/*The below story was submitted as an entry to the Muse of the Month series of Women’s Web under the prompt Normal Is Overrrated. It was chosen as one of the top 5 winners. The original piece can be found here*/
How have you been since our last letter? Nothing much has changed at my end. Oh! I made Bhindi for lunch today, just the way they showed in Rasoi Magic. It’s a great show, you must follow it! How is Bhai Saab? Any plans for your upcoming anniversary? Lalita called from the US yesterday, she and her family are doing great. How are Varun and Binni? Is Varun treating his new bride like a queen? I hope you are not the evil Saas, although knowing your penchant for gossip from college, you just might be! Give them all my love, and write back soon!
Your letters are always a breath of fresh air! I can’t believe we found each other after so many years and have been writing letters the past couple of months in an age where our children video call on the internet! But then, you will always be you!!
35 years since those college days you mention, Madam, and here we are, from hostel roomies to pen pals! You haven’t changed at all, still pulling my leg so! Riddhika (Varun’s bride) is great! She is a wonderful cook, is up before us all in the mornings. What luxury to have my tea ready. She takes care of Varun so well, I am glad I can relax in my role of the doting mother now! Binni is fine too. So good to hear Lalita is well settled in the US! How is her husband? I am sure she would be as loving a wife as Riddhika. Vikram is doing fine too. Nothing much for the anniversary, after 30 years, a celebration seems so silly!
PS: I watched the Rasoi Magic. Thanks for recommending, it’s great!
Apologies for replying this late! I was unwell, the pain from the arthritis was killing me. But I am much better now. Hahaha, Lalita is not only a wife, she is also a mother! They are a wonderful family. They have been insisting I go stay with them, maybe I will, someday soon. For now, I am enjoying my cup of tea looking out at these familiar mountain ranges from my balcony.
I was looking at my wedding saree last night. Such a lovely pink! I wish you had been able to attend. It’s been 5 years since Lalit has passed on, but this home brings back memories of him every day. Why don’t you and Bhai Saab visit Mussoorie? A second honeymoon maybe? 😉
A second honeymoon! Imagine us oldies romancing! If word gets out, we would be ostracised! There’s an age for such things and that has passed. We would love to visit and sightsee though!
Ah, these kids nowadays. Why does Lalita work so hard? I am sure her husband can support her well enough! You must go spend time with your daughter now. And she even has a child? That’s wonderful! I didn’t know she had been married that long! My Riddhika focusses completely on Varun. He is in so much love with her, he says she mustn’t spend her energy going out to work. I hope she gifts us with a baby soon, it’s been months now since the wedding!
Ahh, come on, it’s just been 7 months. Let the dear girl breathe, don’t pressurize her so. They’ll have a child when they are ready. Lalita loves her job. She has always been one ambitious girl, I am so proud of her for following her dreams. Yes, they have a 3-year-old son, little Sahil. He’s a naughty loving boy, his ‘Mussoorie Nani’ loves him! They haven’t been married long, just about a year. They adopted Sahil on the day of their wedding. It was a beautiful moment!
PS: I tried the Daal Baati yesterday, that recipe is a must try!
I am so sorry to hear Lalita had to adopt! I had no idea she had problems, I can understand how difficult it must have been accepting an outsider into your family. After all, blood is blood. Riddhika is still not pregnant. I am starting to get worried. I just might take her to the doctor soon. When I spoke to Varun, he just mumbled something about her wanting to study. Where do girls these days get such ideas? What good would her studies after marriage do to my Varun?
Anyways, there’s some great news! Vikram and I are planning on coming down to Mussoorie. Vikram was fussing over some meetings, but I have convinced him to keep them aside for a couple of days to meet my oldest and dearest friend! Looking forward to meeting you soon.
Haven’t heard from you in a while, hope your arthritis isn’t playing up again? I am really looking forward to meeting you, I need your advice regarding Riddhika. My Varun is so unhappy, the fights every day! That girl is bad news, why did I ever chose her for my boy!
We are coming down to Mussoorie next weekend as planned. Binni is coming along too, she is very excited to meet her mom’s college friend and hear of our stories!😊
How could you do this to me??!!
Is this why you called me there? To humiliate me! I haven’t been able to face my husband and my daughter since we are back! Imagine our shock when we met Anil. And when we thought you had re-married, you replied with such temerity that he was in fact your boyfriend! And that you were living together! Is this the age Rima? Is this the age for you to live in sin with another man instead of mourning your dear husband Lalit? Vikram looked at me with such anger, I can feel the shame rising up my cheeks even now.
