Author – Donna Abraham
I first stepped into my husband’s home in Kerala with my right foot, the lamp in my hand threatening to die out. That afternoon, as my family left me in my happily-ever-after, I did not cry.
I waved and called out, “Tomorrow”. My husband James and I were invited to lunch at my aunt’s home the next day.
At 8:00 p.m. on my wedding night, as I sent my resignation, James and I heaved a sigh of relief amidst excitement. We got married that morning and were eager to begin a life together. But my notice period at my old workplace stood in our way.
It had all come to this moment, because the offer letter from the workplace I was to join had arrived late, last night. My new workplace would be closer to where James stayed, in Gurgaon. My parents lived in Delhi and I had worked in Noida, so long.
James and I were to return to Delhi in 15 days. I could stay at my parents’ place another 15 days of my notice period and then join James in Gurgaon a month from today. I was no sentimental fool to be upset at staying away from my new husband. After all, I’d be staying at home in Delhi.
The following fortnight passed in a jiffy, packed with visits, customs, adjustments and new people. I felt alone in a strange, new household that was trying to welcome me with all the love they could provide. Unfortunately, arranged marriages make you enter a house that is strange and new. As if you’ve suddenly been orphaned and find yourself amidst strangers who mean well. To top it all, there are expectations on your wifely skills that are being assessed every moment by one roving eye or another. Since, I was inexperienced and illiterate in this study of being a wife, I was struggling to cope up with benchmarks laid by the elderly who had decades of experience and knowledge. By the end of the fortnight, I was looking forward to heading back home – my real home.
That post-vacation Monday, I was glad to head back to my old workplace. I spent the most carefree 15-days at work. By the end of which, I was relaxed and rejuvenated to dive into a new marriage.
James lived in an unfurnished, two-bedroom, rented flat in Gurgaon. He had rented another furnished flat in an adjacent block for our life together and we were to relocate on our first weekend together.
That Saturday morning, I headed to Gurgaon with my parents and luggage. As we entered James’ old flat, he was talking to movers and packers. His maid stood waiting to clean the new place. The owners of the new flat, Mr. and Mrs. Jose were also there with the keys. They suggested I take cleaning material and head over to the new flat with the maid. I asked James for cleaning material, but he was busy dealing with the packers. I peered inside the kitchen and grabbed a piece of cloth lying around. Apparently, the size of the rag depicted my poor home management skills, which I realized from Mrs. Jose’s smirk. I was sent back to get “something that could actually be used to clean a house not a kitchen slab.”
I swallowed my humiliation, peeped into a bachelor’s bedroom, because well this was my first day in James’ house, and followed the maid over to the balcony where she showed me the mop with a smirk that hopefully was not meant to tease me of my failed skills.
We headed to the new flat. Mrs. Jose unlocked the flat, handed me the keys, wished me luck and left. As we cleaned the place, James and my parents entered. I was relieved to have more experienced direction. It was a relief to see my parents at that moment, people who had done such things before, who had been responsible for such things, who were wiser and more experienced; simply put they were ‘parents’.
I handed my mother a cloth to help me clean the kitchen slab.
“Okay,” she said but left the cloth on the slab.
I turned around to tell her she had forgotten the cloth, when I saw her sitting on the sofa that had just been unpacked in the living room. That moment, she taught me a valuable lesson. This was my kitchen and my mess. It was all mine and I had to deal with it independently.
That first day in my home, I cleaned and scrubbed and served my first guests. It was home-delivered pizza, but it was my first lunch for my first guests, in my home. I no longer felt orphaned, I felt grown up. I felt like an adult.
This story submitted as part of our Short Story Contest