Rakhi was visiting her native place almost after a decade. A decade back she was in school, an innocent girl playing around chickens and butterflies when she visited her native place during Diwali vacations. In the last ten years she transformed from being a silly teenager to a “matured” woman. A woman who knows her rights and finds interruption an insult to her identity.
But this time it was a bit different.
She wasn’t eagerly waiting to arrive at her village. She wasn’t waiting for anything that would come along when she steps on the red soil. She was neither waiting for the ripe mangoes nor for the fragrance of fresh juicy Jackfruit. She was rather worried.
Rakhi is a young and vibrant 23 year old public relations consultant, working at the city’s top PR agency. In a span of 3 years she had created a good name for herself in the industry. She was one of the most sought after PR consultant.
“How will I adjust with no WiFi! There’s hardly any mobile network in the surrounding area.” Murmuring to herself while packing her mobile battery adapter and her laptop. Her mother asked, “Why do you need your laptop there? We have to attend a wedding there. You have taken an official leave from your work, so why are you packing your laptop?”, Irritatingly she replied to her mom, “Can you ask one question at a time? I might need my laptop.” Her mom replied, “You might? For what reason? What if it gets stolen during the journey? What if it gets damaged during the journey? What ifff..” And as her mom was about to utter her next doubt, Rakhi swiftly tucked her laptop back into her cupboard. She asked, “Are we cool now?” Her mom wasn’t going to leave her that early so she again asked a question, “Have you packed your sarees, jewellery and make-up kit? I don’t want to see any of your tantrums in front of our whole extended family!” Her mom knew this sentence of hers would trigger Rakhi’s self esteem and as she was about to launch her next question, Rakhi reverted, “No mom I think I’m okay in my T-shirt and shorts at brother’s wedding!” Her mom could only smile, because she was a wise mom. She knew her daughter would learn her lessons only after making mistakes. Well, Rakhi smiled as well, proud of being able to make her mom speechless.
The day arrived, an eight hours long journey from Mumbai to Ratnagiri. Her family planned to take a road trip by bus. They could have afforded to travel by an AC luxury bus, but her dad was a man high principles, he booked three tickets of the public transport bus. He had his own list of luxuries one mustn’t indulge into and necessities one must own. And an AC bus was in his list of luxuries.
The bus was scheduled at 9:00pm and left on time, but leaving Mumbai is no easy task. Slow traffic with the heat of March felt like sitting in an oven. Although it was a night journey, the temperature for the day was around 40°C. The maximum she could do was to listen her songs and her audiobooks. Finally after a 3 hour drive, the bus left Mumbai, marching merrily towards the destiny. Her phone lost the network and so did her mind. She was now about to connect to herself, listen to her own self and learn about her own self by observing the world around her.
Mumbai – Goa highway is a road full of exceptional natural beauty and simple yet cute houses. Rakhi remembered her younger days when she would visit her native place atleast once a year, visiting her grandmother, taking her blessings and just absorbing all her love. Her nostalgia was disturbed by tricky roads going round and round the western ghats. A beautiful highway dreaded by most drivers. She felt a bit dizzy, so she thought of taking a nap.
In the next three hours the bus reached the town nearby to her village. Her village lied in the most obscure parts of the district, it lied in the mountains, beyond which only the sunset can be seen. It was from here, her excitement of her brother’s wedding started gripping her mind. Her family got a local rickshaw and somehow the driver was familiar with their family and the wedding that was about to take place. In cities, we find it a bit scary to know that someone knows about us or about our family, but in villages it is rather considered a good thing. A way to connect with new people and make good bonds. It was 6:00 am and the sun had risen into the clear blue skies. The Spring was rolling out her magic into the atmosphere. The rickshaw drove past the grand mango trees, vast stretches of farmlands and the sweet smell of burning firewood. Rakhi felt like she was breathing for the first time.
By 7am they reached their village. Stepping on the staircase of her ancestral home, she was greeted by her cousins, nephews and nieces, all came running towards her. Her uncle and aunt were also delighted to see her. And she in her own her heart, was delighted to see her childhood friend, a simple and hardworking woman. Her name was Latika.
In their younger days when Rakhi visited her village during summer vacations, they both spent hours along the river, plucking green mangoes and cashews. Both them were equally bright girls, excelling at studies and sports at the same time.
Four years back, Latika was married into one of the richest families of the surrounding villages. Her wedding day, as described by everyone in the village was the most grandest of all weddings ever happened in the past 10 years. All of this happened at the cost of Latika’s dream to become a teacher. Today she is a mother of two young boys but her peaceful composure is still intact.
