Admiration Earned

Sudha banged the phone down, as she heard for the nth time that Amit, her husband was going to be late in office. As she was seething with anger and frustration, she heard a soft humming from the kitchen. She looked up to realize it was her house-help Alka.

Alka was a slim woman, who had started working at Sudha’s place recently. Sudha had liked her instantly. She was quick to understand the requirements of Sudha and worked with complete dedication. She put thought in the work and planned her work in such a way that she was not intrusive in Sudha’s routine. Alka was not much of a talker, so Sudha knew very little about her. She had answered all of Sudha’s questions, but never been over enthusiastic about supplying information.

Sudha, was now getting a headache. She snapped at Alka and went into her room. As she paced up and down the room, there was a soft knock on the door and Alka peeped in. She had a steaming cup of tea in her hand. Sudha was surprised, as this was not part of Alka’s chores. Alka said ” I am sorry if my humming disturbed you. I didn’t realize it. Have some ginger tea, it will help you with easing the headache. Sudha quietly took the tea and felt herself calming down as she drank the tea. She realized she wasn’t angry with Alka. She wasn’t angry with Amit either. She was frustrated and angry at her situation.

Sudha had a good job, great friends and a good social life, but when Amit decided to change his job, they had to move to Chennai. Sudha hadn’t taken up a job immediately as she wanted her daughter to settle in first. But overall this change had overwhelmed her. New place, new language, new culture meant a lot of adjustments. Also they had no family or friends here, so she had no social life. Amit was enjoying his work but it was a hectic schedule and that left him with little time for Sudha or their child. Sudha yearned for some adult conversation. She felt trapped and was getting increasingly frustrated. As things started to clear up, Sudha felt bad about snapping at Alka.

Sudha, had a lot of time on hand, with Amit coming late and their daughter off at a birthday . party. She didn’t know what to do. She went into the kitchen to keep the tea-cup and tried to make amends. “I am sorry Alka, I shouldn’t have snapped at you. It wasn’t you that I was upset with. And thank you for the tea. It was really helpful. It feels nice when someone does something for you.” Alka smiled her brightest and nodded “It happens Madamji, I know it can be frustrating when you feel you are not appreciated enough.” Sudha was stunned by this talk from Alka. She wasn’t expecting an illiterate woman to understand her situation.

“Do you have some time to talk? I really wish to talk to someone or maybe just listen.” Sudha asked “Yes sure Madamji, my kids don’t come from school for another hour so I have time.” “What’s your story Alka? I have seen you smiling and working hard, but it must be very tough for you. ”

Admiration for each other is important

Alka smiled.” Madamji, isn’t it tough for everyone? I come from a small village near the Karnataka border. The continuing drought situation in our village, forced us to migrate in search of work. It was mass migration and except for the old, everyone left the village looking for work. We landed up here near your society around a year back. My husband worked odd jobs at the construction site nearby and I decided to work in the homes as I knew a bit of Tamil, but when we started working here, we realized all the people living here too have come from different places and the dominant language of communication was either Hindi or English.

I didn’t know Hindi at all! I hadn’t even heard it, but it was a necessity and I learnt on the job. Some people were kind enough to teach, some were indifferent, but I didn’t lose hope. I knew in my heart that all this hardship is temporary. Some people spoke very harshly, if I didn’t understand what they expected, while some explained the right way to do it. The more houses I worked, the more variety of experiences I got.

I am working hard so that my children can go to school and study well. I don’t expect them to be toppers or do something great in life. But I certainly hope to give them a better future. After coming here,the daily hardships, were too much. I was frustrated with the new surroundings, too many adjustments and not exactly a good lifestyle as compared to our village. I wanted to give up and go back home, but I didn’t want to look back in life and realize that I hadn’t put in my best to secure my children’s future and my financial independence.

Sudha had a newfound admiration for Alka. She asked her, “What all did you learn after coming here? “Alka smiled and said, ” I learnt a new language, new ways to cook and clean, handle money, and travel alone.” “Madamji, when you look at the bright side and firmly decide to look only at that side, then the difficulties that come in the way become bearable.”

That day, as Alka left Sudha’s house, she was also leaving Sudha with a new found wisdom about life. As Sudha saw Alka walk away, her eyes held admiration for Alka.

An Unlikely Pair

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She lay there, crying and helpless.

He came, fought against all odds to save her.

