Smita came and took her seat with a thud. Three of her team members who occupied the cubicle with her turned around to look at a hassled Smita who was visibly upset. Gaurav, her junior tried to strike a conversation with her but gave up the idea looking at her furious eyes when she turned to look at him. The air had become so heavy that Yatin, their team lead from the other side of the partition peeped from above to see what the matter was and looked around and raised his eye brows asking if anyone knew any better. Some of the team mates caught him in action and shook their head. Yatin nodded lightly closing his eyes slowly and then opening them again, with an assuring grin. He got back to work with a thought that he’d have to invite Smita for lunch today with him and his wife Anagha. As he watched Smita go about her work in her vulnerable state, he pinged Anagha requesting her to make time to have lunch with Smita and him. He gave her a heads up when his wife agreed to meet them at the food court.
Smita agreed to having lunch with Yatin, quite reluctantly though. Yatin smiled mildly, realizing that one of the perks of being the boss was that your team members could not refuse you when you asked them to have lunch with them. Especially, when the boss had invited his wife too. As Yatin and Smita headed towards the food court, he turned to look at Smita who was still distracted. He had held his patience since morning and refrained from asking the young lady about her troubles. But now it was getting a little too much to contain the issue.
‘So? Had a tiff with Sharman?’ Yatin asked in an undertone. He did not want to be over heard. And also, he did not want to sound like a nose poker.
Smita knew that a probe was impending right from the moment Yatin had asked her out for lunch. She smiled wryly at her Boss’s question. She didn’t know if she could share the real issue with him. She ran a finger across her hair and shook her head while looking up at him. They saw Anagha waiting for them at the corner table in the food court and as they joined her Anagha stood up to give Smita a light hug.
‘A little birdie came flying to tell me that someone’s ready to blast today.’ She smiled as she led Smita to join her at the table.
Anagha and Smita ran a mutual admiration club never having a mole of complain from each other. Infact they loved each other. Anagha loved Smita for the vibrant young lady that she was. She had seen Smita bloom from a determined fresher into a fierce professional in the last half a decade. And Smita was in awe of Anagha for the balanced Human Resources professional that she was. She delightful to talk to and found reasons to be nice to people. Smita had never met anyone as empathetic as Anagha. She turned to Yatin and silently mouthed a thanks to him realizing that Anagha was exactly what she needed.
‘So am I allowed to stay, or shall I buzz off from this ladies lunch table.’ Yatin asked cheerfully. Anagha let out a hearty laugh while Smita blushed as she shook her head. A lot of tension from the morning seemed to have already evaporated.
As the trio opened up their lunch boxes and ordered fresh juice, Smita contemplated whether she should let go and talk about what was bothering her. One look at the couple in their late 30s and all her inhibitions went away. She decided to talk.
‘It’s my mother.’ She confessed.
‘What is she upto now? Trying to making you and Sharman go to the doc to get checked-up?’ Anagha knew how Smita’s mom had set them up for an appointment to see a gynecologist when she had come a fortnight back. She had had a hearty laugh when Yatin had narrated what Smita had told him the next day.
‘No! That matter got settled when dad arrived last week. But ever since she has been sabotaging Dad for everything and anything he says or does.’ Smita exasperated.
‘If he wants a tea in the morning, she quips at him saying why he can’t fix himself up a simple green tea. If he doesn’t she blames him for confusing her by changing his routine everyday. If he offers to help her in the kitchen, she is sarcastic enough to let him know that he never offered any help when she really needed it when we were young. And if he lets her be deciding not to disturb her, she taunts him for not changing an ounce in all these years.’ Smita threw her hands wide displaying her confusion at her mom’s behavior.
‘There is not a minute of peace at home these days.’ Smita had asked her parents to come and be with her for this month, because it was too cold up in the north and thought that the moderate weather would be good for them. Moreover her dad had enough leaves to expend before he retired later during the year.
‘She is like a live wire 24×7. Earlier Sharman and I thought that she was upset because we refused to concede to her demand to see the doctor. But later dad confirmed that that’s how she has shaped up as a silver haired old lady. Always complaining, nagging and ready to rip you off.’ Smita breathed deeply to calm herself as Anagha and Yatin gave her all their attention.
