She heard the car pull up. She heard his footsteps as he approached her room. She hurriedly put on her bra and a worn out kurta. A dependable wife. A doting mother. That was her refuge from desire. She caught a glimpse of her delicate curves. Curves that once turned Murad to jelly. That was a different life. More so, very different people. She looked away from the mirror. No point in dwelling over the past. After all, none of it mattered anymore. It didn’t matter that she was a fading shadow of herself. That she had become a self-deprecating image of the Madonna, overlooked too often for she had given up her voice and her desire. She looked around her room. Yes this is enough. A home. A family!
She greeted him with a placid smile. “Hey beautiful! It’s been a long day at work. Would you pour me a drink? Did you see the email from school?” He spoke in a tone that matched her smile.
Ranjana often felt alienated from her thoughts of playing the role of a wife, mother and all the glorified images that society has conjured for women over the years.
To be the wife cum mother which a woman is supposed to be, is an religious, media image of perfection. A perfect body, no hair on body and always with a smile. It is the image of the Madonna who is giving and never asking, the image of the householder who holds on to the façade of a home of equal opportunity. Ranjana thought, I must! I must not encourage these thoughts of wanting to see myself and admire my breasts or the side of my waist that once turned Murad to jelly.
Karan enters the home tired and everyone is on their feet. It is an unspoken rule since years. When the man comes home, you got to be all ears to his needs. I recall the day I came back after many tests from the hospital. No one even noticed that I needed a glass of water. But who am I to complain. At least I don’t have restrictions like many more women I know. I am allowed freedom. Maybe not thoughts but it’s all right to have the rest.
He says “hey beautiful, Did you see the email from school? “ I am lost because I only saw myself in the mirror and saw an older woman stare back at me.
I smiled and said “The net connectivity you know is terrible and the damn crap keeps buffering”. I learnt that word from the millennial child. In reality, I am buffering between spaces of reality and desire. I used to read a lot as a young girl and I especially remember the theory of Freud where he says for most men they desire the whore and worship the Madonna. They marry Madonna but fuck the whore.
So as an intelligent woman I knew to act coy and scared was the best way for him to feel he is in a safe zone. He is anchored with the thought of being in control. To keep peace and harmony it is best to make them believe that truth. Sometimes, I also felt he indulged me sexually just out of mere obligation. But I stop my thoughts always. Its disturbing for the home environment.
My thoughts are broken by the millennial child who says, “Come on you know mama, she barely ever checks mails or even tries to push for grades. She says that travelling is education, loving is celebration and sex is honesty”. I almost got caught there. I say, “Yes baby, let’s not worry about all that. Let’s gets the grades going”.
I am always cognitive that I have to be the Madonna which you all have created for me and put me on a pedestal.
That evening, in his drunken stupor, he made out with me. Ok, I also learnt that word “ making out” from the millennial child. I was bored of the act but I sighed and hummed in between. Was worried maybe he heard my Yaman raag. Quickly, I stopped the notes in my mind and said oh my god! That feels great! I knew his mind was not there like mine too wasn’t.
I loved my friend Saida. Meeting her is really the most deliciously evil thing to do, she keeps telling me how he never cared for her. So she cared for herself. Her words always make me smile and I feel calm in her company. There is no pretence of being another version of me. It’s always me. Everytime we speak, I feel I am not that much of a freak to feel desire and passion, because it’s my natural state of being human. I feel greater to think that I am more in control than Saida and control makes me the Madonna of my home.
That evening, I sat by myself and asked myself the questions which I was scared even my conscience would hear. I asked why is it that desire is also patriarchal, why are orgasms reserved only for men, why is a man allowed to be fat yet desirable and a woman not?
I recalled Murad when we met so many moons back. He couldn’t keep his eyes off me. He couldn’t keep his smile concealed every time he met me. How his strong hands held me from breaking down the day I told him I was getting married to a businessman who Ma said would look after me. Murad was a musician and his earning was meagre. Murad let me go with pain in his voice and anguish in his soul. I still can, on lonely nights, see those honest eyes brimming with tears as he said goodbye.
Lord I will go into hell! And be surrounded with sad virgins. What a shame would that be. So I decided I mustn’t indulge in these thoughts that are not for the Madonna of the home. You have to remain eternally beautiful without being wild, you have to remain happy without being hormonal and you just have to tow the line. But, bastard desire is a real crook, it keeps coming in spurts and moments when the rain touches the wet earth and the flowers blossom with nipping the bud in its own force.
I quickly tie my hair and wear my lipstick to regain composure and be another beautiful thing that lies in the home. Dusted from time to time and forlorn on a busy season of exams and duties. Just like the changing season, my breasts have grown softer and my belly fat gets thicker but Murad has a way of re-appearing when no one is watching me.
I don’t know if I am the Madonna or the whore. You can’t be the same person with so many versions of you. I am scared of discovering my sexuality, so I put my feet in the puddle of water in the garden and feel the wetness calm me down.
Someday, I know that society will accept that lust and love are twins of a separate identity in one being. One protects the other from destruction and separation.