She was a 3 day old baby, left on the streets to die

He was an eunuch, dejected with the world’s suspicious eyes

Both were sad, but had a will to live

While the cruel world schemed against them

They found happiness with each other.

 

Linking up to BlogChatter Prompt Because I am Happy. This is not exactly me being happy, but it does try to spread some happiness, so the link-up.

Beginning today, it would be a new Life

It was Mayuri’s 45th birthday. She was busy in the kitchen packing tiffin’s for her daughter and husband. As the morning rush hour subsided and everybody had left for work, she turned to tidying up the house. They would go out for dinner in the evening and her husband would wish her while handing her some cash. It wasn’t that her husband didn’t consider her birthday important, it was just that he was always awkward when it came to coming up with genius celebration ideas or gifts. “Buy what you wish for and if the money is less do tell me, but don’t miss out on buying what you desire.” He would say. Mayuri smiled as she thought about it and kept a book in its place.

Just then her cell phone rang. She quickly answered “All okay right? You reached safely? How come you have called now, you must be just stating with your meeting correct? She volleyed questions as she hit answer. Her daughter laughed and said “Chill Mom! When it comes to worrying, you put Mother India to shame.” Mayuri waited for her daughter’s giggles to subside. “Okay Mom, I have something for you. Just go to my room and turn on my Diva” Mayuri rolled her eyes she never understood the reasons for having a pet name for a laptop! She went into the room and turned it on and informed her daughter. “Okay now go to the browser and open it,” instructed her daughter.

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As she did what she was instructed, a lovely website sprung to life. The website name “Mayuri’s Chrochet fashion” took Mayuri’s breath away. All she could say was “How did you… when did this… Oh my God it is lovely!” Mayuri had tears in her eyes. She just stood there in front of the laptop, with phone clutched in another hand. The doorbell rang. She answered the door and streams of joy started flowing through her eyes as her daughter and husband wished her.

Her daughter rushed in and hugged her. “I knew you would cry, so I took a leave from office. Couldn’t miss your reaction when you opened the site!” Her husband came over and said “This time it was Divya’s idea that we should do something special for you and I loved her idea. You have always pushed your interests and choices on the backburner for family, our interests, our dreams, but now it is high time that you chase your dream and Divya, our daughter showed it to me and convinced me.”

Mayuri started protesting, but her husband stopped her. “Right from before we married, I knew you were interested in crochet and art. I had seen the many paintings and crochet items that you had made. I believed it was your hobby. After marriage you left your job to focus on your new family, then with Divya on the way, you even stopped making time for your hobbies. It was always family first and sub-consciously you stated putting your interests at the bottom of the list.”

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Divya added “Mom, I realized your love for crochet only after I saw the various ideas that you came up with for the society funfair. Your lovely earrings, hairbands and clips were completely sold out!” Mayuri interrupted, “That was within society and the proceeds were to go to a charity. I am sure people just brought it to support the charity.” Divya added impatiently, “Mom you always sell yourself short. The crochet poncho that you made for my birthday was a hit in my office. People were asking if they could place an order! That’s when I hit upon this idea. We already have the site up and also the pictures of the many things you have already done. Take a leap of faith mom. I know you will succeed. Beginning today I want you to put yourself first. We all have seen the many instances, where you stopped working, or following you passion for the sake of family commitments. Now it is our turn to show you that commitment.”

Mayuri was overjoyed! This was the best birthday ever. She had been making crochet items as gifts for family or friends and had been greatly appreciated, but never really believed that it could be turned into a business. Looking at the determined looks of her daughter and husband, Mayuri promised herself that beginning today she would put herself first. A new beginning.

Linking up to BlogChatter

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Love’s Labour Lost

It was a Sunday. I got a call at around 6 in the morning, informing me about a car crash on the Express Highway. The lone occupant, a khaki clad man had succumbed to his injuries. I went numb with grief! Rajat had died, I had to go see him. I quickly got ready. By the time I was down my apartment a police jeep had come to escort me to the site. All the way, all I could think was this cannot be happening to me. Rajat and I were supposed to get married. I was finally about to get my happily ever after, that’s what Rajat had said, and now he was gone. Why was this happening? Why was he travelling in the morning? We were to meet at lunch and then spend the day together. The call said he was in uniform, probably he had some work in the city. Questions which had no answers muddled up my head and left me numb.

