Where Peacocks Fly - 29
by Prema Sastri
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Day by day Mangalam grew heavier and wider. She also became listless and irritable. She moped around the house, disinterested in everything around her.
“Nothing ever happens here,” she burst out one day.
Meera looked surprised. “I thought you wanted peace and quiet.”
“I didn’t ask to be kept in an I.C.U. ward.”
The doorbell rang. Mangalam ran forward. She opened the door to find Surinder standing outside holding a bunch of flowers. He hugged her.
“These are for your mother. You, I have come to take home.”
Meera accepted the flowers. “Mangalam has been missing all of you.”
“I was away in Maryland, or I would have come earlier. My mother also felt that Mangalam needed a change. My family can be noisy and intrusive. They can’t leave her alone. They are so fond of her. I hope you don’t mind my taking her home, Mrs. Ramaswamy!”
“Her home is with you. I’m sure she’ll be glad to return. It’s very boring for her here.”
“Nobody has asked me how I feel.” Mangalam stamped her foot.
Surinder looked at her. “Well, how do you feel?”
“I feel you are only considering yourself.”
Surinder gave her a stern look.
“Mangalam, I hope you have realized by now that no member of a large family can indulge in personal feelings at the cost of others. You are the daughter-in-law of our family. You are the centre. You have to take that place.”
“I don’t have to do anything.”
“You don’t have to but you will, because you want to.”
“Mangalam please come with me. We need you. You are now a part of us.”
Surinder’s voice was low but firm.
“Very well, if you insist.” Mangalam flounced out.
Surinder turned to Meera.
“Mrs. Ramaswamy, I understand Mangalam’s difficulties. Yours is a quiet, self contained family. There are no boundaries in our house. Mangalam did not realize she was made a part of the family.She felt we were crossing lines.”
“I’m sure she will adapt herself.”
“We will make adjustments too. I have told my relatives not to enter our room except during certain hours. I have had extra cupboards fitted in. Only Mangalam will have the keys. She does not have to share her things with any one.
“That’s very considerate of you.”
“We have arranged for a doctor to see her every week. A nutritionist will advise us as to her diet.”
“You are making a lot of arrangements. Thank you.”
“My mother thinks that nothing is too good for her bahu. Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of her.”
“I know you will.”
Mangalam had come in. She was pouting, but her face glowed as it had not in a long while. Sankar had come in from his room. He greeted Surinder.
“I’m glad you are taking this pest away.”
Surinder gave him a stern look.
“That is no way to address your sister. She is soon going to make you an uncle.”
“Good father to be, kindly take your beautiful wife to her abode.”
They laughed. The young couple left with smiling faces.
That evening when Ramaswamy came home he was relieved to hear of Mangalam’s departure. Meera was astonished when he lingered over dinner to talk to her.
“We are lucky that Mangalam has such good in laws. She needs to learn there are many things one has to endure in life. She was getting too much for you to manage.”
For many days Meera wondered at Ramaswamy’s remarks. She realized that of late he had changed. He was no longer brusque in his manner. He talked to Sankar and Mangalam and inquired about their activities. Could it be that he was looking for companionship?
Sankar too had stopped criticizing the world around him. She felt it was possible he was missing Mangalam, but did not want to admit it. He was preoccupied by his organization “The Progressives” and was constantly on his computer or mobile. He seemed at peace as if had come to a decision over something.
Meanwhile, she had received an e-mail from Betty. Betty was remarried to a history professor who had spent some years in India. Together, they were writing a book on their experiences. Betty seemed happy.
Meera felt she was the only person who had not found her niche. She had always thought of others, and had no life of her own. Her brief relationship with Major Khanna had taken her to a new state of beings. It was as if he had burst the shell which enclosed her. Yet, the newly hatched bird had never learned to grow, or walk in the sun. The protective covering had been shattered and nothing had been put in its place. She had loved a man who was committed to a marriage with a beautiful but mentally, retarded woman. His death had left her covered with blood and egg shells.
She had to get out from the stink,She did not know how.She felt glued to her misery.
One day she stood on her balcony looking out at the flats around her. It was late morning. The Gul Mohar blooms were shedding red and yellow petals. Crows flew overhead returning to the shades of trees. The grass was green and springy. Dead earth had returned to life with early monsoon showers. Meera felt its strength. She too could return to life. She would no longer be a peacock, burdened by its shape. She would look to the sun and fly. Concluded Back to Chapter 28 Back to Chapter 1