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A Pinch Of Salt On Sugarcoated Freedom

Short Story by Sima Hegdekatte

Her legs and hands were jittery. The butterflies in her stomach were probably having some sort of race. She smiled at herself as she introspected on when was she this nervous before. Her marriage? Or before the birth of her first born? Either way, it was a very long time ago. Her train of thought flowed. She suddenly remembered her house in a small village near Amritsar. A sense of nonchalant content overcame her when she realized what a long journey it had been. From a village in Punjab to Delhi University to one of the leading newspaper agencies in London, it had been one interesting life.

She missed India, it had been almost ten years she went there last. Her last trip had left her depressed and lost. Nostalgia had overwhelmed her at every point, nevertheless the fact that she couldn’t connect to any of her remaining relatives in India, had a deep impact on her. The fact that she couldn’t recollect Hindi or Punjabi words, the fact that the driver called her ‘vilayaat se aayi madam’, the fact that she had diarrhoea within 24 hours of having very oily and spicy chole bature, just made her realize that it wasn’t only the accent that had changed over the years.  There was nothing remaining for her there, no one was looking for her. She had taken a vow to never return. All she had were memories, and the essence of her country which still lived within her.

Her life was here now, in London; Her husband, his parents, her children, her job. The jitter came back to her as she thought about her job.  Scenes of her struggle to retain her job and steadily climb the ladder reflected in her memory like a movie on a screen. It had been difficult; coming to new country, learning their ways, and then slowly defeating them at their own game. Harder for her because she had tried to retain her family life and her Indian roots along the way. But she was here today. She could see the end of the tunnel, the peak of her Mount Everest. She sat in her office waiting for the confirmation. She was awaiting the result of the proposal to make her the Editor in Chief to one of the most renowned newspapers in England.  Her only rival was James Clifford. She smirked as she thought about the scandalous night a few years ago which involved a sixteen year old.’ The English don’t take moral decadence very well’ she thought. That should surely keep things in her favour.

Miles away, in a small town of Karnataka, Ananth struggled to understand the English grammar in his textbook. He never understood the language. It was complicated and had no set of rules. He could speak and read a little English, practically everyone could. But writing was a headache. He wished he didn’t need it. But he did. He was planning on going to Bangalore soon, for his PUC. His friend; living there had told him that it was impossible to live in Bangalore without English. He had no choice.

But he often wondered; why did he need English to survive in his own state. Besides Kannada, he understood Konkani, Tulu and a little bit of Hindi. Wasn’t that enough? A sense of rebellion boiled within him at that thought.

The lash of the whip awakened him from his thoughts. His teacher yelled at him and asked him to answer the question. He answered. The answer aggravated his teacher even more. “You idiot, you are going to give your SSLC exam soon and you give me an answer in Kannada in your English class?”. The whip lashed again when Ananth answered “that didn’t bother you all the previous years”.

His friend, who spoke very good English, explained. “English is the future, Ananth. If you want money, job, house and car, English will be needed. All engineering classes are in English, fat textbooks are in English, if you work in a company, then you have to speak to the customers in English. You can’t get away from it. Just be practical.”

The phone finally rang. Her closest friend and one of the committee members, Lilly, was here.
“James was chosen. Bradley thought he shouldn’t be deprived of the position just because of that one incident” she said sympathetically.

The short story A pinch of salt on sugarcoated freedom continued here...........