‘And that’s the reason you decided to become a live wire today at work.’ Yatin stated as a matter of fact as sipped his orange juice.
‘That’s ok you know. Smita, I am sure you have your own touch me not days.’ Anagha created quotes with both her hands in the air. Yatin smiled slyly as he inferred what Anagha meant to say, even as Smita shook her head vigorously.
‘You ladies and your PMS. I think soon I should start a propaganda popularizing CMS – Cranky Man Syndrome. It will give us poor men a reason to be able to behave weirdly for a couple of days every month.’ Yatin said followed by a silent chuckle.
‘No it’s no PMS or menopause. She was over that thing years ago. I don’t know what’s come over her. To come to think of it more rationally, I think she has been drifting in the direction ever since my marriage. Could it be something to do with me?’ she looked at Yatin and Anagha alternately in confusion, as if a realization had just dawned upon her.
Yatin deliberated Smita’s thoughts, as he scratched his French beard. No one could guess from Yatin’s looks that he was approaching his 40s. He was a fitness freak and took keen interest in matters that interested his young team members. It helped him gel in better with them. His team also looked upto him as a manager who really understood their issues and perspective. After moments of deep thought he let out a gurgling sound, ‘Tell me something Smita? Was your mother an oppressed lady throughout her youth? As in, I mean to ask, who was the dominating entity in your parent’s marriage? Your mother? Or your father?’
Smita did not have to think even for a second for the answer, ‘It was definitely my dad. He was a perfectionist in those days. He wanted things, exactly the way he wanted them. He would take nothing but a perfect ten from us in our tests. So yes, he definitely dominated all of us. I must confess that it was quite painful to live in constant pressure of being evaluated all the time.’ There was a couple of seconds of silence as everyone processed Smita’s words. Smita’s shoulders stooped a little as she felt the burden of a stressful childhood.
‘In retrospect, I think it was ok for my dad to be difficult on us, because he wanted to ensure a secure future for us. He was constantly pushing us to be competitive. I am not sure if I would have performed equally well if this pressure was not there. But my mom took a real hit from his all round the clock stern attitude. She was always on her tenterhooks about what might upset her dad.’ Smita was talking softly. Yatin and Anagha had to really pay attention amidst the noisy food court to follow her words.
And then Yatin threw himself back on his chair, propping his crossed hands behind his head, ‘A very dear friend of mine once told me that all those husbands who have subject their wives to decades of oppression must really pull up their belts once they hit their sixties. I did not understand his words then. But I think I now get what he was getting at.’ Yatin was grinning, while the two ladies looked on at him in confusion.
‘Even we havn’t got much of your rambling Yatin. Please explain?’ Anagha tilted her face in annoyance at the web of words that Yatin had built up.
Yatin leaned forward and propped his hands on the table infront of him.
‘As you said, your mother has felt oppressed for years at your dad’s behest. And as a middle class dedicated lady of the house she took in all that attitude from your dad, because she wanted to maintain decorum in the house. A lot of it was due to your sake. I mean you and your sister’s sake. And now that you both are married and doing well for yourself, she feels that she has done her job well and now needs a break from life. And one result of letting herself unwind is this quipping nature. She just does not feel the need to put up with your dad cordially any more. You could say, it’s a kind of revenge she is taking on your dad and the world for making her life difficult all these years.’ Yatin looked on from Smita to Anagha to assess if they got his point. Smita was nodding slightly in contemplation, while Anagha shook her head refusing to comprehend what her husband was saying.
‘And what would you say about wives like me who are always hell bent upon making their husband hen-pecked all the time’ Anagha smirked at her all knowing husband as Smita and Yatin laughed out loud.
Yatin had an answer to this too, ‘Oh! All this gyan I just gave was for the previous generation of our parents. As far as husbands like me are concerned, we need to always remain on an alert. Because if we even try to oppress our tigress wives they may chose to leave any moment. And without any male chauvinistic qualms I admit that I need my wife way more than she needs me.’
And the trio dispersed on this humored but deep-rooted note.