It is not easy to share a flat with two girls who are 10 years younger than you. Not because they tend to take advantage of you or get their boyfriends over or they drink alcohol but maybe because they earn more. Suddenly I received a blow from behind and hit the grill that was near the door, the physical pain did not bother me so much as much I was emotionally hurt. I had a good marriage but my husband received an offer to work abroad that he could not turn down, in short, he chose money over me and I chose self-respect. What would I do if I go with him? I would not get much work there as I did translations from Gujrathi to Marathi. That too written translations as I cannot really converse in Gujrathi. We had already talked about this before getting married, he had promised me that we will stay in India. He broke the promise. I could not move back with my parents and burden them. It’s not like the old times that people might boycott you but people ask questions and they tend to give you the looks I didn’t want to put my parents through all that. So I decided to move out of the city that we lived in.
I am good at my work but won’t really call myself the smartest of the lot. I am beautiful, but that doesn’t mean I would be with another man for his money when I am not divorced. What I am ok with is using other women’s money so that at least my character isn’t questioned.
My station arrived, I didn’t even have to move a muscle, one push and I was out on the platform, the second blow was in my stomach that’s something that I did mind. I had to use the washroom. Before leaving the office I usually use the washroom but nowadays before I leave the local train I generally feel the need to go again. Seems it must be my growing age. Now on my way home, there is no clean washroom that I can go to, also once I reach home the two young girls might not even hear the doorbell, even if they do they are going to argue about who’s turn it is to open the door. This will definitely waste a minute. That minute is so important for my bladder which they won’t understand till they cross their 40’s. Nowadays just like my bladder control has diminished so has my ability to control my urine. The feeling of getting old is the worst. My marriage wasn’t really a success and I don’t have any kids as well, I can’t even go back to my parents as I would only make them unhappy. So now it’s just me and these two girls. That’s all that I have in life. We have a decent house that has all the amenities like TV, fridge wardrobes, beds, sofas, etc. But I haven’t bought any of them. I somehow manage to pay a small monthly rent for all the rest the girls take care of. I feel really ashamed sometimes. I would have asked my husband for a loan but now he is in a live-in relationship with another woman. And now with them together I can’t even let him see me vulnerable.
Aah I am almost here in the parking but it’s still 6 floors to climb, unfortunately, the elevator broke down yesterday. At least I won’t have to wait that extra minute as I have the keys to the flat. The girls have gone out for a trip with their friends from the society. I start to look for the key in my purse, but can’t seem to find it, I always make sure the key is in the same section of my purse just to keep it safe. The girls always leave their stuff outside in the house. I always feel burdened by their favors. I try to lighten my burden by doing chores around the house like cleaning up, cooking, laundry, but the feeling still stays. They could actually hire someone like me for a 24hr job at their house and even I am aware of this fact, they can afford it. I still can’t find the keys. Where did it go? M sure it was here. Because I locked the door in the morning on my way to the office. And I don’t remember taking it out after that. I had kept my purse safely in my drawer in the office too. Panic swell within me. On top of this, the bladder was also not helping. I decided that’s it I have to find the keys first. The neighbours’ set was out of the question too as they had gone out with the girls. What should I do??
It’s been almost an hour now. I haven’t come up with anything yet. Where can I have lost it? Was it on the local trains? Have I gotten so old now that I can’t even remember so much? My mind was racing. What if the girls come early? Omg, what will I tell them? I can’t lose the keys like this. It felt as if I had burned the house down that I don’t even own. When I was six I had gone to stay at my uncle’s place, he had just bought a new house in Pune. For us, it was like a mansion. None of us had ever been able to afford such a big place in my whole family. We used to play around the house. One day while we were playing I was running ahead and my brother was trying to catch me. I suddenly turned around to see if Mihir was chasing me and I bumped into the television. A loud bang and the television fell on the floor. Followed by a whole lot of silence. I can’t even remember me crying, I was stunned I couldn’t even remember hearing a word. My mom was so scared of how my uncle would react. All I remember is my father telling my uncle he will pay for the damage. After that, I remember my father started working overtime. He used to come home late, my mother would feed me and tuck me in and wait for my father to come and eat together. In spite of my mom putting me to bed, I couldn’t fall asleep for all the days that my father did late nights. In the morning when dad left for work I would hug my mom and cry feeling apologetic. I can feel the same feeling creep in right now. And it’s been years since I felt like this. I had never apologised to my parents for that mistake. My mom always said, “the burden of favours is always too much to repay. I hope you understand someday”. I wanted to prove her wrong. This time I would ask for forgiveness. I wanted to do something so out of the world for them that the favours would seem repaid. I would pay for the duplicate keys and all the sets that would be my penance. After all, I am the eldest. It has to be my responsibility.
My stomach has started to kill me now. But what if I leave and the girls come back? They are returning tonight itself. It’s been two hours since I arrived. I checked my watch omg it’s half-past nine already. All I can think of is the public toilet nearby. But I can’t leave now because if they come and I am nowhere to be seen and the door locked, I’m sure they will worry as I never go anywhere except the house and my office. Vishakha had also asked me “you will be here when we come back right??” They don’t have the keys, they carry but sometimes they forget to take it. It’s ok because I am always home. If I make them wait outside their own house it won’t be good. They might think that I disappeared. And if they decide to go and wait at Mrs. Shah’s house I will have to give them the news in front of her that I lost my key. It’s better I wait here once they arrive I will tell them and make them wait here.. or should I quickly get the key maker? What if he breaks the latch, the house is a rental and I haven’t even given any deposit. That’s a big NO.
I started down the stairs. I tried to tell my mind that I don’t have to go, but the Samosa that I had at Mr. Surve’s sendoff is making my stomach upset. The worst has come true now it’s not just pee now I have to empty my stomach too. I crossed the road, and I took out 5 rupees from my purse. They must keep the toilets clean as they charge money I thought, also at the same time praying that the girls should not come back before I return. I entered the toilet and saw that there was a big queue. I just can’t put the finger on how the time went and my turn to use the washroom came and ahh finally I felt free. My knees were hurting badly as turning forty seems to have taken its toll on me, also this was the 12th or 13th floor that I had to climb in the whole day. Unfortunately, my office is also on the third floor and has to climb up and down a few times there too. By the end of the day, I get really tired. I Strained my ears to listen if I could hear anyone or anything, but our building still seemed quiet. I felt relieved.
I climbed to our floor and sat on the staircase. I didn’t feel quite comfortable so I looked and to my surprise the door of our flat was open. So Vishakha had taken the keys, I thought. Relieved, I entered and started taking out the snacks that I had got for the girls. And I was shocked to see that the television was gone, so was Pallavi’s laptop which usually is kept on the couch. The cupboards were wide open. I had saved some gold for the girls it was also gone. The drawer in Pallavi’s wardrobe was empty. Vishakha’s purse was gone, my feet went cold and the snacks fell on d floor. I turned back to see Vishakha, Pallavi, Mrs.Shah all standing in the door all of them speechless, me too. It was as if not just the things but my spine was stolen too. I was again speechless. Trust me I really wanted to apologise this time!!
Translation: Mrunmayee Bhave