Non-existent, in water I float, in my solitude. I do not cry.
These are the words that define me, Nandita. I live in a surrealistic world that I call Utopia.
Today, my brother, Anshuman returns from the US of A. Anshu has been studying B. Tech and promises to be a multi millionaire. He is gifted with IQ, I with EQ. We are birds of a feather.
There is pandemonium in the house. Ghar ka chiraag laut raha hai. Mom is going ballistic, screaming matches with the staff, Papa rushing around too. Their darling son, the prodigal is returning. In this mob like fury, I am totally forgotten. My breakfast comes in late, as cook is busy making Anshu’s favourite dishes. Kebabs, biryani, theplas. I am alone in my room. I stare at the curtains, wanting to tear them off. Mom has forgotten that today I had to go for my entrance test for the Jewelry Designing course at JD Instt. The driver has gone off to get fresh towels for Anshu’s room.
I hurry. I am late already. I need to shower and catch a scooty without telling my folks. I go running down the stairs. Mom notices me rushing down. As I am headed towards the main door, I hear her asking me.
“And where do you think you are going Shonali? Mujhse pooccha tak nahin?? Just leaving without even saying bye??” The voice is stern, crisp, a calm anger pervades the thought.
I swirl around, my face is wrought with sensitive emotion, I am shaking, I do not like being ignored.
“Mom!! You knew very well that I had a test today, yet you sent Naresh off?? Is that how much I mean to you guys????” I have tears in my eyes yet I am firm. Enough of this partiality.
“Haan haan, yaad thha mujhey. I was waiting for you to remind me. But you?? You have been stuck inside your room for days doing god knows what. You know Anshuman is coming, and you did not even lift a finger to help. I have not produced you for nothing!!Do you understand me?? In this house, everyone will do as I say. Including you. Now go. I will speak to you when you are back” And Mom turns back to her chores, while I leave, tears streaming down my cheeks. She did not even ask how I was going.
I hail an auto, sit in it. I am embarrassed. The guards are wondering why their masters’ daughter would take an auto when the house has so many cars. Forget them. My career is more important to me. I need to find a place under the Sun, that I can call my own.
I reach the Instt after an hour, the traffic is terrible. I rush to my seat. The examining teacherhands me my sheets. I have 3 hours to do this. I do what I can best. Out come my pencils, colors, instruments. I scratch away furiously at the gateway sheets. I have to design a necklace with cabochon emeralds and the design has to represent an animal. I choose an octopus. 3 hours later, I submit my sheets. Tired, I sit in the cafe for a cup of tea. In the adjoining table is a group of gaggling people. They seem to be having a great time. My shoulders slump. I hate sitting alone, but I don’t have a choice. The boy who is directly in front of me, smiles. I look down at my tea. I pay up and leave.
Anshu arrives. Everyone is full of love, smiling, Mom specially. She is a different person when he is around. Papa is strict with him, while he dotes on me. I don’t trouble Papa for anything. I know he has a rough time with Mom so I let him be. Anshu has brought back for me my favourite music, and lots of books on jewelry design. He knows this is my dream. Since childhood I have loved jewelry. As a child, I used to design beautiful trinkets, bake them in our oven, color them with shiny glitter paint, stick sequins on them and lo and behold, I would have a stunning piece of jewelry.
I would spend hours poring over handicrafts books that Papa would get for me. I would make paper jewelry, jewerly with plants, with anything. Mom would scream at me for wasting my time. I would plod on.
Anshu and I are very close. He understands what Mom is doing to me. He tells me to go ahead and make my dreams. Mom wants me to get married, that’s all she wants. I am hellbent on going ahead with my dreams. No one can stop me.
The days go by. I wait for my results. I call the Institute. They say they will let me know. A month had gone by. I take it upon myself to go and find out. The administration person is on leave. I knowck at the Director’s door. He looks up, sees a young girl of maybe 19, attractive. He motions me to sit. I present my entrance exam receipt. He smiles. He looks at the folder in front of him. He gets up from his chair and comes around to where I am. A reassuring hand rests on my shoulder. He speaks.
“Do you know, young lady, that you have qualified as the sole entrant to the scholarship to our branch in Belgium? You have been selected to do the one year certification in Jewelry Design and Diamond Grading from our head school there. Your designs were unique, and very delicately crafted and put on paper. It is rare that a young mind such as yours can do this. I hope you will accept the scholarship and do the Instt proud.”
I am in shock. I did not expect this. I take the papers from him. I am to leave in 2 months. My visa etc will be taken care from by them. I am so happy. I go back home. There is chaos there. My dadi is not well. She has been skipping a heartbeat. We are to take her for a check up immediately. Mom summons me. I am instructed to go with her & Papa while she makes sure that Anshu is looked after.
My happiness is forgotten amidst all this. Dadi undergoes her check up. The reports are not good. Her heart problem seems to have come back. I am devastated. Now what will happen to my scholarship? Dadi has to be put in hospital and I have been given the duty to be there with her while Mom caters to Anshu’s every need and Papa is at work. I am crestfallen. How do I tell anyone?
I decide not to go. I do not tell anyone as I know I will be stopped. I am always 2nd, Anshu always first. My pain is unfathomable. I go into my shell once more. I float, non-existent, in my solitude.