Love And Longing… (a short story)

Muthulakshmi stretched her back.  It was a tiring day. She had scrounged through many dumps today but had not found much. Enough for the regular plate of gruel maybe, but nothing for the tin-box – her nest egg. She eased her aching back and looked across. Yes, there she stood; at her usual place…

Opposite the road was a bungalow. A huge house with glass doors and fancy lawns. Swings on the balcony; dogs at the gate; sprinklers in the garden… one of those beautiful looking houses. “A dead house”, Muthulakshmi always thought when she looked at the massive structure across the road. She had never heard laughter, noise, or human chatter anytime. It just stood there, like a mammoth structure; representing what; she never quite understood.

It was on one of her regular days that she first saw her. A woman on the balcony of the house. She was so surprised seeing someone out that she had stopped and gaped at her for some time. Leaning across the balcony, resting her face on her hands the woman seemed to be taking in the world around her. She was still on the balcony when Muthulakshmi lugged her bag and trudged away from the dump.

After that the woman was there every day. Sometimes with a cup of tea in her hand; sometimes with a book; sometimes even before Muthulakshmi arrived. Sometimes leaning against the wall, she seemed to be lost in some world; other times eagerly peering outside she seemed to be exploring the world. Observing her had become as much a part of Muthulakshmi’s routine as detecting iron pieces in the dump.

“She seems so sad”, Muthulakshmi one night told Raju. Raju laughed. “You and your imagination!! What sadness would she have living in the lap of luxury? She does not have to worry like you thinking about the coins in the tin-box. Come let’s eat. See what I’ve got today”. Muthulakshmi excitedly took the eggs from Raju and the woman on the balcony was forgotten.

Raju and Muthulakshmi were married for 8years now. They did not have children, but their love for each other made up for all the lack. They adored each other and the years had only brought a deeper sense of understanding and contentment. Together they collected and sold scrap. Life in the big city was difficult; and they lived from day-to-day. They had seen better days. Raju used to work as a security guard in a garment factory, but then the factory closed down. Disaster struck one-after-another, when their hut caught fire and they lost all that they had. Raju met with an accident and he broke his leg. Their cycle was scrapped. It had seemed like the troubles would never cease. Their love and courage seemed to be what kept them afloat. As Raju slowly recovered, Muthulakshmi suggested scrap dealing. Initially he was hesitant but then the thought of her having to starve was unbearable. And that is how they started selling scrap. Their dream was to collect enough in their tin-box to buy a cycle; then replace their roof from sheet to thatch; then a cycle shop; then a regular shop. They snuggled close to each other talking about their dreams, a ritual they followed every night.

It had been a very hard week. Saleable stuff seemed to be hard to get and the dealer was not giving them much. He seemed to have some different plan. He had just given Raju half of their usual rate. They had hardly put anything into their tin-box the whole week. Muthulakshmi stared at the woman on the balcony and wondered… “Yes, Raju is right”, she thought. “What could bother her?”, She could see the glitter of the ring on her finger from this far. Just by looking at her dress, she could make out it was the fancy stuff she saw the dolls wearing in the shops. The woman was talking on the phone. Raju had told her once about it. He said you could send letters through them. You could even see your friends and talk. Muthulakshmi found it hard to believe, she almost thought he was trying to fool her. But then Raju never made fun of her. She smiled thinking of him, a familiar warmth filling her. Muthulakshmi sighed… at least Raju’s leg was almost healed. Now if only they could do something other than scrounging the dumps…

The ringing of a cycle bell startled her out of her trance. She turned around and squealed with delight!!! It was RAJU, pedaling furiously a brand new bicycle!!! He had a huge smile on his face which changed to laughter seeing her expression. “Raju!!?? Whose is this?” “Ours my dear Muthu… this is our new bicycle”. Muthulakshmi jumped and clapped her hands. “But how? From where? Who gave you?”, she bombarded him with her questions. He laughed aloud. “I will tell you. Our scrap picking days are over, dear. . I will tell you everything. But first come, let’s go for a ride”, Raju said. Muthulakshmi happily ran towards Raju and their new bicycle. For a minute she thought of leaving behind her sack, but then “a penny earned is a penny saved”, she thought. She happily perched on the carrier. As she hugged the sack with one hand and held on to Raju with the other hand, she turned round and looked at the woman.

