Chapter.1. Making of the Speech
The employees of The Affordable Fashion For All have been floating above the ground since the announcement of their CEO, Nivedita Sharma, being ranked as The Most Influential CEO in India. This has been the most sought-after title by many Indian business persons. This award would help with the growth of this company; thus, a bonus would not be far behind. Unable to come up with a powerful speech for Nivedita’s award receiving ceremony, Alisha, the lady who handles the PR for the company, was going bonkers since morning. She had wasted many hours, but to no avail. There was nothing she could do to shake her creativity out of its deep sleep. She felt lost and began browsing online shopping websites. I must purchase something beautiful for the ceremony. I should look like a PR worthy of being associated with the most influential CEO of India. She thought to herself, and just when she was about to shortlist a gorgeous fuchsia ankle length dress, her creative brain began working. She forgot about shopping and her fingers began dancing on the keys of her laptop. Who assigns a slot of thirty minutes to a person in an award ceremony? She cursed the organizers while typing for about an hour now. Once done, she began reading the speech and was quite proud of the result. She dressed up and decided to drop off the speech to Nivedita’s house. This would give her plenty of time to memorize the whole thing. Alisha knew that Nivedita hates to read from a piece of paper and believes in looking into the eyes of her audience while delivering the speech.
Nivedita had been feeling quite restless these days. The news of receiving this prestigious award should have made her feel ecstatic, but she was feeling a bit lost. Her husband and daughter had fallen asleep on the couch while watching cartoons. She smiled looking at the calm face of her husband and beautiful face of her little angel. Her third marriage seemed a gift from heaven. Her mind traveled back to her teenage years.
Chapter.2. First Marriage
She had loved a boy, so dearly. What was his name? Oh, yes! Sanskar. She had loved him so much that she began spending all her time in thinking about him. Her grades were affected by her infatuation, and her parents were being summoned every other day to the principal’s office. One day, her father called her to the living area. She had expected a good scolding from him; instead, he asked her to sit next to him. He was flipping through the channels.Unimpressed by all the channels, he handed over the remote to her. She flipped here and there, and finally settled to Fashion TV — her favorite channel. “What do you wish to do when you grow up?” he asked. “I would love to do something in fashion. Why do you ask?” Nivedita replied without moving from her gaze from the tv. She loved the bright colors dancing around in front of her, and she had the least interest in thinking about future. “You know, dear, chasing around the thoughts of a boy might not be the best way to reach where you want to be,” he glanced at her face to make sure that she had listened and left the room. Nivedita was shocked for a while, but she was angry at her dad, too. Why would he say that? I am not chasing Sanskar. We love each other. A few days passed and nothing eventful had happened. However, the words of her father were stuck in her head. Now, she was in college. She was taking baby steps towards her dream, when one day, Sanskar announced that they need to get married before she completes college. She was appalled at the suggestion. “I am not going to attend college as a married woman,” she protested with an anger infused voice. “Either this or we would have to part ways. I do not want to leave you, but my parents are forcing me to get married and take over dad’s business,” Sanskar replied in a matter of fact voice. She was convinced that he is the one for her, so she gave up and accepted her “proposal.” As soon as they were married, his family began pressuring her to quit college and take care of the household tasks. She ignored their wishes and continued her studies. Sanskar had changed a lot after marriage. He didn’t pay much attention to her. They didn’t go anywhere without his parents by their side. Why has he become such a jerk? I’ll talk to him tonight. It’s been only three months since our marriage , and he has started ignoring me.
