Flight Of Freedom
Flight Of Freedom9 mins 282 9 mins 282
“Hi, Rema…nice to see you after so many years. How are you dear? How is your family? Where are you settled?” My friend Lalita exclaimed when I met her. “Let me relax dear, before answering your questions” I smiled and replied about my life. When we embraced we could feel the same warmth of friendship that we shared as teenagers. Lalita was my roommate and close friend in the college hostel. After marriage, she did not respond to my phone calls and letters for about 3years. Then I decided that I must meet her in person.
Lalita appeared to be happy with her married life. Her house was big and tastefully decorated. I could feel her artistic touch in every corner of her house. “How is your hubby Prasant?”- I asked her. “He is fine and busy with his office work and official trips “-when she answered I noticed a sadness in her eyes. “Now you have been married for 3years, no? Why didn’t you plan a family? Hope both of you are all right.” I remarked. Suddenly her eyes became tearful. I regretted asking her about pregnancy.
“Leave it dear, you please stay with me today. I need your company. I feel so lonely.” When she insisted I decided to stay back. After a delicious dinner, we had ice creams, shared memories of our college days and giggled like girls. I asked her “What happened dear? Are you OK? I could see the sadness in your eyes. Please don’t hide anything from me. I am like your soul sister. I noticed that you are not the same bubbly and cheerful person now.”
“Yes Rema, you are my bestie and I can’t hide my sorrows from you. You are right. I have changed a lot after marriage. Prasant is a rich person and an efficient businessman but he is not a good husband. His real face under the mask was revealed after marriage only.” I was shocked to hear that. They were apparently a couple made for each other.
“Please don’t go by our photos on Facebook and Instagram projecting us as an ideal loving couple. I know that seeing those pictures people envy our so-called perfect married life. But nobody knows that the inside story is entirely different. Prasant doesn’t love me at all. He believes in showing off. His priorities in life are different and I am not there on his priority list. Do you know Rema; I am living the life of a bird in a golden cage. This big mansion-like house with the antique type of furniture, expensive carpets, well-decorated balconies, sprawling green lawns, gardens, fountains…so many servants, cooks and gardeners. I am living here a life which people always dream to have. But I am not at all happy with this rich lifestyle and wealth. I am missing love and care from my husband. At the end of the day that is what we want, no? If love is not there what is the use of this luxurious life? Yes, dear. I am literally in a golden cage. I don’t keep in touch with my friends as Prasant doesn’t like it. Once or twice he commented whether it is a boyfriend with whom I am talking. So I stopped talking to friends like you.” I felt sad to hear that.
“Lalita, I remember that you were a good singer and writer. Do you sing nowadays? Hobbies keep you happy, no?”
“Yes Rema, I am an approved singer of Akashvani. It is difficult to pass their audition test. But with God’s grace, I could pass the tests for ghazals and bhajans with flying colours. I had given many music programmes in Akashvani. But after marriage, Prasant told me to stop everything. During one of his office parties, a lady requested me to sing a song. When I asked, Prasant’s response was ‘No’. I don’t like you singing in front of these men’. I was astonished to hear that. When I started doing my riyaz in my room, he came and told me ‘What are you doing? What will people think?’ I felt depressed and stopped my music career after that.
I was the most talented daughter of my parents. They were proud of me when I bring home trophies and prizes. But whenever I recollect and share my achievements with my husband, he says ‘What is so great about it? Most of the children participate in competitions in schools and colleges.’ When I reply ‘But Prasant, I was different. I was a multitalented achiever and Gold medalist’, his sarcastic reply was ‘Different? You are not different. You are like any other women. Don’t think that you are exceptional or a celebrity!’
Gradually I was made to feel that I am a simple woman and a wife, nothing more than that. I had written a love story for a magazine. When it was shown, his sadistic reaction was ‘So you have started writing stories also? Don’t you have any other work in the house? Why can’t you be like other housewives? Don’t try to fly in the sky. You will be landing on earth where you belong. This story is of just average standard. Don’t send it to any magazines. By the way, is this your own love story? What happened to your lover?’ I couldn’t control my tears and I went out of the room. Ultimately I stopped writing.
Prasant doesn’t like me socializing with our neighbours. So gradually I withdrew into a self-created shell, isolating myself from the outside world. For Office get-togethers, New Year parties and family functions, we project a beautiful image of a perfect couple. But the true picture of my ‘not so perfect’ life is a mask of the smile on my face, sleepless nights, tears on my pillows and unhappy days.
