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And she met God

About Vaishali Mathur

A former journalist, Vaishali Mathur is currently Executive Editor and Head - Rights and Language publishing at Penguin Random house, India. She enjoys spending time with her two daughters, who are moving as far away as possible, for higher studies. She loves swimming and yoga sustains her. This is her 2nd short story. The first was published by Femina.

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What are your first thoughts when you get up in the morning?  Happiness? Nah! Alacrity no! Definitely not for Sheena. She didn’t even know why her mother had given her this stupid name anyway! Her thought in the morning simply was—let’s just get through with this day. Why? Well, firstly because she hated to be in the kitchen the first thing in the morning and now that was her routine. Get up, cook lunch while drinking tea. Pack it for dear husband, give tea, give tea to the dour-faced mother in law… phew she didn’t want to think any further. Because if she did, she would go back to the most fundamental question of her life: why did she get married?

Sheena stopped for a second and looked at her face. She did have an attractive face, round, glistening skin, round innocent eyes and pink round lips. Her brother called her ‘baby’ for this reason—the only one who ever cared about her.

Yeah why did she get married? Because she wanted to get out of that hell hole her mother had made her house into. That was her first thought. This was true—she and her mother were poles apart. They didn’t see eye to eye on anything, on little things, on big things, on trifles and it was a constant struggle. So, the easiest was to be a grown up and to get married. Except that marriage has its own rules—a woman must be a slave, she must never be happy, at least openly so, it is always her who had to make the sacrifices, be a mother… well now that the doctors had said she couldn’t have any, she had to compensate for it. Do extra. Throw herself into the housework because in any case ‘it wasn’t like she had something to do’. Yes, that’s what her mom-in-law had to say. Hence the dour face, hence the extra work in the kitchen, hence the unexciting, tiresome mornings.

Today however, was a bit different. Her old friend from school had called and they were going out for lunch. Hence the hurry to see that the morning routine was completed but with a spring in her step.

‘You look exactly the same!’ her friend Geeta said laughing.

She smiled. ‘Yeah, but I don’t feel the same.’

Geeta thought for a second. ‘But today we will!’ She said with determination.

From then there was fun and laughter and happiness that Sheena hadn’t known for long. For the hours that they were together, they forgot how miserable life actually was—how full of responsibilities and people who wanted to bring them down, how full of circumstances that refused to change.

On her way back from her day with Geeta, Sheena sat in the metro thinking about her life. True she’d not had the opportunities, but she’d not made the effort too. She hadn’t probably decided on how she wanted to steer her life and taken the right calls. She would that now. She had no other way to deal with what was in front of her. Thinking about it all, she alighted at her station and got on to an escalator that took her out of the station. The escalator was so placed that as you ascended, you saw the statue of lord hanuman in the temple in front. She loved the view. It was… well heavenly. Sheena folded her palms and inadvertently a prayer came out of her lips, ‘dear god, give me the courage to do what I should be doing…’

Beti’ she was startled.

Next to her stood a yogi who looked more like a tantric to her with his loose black dress, maroon beads and a trident on his forehead. ‘Be careful’ she told herself, ‘tantrics are dangerous, he can hypnotise you.’

And in spite of that knowledge she was drawn to him. Yet she listened when he said: ‘you will meet god’

‘Huh?’

‘Yes, I can see that…I know. You will soon meet god.’

She smiled. He had green eyes that were kohl-rimmed, a face that made his neither to old nor too young, a ruddy complexion and a strong jawline. She wasn’t entranced and yet she didn’t move from her spot.

His eyes crinkled just a bit and he pulled out a something from his jhola, a cloth bag and extended it to her. It was a silver coin with embossed figures of Shiva and a Shivling on the other side.

Her mouth fell open.

‘Give whatever you can for it’

Sheena pulled out a Rs.100 note and gave it to him. He blessed her with his palm on her head. ‘15th March, remember that day. It’s the day you meet God,’ he said meaningfully. And then he walked away.

 She watched him go, then looked at the coin. It was clearly not real silver but it didn’t seem to bother her. What stayed with her was that she was to meet God on the 15th of that month. It was already the 8th, so another week. The thought for some reason made her happy. It was stupid but happy. She had been thinking about the future and making things happen to herself and this was probably the sign.

And things did get better, even the mornings. There was an expectation, an anticipation! C’mon, its not every day you meet God. May be, it would prove to be all extremely lucky for her. She had to be prepared for it, she thought, as she made tea for her mother in law. Mom in law didn’t smile—but she did and she told her she would be happy to drop her to her pooja kitty if she wanted her to. Her mother in law laughed. ‘Yes you may..’

Next the hubby was given the food, served breakfast and promised with a kiss and an eye-wink that which he had been persuading her for some-time now. He promised to come home early. The house was cleaned with much enthusiasm, the chores didn’t seem like chores and some time was found for future planning. What is it she wanted to do? Her heart said she wanted to open a boutique. Why not? There were too many. So what? Her USP would be her designs. Now what would that be? The USP. There was still time. She would think about it. She was sure her home science diploma would hold her in good stead.

Two, three days passed in this euphoria. The mind thought, why not make things better? Why not call mother and mend the relationship?  So, a call was made. Mother who wasn’t listening first for some reason began understanding her view—that was a beginning surely. She began to chat with her every day. Things became better. She told her brother who was happy for her. Perhaps she could be a motivational speaker! She could tell people about how she’d made this 360 degrees change in her life and if she could, they could too! She laughed.

She was a day away from the day she was going to meet god and already things were better! Even if it was a hoax, even if it was a lie, it had been good. She needed it. She needed god to help her and be on her side. She visited the temple again to see if she could meet the babaji and confirm her meeting, but he was nowhere to be found. They never stay in one place, do they? Yeah, especially if he had tricked her. She pressed the coin in her palm and felt its coolness against her skin. She would get through with this coin. It would help her. She went home.

The evening was spent with much happiness talking about the past reminiscing. Her husband even said he would help her with the boutique. She laughed, the coin still in her hand. Tomorrow was the big day, things couldn’t have gone any better.

She went to sleep with a smile on her face. Tomorrow!

Her husband noticed there was something wrong when suddenly he heard a ting from his wife’s side of the bed. He got up and went to her side. It was the silver coin which had fallen out of her hand and she hadn’t woken up.

His heart nearly stopped when her shook her and she didn’t wake up. People were called. It was confirmed that she’d died in her sleep. They said she was a happy young woman. She did all her duties with a smile. She even died with a smile. Such was her joy!

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