We reached the station and the police inspector there, Inspector Ismail Rana took me for identification. As I saw Rajat’s badly bruised face I couldn’t control myself and I broke down. He had a handsome face, wheatish but clear, a beautiful lingering smile and innocent eyes. The badly bashed up face was a far cry from what I knew. I could no longer hold it together and crashed near the body.

When I came back to my senses, I was in a hospital room, with an IV attached. As my eyes got accustomed to the surroundings, all the events suddenly came flooding back and eyes welled up with tears. Inspector Rana was waiting outside the room and he walked in just as I was brushing my tears off. He looked perplexed but it hardly made any difference to me. He informed me that my BP had dropped, and hence had been admitted to the nearby hospital for observation.

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“I am really sorry for your loss, but there are some things that need to be clarified, so I need to speak to you,” said Inspector Rana apologetically. I simply nodded and he started asking me questions like How well I knew Rajat? Did he ever take me to his work location? How did we meet? I was irritated with the questions. I burst out, “The man has died. He was an inspector at Neral station, shouldn’t you guys be preparing for a honorable cremation or something? He was one of your own, died while completing his official duties. Why are you acting as if he is some thief?”

Rana looked around uncomfortably. His voice was low and calm, but what he said made my world collapse. He said they had checked the police database, based on his badge number and there was no Rajat Dubey listed in their records. Based on the information I had provided they had even checked separately with Neral station, but there was no Rajat Dubey. They even checked his belongings and there was nothing in it to indicate that he was connected to the police force. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What was going on? Nothing made sense. I told Inspector Rana that there must have been some mistake. I had visited so many places with Rajat like Lalbaugh Ganapati, Siddhivinayak, Mahabaleshwar etc and wherever we went the police on duty had saluted him. We got special darshan at religious places. I even saw his ID card when we first met. Was that all a farce? Or is this some cruel joke?

Inspector Rana was old enough to be my elder brother. There was kindness in his eyes. He genuinely felt bad for me. As I looked at him for answers, he simply shook his head. He simply asked if I had any recent photographs of Rajat. I took one out feebly from my wallet. He looked at the picture for a moment and then got up to go. “You will be discharged by today evening. Please meet me before leaving,” he said. I was in a daze. My life had suddenly turned upside down. I remembered the day when I got a request on the matrimonial site that I had registered. “Dear Madam, I don’t really know how to approach someone on matrimonial site and I apologize beforehand. I really liked your profile and am interested in talking to you. Would you be interested in talking to me?” I found the awkward message cute and decided to reply. Also it wasn’t that I was getting proposals by the dozen. After chatting for nearly 4 months we decided to meet. We met at a coffee shop. I was stunned by his graciousness and enamored by the way he expressed his love. He had a boyish face and didn’t look a guy nearing 40. He listened, and believed in small gestures to express love. Nothing fancy and out of the world, but things that make your heart flip. He would remember your favorite song and request it to be played at the coffee shop, get you cards with beautiful messages. In the world of internet and whatsapp, he still believed in cards and handwritten notes. I fell head over heels in love with him. I never suspected that he wasn’t what he said he was. Why would I? He even showed me his ID card the first time we met, saying that it is important that I be assured of his identify and nature of his work.

My head was still spinning when the nurse told me that I could be discharged. I picked up my belongings and went to the police station. A part of me still believed that all this was a big mistake and everything would be cleared in a moment. Inspector Ismail had a grim look on his face. He asked me to sit down and gave me a glass of water. He suddenly asked “Had Rajat ever asked money from you?” I started to answer in negative, when I suddenly remembered, “He did ask me once for Rs.5,00,000 as he planning to buy a home for our future. But I didn’t have that kind of cash. We decided to save and then look for houses 6 months later. That is the reason we even pushed our wedding date.” His next question was even more confusing “How many people are there in your family and where do you work?” “I live alone. I don’t have much of a family. Father was bedridden for nearly 10 years. I started working early in life to support our family of three. My salary went into medical expenses and running the home. After father died, mother too died within 2 months. I was feeling lonely and though it was late I thought of registering myself at a matrimonial site and see if I can find love.” As I was answering I suddenly started getting a bad feeling about it all. Inspector Ismail consoled me and said, “You should be grateful as you were saved from a big fraud. Rajat Dubey was a conman and nothing else. He had good acting skills and well forged documents because of which the havaldars and police assumed him to be one of their own and you saw the special treatment. He has no family and hence we could find only your number on the cell phone he had on himself. It was his scheme to befriend woman on matrimonial sites, pretend to fall in love with them and then ask them for money on some pretext or the other. Once he got the money he would vanish into thin air. As I circulated his photo all over the state we have found atleast 3 such cases registered against him. He was coming to the city to book a house under special scheme available for police forces. I am sure his plan was to show you the house and then cancel the booking without informing you but keep asking you for money and then vanish.”