The woman was eagerly looking at them. She seemed to be smiling, at least that is what Muthulakshmi felt. As the cycle moved away she saw the woman lean against the wall and look at them with what she thought a kind of yearning.

She looked at the receding figure of the woman and it dawned on her. She- Muthulakshmi, the scrap dealer had what the woman in the bungalow didn’t. She was far richer than the woman; and the woman longed for what she had in life.

For Muthulakshmi had love and the happiness of love in her life; and the woman had only longing and yearning for what she knew she could never find in her riches.

 

  • “Shiny Kesavan”

A Feminist? Not I…

Yes, I am a woman. A proud, independent one at that. But, ask me if I am a feminist, and my answer is “No”!!

If you tell me being a Feminist means women are better than men – then no, I am not a feminist.If you tell me being a feminist means women are equal to men – then no, I am not a feminist. If you tell me, as a Feminist, all women have each others’ backs -then it’s a resounding NO..I am not a feminist.

Wait!!! Before the vast majority of my crusading sisters from around the world attack my “cowardice” with vigor – hear me out. Listen, before you judge me. Imbibe and think over what I say, before you call me a traitor.

I am no coward. I am a proud, single mother. A “survivor”, who finally gathered the courage to say No to abuse and disgrace. I cherish every moment of my life today, for I know what it is to be like in bonds…

But No.. I am not a feminist.

For I believe: every human being born on this earth- regardless of gender, race, religion, wealth, status, or sexual orientation deserves a life of dignity and respect. And every person is unique, and deserves an equal, fair chance to prove their worth on this earth.

I do not hold a placard of feminism, for I know as truly as my name, that for every abusive man out there, there is more than one woman backing him up. Show me an abused, lonely woman; and I will show you a motley of women, with their heads together, judging her for her “weakness” and deliriously slurping on the pieces of her life around the water cooler.

Tell me one thing, my hard-core feminist sisters. The next time, a guy slaps his wife across the face , what if the guy’s mom turns him right around and slaps him one across his face??? Do you think he would raise his hand again, without a second thought? And how many mothers do you know who would do it?? Have you seen the look of glee cross their faces, as their son beats the life out of the girl he has brought in as wife? I have.. and that’s why I am not a feminist.

How many of you feminist ladies out there, would accept with open arms and hug your friends, if tomorrow you knew that they were lesbians.. or transgenders..or anybody else from the rainbow of life and gender? I don’t know of many. And that’s why I am not a feminist.

I value my worth as a woman and I am proud to be a human being – one who is kind, loyal and honest, I hope to believe. I accept you, for who you are, and never for your gender, race, religion. I don’t care how you live, as long as you do not hurt or harm the innocent…

I don’t air out my opinions, nor do I judge you. But I just quietly live by my principles.

I call myself a “Humanist” (doesn’t it sound quite cheeky)- and that’s why I am not a Feminist.

The Waves Inside Me..

I have a lot of stories inside me. Some days they lie silent, and on other days, they rage and surge like stormy waves of the sea.. trying to find release, looking for escape.. from within me.

But, where were the people who would hear my stories and share their own? Were the ones around me ready to receive a part of my soul , and share a piece of theirs? Would they dignify my outpourings the same respect that I would give theirs?

And I searched.. every corner of my world. The waves inside me reaching out higher and higher, the pit inside my soul sinking deeper and deeper. Feeling the empty hole inside me with every passing year, until one day, I thought my search ended.. that I had found my comrade.The vast shore for the sea within me..only to realize, it was a mirage. It was just a glimmer that I saw in the glare of the sun.

And this time, I felt shattered.

The emptiness inside me threatening to engulf my whole self, drowning me in the very sea which I held inside my soul.

I ran..and ran.. till I realized that there was no where to run, for I was running from myself.. And then.. I stood still. Wondering..like a wary deer in the forest, trying to decipher who was the hunter and who was the hunted. And finally.. I surrendered. Surrendered myself to the universe, embracing my loneliness and the emptiness inside me. Accepting that I was enough, and that I could still love with every broken fragment of my soul, but this time myself first and then the ones enclosed in the shards inside me.

And now, the waves inside me swept out, not in despair but with elegance… for the whole universe was my shore, and I belonged…here in my own space, alone..yet a part of you, every one of you.