I am Trisha Roy Barman (name changed). Sitting by the window of my office of Smiley, an old age home on a gloomy day, I am just wondering what the future holds for me. I can see the old, withered Mr. Sen walking slowly up to the gate. He has come to meet his schizophreniac wife.
Now to begin with the beginning of my story, I was born in a middle class family in Kolkata. Ours was a large family. I was the youngest of the siblings, therefore a bit pampered.
I was never interested in studies and life in the days gone by, was not as competitive as it is now. Even if one failed to excel in studies, that was not the end of the world. I was admitted in a very well-known school though by my late father. I was the darling of my parents as well as my siblings.
I find it hard to understand this that despite my utter come-easy-go-easy kind of attitude to education and life in general, I found myself in South Calcutta Girls’ College by the late seventies of the last century! By the way, I was always very popular with my family, friends and relatives. I still remember the various contests I would take part in, during my school days and I never returned empty handed. Two of my favourite athletic events were the 100-Metre and the 200-Metre Dash. I was also an outstanding sports girl and regularly played games like Kho Kho and Kabadi for my college team.
My teachers were also very fond of me. Just thinking of those good-hearts like Lovelydi, Tanushreedi and so on, makes me wistful and want to relive those days.
I was pursuing Honours in Political Science at that time in the early eighties and I still remember a friend called, Mitali. We were very good friends. Things were different in those days and the rivalry among the students, was yet to reach the frenzied scale or level, it has of late. Mitali was a good sportsgirl. There was always a healthy competition between the two of us regarding the Best All-Round Sports Woman in the college. I somehow always managed to pique her in the race for top honours. While I was in the B.A. final year, Mitali got selected from our college to play for the state Kho Kho team on the basis of the quota system. I didn't even bother because she had no other career options or opportunities, while I dreamt of a sunshiny future. I was the queen of all I surveyed.
It was exactly at around this time Tarun came to my life. Tall, lanky and fun-loving, Tarun was like a breath of fresh air in my otherwise tedious, unhappening life. I fell for him, his charm head over heels. So when there was a very enticing marriage proposal for me, which I denied, there was a hue and cry in the family. Everyone came to know about Tarun then and the rest, as they say, was history. To cut a long story short, I married Tarun against the combined wishes of my family.
Our married life was as interesting in the yearly years as was our whirlwind love affair. My family also came to accept him subsequently and all seemed well and predestined at that time. I was just over the moon to be married to the man I loved.
In due course of time, Priya, our only child was born. My cup of happiness was filled to the brim with her birth. She was the cutest child anyone could have. I devoted all my time and energy to raising her, to being the best mother of the world. I bathed her, clothed her, fed her and thanked God for sending her to my life. Those were the days of my life!
Now, on hindsight, I realize that people I really cared for, were never meant to be mine in the first place. My father, the brothers, my hubby Tarun, they all came to my life like a puff of perfume, only to vanish after a short while. My father, brothers - they left me due to old age or othe issues related to diseases. Tarun left me due to my sheer misfortune. The misunderstanding between us by then, had reached a level of Himalayan proportions. I left him. Though Priya was married by then, she preferred to side with her father. There were days when I felt that this world is not for people like me. I genuinely came to believe that all relationships hinge on self- gratification and interest.
Anyway, I started looking for a job at around the time when Tarun was receeding far and far away from me. There must be a power called God or call it the merits of my past Karma, I landed up with the job of a Matron for a leading residential school away from Kolkata. The previous night I informed Tarun about my decision to free him of all his promised duties and obligations. He was already a stranger in my life, so he didn't even bother to protest. Hell is preferable, I guess, to having a home under an evil spell. He reached me at the school and told me, while taking leave, that he loved the look of it. Besides, the door of our, sorry, of his home would always be open for me.
That is how Tarun and Priya, left me to the lurches, to fend for myself.
I have learnt a lot about the ways of the world in the last 10 years, staying by myself. Nothing about family and school politics, human behaviour and relationships amazes me any more. I tendered in my resignation, wherever I found myself being forced to compromise with the highhandedness of the authorities. My present working place is my fourth in the last four years. For me, nothing matters more than self-dignity and respect. I have always been a strong-principled woman, after all.
So, in my early sixties, when the rest of the women my age or older, are tucked under the love and protection of their near and dear ones, I am fighting my own battle. I will not budge an inch from my stance on Life, even if loneliness and frustration are going to be my lifelong companions as a result. There is a God and whatever He has designed for me, I will accept it as my fate, uncomplainingly.
It is time for me to get up. You know, dear reader, only one wish has kept me focused and going all these years. One day I will own an Old Age Home like the one I am employed in right now. I will make sure that my last days in the Home will be as fun-filled as my school days and far better than the lot of the inmates here, God willing. As The lights of Smiley come on to life, I find Mr. Sen leading his wife gently out of her room. The tender hope and love on his face, is so contagious. I look down at them admiringly and start praying for the wellbeing of the couple.