My heart ached. It felt as if someone was raining blows on my heart and I couldn’t breathe. I never had very high ambitions. All I wanted was a little love and support in the form of a companion, a husband with whom I would find my happily ever after. Inspector Ismail said I was lucky that I escaped, what he didn’t know was that day I lost something far more precious than money, I lost hope, I lost trust and I lost Love.

The Dulhan

They admired her bright heena painted hands and colourful saree

They winked and laughed asking, ‘How is the marriage treating you?’

But her heart bled with every laughter.

She put up a smile but her eyes couldn’t lie,

Could she really tell them how she felt?

About how she dreaded the night?

and worry about the scars she has to hide.

Divya’s Dilemma

Divya came home from work, exhausted. It was financial year ending and the work pressure was tremendous. It was late in the night, when she finally parked her car in the garage of her two storied house. Divya thought ‘I could use a cup of coffee.’ As she entered, her parents stopped their discussions midway. Divya eyed them suspiciously and just shook her head while dumping her bag on the sofa next to her mom. She headed straight to her room. As she freshened up she decided to make a stronger cup of coffee. She knew she had to brace herself for a long discussion and a hot cup of coffee made it all bearable.

Divya came from a traditional Iyer family. They weren’t orthodox to the core, but they had their beliefs and loved sticking to it. They followed all the rituals and having some ‘Homa- Havan’ or ‘Puja’ every six months was considered normal. Divya had always been the black sheep of the family. While other girls in the family went for Bharatnatyam classes and learned to sing Carnatic music, she played Squash and was fascinated with Sports Cars. She loved rock or hip-hop and always preferred jeans over salwar kameez. Her remarkably different tastes were initially attributed to, too much exposure to ‘Western Culture’, then were considered a passing phase and later was seen as a form of rebellion. While some relatives openly taunted her, the more conservative ones refused to talk to this rebellious girl!

While growing up she had been very upset with all the mocking and silent treatment, but then as she grew older she made peace with it. At first she cried and really tried to fit in; doing all that a normal traditional Iyer girl bought up in Chennai is supposed to do, however she just felt trapped. She felt like she was deceiving the world and herself. One day, during one such ‘Puja’ at her cousin’s home, she saw a Car magazine on the table. It was the latest issue, and she had to read it! She quietly smuggled it under her dupatta and rushed to her cousin’s room. As she stepped in and locked the room, she saw her cousin Priya, lying on the bed listening to music, reading Sports Illustrated and eating a gum! Divya stood gaping at her and Priya burst into laughter! That’s when Divya realized that she wasn’t too different from others. It was just that she couldn’t live a dual life trying to please everyone. From that day on she just did what she pleased. She could see the respect in her cousin’s eyes. She knew she was right and never looked back.

Her parents had been the helpless spectators in all this. There had been enough arguments and discussions around it and later they had realized that it was all futile. They silently knew they loved their daughter more than these beliefs. Now they didn’t argue about her preferences but didn’t endorse them either. Divya had been a brilliant student and later had cleared her CA examinations with flying colours. Today, she was a well placed financial manager in an MNC.

Apparently, the latest discussion in her parent’s social circle had been Divya’s wedding and getting some prospective groom’s biodata for review had become a regular affair. However, today something was different, Divya could sense it. She almost ran to her room to freshen up and deliberately took a long time to come down. She was half hoping that her parents would give up and go to bed. She might have the energy for this tomorrow, she thought to herself. As she came down the steps softly, she didn’t see them in the hall and believed that her plan worked. But just then, there was a soft pat on her shoulder and as she turned, she found herself face to face with her parents. Her mom was holding a hot cup of coffee in her hand.

Divya’s eyes were moist. She loved her parents to death and had a fair inkling of what they must be going through in their social circle because of her choices; however she loved herself more and couldn’t do something just to please the society.  She took the coffee without a word and sat down at the dining table. Her parents sat opposite to her and waited patiently, till she had almost finished her coffee. Her mother looked nervously at her father as he cleared his throat to speak.

