TWO STRANDS OF GREY AND A WRINKLE… THE LAST STRAW
By Rungeen Singh
Gina flopped on her bed with a sigh. She was weary and miserable. Much of it had to do with her over busy schedule and the preposterous traffic snarls of Mumbai that made her so fatigued that she could willingly have gone into a six month old complete hibernation, but the rest was purely because of depression, the aftermath of a meeting with Mita.
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Nowadays sessions with her sister Mita always exhausted her. Mita was younger to her yet she could rage at Gina with all the ferocity of a caged tiger and that day she had been at it with a vengeance when Gina visited her at her spacious and beautiful high rise apartment with its lavish décor and artefacts.
“Why the heck do you slog so much Gin, when a considerably smart and wealthy man is wanting to marry you? I think he has proposed to you ninety times already,” Mita had charged as soon as she had seen the tired Gina enter her bedroom to sprawl on the luxurious bed.
“Not again Mits. I have just come from a gruelling shoot,” pleaded Gina.
But Mita was relentless. “I won’t spare you today. You have to get married Gin.”
Gina reminded Mita, “You know I have an antipathy towards marriage. I am too independent to kowtow to a male partner and as it is, most of the masculine gender are quite far away from perfection. I am better off alone!”
Mita reasoned, “No Gin. Be realistic and practical. Dilip should be acceptable to you. Well he could have been taller and slightly slimmer with less of a paunch, but as a widower marrying a second time, that is to be expected.”
“Quit it Mits. He isn’t handsome or smart by any chance.”
“Yes Gin, compared to you, well, he has brains and money but does fall short of beauty. Look at you! Alabaster skin with shapely features framed by lovely hair and eyes that gore every man to the core. What a wastage of your beauty! You should marry and have children and pass on this beauty to them.
“Mits. Remember what George Bernard Shaw said? What if it is the other way around? Imagine a child with Dilip’s beauty and my brains!
“Ha! Ha! But that would be the child’s problems, not yours Gin.”
Gina made a face and retorted sarcastically, “Very funny!”
“Whatever Gin. I don’t understand one thing. How can you live your life without a man? I mean that there are er….er…I guess you understand what I am saying. Frankly, a woman needs a man.”
“But I don’t, specially when I imagine a man in rumpled clothes with a stinky mouth that snores, emitting weird sounds that make peaceful sleep an impossibility. Men are atrociously graceless and they are so unkempt.”
“How do you know? Gin! Have you …..?”
“Shut up Mits. You know that I am not like that.”
“Yeah Gin, I know that you are a real prude and would never do the wrong thing and that is why managing to earn a livelihood in Mumbai has been that much more traumatic for you, but then how do you know about the nocturnal habits of men? You are talking with great authority about manly subjects!”
Gina replied, “I know because unfortunately I slept in your house last weekend and could hear Bobby, that erstwhile banshee of a husband of yours, squeal, roar and grunt with horrifying wheezes like a bloated baboon and a stuffed siren gone mad together.”
Suddenly Mita giggled, “Gin! What a description! And how apt! Thou hast imagination sis! Bobs, the hubby is not going to like this description at all.”
“You are not to tell him,” warned Gina.
“Why are you so good and caring always Gin? Stop thinking of others. Be wicked, mean and selfish for a change. Just think of yourself.”
“What do you mean Mits?”
Mita answered, “I mean that you should marry this Dilip of yours who has all the wrong qualities but should be married for all the right reasons, the paramount being money. Be sensible for a change, my dear sis.”
“But Mits I can’t imagine spending a lifetime with a man, any man for that matter.”
“Gin, you are thirty five, for Heaven’s sake. You need security, especially financial security. You already classify for the tag of an old spinster.”
“Mits thanks a ton for this horrific reminder, especially as I am going for a shoot tomorrow for a face cream for teenagers. Does my confidence a whole lot of good, I must say,” commented Gina sarcastically.
“Someone has to do the dirty work if your stupid moronic mind is bent to escape reality,” answered Mita.
“I thought I was the elder sister,” remarked Gina drily.
Mita insisted, “Then act as one. Get married. Leave this catfight of a life. How long will you be able to model? You got assignments in the past because you are really beautiful with a wonderful figure but age will catch up, then what will you do? Who will give you assignments? How will you earn? Why don’t you take the easy way out and marry. Let someone look after you.”
