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The Woman with Self-Belief

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Self-BeliefIt was just a little over 6 o’clock when Sarla returned home. Her father opened the door and thundered, “Is this the time for decent girls to return home?” Edging her way into the dingy two room tenement, she heard her father say: “From tomorrow you will not go out of the house to meet those cheap girls.”

Actually if one gave the matter sufficient thought, there was sufficient justification behind her father’s obsessive need to control her. Her cousin Parvati had run off with a good for nothing lout. And Parvati had been a plain Jane. Her parents watched with trepidation the transformation of their daughter from an unremarkable child into a indisputably beautiful woman. And this observation stoked the fire of panic in their hearts making them act cruelly.

Sarla was abruptly woken up from her sleep early next morning and told: “Somebody is coming to see you, so get dressed up and be ready when they come.”  The guests arrived before noon. There were three of them. The oldest in the group spoke. “Sarla this is my son Paresh and this is my nephew Arjun.”

She merely nodded in acknowledgement. The old man queried, “So do you like cooking, embroidery and all that.” Her mother piped in with, “Oh, Sarla is an excellent cook.” In a firm quiet voice Sarla countered the falsehood with, “No I hate cooking. I am too academically inclined to be distracted by anything else.” Someone chuckled. She looked up and saw Arjun smile.

“It’s good to be smart,” commented Paresh. He had a smug expression on his face. “But when you come into our family you’ll have to become a proper wife.”

Her mother intervened suddenly, “Sarla is an obedient and adjusting girl…” It was easy to tell that her parents were eager to offload their burden.
“Mom loves me too much to tell you the truth uncle. I hold very modern views and beliefs. I believe every woman has the right to live life according to her beliefs.”

Smiling, she looked up at Paresh who seemed dumbstruck by her comment. But Arjun seemed amused and winked at her. She asked herself what that wink meant. “Congratulations, you’re doing fine,” or “Watch it, you’re going too far!”

When lunch was over, Paresh’s father confirmed, “My son likes your daughter very much I think.” Much gratified, Sarla’s parents felt a sudden wave of affection for their recalcitrant daughter. Her mother beamed at her as the fathers exchanged handshakes. Celebration was in the air. Everyone could sense it.

“But no one asked whether I want to marry or not. I am not ready for marriage.” Sarla’s spoke clearly.

Like lightening her father’s raised hand fell on her face. He was about to strike her again when Arjun stopped him. “Get out of this house at once you bitch,” roared her father, pushing her towards the door. “Wait a minute!” All eyes turned to Arjun. “I’m willing to marry Sarla.”
There was a stunned silence. Paresh’s father was the first to speak. “No, a woman like her will bring a bad name to our family.”
“I don’t want to get married,” said Sarla. “And since I don’t want to stay where I’m not wanted, I’ll come with you Arjun as your friend with no strings attached.”

Her mother tried to stop her but Arjun took her hand and led her out of the house. She found it strange, this man’s hand in hers. Yet, surprisingly it felt good. She felt cared for. A small smile played on his lips. He would never be lonely anymore. In Sarla he had met a kindred soul. She was his kind of woman. He did not know whether she recognized it. But one day she would, he was sure of that. He could afford to wait. In the meanwhile he would remain her best friend. Her only port of call!

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