So when Rakhi was busy choosing a college for her further studies, destiny had already chosen the path for Latika. Times changed but their friendship was still as fresh as those ripe cashew nuts!
Rakhi freshened up and immediately went to sleep. Yes she did that. Without having anything for breakfast she went to sleep. Around 11 am, Rakhi woke up at the jarring voice of a loudspeaker that played some local folk music. She felt terribly hungry and weak. In the front yard she saw women from neighbouring families gathering for a some prenupital rituals. In the backyard the men of the village had taken the control of lunch preparation. Everyone was busy, enjoying the hustle and at the same time all them seemed like they knew what they were doing as opposed to Rakhi, who was confused and felt like in the middle of nowhere. She had a habit of unlocking her phone just to checkout messages if any, after waking up. She wouldn’t reply them spontaneously, she would only check them, draft a revert in her mind and about an hour later she would reply them. Even her ‘okays’ and ‘hmm’ were planned, nothing ever in her life was without a fullproof plan.
After some time she heard a knock on the door, she was her Vahini (brother’s wife is called “Vahini” in marathi), what a relief! Her Vahini brought her something to eat, upma and tea. “Wow!” She exclaimed. “You care too much about me Vahini, it feels so great to see you all after such a long time. Have you seen my mother?” Rakhi asked Vahini, “Oh yes I saw her going towards the river, right from the morning she was involved in those prenupital rituals, she should rest for a while now because tomorrow is going to be another hectic day”. Rakhi said to herself in her mind, ” Oh my mother, do you ever get tired!” “Vahini, I’ll have this breakfast and meet you directly in the kitchen”
Villages are full of flamboyant people. They know how to be happy. If not happy at least be satisfied. They live with nature and know how to create a bond with nature. They’ll love the rivers even if they run dry during summer. They love their cattle, their farmlands and everything that comes at the cost of living a rural life.
Rakhi met her cousins, clicked photos, selfies and boomerang videos. But couldn’t upload them, as usual the mobile network was slow. She also observed the rituals and feasted on a grand lunch with her extended family. Sharing experiences, ideas, thoughts and jokes the family wrapped up their lunch. They planned something special for the big wedding day. A special gift for the bride, a secret to be kept inside the family.
She decided to climb up the plateau at sunset just so that she could find network, just so that she could check her mailbox, just so that she could call her friend and update herself about the latest workplace gossip! And finally she found the sweet spot! Instantly her phone started buzzing with all sorts of notifications. Mailbox, social media accounts, messenger apps all buzzing together, causing a dilemma to Rakhi’s already bewildered mind. So many options to choose from. She could turn to people whenever she wanted to and turn to technology once she got bored of the people around her. And if she ever got bored of everything around her, she had the privilege of expressing her boredom. The sun was setting, sky was changing it’s colours, the stars had begun twinkling. Nature always offers the best, one must have an eye for it.
The human mind is as soft as wax but can be as hard as a rock. While scrolling through the notifications Rakhi happened to see Latika bathing her young boys. She could clearly see the boys creating a havoc, none of them wanted to bathe. As if their mother was doing something terribly wrong with them. Latika waved a hi to Rakhi, both of them smiled at each other. Rakhi was standing there atop the plateau, ignoring the sunset and following the light offered by her smartphone. Latika was standing at the base of the plateau, yet as calm as the winds of summer. She didn’t follow any light, she knew to adjust in the darkness.
Rakhi wanted to scroll down her Facebook news feed. But she stopped and started noticing the tiredness in Latika’s eyes. She was quiet far away from away her, almost 30-40 footsteps away from the place where Latika was bathing her sons.
In a fraction of second, Rakhi realised she had the luxury of scrolling down i.e. shifting her focus to things she liked from the ones she disliked. On the other hand, Latika had to accept all that came through her way.
“Am I becoming too anxious? Or too greedy? Do I know where to stop? Do I turn a blind eye to everything around me?” Rakhi asked herself. She saw mountains on the west, the sun was setting down. It was getting darker. The stars had started shining more prominently. She needed to head back to home. An influx of new found thoughts needed an abode.
Rakhi was surprised to see her mom, all decked up in a beautiful purple coloured paithani saree. Her mom hurriedly told her to get ready since some guests were about to arrive.
She unlocked her phone, scrolled down her Facebook news feed and saw a post about a young girl, determined to continue her education even after her marriage and giving birth to two kids.
(This was my first attempt on writing short story! All the characters in the story are fictional and any resemblance is a mere co-incidence!)