“Ma, I have to go to Richa’s birthday party tomorrow evening,” fifteen year old Priya told her mother, Meena.
“Where is it?”
“It is at Temptations - the new fast food restaurant which is close to her house.”
“Who all will be there?”
“Our classmates and her brother, Ajay and some of his friends.”
“How will you go?”
“Ajay will pick me up in his car and take me to his place. From there all of us will walk down to Temptations.”
Ma was silent for a few moments. Priya waited with bated breath.
“You take Babloo along with you.” Babloo was Priya’s nine year old brother.
“Come on ma, what will Babloo do in a teenager’s party? He will only be a nuisance.”
“I won’t send you alone, either you take Babloo or you don’t go,” her ma said and getting up walked into the kitchen.
Priya’s face turned red with anger. She opened her mouth to say something and then shut it. She knew there was no point in arguing with her mother. If something got into her head it stayed there.
It was so unfair. She couldn’t even go to her best friend’s party on her own. That clown Babloo would have to tag along. How silly she would look making an entry with Babloo in tow!
She rang up Richa.
“Richa, count me out from tomorrow’s party?”
“What happened? Richa asked.”
Priya told her about her conversation with her mother.
“Oh God, these parents! It is so difficult to understand their logic. My father is also like that. Luckily he is not in town or else he would have imposed hajaar restrictions. But Priya if you don’t come there will be no party. Come on yaar, you are my best friend.”
“But Richa Babloo is such a pain, he will make a mess of everything.”
“Don't worry, I’ll take care of him.”
The next evening when Priya entered along with Babloo, Richa and Ajay, Vicky her class mate sniggered, “Hey look yaar, our pretty Priya has even brought along her body guard. Of course he is more a bonsai version.” Everyone burst out laughing and Priya turned red with embarrassment.
Babloo who had been promised an extra helping of ice cream if he behaved, was at his best behaviour. However, he managed to gobble up not two but four ice-creams. Just when the party was reaching its peak and Priya had begun enjoying herself, Babloo whispered in her ear. “Didi, I think I am going to be sick.”
“I want to go home. I am feeling queasy.”
“Just hang on for some time. The party is almost coming to an end.”
“Please Didi, I can’t. Take me home.”
Priya told Richa and Ajay dropped them home.
Priya was wild with anger. Babloo had spoilt her party completely. The greedy pig! Who had asked him to hog so much and then follow it up with four ice-creams!
“Ma, can I go over to Nishi’s house for a sleep-over tonight?” Priya said.
“A sleep over.”
“Yes. Five of us - Nishi, Arti, Richa, Fatima and I will be spending the night at Nishi’s place.”
“Priya, how can you even think of such a thing?” Ma said, a frown creasing her already lined forehead.
“Why ma? What is wrong?”
“Your first terminal exams are starting next month and this time you promised me that you’ll top the class. Last time you lost out to Sujata by just eight marks.”
“Ma there is more than a month to go for the exams. And it is a question of only one night.”
“Priya I can’t take the risk of sending you to spend a night all alone in someone else’s house.”
“Come on ma, Nishi is not someone else. She is one of my best friends. I have met her parents. They are very nice people. And then, my other friends are also coming, aren’t they?”
“You don’t compare yourself with your friends.”
“Why? What is so different about me?”
“You are a much better student than any one of your friends. If you work hard there is every chance that you will top the school. And moreover, don’t forget that for the last three years I am managing both of you alone. If your father had been there he would have taken a decision. But now it is my decision and I won’t take the risk of sending you to spend the night in a stranger’s house.”
Priya cried herself to sleep that night. It was really unfair the way her mother treated her. At times such as these, she sorely missed her father. He had been transferred to Guntur as Branch Manager of State Bank of India’s Guntur branch. Since then he had been visiting Hyderabad only once a month. And in his absence she was at the mercy of her mother’s whims and fancies.
Two months later Priya’s mausi Seema came to stay with them. She was doing her doctorate in Psychology and had come to Hyderabad to pursue her research. A few days after her arrival Priya’s first term results were out. She had slipped from the second to the eleventh position. Ma was livid. She shouted at Priya demanding the reasons for her poor performance. Priya maintained a sullen, defiant silence, refusing to open her mouth. At this juncture Seema stepped in. She took Priya out that evening to Indira Park.
“Now tell me Priya what is the matter? I know all is not right at home. I can feel the tension between the two of you.”
Priya liked her mausi very much. She had always been more like a friend to her. She started speaking and slowly poured her heart out.
“Ma doesn’t trust me mausi. She is so suspicious. Every time I get a phone call she asks a hundred questions. And if it is a boy who is ringing me up she is even more curious. Mausi I study in a co-ed school. Many of my class mates are boys. What is wrong if I mix with them? She also doesn’t allow me to wear the clothes I want.”
“Almost all the girls wear jeans and short tops. But Ma won’t allow me. She insists I wear long tops. She won’t allow me to wear sleeveless tops too. My friends wear such smart clothes and I wear such dowdy ones.”
“Okay, I understand your feelings. But why was your result so bad?”
Priya told her about Richa’s birthday party and refusal to allow her to spend the night at Nishi’s.
“I was wild with ma. I decided to teach her a lesson. I knew she very badly wanted me to top the class. I thought if she doesn’t allow me to do what I want, I too will not give her what she hankers after most. I took things easy and as a result my rank slipped.”
Seema looked at Priya for some time and then putting her arm around the girl, pulled her close.
“Priya I can empathise with your feelings. I know what you must be going through. But please realise that in her own way your ma is only doing what she thinks is best for you.”
“Is being put in a jail the best for me?”
“No my child, definitely not. But your ma doesn’t feel she is putting you in jail. She feels she is protecting you from the big bad world. And because she is bringing you up practically alone, since the last few years, she is all the more anxious that she doesn’t make even a single mistake.. There is a saying: ‘When love is great, littlest doubts are fears’. It is your ma’s love and concern for you that makes her so possessive. Don’t worry I will talk to her about it. But there is one blunder you too have made.”
“What’s that mausi?
“By neglecting your studies you have only harmed yourself. It is a classic case of cutting your nose to spite your face. After all, by doing poorly in the exams whose career are you spoiling? Not your mother’s Priya, but yours. You are a sweet, sensitive and intelligent girl, I hope you understand what I am telling you.”
A couple of days later Seema talked to Meena.
“Didi don’t you remember the day when you wanted to see ‘Saturday Night Fever’ with your friends and Babuji said no. What a scene you created. And the times you used to have fights with ma over things like wearing jeans to college. Ma and Babuji used to insist you wear only salwar-kameez and you used to plead to be allowed to wear jeans.”
“Those were different times. The society was much better and also safer and saner. There was greater respect for ladies. Today it is a jungle out there.”
“Things haven’t changed much Didi. The only difference is that then you were a teenager and today you are a parent of a teenager. Your perspective has changed Didi. Everything else is almost the same.”
Seema then told her about her conversation with Priya.
Meena sat in deep silence for sometime and then looked at her sister. “Seema, I think you are right. I have been harsh on the child.”
“So can I assume that peace will prevail?” Seema said smiling.
“Yes,” Meena answered.
Four months later Seema got an email from Priya.
“Mausi, my results came out this morning. I topped the class. Ma is overjoyed. And can you guess what? As a special treat for me, Ma is organising a sleep-over at my place. Arti, Nishi and Richa will be there. I wish you were here too.We, ma and I, owe our happiness to you.”
with lots of love,
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