And as if that wasn’t enough! When we rang you up from the station and you had mentioned Lalita had come down from the US with her family, how excited I had been to get to meet her. How could you let this happen Rima? A lesbian!? You let your daughter marry another woman! Is there no shame left? Like mother like daughter.
You have been defying nature Rima, all along. I still remember the day you had decided to run away from home with Lalit all those years back with your entire family against you. You had been the black sheep then too. I remember now why I had stayed away so long. Oh! Why did I think you may have changed? I cannot imagine what I should tell Binni! How should I explain to her why her mother has a friend who lives unabashedly with a man out of wedlock, and whose daughter lives a life of unnatural sin! What thoughts would that put into my little daughter’s head?
My husband is furious with me! Do you know what this could do to Vikram’s reputation if word gets out that I have a friend like you, that we are supporters of actions we condemn! Go ahead Rima, live your life as you see fit, but I shan’t be a part of this. Today, just as 35 years back, I refuse to carry our friendship ahead, I refuse to watch your abnormal ways in silence!
I am glad you found it in your heart to share your anger and pain with me. While I understand if you do not want to read ahead, I appeal to you to listen to my thoughts as I have yours.
It is indeed unfortunate that our newly revived friendship stemmed from hope – a hope from both ends that 35 years may have brought about a change.
Yes, you are right, Lalit and I had eloped against the wishes of all my family. Lalit, tagged low-caste and standard-less couldn’t convince my family that he could give their Brahmin daughter a life she deserved. You remember the awe with which you saw my house when you came here Sarita? Lalit built this, our little palace where I was treated like a queen. After our marriage, he took his business to new heights, and in my Father’s last days, the very same unfit Lalit, bore every expense. Yes, do not be surprised Sarita, my parents accepted us within a year of our marriage. It couldn’t have been any other way. They saw what I had seen in Lalit – his kind heart, his smart mind, his love for his family and his immense dedication to his work. He was more a son to them than I was a daughter. That’s who I eloped with and married Sarita, and I couldn’t be prouder of that day. Do you know who gave me the strength to do it? It was my parents, even without realising it! My parents had always taught me to be strong if I knew I was right, and that’s what I did. And yes, we did romance till his last breath. We weren’t just bound by a few threads the society had deemed fit, we were bound by our eternal love for each other. Age could never stop us!
I do not mourn Lalit, Sarita. He is a part of me, his heart beats alongside my own. But I have never stopped myself from loving again. And Anil has been the friend I have needed, the companionship I have craved since Lalit left this huge void in my life. We do not marry because we do not feel the necessity to give this relationship a social status. Our hearts and minds are witness enough to our togetherness.
Yes, Lalita is a lesbian. To me, that is just a term – another social norm to categorise with based on who you love. All I wanted was for my daughter to find her happiness. Their love for each other cannot be defined by their exterior forms, their hearts connect and that’s all that matters. Lalita did not need to have a defect to adopt Sahil. She has a heart brimming with love and when she shares it with Sahil, I swell with pride!
Dear Sarita, I wish you would understand that the boundaries of normalcy are defined, not by society, but by our own minds. For someone who has lived life so differently, you probably imagine I led a life aloof, ostracized by near and dear ones and ashamed of my deeds. Unfortunately, I cannot give you the satisfaction of living so. I have been living a very fulfilling life, happy in my home and outside. I am a respected teacher even today, and Lalit is always remembered for his kind nature. My friends and family joined me in a joyous celebration when I embarked on this new journey with Anil. Lalita is a renowned LGBTQ activist here and abroad, and she is a woman who has inspired and moved thousands. We live our lives happy and as normal as you.
Binni had come to me before you left and hugged me saying she was proud of the courage I had shown in my life. You have a daughter with some wonderful thoughts Sarita, admire her for who she is, let her fly, don’t suppress her and mould her into what you think is normal. As for Riddhika, she is a girl with her own ambitions before being Varun’s wife. Let her live, don’t clench your fist so tight that the sand slips through!
I respect you for your thoughts and understand if you don’t want to be in touch. My heart, is however, forever open for you, dear friend.
<A month later>
I made the Gulab Jamun today, that cook from Rasoi Magic is truly a genius!