She braced herself mentally for yet another argument, but suddenly decided it was time to put her foot down. Before her father could say anything she said “Appa, I know you must have found yet another ‘suitable guy’ for me and you want to talk to me about it. I totally understand your concern. I am also aware that I have been the reason for your shame for a long time now. Though you have never come between my dreams and aspirations, I understand it must have been tough on you, but I can’t just say yes to some random guy just because someone believes we are perfect for each other.  Having a car does not translate into loving them and knowing how to hold a racquet does not make someone a squash player. I am sure some aunty must have dropped by in the afternoon and lectured you on your poor parenting skills, remarking casually as to how well they had kept their children on a leash and you should have done the same. And while leaving, must have hinted about some guy who earns well, is a little old but drives a car and has no problems if I play squash! This is all so repetitive that I am totally frustrated with it. I am just 24 years old and I have a whole life ahead of me. Just because I have different likes, does not mean that I should compromise and settle with some stranger who might not even respect my choices. I wish to focus on my career and achieve much more on the work front; it’s an exciting time in my career and I am loving every minute of it. I wish to travel the world and go on a road trip, send you on a cruise and plan your retirement. If a person shares my choices, I will find him on my own and even if I don’t I have no regrets. Love or marriage is nowhere on my radar currently. I love you guys and I know you love me too, but please don’t be pressurized by some extended family relatives. The society as a whole just loves to gossip; they feed off others weakness or sorrow. Today you are the talk of the town, tomorrow it will be someone else. I have no interests in pleasing such a society. It is your opinion that matters to me and as long as you understand my dreams I don’t care about anybody else.”

Divya was crying as she spoke. Her parents just sat there motionless. Their eyes were glistening with tears. Her father just smiled at her and her mother dabbed her eyes from the corner of her saree. Her father took her hand, and patting it affectionately said “We wanted to tell you the same thing. We knew you had different dreams, but we never stood by you wholeheartedly. We were torn between our love for you and our need of being a part of a society. Today, when your aunty called informing that Priya her daughter had walked out of her marriage as their aspirations were different, we realized it was time to make a choice before it was too late. We chose you and will always do so. Our love for you is greater than our need to be a part of a social circle. As Divya heard him speak, she realized once more, how much her parents loved her and respected her as an individual. She quickly got up and hugged them tight. Today, they were truly complete as a family.

Linking this post to #ClickandBlogAStory by Slim Expectations and All About Woman Week 6 Prompt Love. My other post Stress was judged the best post earlier.

ALL ABOUT THE WOMAN

Mother’s Day

It was a bright summer morning and Maya woke up early as usual and went for her morning walk. Just as she was passing the local grocery store, near the closed shutters, she saw something move. The discarded cardboard boxes were heaped there in a corner. She was about to ignore it for rodents when she heard a sound. She turned and went closer to inspect the sounds. From the half opened carton box she could see two tiny legs.

She smiled and opened the other flap of the carton and there they were yawning with their tiny mouths and looking around with their dreamy eyes. The innocence melts her heart instantly. She just stood there staring at them as they stretched and wriggled. Just then they realized her presence and stared back at her with their big coal-black eyes. There was a tinge of fear in those eyes but they were more pleading than scared. Maya knew in her heart that she had to take them home. Her motherly instincts took over and she bent down and scooped them in her arms. After cuddling them and making them feel safe, she put them back in the carton box and carried them home.

 

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Photo Credit- Pixabay

 

She walked in the big iron gate and set the carton box down near the big shady Mango tree. This is a good spot she thought and told them very lovingly that she will find them something to eat. Her husband, Vinay had just finished reading his morning paper, when he saw Maya come in. He went near the tree to see what was going on and saw two little heads peep out of the box and stare back at him. He knew Maya well, to understand what must have happened.

Just then, Maya came in with two bowls of just right warm milk and bread. She placed the bowls in the carton box. The two hungry pups lapped up the whole milk. Maya and Vinay were sitting cross-legged on the lawn under the Mango tree, looking at those hungry pups feed.  The pups realized they were safe and quietly scrambled out of the box. Each slowly made way to the laps of Maya and looked up to her content and happy. Maya was smiling back at them and caressing them to ensure that they feel secure.  Vinay looked at her and said, “Did you know today was Mother’s Day?” Maya looked up with a tinge of sadness but when she saw Vinay smile and gesture at the pups she realized he meant it with affection.