She was determined to bring her marriage back to tracks. However, Sanskar saw her suggestion as an attack to his male ego. He slapped her and she bumped into the bedside table,” You don’t get to lecture me. I have been dealing with my mom and dad every day while you have been playing around in that college of yours. It’s been going on long enough. Stop going to college, right away.” She couldn’t respond. Her trust had shattered, but she did not wish to give him a satisfaction by crying. She sobbed after he fell asleep. She thought of calling her parents but thought that she didn’t want “I told you so” parade. So, she decided to stop going to college and began fulfilling her duties of a daughter-in-law and a wife. However, beatings did not stop. Now, her cooking was being the source of her “well-deserved” round of slaps and punches. Thanks to the tradition of spending the first festival after marriage at the bride’s home, she went to her parents on Holi — the Hindu festival of colors. Her mom greeted her with a warm smile and a tight hug at the door. If it were some other time, Nivedita would have loved this hug, but, right now, she flinched. Her dad noticed that look on her face. Later, he made her spill the beans, and she poured her heart out. He was furious at the deeds of Sanskar, and her mom was sobbing and trembling with rage. They decided, then and there, that she needs to file for a divorce and that she was not returning to that god forsaken place. “No! I would have to return, otherwise, what would the society say?” Nivedita managed to find her voice between the tears. “To hell with the society! I love my daughter more than any society.” Mom rebuked, nobody in particular. She had never seen her mom this agitated.
The doorbell rang, breaking Nivedita’s train of thoughts. That has to be Alisha. She thought while opening the door. Her husband, Sahil, and daughter, Arpita, were still sound asleep. “Hey, here is your speech! This is my best work, so far. I should call it my masterpiece,”Alisha declared in her ever-cheerful voice. “Not so loud, dear! Arpita and Sahil are sleeping,” Nivedita hushed her colleague. “Oh, I am sorry. But, it’s only 8 PM,” Alisha whispered. To this, Nivedita only smiled and began reading the speech,”You know, there is something called e-mail. Remind me to introduce it to you. It would save you the trouble of delivering speeches in person,” Nivedita said to Alisha with a grin on her face. “Yeah, Smarty, you do that! Anyway, read it now and tell me your thoughts,” Alisha couldn’t hold her enthusiasm any longer.
So, Nivedita was about to sit down to read it, when she saw Sahil rubbing his eyes and waking up. “Hey, Alisha! I didn’t know that you were planning on having a pajama party, tonight?” Sahil said with an ear-to-ear smile on his face. Sahil was fond of Alisha’s upbeat nature. “I thought I would surprise you. Mission accomplished,” She winked at him. “Oh, please don’t put ideas in her head. She is here to hand over the speech for that award ceremony,” Nivedita glanced at Sahil, lovingly. It had been more than five years, but they were in their honeymoon period, still. “Going stone age, are we? Let me..”Sahil was about to mention the same dialogue as Nivedita had said about email, when Alisha cut his remark in the middle,”Yeah, yeah! You wanna introduce me to email. Ha-ha, very funny!” she rolled her eyes and stared at Nivedita. “Okay, okay! I am reading,” Nivedita threw her hand in the air as a sign of surrender. After about 30 minutes, she was done reading the speech. “It’s amazing, Alisha! Looks like you have given it a lot of thought,” Nivedita exclaimed with joy. Alisha was ecstatic and satisfied with her response. After having a cup of tea, she left for home.
“I sensed a little too much excitement in your voice,”Sahil remarked while taking the cups to the kitchen. “Hmm, you could tell?” Nivedita looked at him with a look of surprise. “Sweetheart, I know you long enough to know when you are lying,” he had started doing the dishes. Nivedita snatched the cup from his hand and began cleaning it, “You know, you don’t need to do the dishes. I like doing the dishes. As for the speech, it didn’t sound like me. It is all about how magnificent I have been, and how much hard work I have done to build this company. It talks about all the sweats, but no hardships. It sounds unreal.” Sahil knew what she meant, so he planted a kiss on her forehead,”You would figure it out. As for the dishes, the next time, you snatched these from my hand, there would be hell to pay.” She laughed at his lame attempt at making a joke while he turned and went to put Arpita on her bed.
What am I going to do about this speech? At least, I should begin stuffing it into my memory.
Chapter.4. Second Marriage
No matter how hard she tried, Nivedita could not sleep that night. Great, I would receive my award with bags under my eyes and a robotic speech, she thought to herself while tossing and turning on the bed. She decided to revise the speech, so she went inside the kitchen, warmed a glass of milk and began giving a speech to her audience — the dishes. Dishes had been an excellent audience until now, but today even they looked bored. It was already 2 am, and she had to sleep. So, she decided to lie in the bed and give sleep another try. Finally, sleep came, and dreams followed it — nightmare is the better word.
