Chandrakala- A short story
Meera sat on her bed and stared out of the window. This was ‘her’ time, at the end of the day. It was what had kept her going the past several years when she managed home and family with a demanding job. However, since she quit her job a few months ago, to everybody else keeping her ‘me’ time seemed like a ritual that she was bent on following, rather than a necessity. After all, she had the entire day to herself and even had a full-time domestic help, her children too were old enough to manage themselves and she had the most understanding husband. What was the need for ‘me’ time?
It was pitch black outside. There was not a single star in the sky on which she could make a wish or whose twinkle could raise her sinking spirits. Grey clouds covered the sky.
A gentle breeze blew, touching her temples. Momentarily, she felt soothed. She sighed unconsciously. What was it that was weighing her down? She couldn’t pin it. It wasn’t the change of country. She actually liked it here. She had never thought she would, but she did. She enjoyed the rains, the freshness in the air and the smell of the soil after the rains. She watched the squirrels in amazement during her morning walk and she loved stopping over at the nearby stand-in tea stalls where she and Aarnav had their morning tea over the week-ends; just like the good-old college days.
She was happy with the new discipline they had started over the last few days- of taking a stroll around the building after dinner and then sitting on the parapet wall; again like the old times, before they had tied the knot. Somewhere… between those times and now, they had gotten busy raising the children, making their mark in their careers and building a life from scratch, that there hadn’t been much time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Fortunately there hadn’t been too many teething issues with her teens.
Yet, her shoulders ached and her neck felt stiff. She hadn’t been able to go to the gym due to the nagging pain. After a week, when the painkillers had brought no relief, she had visited the doctor who confirmed that the pain was due to stress.
The beating of drums outside, broke the silence of the night. It was the tenth day of Ganesh Chathurthi when the child God (Ganesha) with the elephant head, unconditionally loved by one and all in Maharashtra would be immersed. She wondered if Ganeshji had been angry with her and Aarnav, for not taking part in the festivities. She wouldn’t blame Him if He was. They had moved to His city and had been well taken care of but they hadn’t made an attempt to visit him during the ten day festival. It hadn’t been her fault, Meera thought; giving reason for the miss just in case He was listening. For the first five days, Aarnav had been travelling and the next four days had gone in him recovering from the travel. He hadn’t sounded this dull before. She knew it couldn’t be the job. She and Aarnav had grown in their respective careers crossing a number of hurdles and only knew too well that as long as one is willing to work and is blessed with health, there was nothing to worry on the career front. Yet, there was something bothering him these days and when they had tried to talk about it, it had only resulted in a rift between them. While she knew they would get through this just like every other hurdle they had crossed together, it was taking a toll on them.
Meera brushed the rebel tear that rolled down her cheek. She wondered what the girls’ thought of all that had been happening, during the last few months. ‘They had impressionable minds of their own and only the future would tell how they interpreted the current happenings.’ She could only hope they would understand one day and not judge her or Aarnav wrongly.
The music outside grew louder. Smokes of red and orange color could be seen in the space between the high-rise buildings in her vicinity. She imagined Laxmi, her maid dancing on the streets in the nine-yard sari she had told her of, the dangling ear-rings with pearl drops and the Maharashtrian nose-ring she had shown her a picture of, and despite the storm brewing within her, Meera couldn’t help smiling. No matter what the neighbors felt, Meera was happy she had a ‘happy’ maid, one who knew how to live life to the fullest.
Meera thought back of happier times, when she had not a care in the world; when her mother was alive. It had been twelve years since she had gone. And though her absence didn’t hurt that much now, she missed her presence in testing times such as these. When mom had been there, life had seemed easier. All she had to do was tell her mother what the problem was, and it miraculously disappeared. Meera had done it all her life, even after the kids until that fateful New Year’s Day in 2006. Since then she had learnt it the hard way to manage life on her own; with the help of Aarnav ofcourse. And twelve years hence, when she thought they had battled it all, God was testing them again.
Looking up at the starless skies, she hoped for an answer. Nature had always been kind to her. It had mothered her, when her own mother had left without a warning. As she continued to look up earnestly, the heavens seemed to hear and streaks of dark gray clouds inched away… slowly; baring a round, creamy white moon.
There she appeared, in all her glory, a veiled beauty – Chandrakala! It was her mother’s name. She was looking at her from above. It had the same pacifying effect on her as her mum always had.
“Watch me glowing despite the darkness around me. If I am the moon, are you’ll not a part of me; bits of me, broken bits of the moon? Glow my darling. I know you can. I know you will.”
A persistent knock on the door brought Meera back to the present. Meera looked at the clock. It was 11 p.m. The children were asleep. She had checked in on them before shutting the bed-room door. Aarnav was out of town and would only return the next day. The knock continued with relentless persistence; each knock on the door now no longer felt like it was knocking her core.
“Yes papa?” she said, calm, no sign of irritation.
Dad had moved in with Meera and her family, since they moved to the city. As of today, they would complete three months. It hadn’t been easy managing dad. He hadn’t taken ageing easily and his inability seemed to be engulfing the entire family.
“Don’t lock the door. Keep it open. I am scared.” dad replied, oblivious to the stress she felt on account of him. Meera, gently placed her hand on her dad’s and led him back to his room. “Go to sleep papa. I am in the next room. I’ll come when you need me. All you need to do is call.”
Placing the blanket over dad, Meera returned to her room and left the door slightly ajar.
She had found her answer. She had raised two children. It was time to raise the third.
A waft of breeze blew, blowing the white netted curtains in her room and she saw the moon up there again. It looked like it was smiling now.
She was up there and Meera was a bit of her. And dad…he had basked in the same soft light- believing it would never go away.
It would hurt her mother to see him hurt.
‘Chandrakala!’ she mused.
This is my first attempt at story-writing. Any resemblance to a person, dead or alive, is purely incidental.
Would love to hear your feedback on the story in terms of writing, language etc. Any constructive criticism is more than welcome 🙂
*Chandrakala means moon-beam. This story was written for the anthology, Broken Bits of the Moon, conceptualized by Mr. NajeebSa.
I dedicate this story to my mother Mrs. Chandrakala.
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