Where Is My Reward?
It’s in the doing.
asudha stopped short on the last stair, transfixed by the scene. A woman in her sixties was standing behind a younger woman engrossed in stirring a pot on the stove. For heaven’s sake, was she really going to hold the lighted matchstick to the sari of the unsuspecting young woman? Loud music played in the background. Suddenly a young woman in a bikini jumped into a blue ocean, and the jingle of a cold drink advertisement flung Vasudha back into her living room, and she watched her mother-in-law heave out of the cosy armchair to get a drink of cold water.
“That Sona brought no dowry and can’t have children either – but she is a beautiful and hard working girl. Her mother-in-law is trying to get rid of her for a more promising alliance,” she informed Vasudha, who was always too busy watching the daily soaps.
Turning her eyes from the television she said, “Ma, I’ll be going out to the Valli Silk House to pay our monthly instalment. I’ll take the spare key with me. Have your lunch if I am late. Do we need anything else?” asked Vasudha. No reply was forthcoming as ma was back in Sona’s kitchen watching the gory progress of flames. Vasudha slipped out silently and latched the gate behind her, grateful for the quiet afternoon street and the red carpet of Gulmohar flowers that gave it a festive look.
She hurried on as the amplified shrieks of the unfortunate Sona coming from other houses knifed the silent afternoon. Suffering and slogging, without any appreciation or acknowledgement, always smiling and uncomplaining the favourite telly heroine was an invisible benchmark the neighbourhood women compared with their daughters-in-law. Vasudha was beginning to dislike all the Sonas of the world. Rewarded by more slaps, kicks and taunts, they shed copious tears (mind you, their make-up magically intact), and standing before an idol praying pitifully for deliverance from misery.
Why was the world always glorifying women who worked without the desire for reward? Was it a clever ploy to get work done for free?or provide a sure entry for women into heaven? Vasudha almost stumbled upon a manhole in frustration. It was nice to be acknowledged and appreciated. Even a smile bestowed was reward enough. But she felt vaguely uncomfortable when she realised she was a Sona too. For as long as she could remember she had worked hard at everything in her life.
She hopped onto the waiting bus and sighed as she sat down. Every month on the first Friday she made this trip to the shop in K. R. Market. In that way she and her mother-in-law were assured of new silk saris around Deepavali – their only ones for the year. The conductor was a tired young woman who was on the phone cajoling someone (her child in all possibility) to eat. When Vasudha smiled sympathetically, she was rewarded by a monologue on the unfairness of duty hours and the indecency of male commuters.
bus filled up slowly. The driver cranked the gears noisily and the bus jerked forward. Vasudha looked out of the window. Her knotted skein of thought unravelled as the warm breeze fanned her face. Outside, the sight of women going about their chores set her thinking about how her life had become a smoothly running machine of housework. She had been 18 when she married the ‘young, educated government employee’ as her mother had referred to
Why was the world always glorifying women who worked without the desire for reward? Was it a clever ploy to get work done for free? Or provide a sure entry for women into heaven?