Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
The countdown to Diwali had begun. As she started checking the number of days left for the festival of lights, her heart skipped a million beats. The entire family was gearing to celebrate the most awaited festival of the year. The house was brimming with happiness and joy. She looked around only to find herself as the odd one out. No matter how hard she tried, she could not bring herself on the same page as her family. What’s so happy about this Diwali, she smirked as she thought to herself?
Shreya was married for eight years to Amit, had borne him two kids but was still struggling to find an acceptable position for herself in the family. Year after year, she continued to beat the odds in the face to keep her marriage intact. Escapism was not in her character. She had rejected the idea of divorce for the sake of her kids. She did not want her children to be subjected to the love of their parents in bits and pieces!
There was no denying both Shreya and Amit had suffered. If only there was a measure to gauge their quantum of sufferings! They were both right in their individual perspectives. The two of them had tasted the bitterness of their relationship for an equal amount of time.
Shreya and Amit lived with his parents. Everything seemed just perfect and enviable for Shreya until she entered their family as “Grah Lakshmi.” It started right after she walked into the house as Amit’s bride. Sooner than expected, she realized that her worth in the household was no more than that of a maid. She was shattered to learn that she, a Senior Manager at a global bank was the golden duck for Amit’s family!
Shreya was treated like a princess at her maternal home. Being an army brat and hostel bred, she was fiercely independent and the idea of marriage to her was that of companionship. Being the only daughter of her parents, she was pampered to no end. Yet she was compassionate at heart and mature in her behaviour. She was exposed to a multi-cultural environment, the best of luxuries and services back at her maika.
However, at her in-laws home, she was subjected to a callous and indifferent attitude, where mundane chores like cooking a meal of her choice was an elusive luxury. She was forced to quit her job and made to work round the clock. No amount of hard work and sacrifices were ever enough to satiate her dominating mother-in-law.
Amid the cacophony and the turbulence of her marriage, she had however given birth to twins. Her kids meant the world to her. In fact, they were the motivating factor for her to rebound when everything around her appeared grey!
Shreya was a changed woman. Her marriage had not only taught her to swim against the tide but also clutch tight onto hope!
Shreya was lost deep in thoughts. Looking through her window outside, she plucked some uncomfortable leaves from her past. The sombreness of a heavy heart had overpowered the festive mood, clueless that the ninth Diwali at her in-laws home would unravel some unprecedented surprises!
She tried hard to walk out of the memory lane. Alas! Some bitter memories from her marital life came flashing by and before she knew it, she was sobbing all alone. Those tiny warm pearls of tears were her only companions in her grief. She was oblivious to the preparations for evening festivities and the Lakshmi Pooja. Ironically, no one even seemed to be bothered. Apart from her girls, no one bothered to check on her. What a pity that the house, which was preparing for Lakshmi Poojan cared a damn about their very own Grah Lakshmi!
As the sun began to bid farewell and the cool breeze set in to welcome the moonless night, she heard her mother-in-law summoning the whole family to assemble for the Pooja. She waited but not once was her name called out!
Ninth in a row, Shreya counted! Just then she heard a knock on the door. She was quite surprised to see Amit walk in at the time when he should have been attending the Pooja. To her surprise, Amit, held her hand, wiped her tears and requested her to attend the Lakshmi Pooja.
“Shreya, Lakshmi Pooja is incomplete without you, please come along. I refuse to attend the Pooja without your presence in there. I am sorry on her behalf,” he said.
It had taken Amit eight years to realize that Shreya was indeed a silent sufferer. Perhaps thinking about his own girls from a father’s perspective had brought about a massive change in his behaviour towards his wife and mother of his darling daughters.
Shreya was taken by a pleasant surprise and could hardly believe that the man who until recently refused to even pay heed to her complaints, stood there, requesting her to attend the Lakshmi Pooja. She felt butterflies tickling in her stomach. Before she could respond, he opened the wardrobe and picked out her favorite yellow sari. What’s more, he handed her a gift box and pleaded her to adorn it. She unwrapped the box and was thrilled to find a beautiful diamond studded mangalsutra smiling back at her. The man who cared the least about gifts, had today gifted her something that was a symbol of their pious bond!
She thanked the almighty and showed up at the pooja. She looked gorgeous even in her simplicity! Amit could hardly look away from her. The twinkling in his eyes truly reflected the regret of neglecting his wife and that smile was a proof of his changed demeanour.
