Conditioned Vindication15 mins 544 15 mins 544
“Morality is reduced to being a formality, normal is venality, equality is a technicality, punctuality is capricious behavior, legality belongs in cyberspace, banality is originality, being spiritual is associated with institutionalized religion, and conventionality is words that are agreed to be read and not followed”, Sharon typed into the computer. She smiled recalling the instances that happened in the blur of a moment, uncharted and abrupt.
Mrs. Ray had forgotten how to live life as she tried to balance the scales between her husband and daughter. Somewhere she felt that it was her fault for engaging her daughter amongst books, which seemed to be the reason she had turned outright rebellious. She understood her daughter's perspective of things, but she couldn’t fathom the thought that Sharon believed bookish knowledge was enough to deal with reality. Everything looked possible and pretty on the pages, everything seemed justified on the pages. She had aged ten years the past
a couple of months swinging to and forth between the two people her life centered around.
Mr. Ray worked in a conglomerate and was a man of strong morals and ethics. He believed in going on the right path even if it was a tedious and difficult one. Born as Lalith Shivray, he changed his last name to Ray, an attempt to blend in with the Americans. Other than this, his years abroad had brought no change in him, rather he developed a strong dislike for the western culture. He didn’t like their ideas of dating before marriage or the so-called broad-minded attitude. He was short-tempered, his wrath to be feared of. Ideas of an extended family had
brought him back to India, lest his daughter adopted the culture he had grown to scorn. He prided over the fact that he had brought up his daughter as a moralistic child.
Sharon had finally confessed about her relationship to her parents, not out of her will, but due to the fact that her uncle had seen her “porkifying” in the streets with some reckless guy. She cried and begged, out of fury and frustration but to no avail. The sole reason being her audacity in choosing someone who they had not approved of. Her father blamed the vulgar books she had read. Her mother blamed herself for not bringing her up properly. The boy, they said, was dark-skinned. She told them to stop being racist. The boy, they said, was the same
age as hers. She told them to stop being so old fashioned. Finally, she said “Stop being so harsh on me. He is a person of good character. Be happy that I have not taken to the times and fallen in love with someone of another caste, or someone of my own sex”. Mrs. Ray had slapped her then, her eyes burning with anger.
When Mrs. Ray was in college, her parents had taken up a huge risk sending her to live in a hostel, trying to give her the best education. When she was in the hostel, she had been approached by her roommate. She was older by a year and had a delightful curvy body. Mrs. Ray could still feel the thrill she had felt when she had come up to her and the disappointment when the words slipped right through her mouth, This is wrong. She had been taught all morals and ethics and this strayed right away from it. Even if it felt right to her, it was wrong. Because
that’s what everyone said. What others said made up her excuse for not living as CONDITIONED VINDICATION she desired to. Her troubled mind, as escapism, accepted the alliance she received a month later.
Her marriage to Lalith had been arranged by her parents impressed by his morals despite living in a country where morals had fallen from grace. Lalith was domineering and possessive. He wanted to be in charge of his life and that life of those closely associated with him. His attitude and demeanor had changed when Mrs.Ray had started working. Much to her chagrin, he had gone to extremes to keep an eye on her. His stay in America had taught him that women could do anything, if not kept under check, and he was not ready to be pulled down by a
woman. She decided it would be best if she stayed back at home, rather than face scrutiny in each and every action of hers.
“That is not the point”, she screamed. “He is just not right for you”
“Says who?”, Sharon scorned
“The people who gave birth to you”, he screamed “Don’t be selfish. We know
What's best for you. Don’t make us the laughing stock of society”
“You are not the one living my life, I am”, she said calmly receiving another slap as an answer
Surya Shivray, was barely ten years old when the Partition happened. His family had been caught up in a Hindu-Muslim riot, where his mother had abandoned them rushing to safety. Before being brutally butchered their father had hidden him and his one-year-old brother inside a wheelbarrow and covered them with a blanket. Shocked by the occurring events he realized that there was no one out there for him, but himself who would be truly concerned about his welfare. He became averse to society and did as he pleased. He worked for an Anglo-Indian
named Gloria and somehow ended up marrying the widow when he was twenty. That was the first of the steps which led him to expulsion from society. He sent his brother to America to pursue his studies taking full advantage of Gloria’s wealth. After Gloria’s death, he married a young girl, Savitha, who did not appreciate his whimsical actions.
“He could have handled the situation better, Nina Akka”, said Savitha over the phone “Though I cannot believe that our silent little girl has succumbed to the “It's not Surya’s fault. Sharon should not have done something to tarnish the reputation of our family”
“You think he did it for your daughter's welfare? He did it out of spite. To show Lalith Anna his place as he keeps chiding him for his wayward ways. Don’t you notice the sullen looks that others give when you step out of the house?”
