“I can’t believe I agreed to this.” Afsaana was extremely cross and Shekhar’s casual nod didn’t do much to calm her.
“Shekhar! Are you even listening to me?” Shekhar turned to look at his visibly pensive wife.
“No! Don’t give me that everything-will-be-alright story again. When I agreed to marry you 12 years ago, you had promised that we will never go back to that place.” Afsaana had to check her infuriated tone lest she would invite unnecessary attention from fellow passengers on the flight. She turned once to check on their 10 year old daughter, who was busy with an animation movie on the console in front of her.
Shekhar held Afsaana ‘s hand and pressed it to comfort her, “We’ve been through this innumerable times during the last six months dear. You know that this is the only choice we had. Don’t you?”
Afsaana had always found her anchor in her childhood friend and now husband. But today it did little to calm her almost palpitating heart as she recalled their early life.
Shekhar belonged to the Thakur family of the famous Thakur Estate. Theirs was a heritage that went back over 200 years in history. Shekhar’s ancestors had earned a lot of money and build up an estate that was the largest single supplier of grains and groceries in the entire northern region of the country. Thousands of farmer families depended on them for livelihood. They tilled their land for commissions that were worth a mention in newspapers now and then. Governments too held the Thakurs in high esteem for their philanthropic outlook. Afsaana, who was a daughter of one of the farmer’s on Thakur Estate recollected with fondness how they were welcomed on the New Moon every month to enjoy a feast at the Estate villa. It was at such feasts where Shekhar and her friendship had bloomed.
Her heart still felt the tremors at the thought of the day when one of Shekhar’s cousins’ ratted to his Grandfather about them both sneaking into Shekhar’s room for Afsaana to read his books. Her father had trembled so badly that she thought that he would pass out. The punishment that had been meted out rendered her blood boiling initially but in the long run as Afsaana realized much later, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Her family was ousted from the Estate. They moved to a relative’s place in a big city where her father found a job with a meager salary. There she had worked hard and channeled all her energies into studying. Something she wasn’t allowed to do in the Estate. Why? Because the Thakurs’ in all their benignity held an extremely regressive view towards women! The girls had no rights on the estate except for domestic responsibilities.
Afsaana’s reverie broke due to the flight steward’s call and she realized that even in the air conditioned cooling of the aircraft she had sweat beads behind her ears. She couldn’t help reveling over the fact that it was sheer destiny that she had met Shekhar almost a decade back in a foreign country in a professional set-up as client and vendor. Both of them had worked their way up the professional ladder through hard work and perseverance, more so for Afsaana. Passions had re-ignited and Shekhar denounced his silver spoon to take marriage vows with her. It was only six months back that Shekhar’s father took terminally ill and he had been summoned back. After much deliberation the couple decided to honor the wishes of a dying man. Shekhar promised Afsaana that they’d be back to their world once they had wrapped up everything at the estate.
But Afsaana faced her demons as she approached the Thakur Estate. On her arrival she realized that things hadn’t changed much for the women folk. The sight of ‘Ghoonghat’ clad women going about their daily chores tugged at her heart. She had found her liberation years back and now she had been rounded up again in this world of hypocrites. The more she thought about it, a strange resolute crept into her. She decided to take the leap of faith that would change their lives forever.
Today 10 years later, Sana has come to visit her parents at the Thakur Estate after completing her graduation from London University.
“Oh Mom! I am so proud of you.” Sana chirped later that evening on the dinner table.
“ ‘Udaan’ the education and micro-finance initiative for women led by you has acclaimed laurels in academic circles too. The social entrepreneurship department at my university wants to invite you for a lecture.” Shekhar was ecstatic at Sana’s declaration and turned to look at his starry eyed wife who had once been ousted from the house where they resided now, for sharing his books.
This post is a part of the #WriteBravely Write Tribe Festival of Words.
The prompt for the day is –
“You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.” – Ratatouille