the living room he
called out to Usha. Riya was in the kitchen preparing breakfast while Subhro
and Shankar were in the living room drinking the morning tea.
‘Madam you seemed
to have become very rich all of a sudden’ he told Usha.
‘I didn’t know
that you have so much money that you gave me your chain along with your clothes’
he laughed. ‘If it was someone else you would have never seen it again! Next
time even I might not return it’ he chuckled and with those words he gave the
chain to Usha and walked out of their house smiling.
Usha and Shankar
stood dumbfounded. Subhro looked at their faces while trying to hide his
agitation at having created such a ruckus and blaming Riya while his mom was at
fault, she had been careless. Out of all of them, it was Riya who felt
vindicated. She stood at living room door thanking God for this news. Yes maybe
they will never accept their mistake at treating her the way they did but they
can’t deny to themselves that they were wrong. She felt happy that this
happened before they left for the airport.
As Riya and Subhro
sat in the taxi for the airport, Subhro caught her hand and told her he loved
her and never for a moment had he doubted her. Riya smiled, she knew Subhro
trusted her. Yes she would have desired a better response from him but it
wasn’t easy being in his shoes too. She was just glad they were going back
home. Till the next accusation on her, she just wanted to forget everything and
be herself. Just then Subhro handed her an envelope saying ‘This is for you.
You deserve it’.
Riya felt funny.
Why was he giving me money in an envelope she thought! But boy was she in for a
surprise. There were two tickets to Goa in there. Yes Subhro was taking her for
an entire week to Goa. Riya was delighted and as she looked at Subhro she knew
why their relationship was strong. She knew that they would wither many more
storms such as these and that Subhro would always be with her in his own unique
Life is never
easy. It becomes even difficult once a girl is married and she enters a new
household. She has to fight many such battles to actually be accepted. But on
the other hand, it isn’t easy for the boy either. He has to balance his parents
and his wife. He is more often than not sandwiched in between. Yes maybe he
doesn’t have to do as many adjustments as the girl but the way he balances his
priorities isn’t easy either and says a lot about him. Also, for a marriage to
come out successful inspite of all such roadblocks, trust in each other is a
must. It’s not always a question of black and white. We often have to take a
middle path and at times do things which are not at all according to our own
belief system. But that’s what life is isn’t it, always churning out bouncers
at us! Riya was hurt and Subhro couldn’t do much to prevent it but he helped
her heal and Riya helped Subhro by not arguing with him for not being on her
side more verbally. That’s what a relationship is about and that’s what makes
any rapport special- the faith in each other and understanding each others
constraints. So it would be fair to conclude ‘Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and
ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.’
PS: Had written it last year for the youth express but the site seems to have disappeared so posting it again.