“Where has she gone off to?”, Nina muttered paying no heed to Savitha rambling on.
They were frantic with worry. Sharon had never been allowed to go out alone or with her friends. Lalith felt this way he was protecting his daughter. But the caged bird wanted to fly. And now she had just gone without a word. It was nearly midnight when she came in, drenched in the rain.
“Where have you been?”, he screamed
“Were you worried about me or about your image?”, she mocked
“Were you with him?”
“He was the one who advised me to go home, or I would have gone off somewhere where you could never find me”
“Go to bed. By God's grace you didn’t spend a night outside the house. And don’t you dare leave the house. Or we will file a complaint against you”
“For what? Falling in love? Running away?”
“No. For stealing and running away”
Sharon’s face turned ashen as the implication of the words finally registered in her mind. The words coming out of her father's lip were unforgivable, burning the blood in her veins.
The doorbell rang furiously in the early hours of the day. The house was silent, like a place where death was being mourned. Lalith opened the door to find Ashish, the boy who had ruined his daughter.
“Can I come inside?”
“What do you want?”, said Lalith clenching his teeth
“I do not want to create a scene”
Sharon entered the living room, her eyes the perfect definition of elation as she saw Ashish.
“GO INSIDE”, barked Lalith
“Listen to your father”, said Nina with pleading eyes. She trudged to her room in
“What makes you think that I would let my daughter marry a scumbag like you?
She is just 19”
“Sir, you don’t even know me”
“I know your father young man. His way of dealing with business is something I am a spectator to. I would never let Sharon go into a family as wretched as yours”
“I heard you work in the Iyer Conglomerate”
“I have done my research too, Sir. All I am saying is that I know I can keep Sharon happy. And that too through the right means”
Lalith had been summoned to the CEO’s office that day. He had been assigned to take care of their international guests and fulfill all their demands. Little did he know that he would be asked to buy drinks and hire call girls for their satisfaction.
He comforted himself with the thought of having a good salary and being able to provide his family with all the luxuries. He beat his conscience and carried on with his duty, his family unaware of the reason for the extra cash flowing into his bank account. When a man worked for vices, it wasn’t too late before he became a part of it.
Sharon was that glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak life of Ashish. Her positive attitude was an antidote for his brash and gruesome way of life. His birth had been a fateful mistake and there was not a single day when Ashish was not reminded of it. His mother loved him with all her heart, for he was her sole reason to survive. His father, Mr. Deshpande barely acknowledged him and his mother.
When questioned by others the sole reason he gave was his busy schedule in running the huge business that he had gained from his marriage to Ashish’s mother. One would be easily deceived by the show of love put on by his parents, but he knew the dark truth. His father spent nights away from home, in the arms of another woman, his marriage purely political in nature.
Ashish’s mother could not voice out her feelings to others. The fights at home were endless. She had given in to reality. Ashish’s birth had brought about a change in her life. He was her glimmer of hope. She did not give up on her attempts to get her husband back. At the same time, she took charge of her role as Mrs. Deshpande and went for every social event during the day, and spent her nights crying in vain, hoping that one day there will be rainbows in the sky.
“Why are we meeting over here?”, he asked emphasizing the word here “Just look around. All these people must have struggled hard for something or the other in life right? But now they lie in the dirt, who knows if they fulfilled their dreams? Did you know many of our freedom fighters are buried here? They died trying to get freedom for us, only to chain us to ideas which elders deem right.
The point is, they fought for something like we are fighting for us. Kind of like motivation for us to keep going ahead”, she said solemnly
“Okay. Anyway it is a good place as no one can catch us here”
“What's with the glum face?”
“Your dad thinks that I would end up like my father. What if he is right?”
“You are nothing like your father Ashish”, she chided him
“But what if I end up like him later and hurt you? he whispered
“You would never do that. Where there is trust there is no reason to worry”
“Our love is real. I promise you that I would never do anything that would upset you.”
“Yeah I know”, she said simply wondering why love had to be defined by the word real.
After a lot of contemplation, arguments, tears and broken essentials, they finally agreed to get them engaged in a couple of months. When we humans do not have the courage to accept the reality of something that is happening, we like making up reasons and excuses. A month passed, two months passed. There was no sign of any festivity. Six months passed and Sharon finally mustered the courage to ask what her parents were actually planning. Apparently her parents had gone to astrologers consulting about the match. All the four who they visited
told them that their daughter's stars had a huge flaw and that she would either die or end up a widow if she married before the age of twenty-three. Sharon got angry and lashed out at them for being so superstitious. She wanted to know why they had the sudden urge to look into her stars when they had never done anything of that sort. She thought they were a family who had progressed and was considerately modern. They made her promise to not see or talk to Ashish till the end of three years after which they would think about it.
