Shanti opened the door.
“Aunty”, the neighbour said. “Please have dinner at our place tomorrow. We have Ganesh pooja, and we need your blessings.”
Shanti has earned a lot of respect because of her simple nature, calm demeanour and warm conduct. Both her sons are married now. One is settled in Bangalore, and the other in Chandigarh. Shanti keeps shuttling between the 2 residences depending on who needs her more.
Shanti is in Chandigarh these days. Her husband, Randheer, is also in Chandigarh with the family. Randheer has not been keeping well for last few months, owing to his age and lifestyle. Shanti is still quite active; she is 12 years younger to Randheer. When they got married, she was 18. Since then, she has been taking care of Randheer, his family and kids. Last few days of Shanti have solely been dedicated to Randheer, making arrangements for his strict dietary requirements as well as his food cravings within the dietary restrictions and accompanying him for walks, hospital visits, etc.
Since morning, Randheer has been rather silent. He had his breakfast and wanted to rest a bit. Shanti, meanwhile, was busy with other work. She goes in to check if he needs something. “Would you like to have some milk or sprouts?”, she asks. He doesn’t respond. She goes closer and tries to move him. “Noooooooooooo”, she screams. His son comes running to the room. She starts crying and hugs her son. “He has left us alone.”, she shrieks.
Five days later, after all the rituals are done and the visitors have gone, she moves in her room. She is lying on the bed; her eyes are hurting as she has been crying all day for last 5 days. There is no one in the room. She sleeps for 2 hours, and feels quite fresh when she wakes up.
Somehow, she can’t stop smiling. A part of her wants to madly indulge in the dance of liberation. She is free, from the shackles of slavery and insult. No one is going to abuse her anymore. Her relationship with Randheer was never of companionship. There was no love. She was nothing more than a caretaker and a punching bag for him. He is gone now.
For the world, she is a devastated widow. There is a world inside her where she always dreamt of being free, of living her own life and of not serving someone endlessly; where she wanted to be treated as a human and not as a doormat. In her real and authentic world, she is finally free to live her own life.