Lisa, in her bridal dress, was enjoying the lavish wedding reception given in her honor at her in-laws’ residence in Mumbai. She had arrived Mumbai from New York last night with her Indian husband, Ranveer. Professor Sushma and businessman Manoj had greeted their American daughter-in-law passionately, showering her with extravagant gifts. A fiction story by Nusrat Jabeen. – #siliconeer @siliconeer #literature #NusratJabeen #Fiction
She watched in amazement, Ranveer’s relatives in Western attire and conversing fluently in English. But that affluent ambiance lacked in family warmth and vibrancy that Lisa was expecting from her Indian in-laws. Lisa noticed Sushma and Manoj were avoiding each other on purpose. They don’t look like husband and wife, strange, she muttered to herself.
The next morning Lisa found Papa Manoj reading newspaper in the lawn. They greeted each other and Lisa joined the sad looking Manoj.
“Papa, you don’t look happy, and mama too. Is this ‘cause Ranveer chose an American girl to be his wife?” Lisa asked directly.
“No, dear. We’re happy. Of course we’re happy.” Papa Manoj said.
“But you don’t look happy, I know there’s something. Isn’t there?” Lisa was persistent.
Manoj took a deep breath and after a long pause said, “Yes dear, there is.”
Papa Manoj sighed, “Lisa, you know, our marriage was not a traditionally arranged one, we both fell in love first.”
“Yes, I know Papa. What happened then?”
“I don’t know,” Papa paused, looked at Lisa, forced a smile, “She’s very stubborn, adamant and egoist. Always going against my desires, dreams and wishes. How long could I tolerate? After all, I’m the husband.”
Lisa saw the moisture in his eyes. “Hun… Husband, the Indian husband?”
Manoj felt the sarcasm but ignored.
After a momentary silence he said, “She always opposed me, if I wanted to plant a mango tree, she wanted a jamun tree. If I liked buttery food, she preferred oil. She wanted to decide everything in her way. How long could I tolerate, but I did tolerate for the sake of our children.”
Lisa smiled meekly, pretending to be serious, “Papa, you two decided to remain like that all your lives?”
“No,” said Manoj abruptly, “First, she decided to file a divorce but then…,” Manoj tried to suppress his pain and continued, “Our divorce could ruin the lives of our three children. We know daughters of divorced parents are not welcome in noble families of our Indian society.”
“Really!” Lisa said and that embarrassed him, “Hun… many western traits have permeated into our culture but our souls are still pure Indian.”
Lisa felt the pride in his words, “So, you decided not to divorce.”
“No, we postponed it,” said Manoj.
“Postponed?” Lisa repeated.
“Yes, we decided when our daughters and Ranveer were married, we’d finalize our divorce,” Manoj said lowly.
“And now the time has come,” Lisa watched him mischievously, “You should be happy now.”
“Look, we didn’t talk for twenty-seven years. We live in separate portions, have our own income, we both performed our duties as sincere and loving parents. We love our children and they know, they’ve accepted our way of life.” Monoj poured out his frustration.
Lisa contemplated and looked at Papa who said, “I thought time may soften her heart one day and she might ask for a compromise but no, no, instead yesterday she asked to finalize our divorce.” Anger and deep pain was obvious on Manoj’s face.
Lisa broke the silence, “Papa, do you still love Mom?” Lisa’s question baffled Manoj, “I…. I…don’t think so.” Papa Manoj stood up and walked away in haste. Lisa remained seated there. She smiled to herself.
When Lisa entered her mother-in-law Sushma’s room, she was looking at some photos. Sushma pushed them under her pillow and smiled at Lisa, “Come in Lisa, come in dear.”
Lisa walked close to her and sat beside her.
“Which places did you visit today?” Mom Sushma asked lovingly, “How do you find our heritage and historical places?”
“Impressive and grand but I’m more impressed by the cultural norms than the magnificence of history,” said Lisa.
“How could you understand our culture in a day,” Sushma laughed lightly.
Lisa smiled back, “Mom, I felt your culture in this home.”
Sushma looked surprised.
Lisa said, “Mom, Why you want to divorce Papa. He loves you.”
After a long pause, Sushma sighed, “Love,” she dissembled satisfaction.
Lisa held Sushma’s hand and said desolately, “Mom, I’m from a broken family. I’ve experienced the excruciating pain the children of such families go through of all their lives. I married Ranveer because I heard that Indian parents sacrifice their wishes, desires, dreams, and even their lives for the secure and peaceful lives of their children. I cannot think to let my children suffer the same way as I’ve suffered. But your plans to get divorced proves I’m wrong about Indian parents.”
“I understand, that’s why we didn’t opt for divorce twenty-seven years back when we finally decided for separation. I always have a little hope may be one day he’d come and ask to give our lives a second chance. That moment never came.” Sushma said remorsefully, “When I asked him to finalize our divorce yesterday, he didn’t show a speck of concern, not a bit of remorse, no regrets. He’s a stubborn guy, egoist, I know him.”
Lisa chuckled, “Mom, did you ever show your intention to Papa to give your lives a second chance?”
Sushma Mom struggled to find an answer but she couldn’t.
“Mom, I saw the same pain in Ranveer’s eyes that I’m very familiar with, pain of being abandoned, pain of being incomplete. Your daughters may be suffering the same pain.”
“They’re grown up now. Independent, they don’t need us anymore.” Sushma said.
“How could you assume that when children grow up, they don’t need their parents?” Lisa asked bluntly. Sushma looked at her in surprise.
Sushma was contemplating then took the photos from under the pillow. Sushma moved her fingers across the picture to wipe the tears fallen on it.
When Lisa came into her bedroom, Ranveer was waiting for her, “Where were you?”
“With your Papa,” replied Lisa casually.
“What were you doing there at this hour of night?” asked Ranveer.
Lisa turned and smiled at Ranveer, “Nothing, only telling him that not only Indian husbands have ego, their wives have ego too.”
Ranveer didn’t understand but Lisa was not in a mood to say more.
Sushma was packing her clothes in a suitcase when she saw Manoj standing in the door. They both looked at each other for a few moments.
“Are the papers ready?” Sushma asked finally.
“No,” Manoj answered. Sushma heard the unexpected answer and stared at him.
“Sushma, I think our excuses aren’t worth our divorce. Can we give life a second chance?” Manoj struggled with words.
“You took twenty-seven years to realize it. Twenty-seven years of loneliness, suffering and torment, now you want to give life a second chance,” Sushma said resentfully.
“Yes, I do, and do you?” Manoj asked.
“We’ve lived our lives,” Sushma said bitterly, “It’s finished.”
“We may still have another twenty-seven or more years to live…Sushma, for the love that we once had,” Manoj pleaded.
“Love, once we had? You don’t love me now,” Sushma snarled back.
Manoj smiled, “I love you then, now and ever.”
Sushma sputtered, “Seven words and twenty-seven years to say, what desisted you from saying seven simple words?”
“Ego,” Manoj said sheepishly.
Ranveer and Lisa were standing in the door looking at Manoj and Sushma, embraced in each other.
“What are they doing?” asked astonished Ranveer.
“Romancing,” Lisa laughed and pulled Ranveer away to their room.