Where Is My Re­ward?

It’s in the do­ing.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Jyothi Vinod

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?

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