She saw herself sitting in the middle of a small room with a suspicious looking old man reciting some mantras to her. She saw her second husband, Anoop, sitting next to her. He was squeezing her hand, and she did not feel comfortable. There was something monstrous about that man and the whole surrounding. The room stank of weed, alcohol, and vomit. Finally, the man opened his eyes and declared in a heavy voice, “A demon has touched her spirit. Her soul is tainted. The devil would not let her raise a life in her womb. You must come here for next 7 nights, and I would perform the same ritual over and over again. This process would weaken the demon. On the eighth day, leave her here alone, and I would shove the weak demon out of her by morning.” Even in this dreadful situation, she could not control her laughter. She chuckled and whispered to Anoop, ” You know, what he would shove out of me, don’t you? Let’s get out of here!” To her surprise, he didn’t move. Instead, that pathetic man slapped her and decidedly informed everybody,” These are demon’s words and laughter out of this lady’s mouth.” She could taste the blood trickling down her lips, and this was more than she had signed up for. Having lost the will to utter any word, she released her hand from the grasp of her husband and stormed out of there.
“You know that I am infertile. Doctor’s reports have made that very clear. Then, why would you make me go through that hell,” Nivedita shouted at Anoop as soon as he was in her sight.
“We must try everything, Nivi,” Anoop muttered in his most pleading voice,”You know how mom is!”
“I know how she is. Apparently, I didn’t know how you were. Please, go home. I am going to my mom’s house,” Nivedita hailed a taxi and left without giving him another glance. He stood there for a few moments and then left home.
His mom is a pathetic lady, who can’t accept that I cannot give birth. How would I survive in that place? That doesn’t feel like home, anymore.
The news of her infertility reached her parents’ house before she could reach there. Anoop’s mom called Nivedita’s mom and cursed her for marrying a barren girl to her innocent love-struck child,” We ignored her divorced past and you cheated us by hiding her disability. I would not allow that barren woman back in my boy’s life.” She hung up before Nivedita’s mom could defend her daughter.
Nivedita woke up with sweat all over her body. How could my dreadful past still give me chills? My present is glorious. Isn’t this enough? When would I get a closure?
Chapter.5. Then, She Spoke…
Lack of sleep was evident on her face, but it was nothing that a good concealer could not hide. It was 9 am and too early for her to paint her face. Nevertheless, she could not risk the rage of her publicist. She looked at her reflection in the image. Her black bodycon dress looked perfect for the occasion. The red heels complemented her dress, perfectly. She wore a beautiful set of metallic earrings completed her look. She never liked to flaunt her money and so believed in keeping her appearance simple and elegant. Sahil wore a black tux, which in her opinion, was a bit too much but he declined to tone it down. For him, this was the best day of their lives. He had taken a full day leave from his office to be a part of her wife’s success. She felt very lucky. Tears of joy were about to wreck her makeup when she heard her phone ring. It was Alisha,”Nivi, you must hurry. Everybody is here except for the lady of the hour.” Nivedita assured her that she would be there on time while fixing Arpita’s hair. I can’t believe she is going to be 3-year-old, tomorrow. Why am I getting all emotional, today? She wondered.
It was an easy ride to the venue. Alisha appeared from the crowd dressed in an elegant fuchsia dress. She looked magnificent. “You couldn’t show off a little, even today? Sahil is attracting more attention than you,’ Alisha complained in one breath,”Now, rush!”
Without further ado, Nivedita was called upon the stage to enlighten the crowd with her words. From outside, she appeared extremely calm, but inside her head, there was a storm. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to say. There was no going back, so she went up to the microphone and began addressing the crowd,
A warm welcome to all of you! I am honored that the board of prestigious and experienced judges glorified me with this award. The awards of this kind help the business-persons to know that they are doing something right. I, for one, need this validation from time to time. You see, I have never had any formal training in managing a business empire that The Affordable Fashion For All has become in the smallest amount of time. I would give the credit of our success to the hard work of my employees. Now, Alisha, I apologize to you in advance for going off the script.
