Anaya and Saloni were meeting up for a cup of coffee at Cafe Coffee Day in Electronic city, Bangalore. They were meeting each other after nearly five years. For some reason Anaya had been avoiding meeting Saloni for a long long time.
A bit of a background…..
Anaya and Saloni had known each other for nearly 15 years now. The first time Anaya met Saloni it was at a party. Both of them were living in Russelsheim, Germany then. Very less Indians and their common interest of music brought them together. While Saloni was single, Anaya was happily married to the guy she had fallen in love with while doing her masters.
Both of them were working so they got to meet only on weekends and they had a great time with a few other friends who had similar tastes. One among the friends was Anshu who was also Saloni’s housemate. Anaya thought that Anshu was a great guy and never stopped herself from saying so openly.
Within a couple of years of meeting each other, things changed and Anshu and Saloni were getting married to each other.
Another couple of years and both the couples were expecting babies and had baby boys within a couple of months of each other.
While Anshu’s job contract finished and moved back to India, Anaya and her husband Vishwa continued to stay in Russelsheim. It was the time of recession and a lot of people including their own friends were moving to different countries.
Anaya and Saloni kept in touch with each other though. While Anaya decided that she was done with having babies and got back to work, Saloni had another baby and quit her job to be a full time mother.
The kids were growing up real fast and within a couple of years of Saloni moving to India Anaya too shifted to India, though with just her son. Vishwa was supposed to follow them later. They used to talk to each other regularly. One fine day Anaya called Saloni and started crying. Saloni could not take it, for her Anaya was like a strong person who was good at many things. Anaya could sing beautifully well, she could make people go into a trance with just her voice. She also wrote well. Anaya could drive a car like a pro too. Saloni could do none of this. So when Anaya called Saloni and started crying, she could not take it.
It turned out that Vishwa and Anaya had split up a couple of years ago and that is when Anaya moved to India. She was upset about a few things going on between the two of them and the divorce case. She did not regret going through the divorce though. Somehow it hit Saloni hard, real hard. She had thought Ananya and Vishwa were the ideal couple. He was a musician too and everyone loved to watch the couple together on stage. Everyone thought they were just made for each other. Saloni being the person she is, didn’t ask her for too much info. She just sat there listening to whatever Saloni had to say and when she hung up, Saloni was in tears.
Since that call, Anaya and Saloni have never met each other. At one stage they were living in the same city and Anaya’s workplace was less than 5 km from Saloni’s home, yet Anaya always found some excuse or the other not to meet Saloni.
Today finally Saloni convinced Anaya that they should meet each other and she has made an effort to catch her close to Anaya’s office.
Now back to the present….
Anaya and Saloni hug each other for a couple of minutes, a tight hug, which spoke more than any words could speak. Both of them needed the hug for different reasons. They found a quiet corner to sit with their cup of hot chocolate and a sandwich to go with it.
Anaya started the conversation.. “Saloni, you look like you have lost so much weight. What did you do?”
“It is just stress Anaya. Lucky you, you managed to get out of your marriage and are at least living happily with your mother and son.”
“What? I thought you and Anshu were happy with each other”
“Yes, we are as happy as you and Vishwa were”
“Saloni…. Anshu is such a sweetheart, don’t compare him with Vishwa”
“Anaya, what do you even know about Anshu?”
“Hey, I know him for fifteen years now”
“Yes, but out of the fifteen how many years have you lived with him”
Anaya was now stumped! “mmmm… you are right, we get to know someone only when we live with them”
“Yes Anaya, even though I shared a house with him, I didn’t know him enough before getting married. Or I knew about him and still got married for whatever reason then. Now I am struggling. I actually envy you”
“What? What is there to envy me?
“You could take the decision of walking out of your marriage and walk out with dignity. At least your son will be proud of you”
“If you are that troubled by Anshu, you could walk out too… what is stopping you?”
“Anaya, I am not as courageous as you. I have to think about so much!”
“Saloni, before your son was born, you were working full time like me. You were in a good position, earning more than Vishwa. You were well respected in your office and if you want to you could still get yourself a job. What stops you from going back to work? If you are financially independent you can decide whatever you want. That is the first step you have to take.”
