‘But Maa this is just the perfect set-up! Why are you always averse to all my decisions?’ Adhuna rolled her eyes in exasperation.
Mrs. Sen looked at her only daughter with unmistakable discomfiture, carefully avoiding any eye contact.
“Maa, I have explained it to Anant a long time back and he completely respects my decision…I don’t really understand your resistance to this proposition at all”.
“After marriage I stay with you and go over to Anant’s place during the weekend. And he comes and stays with us according to his convenience. His parents are hale and hearty and there’s Riya, their younger daughter as well. There’s absolutely no issue from their end. It’s the most convenient and practical arrangement ever. I don’t see any reason for not agreeing to it!”
Mrs. Sen was still fumbling with her words, her discomfort escalating every moment with her daughter’s indubitable rationality. But… what would the relatives say? And what about the neighbours? The in-laws? They would pass snide comments about how the mother is pulling the strings of her daughter’s life even after marriage! Mrs. Sen’s face fell in morbid contemplation.
“This doesn’t happen in Indian society, Adhuna. The daughter, once married, does not stay with the parents. I cannot keep you with me forever. I cannot face the world outside, raising their fingers at me for being such a selfish mother!”
“Oh! For God‘s sake Maa! When did you start thinking about the society?” Adhuna was finding it more and more difficult to control her vexation. “Maa, who cares about what people say? After Baba’s untimely demise, didn’t you raise me single-handedly and instil in me the belief to think for myself? Didn’t you always insist that one should never do anything against one’s better knowledge? Where are your teachings now? Have you packed up all your idealisms with my wedding trousseau?”
“Adhuna! Mind your language! I have also taught you to respect others’ opinion. I will not allow you to do anything and everything according to your whims and fancy! You have a new family to tend to. Your in-laws, Anant and his younger sister – a house full of people waiting to welcome you into your new life. It is your responsibility to take care of them from now on.”
“But Maa, when did I say I’m not going to take responsibility? One can stay under the same roof and remain nonchalantly aloof, you know? I promise you I’ll do everything possible to keep the welfare of my new family in mind. But…but how can I leave you? In the last five years, just think about the various ailments you’ve got. Hypothyroidism, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure… gosh! And you’re all alone! When I told you to come and live with me, you gave me the most incredulous look ever! You really need to be practical, Maa”.
Mrs Sen’s somber face took on a stony demeanor as she pronounced each and every word with bitter emphasis. “I have been living on my own ever since your father passed away twelve years ago. Yes, twelve long excruciating years of coming to terms with life and now I am strong enough to take care of myself for the rest of it. I don’t need your support or your pity for that matter; neither do I want to intrude upon your new life. You do get my point, right?”
Adhuna was visibly dumbstruck by her mother’s scathing utterances. Pity? Support? Did she really hear it right? Her mother? The strong-willed, courageous, rationalist who encouraged her to live life on her own principles was now demeaning the most valuable relationship in the world with such obnoxious sentimentality!
Mrs. Sen, however, continued without even glancing once at her daughter’s face, lest her own vulnerability got betrayed.
“Adhuna, please respect my decision. I want to be left alone. Just like you are embarking on a new phase of life; so am I. I crave liberation from the bindings of familial responsibilities. I have done enough for you, haven’t I? Can’t you finally give me some respite please?”
Stunned, shattered and perceivably shaken, Adhuna struggled desperately for some succour. Her mother was pushing her away, deliberately and determinately. The tragic realization of the futility of her endeavour suddenly hit her hard. As Adhuna rushed out of the house, tears streaming down her cheeks, the stoic façade of Mrs. Sen crumbled to pieces to reveal the naked vulnerability of a mother’s agonised soul.