However, one person who seemed unhappy about the changing landscape was clearly her mother-in-law. She was infuriated to see Shreya seated next to her son and soon ordered her to get up and sit elsewhere. Amit however, intervened and let Shreya stay right there, where she belonged. This irked her mother-in-law further and she started throwing up tantrums instead of reciting the shlokas, mantra and the aarti. Seeing her lose her authoritarian position, she got up and left Lakshmi Pooja mid-way. There was no rhyme and reason to justify her callous behaviour and Amit sure was displeased with her dramatics.
Nonetheless, instead of walking after his mother, he asked his wife to carry on with the Pooja. This gesture was too overwhelming for Shreya and her eyes welled with tears. Years after walking into the family as their Grah Lakshmi, it was only on this day that Shreya truly felt a sense of accomplishment as one!
Amit and Shreya were anticipating a high-voltage drama and his mother made sure their fear came true! Right after the Pooja, she picked a fight with Shreya, hurling expletives at her, accusing her of snatching her son away from him and calling her ugly names. Throughout her ordeal, Shreya, as usual, chose to maintain calm and a dignified silence. She did not utter a single word, there was no need either. This time around, Amit, her husband, had jumped to her rescue.
He answered his mother on behalf of his wife, reminding her of Shreya’s position as the Grah Lakshmi. Hearing him support his wife infuriated her to no end. Though Shreya pleased with him to calm down, he opted to retort back, albeit with more ferocity with each passing word.
The festive mood was no more festive. Meanwhile, their daughters, Aadrika and Anvita tried to make peace. It was after a long heated argument that there was a deafening silence in the house. There was no more any trace of festive celebration. This Diwali, it wasn’t Shreya alone, who had retired to bed with a heavy heart!
The next few days witnessed a cold war brewing in the family. Amit tried to reason with his mother but she chose to ignore him, his words and his sentiments. Amit was torn between his love and respect for his mother and his wife. He did everything in his capacity to bring peace. Ultimately, after a while, he gave up and decided to leave everything to time.
That Sunday, Amit heard a loud thud in the bathroom. He was enjoying his morning tea and the newspaper in the living room. He rushed to find his mother on the floor, unconscious. A panicked Amit, called out to Shreya and soon the entire family was headed to the hospital.
Amit’s mother and Shreya’s mother-in-law had suffered a stroke, fallen down and broken her hip bone.
The news was disturbing indeed. Doctor had informed them that the road to recovery would be long and certainly a tough one. Amit was truly disheartened. His expressions clearly reflected his thoughts. Shreya was quick to gauge through his mind and assured him no matter what she would take care of her ailing mother-in-law!
Shreya had recently joined back work. Years after being caged in the four walls of her home, Shreya was a free bird, ready to soar high yet again. She was loving her new-found freedom to the bits. Still on probation, she however, decided to look after her mother-in-law and hence applied for a medical leave. Fortunately, her leaves were approved without much hullabaloo.
And then began the most fantastic journey of her life!
She dedicated the next couple of months looking after her mother-in-law, yes, the same old shrewd lady who left no stone unturned to make her life a living hell. And she did it all with a clean heart and cleaner intentions. Shreya knew how much Amit loved his mother and it was for the love of her husband that she took the pains to turn into a nurse. During this period, Shreya followed every instruction of her doctor carefully, feeding her medicines on time, cooking healthy meals, taking her for her check-ups and in between motivating her with her kind words and gestures.
Two months after her fall, Shreya’s mother-in-law lay in the back seat, ready for her final check-up. As Shreya pushed the key in the ignition hole, she could feel her eyes gazing at her. However, for the first time eight in years, Shreya felt a deep compassion instead of hatred in them.
This phase was turning out to be a blessing in disguise for her!
As the doctor tore open her plaster and helped her stand on her feet again, she called out to Shreya for help. No sooner did Shreya lend her hands, she kissed them. Soon, warm tears began rolling down on them like the first rain on a drought hit parched land. In between her sobs, she asked for Shreya’s forgiveness. Her regretful eyes were a proof enough of her remorse! On her part, Shreya comforted her and wiped her tears. She hugged her mother-in-law tight and kissed her on her cheek.
Years of bitterness melted away in those few minutes of their embrace. It was then that she bestowed the title of “Grah Lakshmi” on Shreya, something that seemed elusive in this lifetime.
Time, they say is the best teacher and the biggest healer!
Thank you for your patience and valuable time. Appreciate your feedback and comments!