The weather today was perfect and Sudha thought of staying at home and not going to work. Actually it was vacation time at the small village school where she worked but Sudha went there each and every day planning with volunteers who were there doing their projects, internships etc. She absolutely loved her work and the satisfaction it gave her to be able to contribute a miniscule amount to a greater cause. Sudha lived alone in this small hill town. She was a practical lady and never complained or cribbed about things. She had chosen the work and the place and also the decision to be here far from her family managing life on her own. After passing out from a premier Institute, she had offers from multi nationals and biggest names in the country but her plans were different – she wanted to make a difference!
Enjoying a relaxed and lazy morning Sudha wanted the day to remain like this for the next twenty four hours. Just as she was about to switch off her mobile phone it started ringing…..It was a call from her mother – she had to pick it up. There was urgency in her mother’s voice – she wanted her to come home as early as possible. Sudha did not waste time asking useless questions as she was sure that her mother would never ask her to come back for anything trivial. She packed her backpack, called up a colleague, informed the maid and left for the bus stand. The earliest available bus was after an hour. Things at the bus stand were warming up for the day…..she badly needed a cup of hot coffee or tea to unwind….. A small kiosk was just about opening and Sudha grabbed the opportunity of becoming their first customer by ordering a cup of tea and biscuits. They tasted divine… “Simple pleasures do not cost much”, thought Sudha. She also bought the day’s newspaper and some magazines for the hour she had had to spend waiting and it really did pass fast, she realized as much on hearing the shrill horn of the bus. Sudha was the first one here too and she quickly made her way inside and others started following fast. “People can be so exact in their estimate of time”, she mused “perhaps frequent travelers….”
Sudha slept through most of her six hour journey. She never ate while traveling by road. The journey was nearing completion as she could smell her town.
The bus maneuvered its way through the town and finally screeched to a halt at the bus stand. Sudha disembarked and headed towards an auto rickshaw to take her home. Without much haggling, as is usually the case, she with her bag made herself comfortable on the rear seat. It took her another twenty minutes to reach home. Her heartbeat became faster as she approached. After paying the auto, she rang the bell. Her daschund, Chotu, was the first one to greet her as her mother opened the door. Petting, stroking and satisfying him Sudha moved in. She still was very eager to know why she was called home all of a sudden. No one else in the house seemed as eager to tell her, though…. Just then she saw her brother, Salil, who was settled in America, coming out of the bathroom. “So, this was the big surprise waiting for me!” Sudha was delighted. Her brother gave her a warm hug and sat with his cup of tea at the dining table. “But Bhaiya, you never mentioned this visit in your last mail” Sudha asked Salil as she took her cup from the tray. “Actually it was a spontaneous decision and I wanted to surprise you.” Sudha found it a little odd….you don’t come from America just like that….unplanned…anyway….
“How’s your work?” Salil posed a casual question. “Good, bhaiya, my dreams are taking shape. I like what I do and I’m sure that I’ll be able to make a difference soon” Sudha replied, sipping the tasty home made tea. “I have decided to take the three of you to America along with me after selling this house. I have found a buyer who’s ready to pay a good sum for this old house. The tickets are for Sunday, so there’s just about a week to do the needful. I had told this to Ma some weeks back and in the mean time she has done a lot that needs to be done. So, you complete your resignation and other formalities and inform all concerned of your decision.” Sudha was not able to hear clearly after this …… “crash” was the sound that kept ringing in her years…a crash of broken dreams…..she was not asked, not consulted…not taken into confidence while her future was being decided by her family. She loved all of them but she had a life of her own. She always thought that her family respected her decisions as they let her pursue her dream but today the picture was different. Sudha was dumbfounded. She could not argue…could not protest. She needed time – time with herself, for herself. She went into her room with Chotu who she felt understood her the most.
She did not want to be a rebel – her family meant a lot for her. But she needed to be respected…her line of thinking appreciated and above all not being taken for granted. In all this pain and anguish she spent a few hours and then emerged out of the room, in control and confident. She had her backpack on her shoulder and as she came out she announced, “I’m returning by the evening bus. I need to live my life. I love and respect you all very much but I have made a commitment to myself which I cannot break midway. I will take my dream to where it is headed to and when I feel I have achieved what I set out to I will come to America, Bhaiya.” Sudha hugged her parents and brother, stroked Chotu’s neck and moved out of the front door.