The dual life of an Indian woman

Tracing the edges of her cuppa, she said: I am tired of living this dual life.

Her favourite cafe was bustling with life and conversations.

The friend promptly replied: Don’t almost all Indian women lead dual lives?

It was a simple statement but it made something stir within her. Why is that so? Why indeed?

She thought of every time she had lied at home about her location and the company she kept. Was she ashamed of her friends or the fact that she liked an occasional drink? No. Could she talk about it at home? No.

As she struggled to fathom the phenomenon that was making her brain matter swirl, visuals of Safeena pleading to her parents conjured up in her mind. That Gully Boy scene was everything she used to dread every time she lied. What if she got into trouble? Would she be able to call home for help without risking the end of her dual life? Was that something she can afford to do? Why did her independence have to come at such a cost? Even a rebel like Safeena was afraid. How could she be not?

She wondered if she wanted to keep the channels of communication open at home. Even Safeena had cried the same in the movie: I don’t want to lie to you, but would you let me live my life if I spoke the truth? All Safeena wanted was their trust and support. But it would never come by.

What were they afraid of, she wondered. Why keep me so safe that it feels like suffocation? Who would that help? Wasn’t it their one true job to prepare her for the life outside the confines of her home? To make her strong enough to fight and live and overcome? To build her life as her own? How would she ever do that if all her life goes by living a dual life? How would she ever love?

The cafe was quaint and in the time between her friend’s pronouncement and stepping out for a call, she thought it all out. Though she couldn’t change her present, she vowed to ensure her future would be hers.

She typed, ‘Don’t ever make me feel the need to lie to you’, and pressed send. A smile spread across her face as a heart bubbled on the screen.

“I hate getting work calls after hours. Ugh! Do you still want that pastry?”

“Oh, one Devil’s Delight, please.”

From Dadar, to Love

“Ugh, Central Railway, why do you hate me so much?” Her day began and ended muttering this, on most days. It was a miracle if she ever got a train on time, without dragging her feet across the many foot over-bridges of Dadar. An old lady had once told her, “You may not like your office much but do ensure it’s on the same suburban line as your house.” Alas, fate had something else planned. Her heels were meant to be scuffed shuttling between the jurisdictions of Central and Western Railway.

Today was no different, she thought.

As usual, she made her way to Platform 1 at Dadar, hoping to catch a fast local to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. Her saree was all tucked in perfect places, bag intimately close. Her experience of over 30 years was not for nothing! It was early morning on a Sunday and crowds were meant to be less. She knew better to be happy about it though. It was February 3, 2019, and the paper she presently clutched in her hand read in bold, ‘Delisle Bridge to go off tracks today’. No trains were to be available between Churchgate and Dadar till 9 am, at least.

It seemed obvious that the sister railway would chip in and more trains would be run between Dadar and CSMT for the crowd headed towards SoBo. It was the day of the pride march after all! She attended it every single year. Always went to the spot hours early to walk around, patiently observe as events unfolded, history made. She had also planned to sneak a few moments at the newly unveiled revamped Flora Fountain today. “Oh, I have so much to do. Will the train come already?!”

Note: The Pride March was actually on 2nd February, I have changed it here because this is a fictitious tale.

On her command, a Bombardier rake made its way through from the CSMT side. “Aha! So, CR is indeed in a helping mood today! At least I will get a window seat now,” she exclaimed in her head. The train halted and along with a few dozen others, she made her way in. There was no shoving and swearing, a pretty rare sight. As she placed herself by the window, the woman on the opposite seat smiled. At her and in life, she thought, for the beads in the stranger’s necklace reflected the seven shades of her saree’s pallu.

Her reverie was broken by a bubbly young woman who entered the compartment in a hurry but was standing by the pole. “Ah, another one of those couples,” she thought as she peered to look at her companion. As the young couple chattered their heart out, she engrossed herself in her half-read paper. Just as the train was about to pull out though, the young woman jumped out on the platform, prompting the older one to look. Through the window, she saw her give him a hug and jump back in a second later. “Oh, you might be precious, but you ain’t worth missing a train for, boy!”

As the train started its journey to the southern end of the trail, he poked his hand in and handed her a piece of paper. She looked at it and smiled. Goodbyes were expressed in haste as the train gathered speed. The smile stretching along the curve, touching her either hoops. She curled and tucked the lone lock behind her ear, took a deep breath and unfolded his heart. “Why is she taking so long to read? Is his handwriting too bad? Is it so unbelievable that she is re-reading it many times?” Her curiosity grew as the young woman showed no concrete emotion.

Oblivious to the staring, the young woman threw her head back, crumpling the paper in her hand. She let out a sigh through closed eyes and muttered, “Oh damn”. By the window, a heart leapt and fluttered. “History repeats itself in mysterious ways in the city of dreams,” she thought, her memories of being courted fading to the red cheeks of the young ‘un, even as a bridge was being dismantled a few kilometre tracks away. The city was learning new definitions of affection, holding love up with pride.

Hearing a bleep she looked down, smiling at her text. Twenty-five years later, she still made her heart skip a beat with a simple, ‘I love you’. As she dwelled on her memories, her feet worked on their own accord, making her move across the concourse towards the subway. She is stopped by a ticket checker, signalling her to show the ticket. “I have it in the UTS app, wait a minute,” she mutters diving into her phone, stopping just a second to steal a glimpse of a retrofitted rake being pulled onto the Harbour Line platform, remembering the day she had bumped into her…

Old was making way for the new.