Sharon loved her parents and she hated herself for it. She felt like it held her down and did not allow her to explore her dreams and choices. Being a single child she had felt alone her entire life. She was said to be lucky to have parents who adored her and did everything they could for her. They gave her the best of everything. But her parents couldn’t give her the thing that she yearned for the most - love. Their way of showing love was different from her expectations. They had a materialistic viewpoint and she had an emotional one. Her love for Ashish
CONDITIONED VINDICATION stemmed from this burning desire to love and be loved. His darkness had given her the joy that the happiness that her parents gave could not give.
Sharon respected her father. Her love for him was unconditional, though she felt more at ease when he was not around. She sometimes felt that she was a bad daughter, who did not love her father like she was supposed to, happy at the prospect of a few days of peace when he went for his trips abroad. With the distance, her father's temper seemed tolerable and dignified.
Her emotions were in a state of flux, her loneliness making her overthink everything.
Her solitude had made her an avid reader. She penned down her feelings spontaneously and had a natural flair for writing. Her parents never supported her, they felt that she would be gulped in that field, and it wasn’t safe. Her ideas might be taken wrongly. Also, if people tried to delve into her past, she would not be spared with kind words. Nina had felt the burning urge in her daughter to do something. It had frightened her. She believed in a monotonous life. If everything was in a routine, then everything was in check. She liked the calmness which
control gave her.
Sharon was unusually attracted to the dark complexities of life. A shadow of gloom hovered around her mind as she pondered on the stark realities. Though Ashish had a past, his presence made her happy. But his absence meant that she had to fake her emotions. She lost track of reality trying to exhibit feelings that were appreciated by others. But somewhere deep down she was unable to explain the darkness that was overwhelming her.
At times she was tempted to change her mind and listen to her parents, at the prospect of a life where she had her freedom. Though she would never admit, even to herself, she liked the freedom she was exercising out of her own will. Her emotions could not be controlled by anyone, and she felt like she was writing her own life, her own story.
Two years passed and Nina started pestering Sharon to change her mind and look at the proposals that had come for her. Savitha was trying to find a groom for her daughter and was looking for the best in terms of monetary and physical aspects. Not so surprisingly, Nina was asked to be a part of the hunt. Her expectations soared developing a mental image of a son in law, perfect and envied upon. At that point, she knew that it was absolutely necessary for her daughter to marry someone of Nina’s dreams. Sharon was infuriated at this suggestion and wept buckets of tears as there was no one to listen to her. She had been cut off from the world. Even though she went to college, she was barely
acknowledged as a friend. They all saw her as a writer and a hard worker, not as a human being with feelings. They saw her as the girl who had rumors flying around, her character debatable. Her past actions were not something that was new to the people, some time in life even her peers had done the same. Sharon’s only fault was that her faults had been on display to the general public, thanks to her uncle who could not keep his mouth shut and her parents who didn’t know how to handle a situation calmly. Sharon was suffocating. After all these years
she finally decided to contact Ashish, out of desperation and a need for solace. As expected, he had remained loyal to her and was working hard to settle down and create a comfortable future for them. This alone served as her strength to stand up to her parents.
“I will marry Ashish only”, she finally said when Nina kept pestering her.
“Listen to what we say”
“No, listen to me. Am done living my life as you want me to”
“How dare you to talk to your mother in such a tone and attitude?”
“I am going to publish my articles as well. I will face whatever comes my way. I
think I am mature enough to handle my life decisions”
“If you are going to do this, you will have to walk over my dead body”
Nina sat in the hospital corridor contemplating whatever had happened. Lalith had been admitted to the hospital as he had suffered from a stroke when he came to know that Sharon had tried to take her life. Nina wondered if Sharon would have taken such a tremendous step if she had just let her daughter live her life the way she wanted. She felt it was ironic that most of her desires were stemmed from the expectations from the society, that she forgot how to yearn for something.
Why had she taken such a huge step when she had been strong enough to face the worst of times. She was worried about Sharon, less about Lalith. She had found numbers of brothels and prostitutes on his phone, making her ponder on where she had gone wrong? She had tried giving him the benefit of doubt, but his nights away from home and the familiarity with which the person on the other side of the phone spoke was enough to plant the seed of doubt in her mind.
Somewhere deep down she knew she wanted it to be true so she could escape from the bond of a loveless marriage.
“Sharon has gained consciousness”, a kind-faced nurse told her gently.
Nina had made her decision. “I will be there in a moment”. She went outside and posted the letter to her long lost hostel friend, finally mustering up the courage asking her to meet up. She would now take charge of her life. It was time she stopped making excuses, both for her and her daughter. Sharon had finally taught her something.
“Hey baby”, she said her eyes filled with tears “I brought you a present”
“What is it?” said Sharon croakily
She opened it to find notebooks and pens. She smiled and looked up at her mother. It was not the end, but definitely a start.