Alisha did not look happy at this remark. “What is she doing, Sahil? Did she talk to you about going off the script?” Sahil ignored her question and focused on his lovely wife. Nivedita continued,
None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the love of my parents. Right from the time when the hormones kicked in, I had started searching for love outside the walls of my home. Although all the love that someone might need was in the arms of my parents, I decided it was time to be smitten by a boy. I was bewitched by his sweet talks and handsome profile, so I ignored my dad’s words and gave him everything I had. Somehow, I failed to say I love you to my mom and dad, but I managed to announce these words to that boy at the top of my lungs. His love demanded a change in my lifestyle. On the contrary, my parents’ love demanded nothing from me. I changed my personality to suit his demands but failed to pay heed to my dad’s words. His demands were sure to break my back and leave me stranded on an island all alone; whereas my dad’s words had the power to bring me to the world of light, yet I chose “my love’s” words. He slapped me and kicked me while I tried to adjust to his ways, and my parents helped me with the healing process of the wounds. In our society, a divorce is frowned upon, and parents of the daughter suffer the consequences the most. However, my parents paid no attention to this orthodox thought process. All my relatives spread rumors about my character while my parents introduced me to my bright future.
She paused to wipe her tears that had started traversing down her cheeks and continued,
I had a friend whose parents surrendered to the society. They regret their decision, now, but it’s too late for them. She was burnt to ashes one summer afternoon. Of course, the officials say that the gas was leaking and she didn’t notice. Anyway, thanks to my parents, they walked the so-called walk of shame holding my hands. I recovered the “tragedy” of divorce and came out stronger than before. I fell in love again — stubborn that I was. This time, nobody punched or slapped me — at least, not physically. My new husband and his mother took it upon themselves to check my mental strength. Apparently, a woman is not a woman until she grows a life inside her and then brings it out in the world. With that definition, I am not a woman. My womb did not surrender to the demands of my new family. I was declared possessed by a demon and was on the verge of being raped by an old man. But, my husband saw no problem in this equation and was happy to present me to that man as long as I could be declared a woman. Again, I fell into the arms of my parents, who had already gone through enough. They didn’t shed one single tear for my infertility; instead, they made me feel beautiful. Their words healed my broken heart. Unfortunately, healing a womb is not that simple. This baby obsessed family filed for a divorce, and I was happy to oblige.
That was the time when I decided that my womb might have given up, but my will hadn’t. I started this company. I would not call this company my baby because that would mean that I was hurt at my condition. Till that time, I hadn’t even liked kids. Even if I could conceive, I wouldn’t have. I am not ashamed to admit it. You may consider me less of a woman for it, but I feel as much feminine as ever. My ability to bring a life into the world has nothing to do with how I feel. God created me a woman and I would live, thrive and die a woman.
Little too emotional, right? I am sorry if I am spoiling your morning, but, trust me, the climax of this story is all good. My parents found a gem of a person and I married him. He is sitting there in a black tux, looking like a prince. He knew about my flaws but accepted me because he was touched by my story. One day, we heard a news about an abandoned girl whom nobody wanted to take home because of some stupid logic. We were moved by her story and disturbed by her abandonment. We rushed to the orphanage and brought home this beautiful angel dressed in royal blue. Although I didn’t get a functional womb in the lucky draw, I have all the wisdom of a mother. Nobody can take my motherhood away from me. Finally, I have found a home. I am sad that my parents not here to see me happy, for once.
Why did I decide to share all that with you? Because I want to inspire parents to support and love their children in all ups and downs of life, I wish to shake some sense into the ladies who cannot bear children, and most of all, I want to sound human. Each person has the potential to be someone and do something as long as they do not tie their hands by the cuffs of social irrationalities.
I am who I am because of my parents and nobody else. I am ashamed that I couldn’t be someone when they were around. I would have died a slow and depressing death if it weren’t for my parents. They gave me the freedom to make my own mistakes , but never deserted me in the hour of my need. I would appeal all of you to pursue your dreams, not let others feel bad about yourself, love your parents, and embrace life.
Thank you for your patience and being an amazing audience!
With that, she began stepping down the stage while every person present in the room gave her a standing ovation. Her eyes, however, were fixed on Sahil and her beautiful daughter. She knew that she would try her best to make her daughter proud of her, someday!
P.S. This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday prompt – “How I grew up to be the one I am today..” hosted by Kristi Rieger Campbell of http://www.findingninee.com.