“How many times should I ask you to put sindoor in your maang and use kumkum or at least a red sticker rather than that black bindhi that you use?” Shouted Surya for the 100th time. “My parents are coming to stay with us for a month and I expect you to be the traditional daughter-in-law at least when they are there” he shouted in exasperation! Normally Krishna wouldn’t have minded and walked away. But today she could not just move away with her lips sealed. This has been too much for her.
It is only six months since they got married. It was an arranged marriage. It wasn’t that she fell for him at first sight. She met the family and Surya, spoke to them and only when she thought that she would fit into their family did she agree for the marriage. What impressed Krishna then was Surya’s sister Sunitha! Sunitha was a widow, she had lost her husband in an accident. Sunitha had a daughter and Sunitha her daughter Sindhuja were living with Surya’s parents. Sunitha was working for a private company and Sindhuja was taken care of by the grandparents. There is nothing extraordinary about all this. Except for the fact that Sunitha did not look like a widow.
Now, how does a widow look? Unlike other countries, in India a widow is treated very differently. Right from the clothes she wears to the jewelry and the accessories are all dictated by the society. A lot of things are changing now though! Yet, here is Sunitha who wears her Mangalsutra, toe rings, a silk saree, flowers in her hair, kumkum and sindoor in her maang! Actually this is what made Krishna like Surya and his family! A family that did not stick to traditions blindly! She even told Surya that when he asked to talk to her. In fact, that was the first thing she told him.
“I like you and your family for the way you treat your sister” Krishna said and Surya smiled a happy smile. Their marriage was fixed soon and they everything went well till they spent their first week after honeymoon in her home with Surya!
“You don’t apply sindoor in your maang?” Surya asked. “I don’t” Krishna said, and “you don’t keep kum kum either”, “no darling, I don’t” replied Krishna as she was getting ready to go to office.
“hmmm, there is no change in you after marriage, except for the mangalsutra of course!”.
“No” replied Krishna.
“Hey, what happened to the toe ring?”
“Oh that? I have kept it safely in the locker”
“Why did you remove it?”
At this stage, Krishna was starting to get slightly irritated. “It is tearing my sock Surya! I can’t wear it when I am wearing my formal shoes”
“Why do you want to wear formal shoes?”
“Well, I am wearing trousers and shirt to the office and what can I wear with it?”
“Why don’t you just wear salwars and sarees?”
At this stage, Krishna just walked away without saying a word. This was their first official fight and Krishna was never a person to sleep over a fight so she made up for it in the evening by making the food that Surya loved, after all the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach as they say!
The next six months were full of ups and downs. But Krishna had learnt to bite her lip and move on. She was not a person to dwell on negativity. But she did not change much either. Now this “in-laws visit” was becoming a pain. It was school holidays for Sindhuja and her in-laws and Sindhuja were coming over for a month. This should have been such a happy occasion. Krishna always loved people and she always loved having visitors over, but somehow something told her that this time is going to be different.
From the time her in-laws said they were coming she could see that Surya was making changes in their home. “Amma doesn’t like big mustard you know, next time you go to the supermarket remember to get small ones”. That is how it all started. Food, somehow it seemed to be a major issue. “Do not get any of the underground vegetables, appa doesn’t eat them”. Then it started seeping into other things slowly.
“Oh, remove the Shirdi Saibaba photo from the puja room!”
“My parents don’t believe in him, and also all your grand parent’s photos too!”
“But Surya they all mean something special to me. And even otherwise my grand parent’s photos are kept separately to the Gods!”
“It doesn’t matter, just do as I say! Can you not adjust for a few days?”
Krishna had no choice. She was not religious anyway. But whatever was kept in the puja room was special to her. She bit her lip and let go.
“Why do you have to hear to the same music every morning?” Surya asked one day. So that was the end of Suprabhatam in the morning for her. Somehow she loved her music and she thought that Suprabhatam was a nice way to start the day!
This went on and on and now today it is back to the sindoor! She tried counting from 1 to 10. She tried biting her lip and walking to the kitchen. She had a full glass of cold water and yet she seemed to be fuming. She had to let it out somehow.
She turned around, went back to the bedroom and asked Surya “Why is Sindoor so important to you?”
“Do you now know all married woman should wear sindoor? It is supposed to activate certain glands and keep the woman calm and alert and also increase the sex drive.”
“Do you mean to say that single woman need not be calm or alert? And what about widows old women, should they stop keeping sindoor because they are not supposed to have a sex drive. What about your sister and your 80-year-old grandma who keep sindoor? What are they going to do with all their sex drive?”
Before they both realised what had happened Surya had slapped Krishna!