“Anaya, it is not just the financial part that I am worried about.”
“What else stops you?”
“Well my parents….”
“What do aunty and uncle say Saloni?”
“Well, you know the way ma is very conservative, I don’t think she can accept if I walk out of this marriage”
“She didn’t stop you from marrying Anshu who is of a different caste and from a different region Saloni. I think she will understand if you talk to her. Whatever problem you have, tell her the problem”
“Anaya, you are right about the fact that ma didn’t stop me from marrying Anshu. That was ten years ago. Today she is much older and she cannot take something like her daughter walking out from a marriage. Her health is in poor shape”
“OK, at least give her a hint and see what she says.”
“Also my children”
“What about your children?”
“Anaya, my children love their father. Even though they get upset with him when he gets angry with them, he keeps them happy by playing with them and telling them stories. Which I am not good at. and I feel cutting them off their father would be very selfish of me.”
“Did the children say that to you? Do you think a father is just for telling stories and playing games with?”
“No, but what if they question me when they grow up? Will I not feel guilty about it all my life?”
“Saloni, why do you worry about something that is not there at the moment? OK, if you are worried that much, leave them with Anshu.”
“Anaya, don’t ever say that! I cannot live without either of my children. I need them to survive and I am scared that Anshu will hurt them in his anger. He is not a person who will remain single for the sake of the children and the day we get the divorce decree he would be married again! Imagine what life my children will have to go through in the hands of another woman. They are too young to understand any of this. I don’t want anything like that to happen”
“Saloni, I feel sorry for you. I always thought you were a confident woman. Now looks like you don’t have the confidence or the courage to walk out of a troublesome marriage”
“Anaya, it is not about my confidence and courage… it is my worry about my parents and my children”
“Saloni, are you putting yourself in a prison because you are worrying about what your parents and children will say? They are not living your life. Only you know what you are going through”
At that stage Saloni had tears in her eyes….
“Anaya, I admire how you could walk out of your marriage with your held high. I am not sure if I will be able to walk out with dignity at all. Too many things are stopping me. I seem to be afraid of everything now, not like the brave and courageous person that I was years ago when we first met. The fact that two young children are dependent on me is enough for me to worry so much. If I walk out, I will have to work. If I go to work, who will take care of them when they come back from school? ”
Anaya put her hand on Saloni’s hand making an effort to comfort her, but letting her talk. Saloni continued…
“Sometimes I am so scared that I am not even sure I want to live. And when I think of such things I don’t think I want to let my children suffer either, who will take care of them if I am not here. I want to take them with me.”
Anaya was getting upset listening to all this, but she wanted Saloni to tell whatever was in her mind…
“And there there are other times when I feel that I am a bad mother and walk out of everything and leave the kids to Anshu. May be I am underestimating his capabilities as a father. Maybe he will not remarry, he will devote his time and life to bringing up the kids in the best possible way. Maybe he is very very angry with me for certain reasons and he is showing them all on the kids, maybe if I am not here and he doesn’t see me, then he will shower all his love on the kids. They are his kids too afterall.”
“Saloni, I agree with the fact that they are his kids too, but have you ever thought of it this way? If he cannot show his love to the children now, how will show his love to them when you are gone? So whether you live with him or not, you are really really important for your children. And you have no right to take away your life or the life of your children.”
“Anaya, I am so scared. I don’t know what to do!”
“Saloni, just listen to me…. take your time, think about what is going on in your life, Decide what is important to YOU, forget the kids, forget your parents, if you are not happy you cannot keep anyone else happy. Take a break, a holiday if possible, just you, if you can’t go alone, then take the kids with you too. But take time to relax and then thing when you are relaxed you will understand things better. You may be in a place where everything looks scary to you. But take one step at a time, everything is manageable. Everything will fall into place once you take a decision”
After that the two of them spoke about a few general things and left the place….As they went their own ways they both had something similar going on in their minds….”What if the kids blame Saloni for staying with an abusive husband when they grow up?” And if Saloni decides to walk away, “What if the kids blame her for walking out?”
No one can say what the future holds for anyone. It is upto us to think what we want and take a decision and act upon it! Chances are we will be damned if we and damned if we don’t anyway!