To the Aunty next door- can we be a team?
Meena Aunty sipped her tea while her mouth remained constantly busy yapping over the phone. She was busy sharing her latest gossip with Sudha Aunty and her eyes were busy peering out of the windows, as she tried to hide herself behind the curtain, lest someone accuse her of snooping.
How can they call it snooping? It's just looking around at what people in your neighborhood are up to and discussing this with your Aunty gang. That's totally harmless no. What else do you expect a 55 year old woman who is at home the whole day, and the only person living with her is her hubby (whose only interest in life is watching TV or sleeping) do? Does she bore herself to death or indulge in some harmless fun?
And it's not really fun- in a way she is taking up responsibility for all the young women around to make sure they do not toe the line. A moral brigade of some sort is needed right else the girls these days, ufff don’t ask. They think just because they are educated, go and make some money by working in a big office, they can do anything.
Like that hardly 22 year old chick Rita who wears such short skirts and shows her cleavage. If boys won't stare what will they do? And if she gets raped, how can you just blame the guy. Isn't she equally responsible for it? Serves her right when I complained to her mother who has now grounded her.
And then that new bahu of Sharmas - what does she think of herself? The other day I saw her in the mall without her sindoor and mangalsutra. And when I asked her casually during Durga Pooja "so when are you giving us the good news?" she just retorted back- not until another 3-4 years aunty. It's good that I told her mother in law about her dangerous plans and the possibility of their wish for a grandson remaining a unfulfilled one given the direction in which their beloved daughter in law was headed.
I see her sometimes now- eyes downcast and she looks at me scornfully. One day you will thank me I tell myself silently.
And then that new lady who moved in last month. What's her name. Reena Mathur. So strange. It's just she and her 10 year old daughter. I wonder where the man is. I tried many ways of asking her “is he abroad?" “is he in Delhi, moving soon?" but she silently smiles and doesn't answer. And the other day when curiosity got the better of me, I found her kid alone and asked her" papa kahan hai" she just looked at me bewildered as if she could not follow the language.
And behind her was Reena , eyes blazing. “Mrs Mishra I am her father and mother. That's all she has. If you are done now, we need to go”. I was tongue tied and stood there rooted to the spot. So she's a divorcee then. Ram ram. The kind of women in our society. This is heights. Such a bad influence on other young girls.
I was thinking about those days when I was young- such a sanskari and obedient bahu I was. I would always cover myself from head to toe, never ever take out my Mangal sutra and toe ring, keep my eyes downcast, listen to what my hubby said, keep my in laws happy. But these women. Ufff they are bringing disgrace to woman hood. I will definitely not bring this kind of bahu in my house. I can't wait for my dear son Rajiv to get married. He said he will be coming to India soon. When he is here I will make sure he meets a few ideal girls and we can get him engaged. The Kalra's and Malhotra's are too eager- their girls are beautiful, homely, they come with so much family wealth and Mr Kalra was hinting gifting a Merc to his son in law. What a perfect match this will be. I will looked upon by everyone in this society. I can't wait.
The shrill sound of the telephone jolts her back into reality. It's her beloved putter. She starts her usual banter but after a few minutes becomes serious. Her face then goes into an expression of shock, then anguish, then a pleading look and finally an expressionless face. There is sadness in her eyes. She hangs up after half an hour later and bursts into tears. Her hubby rushes to her and consoles her. She is too shocked to react. " Oji sunte ho, our son Rajiv is getting married. In a month, he has found a girl by himself. She is a Indian and Hindu thankfully but a different caste. That's ok, nowadays inter cater marriages are common even in India. As long as she is a Hindu it's fine” he says.
That's not all she is older to him by 5 years, a divorce who has a 5 year old son. Can you imagine that? Our boy wants to adopt her son. What is happening here? I am making efforts to find him a suitable match and he has fallen for this woman who has not one thing right. I tried my best to talk him out, reasoned out with him, scolded him, cried, used emotional blackmail too, went to the extent where I threatened him that I will sever all ties with him if he did not leave that woman but he seemed unperturbed.
He had made his decision he told me. He loves her and will accept her as she is, just as she has accepted him. He would be happy if we accept their marriage, if not he will wait for us to turn around. What will I do now? This news will be out soon and I will become the laughing stock here. All those girls like Ritu, Reena Mathur and Sharma’s bahu - how will I even look at their face? I will lose all my respect. It's like a cruel joke God has played on me.
Life has turned topsy turvy for Aunty. The woman who took it upon herself to be the moral brigade and trash young woman around how they should live their life piously was now on a sinking boat. Her beloved son had chosen a life partner who was all that his mother loathed- a young independent woman who was older than her beau, was a divorcee with a child. Was this a cruel joke or God's way of making her realize that times had changed. It was time to embrace the new change and join hands with the new women of today- women who wore shorts and skirts because they liked to wear those not to invite attention of men and certainly did not invite rape, women who married when they thought it was right, who did not forego their dreams and career just because they were married, women who took their own time to be sure before they had a kid, women who were divorced, single parents but that did not deter them from being happy.
Times had indeed changed but aunty refused to move on. She was still stuck in her generation where women listened to men, gave up their dreams and their only goal was keeping the family well fed and happy. Often we blame men for being sexist and not allow woman progress, but look around and you will find many women like the Aunty next door who are still stuck in their times and refuse to move on. They resist change and look down upon women who tread a different path, they try their best to sabotage their efforts, form judgments and make life difficult for other woman.
Sometimes as a neighbor, as an in law or as a relative. Not all real life stories will take such a dramatic turn as the one here, but I hope the aunties will wake up and stand by us for we need them on our side too.