Just like the famous saying, I am living with an empty wallet! People only see my luxurious life and my perfect husband but my heart is broken. Nobody could understand the tears behind my smile or the anguish in my heart.” I consoled her when she narrated her tragic tale.
“You know, I can’t forget that fateful day when the real male chauvinistic personality of my husband was revealed in front of my eyes. He was taking bath when a call came and I picked up his mobile. Before saying Hello by me, the lady on the other side started talking in a romantic tone ‘Hi darling, let us celebrate tonight… a candlelight dinner by the poolside followed by our loving moments together in our favourite resort….’ I was shocked and cut the call. When I asked Prasant about this, his answer pierced my heart like a dagger and it is still there as a nonhealing wound. ’Who are you to ask me or comment about my girlfriends? I may be having many girlfriends. They are sophisticated, highly educated, cultured and beautiful women unlike you. I prefer to be in the company of those talented ladies with a modern outlook, high standards of living and awesome fashion sense. Look at you! You are a typical Indian wife who can only do cooking, stitching, embroidery and managing the house. How can you compare yourself with those ladies? Do you know how to speak fluently in English, conduct meetings, organize events, get clients or take international video calls from the partners for a company? So what is wrong if I get attracted to those ladies?’
‘But you never told me your ideas and preferences about your future wife when you came to see me. I could have transformed accordingly. I am a talented and flexible type of woman. Even now I can change.’
‘Who told you to change? Even if you transform yourself I won’t like you. I don’t feel like expressing love when I look at you. In fact, I don’t love you’.
‘But Prasant, we are married with blessings from our parents. We have taken vows when we did the circumambulation of the sacred fire during our marriage ceremony. How could you forget that? OK, just imagine, if it is me who had an extramarital affair, what will be your reaction?’ Then he slapped at my face and told ‘This is my answer!’ I was flabbergasted. The slap was felt not on my face but my loving heart and loyal mind. I felt like ending my life that day. But I tried to convince myself that it is only a nightmare and I may get my husband’s love which I deserve as a devoted wife.”
Lalita couldn’t control her tears. I tried to console her saying that things might improve gradually, though I knew that it is a lie. A person like Prasant will not improve his bad behaviour. I caressed her forehead and we slept. In the morning I asked her “Why can’t you get a divorce?”
“No Rema, my parents will be hurt. And what will society say? Let me live this mechanical life without emotions. Prasant never remembers my birthday or our wedding anniversary. I wish for an embrace, a kiss or a loving glance from him. But he ignores me. It is as if I am living in a hostel room with an unfriendly stranger. It is too painful to explain dear…” She cried. I bid farewell to her with a heavy heart.
“Hi, Rema, please come for a function tomorrow. I have messaged you about the details”. It was Lalita after a long one and a half years. There was excitement and joy in her voice. I was happy for my friend.
When I reached the venue, I was surprised to see Lalita organizing a grand function. She had started an NGO for women who suffer silently due to physical or mental abuse by their husbands or family members. Lalita is the president of this organization called ‘Priyasakhi’ which creates awareness among women about their rights in life, provides psychological counselling for women who are depressed and tries to save them from committing suicide. The organization offers financial help, vocational guidance and hostel facilities for women who are thrown out of their houses by their husbands or children.
Amid wide media coverage, Lalita gave a touching and powerful speech about broken marriages and estranged relationships. She explained how women try to hide their tears behind their smiles and cover up their pain in the heart with a cheerful countenance. Lalita gave the example of a caged bird who wants to fly in the sky even if it is a golden cage. The concluding part of her speech was ‘I want to help those women in distress. I will help them in rising as Phoenix birds from the ashes of their burnt dreams. So friends, just spread your wings…your horizon is waiting for you!’ There was a huge round of applause for her.
When I congratulated Lalita, I noticed that she has regained her lost self-esteem and confidence. She looked like a celebrity woman when she was surrounded by fans, followers and media people. When the function was over, her husband who was sitting in the audience approached her and tried to convince her about coming back to his life.
I was proud of Lalita when I heard her firm reply “No Prasant, I am a lone traveller on my path. Now I don’t want you in my life. Where were your sentiments when you insulted and treated me like a doormat? There is no going back for me to that hell of yours. I have escaped from my golden cage. I have an aim in my life now. I want to liberate women from their cages and help them have a flight of freedom in the sky. Let them break open their bonds and have a free, happy and contented life. My only wish is that, like me, no woman should regret the choices in her life. I am thanking you for making me realize my capabilities. Now, only sky is the limit for me…Let me fly…”