The digital clock at the library ticked its way to show 3 p.m. Every Wednesday, that hour, the end period for the day, turned to be the leisure hour. For girls like Anithra, that hour would always be the time at the library. To everyone's surprise, Anithra who usually spent her time in the library during that weekly leisure period was among them. Twelve of her classmates in a hot gossip didn't see her coming and sitting in the middle of their circle that left some space for her. A pause in the gossip made Suganthi find her there.
"Chuck her out" Suganthi snarled.
"Why do you want to spend your precious time with some cheap brains?"
"What made you choose our company today?"
"Too many questions." Anithra chuckled with glee. Sometimes it is always happy to be in the company of your friends apart from books also.
"No new books to read." Anithra smiled at them.
"Oh..." Everyone frowned at her.
"Hmm...Is there anything special to share with us?" Suganthi asked her with a smile.
"Ok, where are the annual day photos? When will we get them?" Usha asked her.
"Probably, today evening?" Anithra replied.
Just at that moment, a young man wheeled on cycle entered the college campus and stopped near them. Those are the days when bicycles were used prominently, and the use of scooters, bikes, and cars were restricted to people who could afford to pay petrol for their vehicles.
"Your photos" he mumbled with a smile. He was feeling quite nervous to be there inside a women's college.
"Please wait in the reception," not waiting even for a second he wheeled fast to the building where the reception was located.
The twelve devils broke into loud laughter and continued with sharp giggles that rocked the space for the next five minutes.
Even though Anithra knew they were all making fun of her, she didn't tell anything.
"Let me go and get the photos" Anithra with an embarrassed smile walked away from them.
"Look at the way he wheeled in. It resembled a scene from a romance." Felicia added. Anithra could hear their giggles though she knew what would be their conversation.
"Ya. Funny. Let her come back with the photos." Anithra's friends always found her to be the exact person whom they can tease and tease to the core. She will not react harsh and she always accepted their teasers with a smile and a nod. Now one more chance for them to tease and laugh their evening hours.
Days rolled on. Not a single day ended without remembering days at the college. Every dawn started with her doing all household chores helping her mother. At heart, she felt hardened and no bouncing dreams or emotions. Her parents were not willing to allow her to go for work, were much interested in getting her married. Though creative, intelligent, and a flair for writing, no one was ready to appreciate her skills. Mothers of eligible bachelors frowned at her thin, skeletal like figure and her pair of glasses. Right through these years, no one at home mentioned about her appearance or her thin figure. What she heard from them was only appreciation. Appreciation for cooking a tasty meal, appreciation for tending the garden with rich flowers and fruits, and appreciation for keeping the house neat and tidy. Until seen in person, her credentials looked great and suitable for the grooms. But the reaction after visiting her home to see her in person turned against her.
Though her parents didn't talk about it before her, she could understand the worried look of her mothers. Anithra sometimes wondered, why should my mother bring me with so much confidence and energy and why should she suddenly turn against me complaining that I failed to meet the expectations of prospective grooms. Restricted to be there at home always inside the closed doors and allowed to peep outside only through windows hurt her loving heart.
"Where are my dreams of romance? Is there really someone who will come and let me out of this prison that was closed all around with an invisible cloak of emotions and love?" Anithra could not find an answer. Two years went away after her undergraduate. When all her hopes waned away and she decided to wait for the destiny to take its turn, one of her school friends came to see her. Though she was a neighbor, they don't meet often.
"Would you come and join in our school as a teacher?" When her friend asked, Anithra looked at her mother.
"I am going to do my B.Ed. in Chennai, so I have to leave my job. I can refer Anithra. Will you please allow her, aunty?"
To her surprise, Anithra's mother allowed her to join the school.
Anithra thanked God for this sudden twist at the most unexpected time and she started to work at school. The angel-like children helped her to regain her confidence and build hopes for a better future.
"I didn't think I would ever fall in love again. I know that everyone says that after a heartbreak, but the difference is that I'm not heartbroken. I'm not cynical, or pessimistic, or sad. I'm just someone who once felt something bigger than anything else I'd ever felt and when I lost it, I honestly believed I would never have that again. But... I was 22 then and life is long. And I'm feeling things right now that I haven't in a long, long time."
Anithra looked at the golden embossed names of the bridegroom and bride on the Wedding card. She could not take her eyes away from there. The vibration of her mobile distracted her.
"Your subscription is for renewal" - A notification popped up on the screen of her android and chimed with an alert.
"Renewal" - Like any other day, this word brought in Anithra fresh set of thoughts that pulled her into a world of trance.
Is there any option to renew happiness in spite of the worst moments that bring unhappiness and tears every second with a blink of your eyes. Whatever that has been happening now failed to shake her. Her eyes devoid of tears made her look straight with an unflinching stare.
"Oh, my god, how I have changed at heart. How I desperately wanted not to be into a life where I would spend my time only between the kitchen and the bedroom."
What is happening now is simply atrocious. The change now I am feeling at heart is not the usual me. I am not a simple girl who will be satisfied with cooking, cleaning, and breeding at home. I am not someone who will expect her man to take care of all her needs and who will nod her head even if he will not allow to be independent.
A long sigh escaped from Anithra. She will never again take that extreme step to end her life. As any other human being in this world, she also has the right to live. If marriage tends to be a mere license to have a sexual partner with consent from parents, I am not the one for it. The world has more space to live for everyone and so will I live with my dreams and achieve my long-cherished goals. Anithra popped the wedding card into the shelf and started to pack her clothes for a long-distance journey that ushered happy life forever.