She believed in soul mates
Monali sighed as she read the final lines of the novel she was reading. She had lost count of how many times she had read ‘Pride and Prejudice’. But each time she read it, she thought about soul mates. She looked around while putting the book back into her ‘jhola’. 30 minutes more in the bus home from office. The bus she was traveling in was filled to the brim, with hardly any space to stand. Perfume, mingled with the sweat wafted about her, but she didn’t mind. She had managed to get the coveted window seat. “Today is my lucky day” Smiled Monali, as she looked out of the window. In a bus, where even a tiny place to stand was precious, the window seat was nothing less then a treasure. This one and a half hour journey from office to home, in this unbelievable overcrowded bus, was her daily routine. Years of traveling in the local buses of Delhi had hardened her.
But this wasn’t Delhi, she remembered, and sighed again. Monali looked out towards the blinking lights on Kolkata’s smog filled streets and thought how similar these two places were, yet so different. She suddenly longed for the famous Delhi brashness; to hear Delhi’s punjabaiya Hindi, for home!
Her mind drifted back to the book she had just finished. And the rest of the world faded into oblivion. For the moment she was Elizabeth and he, Mr Darcy, she thought dreamily about Anubhav, her husband. “Only difference is that my Mr. Darcy isn’t quite so rich” Monali thought ruefully. She thought about her first Mills and Boon book. How long ago was it? 15-16 years? She, like so many girls her age had found romance in those pages and had formed the image of the perfect prince charming.
The magic of the book she had just finished was wearing off, and she was back in reality. As a 16 year old, Monali would have refused to accept that at 29 she would still be struggling, hanging on for dear life in an overcrowded bus. Her future was about prince charming, and a comfortable life, a life that was better than the daily financial struggles she lived through…..
Monali was a dreamer, had always been, but she was brave enough to face the reality and stand by her decisions. Marrying Anubhav was her choice. Marrying a man who earned half of what she did had drawn murmurs of disapproval from her otherwise liberal family. But Anubhav was an amazing human being – honest, loving, free-thinking, and he had the potential to make it big….Monali believed in him, and her belief and happiness was all her family asked for.
Yet, there were times when she wondered what it would have been like if she had agreed to an arranged marriage with that super rich commercial pilot? Or that business magnate who had taken a fancy to her at some family wedding?
“Not again” Monali thought guiltily as she touched her mangalsutra. “I love Anubhav” she told herself forcefully, and found she could believe her words still.
Life wasn’t a bed of roses, far from it. Monali did get tired of being the primary provider of the family even after four years of marriage, while Anubhav pursued his dream of becoming a musician. Paying the EMIs for a house that wasn’t even in her name, looking after the financial needs of Anubhav’s extended family did drain her out at times!
Was love enough? Was she being selfish in wanting a better life? Perhaps an easier life where it wasn’t a tough decision reaching for the simple things she wanted from life – being able to buy her favourite book or music, going for that vacation. She wasn’t materialistic. But was it too much to hope for a day when she could go to sleep without wondering what will happen if lost her job? She didn’t mind working; she had worked hard to reach the position in her career that could be termed successful. If she were single, her job as the assistant manager in a marketing firm would have given her a life of luxury. She loved the challenges of her work, the money it gave her. But she didn’t even have the freedom to spend the money at her will. The money was needed at home, to pay all those bills…..
Monali was rudely awakened from her reverie by the shrill laughter of a child. She turned to look at her new companion, a little toddler looking adoringly at his proud mother. Monali smiled at the child, drawing instant smile from the baby. She touched his fingers, feeling tears burning behind her eyes. She abruptly turned to her refuge, her window. How she longed for a child. Her emotions, her body longed to hold her child, Anubhav’s and her in her arms…But how could she? Anubhav wasn’t settled yet, even after 4 years of marriage…Monali couldn’t afford to leave her job to look after the baby, and Anubhav had made it clear that if they have a child, one of them will have to be a stay at home parent. Expecting an Indian man to be a stay at home dad was taking it too far, although Anubhav did suggest it a few times….. “No regrets”. Monali was getting angry with herself now; her negative thoughts were becoming too persistent. This wasn’t her. She was never like this; she was the fighter, the dreamer. Did the dreamer in her, just like the footsteps of her childhood, slowly disappear behind the misty haze of city life? She looked around to search for the innocent smile, the wide-eyed gaze, and all she could find was cynicism. Did she lose the child in her? Monali shivered at the thought. “Did I finally become one of them?? One of the adults I smirked at as a 13-year-old?”
A sudden tap on her shoulder jerked her out of her trance. The familiar face of the conductor loomed large as he said “madam aapnar stop”. Monali hurriedly picked her jhola, threaded her way out of the crowded bus. It was drizzling out side and there was a slight chill in the air, her favourite weather. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and felt the first raindrops on her face. Monali looked deep inside her soul, and there she was, the little Monali she wanted back into her life. Little Monali smiled and said “I was never away; I am the one who feels the bliss when raindrops touches your face, when the smell of the wet earth wafts in! I am the one who closes my eyes and feels like I am in heaven, you can never shut me out, try as hard as you want” Monali opened her eyes and smiled! The smile of self-discovery! The smile broadened into a silent laugh as she watched Anubhav waiting for her in his age-eaten bike, drenched to the bone. The raindrops were rejuvenating her soul. Yes, she believed in soul mates. Hers was standing right in front of her. Together they will make it. Together they will make all their dreams come true…..