A tiny speckle of golden sunlight was peering through the ebon darkness. The last of the stars faded into the predawn mist. The shining pinpoint grew brighter, more radiant than ever and engulfed the entirety of the cityscape in its vibrant embrace. The light transformed into a beacon and hovered above the shadowed city. The heavens moved towards the earth, as the rays of sunlight strengthened and the warmth of the sun streamed down in amber cascades, filling up the void of space around.
I wondered, if that was how the gentle and comforting touch of hope felt like.
All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am.
Today, after seventeen years of confinement, I was free—I was free from the shell of oppression and servitude; and now, I was going to tell my story.
“Mumma! Don’t you have to get ready? We’re going to get late for the event.”
The excited voice of my daughter rang through the living room, and it brought me back from my daze.
“I’m so excited for your press conference. Finally, your book is going to get launched.”
Neeha’s perky voice always made me smile.
“I’m going for a walk. And I’m taking Jon with me. I hope you got that dress that I asked you to?”
With that, Neeha dashed off, with Jon running at her heels.
The sight brought back some bitter memories–when Ravi used to make me run laps at our farmhouse, with little Neeha in my arms and his mutts at my heels. That was his way of seeking pleasure and teaching me a lesson, whenever I failed to comply with his classy standards of aristocracy.
Shaking myself free from the fumes of my pungent past, I stepped over the threshold of a welcoming future and made my way towards my room. After a quick shower, I dried myself, and got ready for the event. As I looked myself over in the mirror, I noticed the faint—almost healing scars, and indigo bruises on my pale skin.
These are your battle scars. You should be proud of them.
Six months back, Ravi had returned home in a drunken state from his late night club parties, as usual. Bereft of his senses and bearings as he was, he knocked at the maid’s cottage door. Sita had opened the door only to find her employer in a mullered state. In a frenzy, she tried to run past him but Ravi got hold of her. Next, I heard a blood curdling scream.
As I reached the hall downstairs, I saw a bloodied Sita walking with heavy footsteps. Her torn and tattered clothes said it all. I dashed to her cottage to find Ravi lying in a pool of crimson liquid which looked like blood in the dim light.
As I saw a few neighbouring lights flickering into existence, I gathered my thoughts together and decided what to do.
They must have heard his scream.
With just a few minutes to spare till the police arrived, I sent Sita with some cash that I had and went back upstairs to a sleeping Neeha.
That was when I heard the siren and then, everything else was a blur. These scars were the remains of the days in prison, the reminders of the vigorous hours of interrogation.
I had resigned to my fate, until one day last week, when Sita turned up as a witness. That was when I sniffed the fresh air again.
Today, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a woman who has conquered her battles; and some scars–which adorned the shining armour of her skin like bronze medallions.
“Mumma! I’m back! Are you ready yet? Oh, wow. You look stunning! Hey, Jon! C’mon, boy, let us take a selfie together.”
“Get ready soon, Neeha. Now, you are going to get us late.”
“Come on, boy! Let us get you some nice breakfast.”
Jon was Ravi’s favourite labrador; and he was probably the only one who missed Ravi the most. Sometimes, at night I found him brooding at the door with sad eyes, as if waiting for an unknown presence.
I shook out some Pedigree biscuits into Jon’s tray. The gentle clattering sounds made Jon wag his tail in delight. They were his favourite snacks.
“Mumma! Where’s my new dress? I can’t seem to find it!”
I entered Neeha’s room to find it cluttered with dresses and shoes. As I heaved an exasperated sigh, she gave me an incredulous look.
I was still not used to this new house, and locality; but Neeha suggested that we move in to this place.
A new place will help, Mumma.
That’s what she said and we moved here.
It was just a couple of kilometers from her college and the neighbours were warm and welcoming. She had even made some friends here—she was definitely happy.
I searched through the heap of clothes, and unearthed the dress. Neeha gave me a sheepish grin, and mouthed a ‘sorry’, as I looked at her smugly.
Once she was done getting ready, we dropped Jon with one of our neighbours and headed for the hired cab which had been idling around the corner of our street. With each step, my anxiety took another level, and Neeha, without a question felt it in my gait.
As soon as we had taken our seats, Neeha took my hand and gave it a gentle reassuring squeeze.
“Everything’s going to be alright, Mumma.”
She smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but smile. A lone teardrop glistened in her grey eye.
The tyres screeched through the city streets and with that I dropped off the cloak of my past which had the power to encumber my lofty flight awaiting me.
My flight came to a temporary halt and I found myself in front of a tall building. We got out of the car and made our way across the airy expanse of the lobby to the conference room which had been grandly decorated for my welcome. The past which I had shed, had found its way in scraps into this hall as well–in the form of long lost in-laws, who had renounced their relations with me.
I no longer belong with them.
I looked past them to find eager smiling faces with bouquets in their hands.
As per my request, the organizers had invited Sita’s family. I could see the unmistakable show of faith, and gratitude on their faces which had a beckoning warmth to it.
I took Neeha’s hand, and we climbed the steps to the stage together. As we took our seats, she flashed me a confident smile just before the waves of questions drowned me.
It is going to be a long day.
I reminded myself, and fought through the relentless deluge of questions aimed at me. My past, like a battering ram, threatened to break through my fortifications. But little did it know that my walls were as good as viscous liquids which shielded me good enough.
After three grueling hours of questionnaire, the reporters felt satiated; and now, as no new hands shot up, we advanced for the book launch, and signing session. With flashing cameras, and exchanging embraces, I almost forgot about the vile lurking presence of my in-laws.
I know what they want.
One of them walked up to me with a book in hand. I took the book from him, and scribbled a note.
Don’t worry. You are safe.
Ravi had not been the only one with a spoilt lifestyle in his family.
I gave him the book back and walked towards Neeha.
After a fancy buffet, we finally wound our way through the deserted city roads in the cab.
It was a long day. Indeed.
“Mumma, why did you write that?”
“I saw you. How can you forgive them after what they did to you?”
“Forgiveness is the way to peace, sweetheart. Besides, what I did was an act of kindness–a final act of mercy.”
I rolled down the window to let the cool night air beat my face, and dust off any lingering scent of my past. The creamy moonlight cascaded down, and illuminated the shadowy sea of buildings in an aura of silvered beauty.
Under the gentle spotlights of stars, in their twinkling secrecy, my mind birthed soft bubble dreams amidst the moonbeam pasture lands of the urban landscape. I discarded my old skin, which was once starched flat of dreams. With butterfly fingers, I seized new dreams, and my heart danced to the ineffable beauty of the rhapsodic sapphire night. Silver, and blue—melted into one, as if to say that, you can shine too, no matter what.
Out yonder, beyond the sable silhouettes of the looming buildings, lay a world of savoury colours.
Rippling, the kaleidoscopic sky wafted into evanescent dreams.
Washed, with the nightscape’s sublime perfume, I swam towards unknown horizons of claret curtains; and carrying turquoise wishes upon my lips, I drifted into a sapphire sky, not blue.