Author’s Note: This is a story to commemorate International Women’s Day 2017. Although a work of fiction, it is not far from reality for many women.
Anahita stood under the shower, gratefully enjoying the feel of the hot water on her sore and stiff body. Yes, Akash had kept up her up most of the night. She quickly moved away from the image that conjured in her mind, embarrassed at herself and concentrated instead on the warmth and comfort of the shower. She wished she could stand here all day and just savour the pure bliss of a warm shower, but work beckoned and she regretfully turned off the tap, wrapped herself in a towel and walked back to her bedroom to dress up.
She surveyed herself critically in the mirror, trying not to look at the signs of a rough night written all over her body like a road map of exactly how intense things had gotten last night. She dressed up quickly instead for work in an elegant pant suit, a vision in a soft shade of pink and grey. She was the senior vice-president in charge of operations in a major multinational company, and she looked the part. She was smart as a whip, professional and elegant, and her colleagues found her an absolute pleasure to work with.
Yes, she had climbed ladders that until a few decades ago, hadn’t even existed for a woman. She had worked so hard to excel at what she did, that her colleagues and superiors simply didn’t associate her with a gender any more. Her work spoke for itself, and established her firmly as someone to respect, to watch out for, and to aspire to be.
She had somehow managed to also achieve the impossible work-life balance that all and sundry struggled with. She had married Akash over twenty years ago, and they both had a son Rahul, who had just turned eighteen this year. Anahita smiled at the thought of her son, who was rapidly becoming a man. He had hinted to her more than once that he was getting serious about a girl, and she kept pretending not to understand. She wanted to give him the time he clearly needed to gather his thoughts. She knew he would tell her when he was good and ready. And she trusted her upbringing enough to know he wouldn’t do anything rash in the meantime.
She dragged her attention back to her dressing table, ready to apply some mild make up and rush off to work. But today, something about her face bothered her. She examined the object of her concern once again, and selected a few extra items from her cache of make up paraphernalia. Carefully applying the items, she studied herself again and was satisfied to see herself staring back in the mirror. To add to the effect she had created, she let her hair fall over the left side of her face like a soft, rich velvet curtain. Mission accomplished! She looked like the same old Anahita. Nothing could faze her.
She got up, her breath catching in her chest just as Rahul came in. In a flash, he was by her side to lend a hand. She smiled at him and said, “I’m fine beta, just caught a muscle I suppose. I’m not that old yet, but thank you for the support my darling son.”
Rahul did not return the smile, which sent a chill down Anahita’s spine. But she kept her smile pasted on her face, not wavering in her conviction that she had always ensured her son lived a happy life, and his psyche was not scarred by anything hurtful or painful. Slowly, her smile faded as Rahul’s face became more and more intense. A sob caught in her throat but she bit it down. No, she wouldn’t react until she could find out more about his mood.
“What’s wrong Rahul, are you alright? Why the glum face? Are you having lady troubles again?” she joked, poking him in the stomach which usually sent him into a paroxysm of giggles and laughter. He caught her hands firmly in his. She wanted to wince at the pain caused by his grip, but instead stood and kept smiling, a questioning look on her face.
“Yes Ma, you are right. I do have lady troubles. But not the kind you think.” said Rahul, looking straight into her eyes.
“My lady trouble is you Ma. My problem is that you think I am so naive and so ignorant that I have no idea what is going on between you and dad. My problem is that since I grew up and began to understand, I knew what was happening. And I have been silent for years now.”
Anahita wanted to turn back time, to put her son back into the cocoon of non-awareness, innocence, and a blissful childhood from where he had clearly grown up before she even realised it. Still she persisted in her attempts to protect him from the truth, “Rahul, what’s gotten into you? Nothing is happening! I have a great job, your dad’s business is running well, by the grace of God we are happy and we have no complaints in life. And you my son, we’re so proud of all your achievements and of the man you’ve become. What more can we ask for?”
“No Ma, don’t do this. I am not one of your colleagues or friends. Don’t give me the party line. Please Ma, give me some credit. I am not blind. For years now, I see how dad treats you, I hear the muffled cries every night from your bedroom and I see your awkward stance the next morning as you struggle to stay on your feet. And today, Ma… today! Let me show you what I saw today.”
Rahul rushed to the dressing table, picked up the make up wipes and gently wiped Anahita’s face. There was a big angry bruise just above her left eye. Akash had broken his golden rule last night. Usually he would ensure he hit her only where the rest of the world couldn’t see. Yesterday, in a mad outburst of jealousy and anger, he had thrown her violently against the wall and she narrowly escaped injuring her left eye. By then, he had already heaped enough on her by way of cigarette burns, followed by his favourite whip, followed by what could only be termed as rape. With strict instructions to cover it up before she went to work, he turned the lights off and went to sleep. Leaving Anahita to literally pick up the pieces of her body and soul.
Author’s Note: Anahita’s story continues here
Illustrated By: Dr Anisha Kumar (Visit http://ignitingmypassion.wordpress.com)