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"When we are here to decide for you what's the need to tax yourself with these decisions?" My mother had asked me while she glared at me, daring me to contradict her.
So, I went to the school my parents decided for me. Wore what my mother thought looked perfect on me, learned what was best for me and eventually married the man everyone thought most suitable for me.
Very early in my life, I understood the need to wear the disguise I was expected to wear at all times. I played the role of an agreeable daughter by never questioning my parents even when I bled inside at their decisions. I was the perfect wife to my husband by never contradicting his dictates even when they meant that I had no freedom of my own and the perfect daughter-in-law, agreeing to everything that was told to me!
I was the master of disguise and could fake the perfect expressions at all times. Life was going by, day after day, with the same motions getting repeated when one day, I read about a writing competition that promised to serve as a launchpad for new authors.
I had always wanted to write but had been forbidden from pursuing my passion by my mother who thought that girls should have the expertise of running a home successfully rather than merge themselves in an idle passion like writing which was meant for dreamers with lots of time on their hands and time was one thing I would not have, I had to learn to cook, sew and clean and then study for school. So out went my dream of becoming a writer.
Then when I got married, I hesitantly told my husband of my dream but was again let down when he refused and recounted my responsibilities to our home and to him. Again I was silent and meekly wore my mask and served him pakodas that evening to enhance his mood which had gone foul after our talk.
Now as I sat staring at the ad wishing for the hundredth time for circumstances to be different, I felt angry at myself for never raising my voice against the injustice that had been done to me by everyone in the guise of doing the "best" for me and helpless at my current situation. I didn't know what to do!
After hours of futile staring, I set the paper down and went slowly towards the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Days went by and I didnt do anything. Sometimes I thought about doing something about my life, felt encouraged after watching shows where women had raised their voices and been strong enough to forge their own path but could never do anything like that in my own life.
Just as I had almost forgotten about the ad just like I had the other dreams and opportunities, I got a letter and everything changed!
It was a normal day with the same mundane tasks lined up for me. My husband had just left for office and I was busy cleaning the kitchen when the bell clanged. Wiping my hands on the faded yellow hand towel, I hurried to open the door and was greeted by the postman.
"Madam, there is a letter for you.", he told me as soon as I opened the door.
I accepted the letter, sure it was for my husband but was shocked to see it addressed to me.
After closing the door, with trembling hands, I opened it. I don't know why I felt the urgency but I was sure that this letter was going to change my life. It was like my intuitive powers were suddenly working in hyper drive.
I slit the side of the envelope and carefully unfolded the crisp white single sheet of paper. Inside in clear, typewritten words was a formal and concise message which said,
"Dear Mrs S,
We are happy to inform you that your short story has been selected for our upcoming anthology.
You have also won a novel writing contract with us and we are so happy to welcome you to our family.
Please mail us a short bio of your novel on this email id: email@example.com along with your bank details where we will be transferring your prize money soon.
I was so shocked after reading the letter that I landed with a thump on the sofa and kept sitting there for a long time.
How had they got my story?
I hadn't send anything to them or had I?
Had I finally had a breakdown and sent them my entry but didn't remember sending it?
How was I going to tell "Him" about this?
So many questions kept running in a loop in my mind. Lost in my thoughts, I didn't even notice when he came home and picked up the letter that had fallen from my hands. He took a look at it and suddenly I was being hugged so tight that it felt like all my air had been cut.
"S! I am so proud of you. I just knew you would get selected and you did, my darling!"
He spoke while smiling at my dazed expression.
I just could not believe what was happening.
Who was this man?
Surely, not my husband. This man was nothing like the man I had lived with so far. He was smiling indulgently at me with a proud expression. Nowhere was the accusing look to be found that I had gotten accustomed to. My husband would have had a fit by now. He would not be sitting with me in his arms, smiling and feeling proud for me. He would be up and about recounting all my responsibilities and how I had let him down by doing something like this.
Who would look after him while I wrote? What would he tell his parents when they asked what she was doing?
He could not tell them that I was writing which was a no-paying and wasteful job fit for dreamers who had lost their link with reality!
But this man hadn't said those things to me. He was busy chattering away while I sat confused and unable to decide if I was dreaming or had just lost my head. After a while when he saw that I wasn't saying anything, he spoke,
"What are you thinking?"
"Who are you?"
"Wow! Well done S! You did a brilliant job of putting your foot in your mouth!" I cringed at my impulsive question.
He looked surprised at my question.
"What do you mean? I am R, you husband. What is wrong with you?" He asked as he checked my forehead for a possible fever.
"Aren't you angry?" I asked fearful of the upcoming anger fit which I knew, could start anytime.
"I know, you cant digest my behaviour. I have never given you any reason to think that I loved you but today, I want to tell you that I love you with all my heart." He took my hand in his and spoke again, "I am so sorry for my arrogant, brutish behaviour. I never cherished you but that day when I watched you look longingly at that writing competition invite, I realized how wrong I had been in my behaviour to you. You have sacrificed so much for me but what have I done? Nothing. I have always rebuked you, let you down, treated you like dirt and never given you even a chance at happiness. It was high time that I changed so after you went to the kitchen I picked up the ad and applied to it on your behalf."
I could not wrap my mind around any of this.
"How?" I murmured still in shock.
"Easy. I knew where you kept your journal. I took it to my office that day when you went to your mother's and sent the publishers one of your stories. The rest you know..." He smiled while his eyes apologized to me.
I didnt know what to say. Was this a dream? Could I remove my best disguise and really be myself? Was this even possible?
I was still in shock when I was hauled and R whispered, "I can see that you dont believe me. Maybe we can do something about it."
He nuzzled my neck as he took me towards the bedroom.
I didn't know what this new turn in my life meant but I was ready to try and give it my best shot.
A year later...
"I would like to welcome Mrs S who has graciously agreed to share her thoughts on women empowerment with us today." The lanky speaker announced as she handed me the microphone.
R sat in the front row with a happy smile on his face and once again I was struck by the fact that I had been lucky. More lucky than most people in my situation. Life was finally happy was the last thought in my mind as I brought the mike towards my mouth and started on my speech!
A year had passed since that fateful day. I was a changed woman now. No longer was I wearing the disguise that had guided my life till then. I had left behind my "Best Disguise" and taken a chance at showing my true self to everyone. The journey had been difficult but I had managed it due to the support I got from my husband. My parents were not happy with my choice and my in-laws also felt that I was wasting my time but I didn't care.
I was finally free and nothing and no one could make me go back. I had been blessed when my husband suddenly realized his error but most women in our country are still wearing the disguise and forced to perfect their disguise to survive.
Are you also wearing a disguise you think is the "The Best Disguise"?
What is your story?
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.
PS: This is a fictional story and no way associated to any living person. All the incidents are fictional.
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