“Ya Mits, like you are being looked after by your husband!”
“Gin I may have been in love with Bobby but that was after careful consideration that he was totally sucker enough to look after me for a whole lifetime. I had to see which side the bread is buttered,” answered Mita.
“I can earn my own butter and bread, thank you Mits.”
“How Gin? Once the wrinkles come, what will you do?”
Gina replied, “I will take up some job.”
“Who will give you a job?” questioned Mita.
Gina worried her lower lip in thought and then replied, “I have contacts.”
“Which Gin you will never tap because you hate asking for favors.”
Gina reiterated, “I want to be my own person, totally self made.”
But Mita brushed it off, “What crap! Just get married.”
“I want love. Pure, true, genuine love!” exclaimed Gina.
“There is nothing like love. What is love? Even in ‘I love you’, the ‘I’ comes before the ‘you’. It is all convenience,” advised Mita.
“Since when have you become so cynical Mits? Is everything all right between you and Bobby?”
Mita commented drily, “Yeah, except for an insensitive husband who can’t stay put at home. Oh don’t knot up Gin! Now stop worrying about me. You did enough by looking after me after the death of Ma and Pa. Remember, I was only fourteen then and you were twenty. That makes fifteen long lonely backbreaking years for you. I had it good. You got me educated. You got me married. So to say, you put your life on the backburner for me. Now think of yourself and take some well earned rest. I feel responsible for you. It is high time you had some fun in life.”
“Thanks but no thanks Mits. Remember how unhappy Ma was. Pa was always straying.” It was difficult for Gina to even think about the past.
Mita interposed, “But at least he paid her bills Gin. This world is a battleground. Go on fighting but let your tummy be fed by some poor blighter and Dilip is as good a blighter as any you can find at your age.”
“Mits why do you keep harping on my age?”
“You must take a reality check,” retorted Mita.
Gina was irritated and showed it as she spoke, “Mits. You tell me to marry but what if I don’t get along with him? There will be a messy divorce.”
Mita had an answer ready. Promptly she replied, “But you Gin will then get a substantial alimony! That will see you through life because Dilip is loaded.”
“Now stop it Mits. You are being so calculating and insensitive. I want someone to love me and I don’t know if Dilip fits the bill. He burps in such an ungainly manner. He slurps his tea. I have seen his selfish streak off and on.”
Mita spoke gently for the first time, “Gin. Remember the urdu couplet: “Kabhi kisee ko mukammil jahan nahin milta. Kabhi zameen to kabhi aasma nahin milta.” No one gets a perfect Utopia. There will be treacherous potholes on the unknown road of matrimony but what if the cab you are getting now, passes you by and you miss the chance of traveling in comfort?”
And then Gina lost it. She shocked herself by ranting at Mita for being so coldly manipulative. She shouted, “Let me miss the cab, Mits. Let me live a life of penury but I will not compromise. I have my principles which I have valued till today, whatever the problems I have faced. I will marry for love or not at all even if I end up as a haggard, old witch and that’s it. Keep your advice to yourself.”
Then Gina had stormed out of Mita’s house leaving Mita stunned and speechless for once. Now Gina groaned and her bed stopped giving her comfort as her brain seethed with regret. She should not have let her anger loose on Mita when Mita was actually thinking about her future. To smoothen the ruffles of guilt from her mind, Gina walked over to the dressing table and started taking off her earrings and then her eyes caught sight of them and she was devastated.
Two strands of grey hair. Yes, grey hair decidedly. She moved closer to have a better look. Were there more grey strands? No. But there would be, she knew because that was Nature. She peered at her face in the mirror, scrounging and scrutinizing inexorably for a wrinkle if any. Yes there was one wrinkle. At the right corner of her lips. She checked again. Yes, the wrinkle was there.
Two strands of grey and a wrinkle! The last straw that broke the camel’s back….She couldn’t face the mirror any more.
She turned around in a stupefied daze. Then she did some quick thinking.
True liberation means freedom to make a choice and she made her choice. Better to be safe than to be sorry!
She got married the very next month to Dilip!
Rungeen Singh has been a writer since 1992 and an English teacher since 1972. She has written English story books and poems for children, short stories, poems and articles for various Magazines & Newspapers. Rungeen is a Life member of Association for Writers and Illustrators for Children. She lives in India. You may write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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