That was enough for her. She took her bag and left to work. At seven in the evening when Surya came back home, the home was still dark. Has Krishna not come back still? He was starting to get worried. His parents would be here in two days and why is Krishna creating a scene for silly things? “Where the hell did she go?” She had not called him or messaged him all day which is very unlike her. Even when he is wrong in the fights she would be the first one to say sorry. “Did I cross the limit today? But she should not have said what she said! Not my fault! But I want her back here before my parents come, I do not want my parents upset”
He opened the door and walked in and switched on the lights and looked for Krishna, just in case she was inside. But of course, Krishna did not come home. He tried to call her on her mobile and the phone was switched off. He was not sure if he should call Krishna’s parent’s home. After a bit of thought, he had no choice but to call them. Krishna’s father answered the phone.
“Is Krishna there uncle? Can I talk to her please?” Surya asked in the nicest of his voice.
“She is here Surya, but she is fast asleep and asked us not to wake her up if you called. I don’t think she would want to talk to you”
“But uncle, did you ask her why she came there?”
“Surya, this is as much her house as that, she came home tired and had something to eat and crashed in her bedroom. Neither me nor her mother asked her what was troubling her. If she wanted to tell us she would.”
“Uncle, I am coming now to pick her up.”
“No Surya, she is sleeping and I don’t think she wants to be disturbed now. You can talk to her tomorrow morning! So, when are your parents coming Surya?”
“They will be here in two days uncle and I want Krishna here before that. I will talk to her tomorrow morning then uncle. Thanks” Surya sighed as he hung up.
The next morning Surya called Krishna at seven, he knew Krishna is generally up at 5:30 and by seven she would be ready to leave work. The phone was still switched off. He rang up home again and Krishna’s father answered again.
“Uncle, this is Surya here. How are you today? Is Krishna up uncle?”
“She was up early Surya, as usual. She has already left for work. She must be driving so she wouldn’t have answered her phone!”
Surya decided to leave it for a couple of hours and get ready. He realised how much of a pain it was to do things by himself. If Krishna was there it would have been like clockwork. The maid was taking her own sweet time to do things without Krishna’s supervision.
He got ready and left for work. Just as he switched on the laptop there was a meeting request for five minutes from then. Calling Krishna had to wait. His morning was way too busy to even think about her. The afternoon was much more disastrous with problems everywhere. By the time he sat down with his cup of tea to relax, it was seven. He was hoping Krishna would be at home when he reached. The last thing he wanted was to have a heated conversation with her today. By the time he finished the rest of the work and went home he had expected Krishna to be there, but he was completely shocked to see the house in darkness again. He knew calling her will not have any effect as it was late and she would be in bed by now. His parents would arrive in the next day, what could he tell them if they asked about Krishna?
He was way too tired and he was hoping Krishna to be there in the morning. She was not a person to stay angry this long. He just hit the bed and fell asleep in a few minutes.
The next morning dawned nice and beautiful and he had to rush to get his parents and niece from the station, drop them home and get back to work. He surely could not afford to take the day off after what had happened in work the previous day. He had no time to think about Krishna, he would deal with all that later. He directed the maid to cook for everyone and left home in a hurry. Thankfully the train was on time and he brought his family home without telling them about Krishna. He literally dropped them at the door and rushed to work.
Within five minutes of him leaving, Krishna arrived at the door. She did not tell her in-laws anything. She waited for them to freshen up and eat something and took them out sightseeing. Little Sindhuja was very happy. Krishna kept her entertained all the time and the in-laws were very impressed. In the evening when Surya came home he was surprised to see Krishna laughing and chatting away with his parents and Sindhu. He did not say anything to her and Krishna too did not talk to him till dinner was over and everyone got into bed.
As Krishna was getting the bed ready Surya walked in and hugged her from behind and whispered.. “I knew you couldn’t stay from me for long”. Krishna moved him away, turned around and looked at him in the eyes and started talking.
“Surya, I need to talk to you first! I am sorry for what I said. I did cross the line and I even know what pushed me to it. I liked you for being someone who thought out of the box, but I felt that you proved to be yet another run of the mill guy that has double standards. You treat your sister differently and me differently”
“Let me finish first Surya. I want you to understand how I feel. I’d like my freedom to do simple things like this where it doesn’t affect you or anyone else. It is not life or death situations you know… I like to eat a particular kind of food or pray to a certain God or listen to a certain kind of music … and I should be allowed to do that as long as I don’t push you to do what I want, and I expect the same from you. Also I will not tolerate hitting anymore. You have every right to get angry, but you have to know how to show it. Hitting someone is not the solution to anybody’s problems”
Surya nodded his head. “I am sorry Krishna, I should not have hit you. I understand what was going on in your head now. I agree with what you say and I will not hurt my darling any more.”
He hugged Krishna tightly and gently kissed Krishna, and this time around all he could hear was a quiet moan from Krishna. From then on there were no loud noises heard in that household!