They had spent a long time being sad about not being able to be parents, but today looking at those abandoned pups and the love she felt for them, she realized she might not be a conventional Mother, but she was Mother no less!

Joy

She woke up to a busy household. She could sense the anticipation and anxiety. As she rubbed her eyes, she looked around for her mom and dad, but she couldn’t find them anywhere. Her granny called out to her, asking her to get ready. There was no cuddling, no kissing, just a quick instruction. Granny had changed overnight! She also looked very busy packing. Where was mommy? She ran to her parents room, but they were not there. She knew something was off.

She quickly got ready. As they got into the cab she realised they were going to a hospital. She was terrified and worried! Did something happen to mom and dad? They reached the hospital and walked silently to a room. As the room opened, she saw her mom sleeping and father sitting on a couch next to it. She couldn’t control her emotions now, she burst into tears as she rushed to her mom. Her mom smiled and comforted her. Her father quietly brought something close to her  and wispered “Say hello to your little brother” From behind the tears, she saw a pair of small eyes looking back at her. She knew there was a baby in mom’s tummy, but she never realised he would be so tiny. Her heart was instantly filled with joy and a love that she never knew existed.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Follow your heart

“I want to be a boxer!” her 6-year-old girl exclaimed the moment they stepped out of the theater. She just smiled and said ‘Sure! Whatever you wish to be.’ They had just stepped out of the movie theater after watching ‘Mary Kom’ – A biopic about 5 time World Champion Indian boxer. Her daughter’s dreams changed every quarter if not early.

It was some time later that she started hearing comments from friends and relatives. “You should guide your daughter about the choices she makes in life”, they said. “You should coax her to be good in studies and some extracurricular activities, catch them young! They don’t understand what they want, it needs our push and determination.”  She heard it all, never argued but never agreed either. She knew in her heart, her daughter could be anything she wished to be and she will support her in every way possible.

Dare to dream

Today, as she entered the room she saw her daughter worried. She had a scholarship letter from a foreign university that was offering full scholarship in design stream and the other she had a letter from a college offering her a degree in engineering. “What do I do? Dad wants me to be an engineer and I know I won’t be bad in it, but here I have a scholarship and design internship opportunities in the best studios around the world!”

Her daughter was brilliant and she knew she could do both. But she wasn’t sure what would make her happy. She held her daughters hand and asked “What do you want?” Mom why don’t you ever tell me what I should do? snapped her daughter, a little angry. “I need direction because I am confused!” “Do you or do you want to base your decision on popular choice? she enquired. “Remember, if you ask others, it will be what they want, their ambitions, their dreams, and their expectations. You will be carrying the weight of all that if you base your decision on their choices. And if you fail, you will blame others for the way your life shaped up. I don’t want that for you.” Her daughter was stunned at the simplicity with which her mother said this. Her daughter always assumed her mother to be unassuming. Not someone who could lecture on self-worth and determination. She smiled and said, “The day you were born, I made a promise to myself that I will not let the burden of others expectations and ambitions straddle you. And I will continue to be true to my promise. Her daughter had tears in her eyes. Hugging her tightly she said “Close your eyes, focus only on what your heart wants and the rest will come to you.”
Tweet: Close your eyes, focus only on what your heart wants and the rest will come to you.

Promise

She stood in front on the mirror, gazing at her reflection. As she straightened her cap, she smiled. It wasn’t coy or shy. It was a happy and determined smile. This was the first step towards her goal. She knew it will be a long road and a difficult one at that, but she knew with all her heart that this was what she wanted.

She veered behind as there was a tap on her shoulder. Her mother stood in front of her, beaming with pride and holding a uniform. There was a glint of sorrow in her eyes. The uniform had belonged to a strapping young man. A patriot, a team leader and a loving father. His only advice to her had been, help others and make me proud.He had died fighting the jihadis or whatever fancy word is now used for terrorists. He had died saving civilians, in Kashmir. She had been all but 13 when his body came home wrapped in tricolour.

It was on that day while lighting his pyre and crying inconsolably, she had promised her dead father that she would don the uniform one day. She would guard the borders to protect scores of other children and their happy families from mindless violence in the name of religion or politics. Today she had fulfilled her promise to her father.