Author – Remitha Alphonsa John
I walk away quietly, holding back my tears. I am hurt. My eyes have welled up, my vision is blurry. Even when I hear it now, having heard it many times, it hurts deep inside. Only if I had a son and not a daughter, these words keep ringing in my ears.
Everyone calls me Ria. My digital signature is ‘Ria-lity’ because the reality is that my papa always wanted a son and not a daughter.
April 14, 2003.
It was the days of the state level competitions being held at Ernakulam. I was among the top three finalists for the extempore event. Every single thought of going up to the stage gave me jitters, my knees felt weak, and I had a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Two hours and fifty-two minutes felt like decades. It could have been a concern about disappointment if I did not win, or it could have been a worry of what my papa would feel if I did not go back home with the medal.
I hurriedly walked closer to the stage before my allotted number was even announced. I stood in front of the eager judges and the anxious crowd, my heart beating to the rhythm of the drums at the adjacent competition. I kept a convincingly confident look on my face, while breathing deeply to calm my nerves. ‘Equality for women in our society’,was the topic of my speech. I began with a rather bold introduction. More than the time, the next 3 minutes were about my frozen palms, the sweat on my upper lip and forehead, and my lungs gasping for air. At the end of my speech, I exhaled as a rather static emotion. The applause and cheers that followed were but mere noise to my ears.
My head was hanging low and my eyes gazing at the dry sand and cracked earth. I stared, one last time, at the other girl who had won the extempore competition. There was only one thing left for me to do, call papa. Continually fidgeting, I reached into my bag for my phone. I could barely see the alphabets because of my teary eyes. The phone rang, although secretly I hoped that the line would not go through. I tried to mumble because I did not even want him to hear the disappointing result. There was a long pause and then a deep sigh like papa had been holding his breath for too long.
“Now, come back home,” he said.
“If only I had a son,” though feeble, I heard him spill it out as he kept the receiver down.
September 20, 2007.
Uncle Jacob and Aunt Kiran had come home to invite our family for their son’s wedding. I stepped into the living room in my casuals. Papa gave me the look, although by now, I had learned to ignore his accusing stares.
“So tell me Ria, what are your plans after finishing your 12th grade,” inquired Jacob uncle.
“I am going to be a journalist,” was my quick answer.
Their wide-eyed looks made it obvious that they found my ambition quite impressive. Yet, I am sure Jacob uncle noticed the awkward silence and papa’s cold expression after I revealed my plan.
“I am sure papa is very proud of you Ria. You are after all his only heir,” Jacob uncle said in an attempt to break the silence.
“Oh, I am not his heir, uncle. I am his spare,” I quipped and immediately walked back to my room.
After Jacob uncle and his family left, I could hear papa from the other room. He said he would give anything to get a son like Jacob uncle’s boy.
July 27, 2013.
After exhaustive training and exams I passed out with flying colours in Journalism from a reputed college. My family and even Jacob uncle’s family had come for the passing-out ceremony of my batch. I walked up to papa and the others expecting loads of wishes and praises. Yet, the only words I heard were from papa.
“She is never going to make it as a war reporter. Now, that is a man’s job,” he added.
I walked away quietly because no more can personal feelings hurt me. I scuffled to the washroom and looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes, though of a 23 year old girl, seemed to have the experience, pain and grief of an old woman.
While stomping back I overheard Jacob uncle.
“She looks all grown-up,” he said while pointing at me.
“That’s because I know the inevitable is coming,” I retorted with a bold and pleasant smile and walked back to the group with my head held high.
This story submitted as part of our Short Story Contest