The Life of a High Society Woman

I am Tarana Sood, living in the lap of luxury as people would like to believe. I have always had all the material things that I wanted but was my life happy? I don’t know. Yes, some parts were, but at the same time, there were others which were sad and painful.  On the face of it, I always had money, status and an enviable social standing. I had the looks, the personality that made me the cynosure of people’s eyes. But in my eyes, my position left a lot to be desired. I feel that if I had not lacked courage, I might have lived a different and much happier life. But then my children, the way they have turned out, would that have changed in a different setting. I don’t know and probably never will.  At this stage of my life when I am in my late forties, I am at some peace, but when I look back, I do have many regrets. Somewhere I feel that I got caught between the image my family wanted to portray and what the reality was. I ended up being a party to it albeit unintentionally but definitely not unknowingly.  It does seem as though I was destined to live this life, but I wonder if I could have changed my destiny. 

I feel that I could have tried harder to fight the circumstances but got held back by my love, my relationships, my fear, my respect and regard for the people involved. And somewhere I also feel that over a period of time, I enabled the luxuries, the lavishness of my lifestyle to tie me, to prevent me from taking a bold step. 

I was born to my parents, Naresh and Meera after ten years of their being married. They had all but given up hope by then to have a child when God decided to listen to them and grant them their wish. Though they wished to have a child, the desire had a caveat to it which was that they wanted a son.  So although the wish was granted, they ended up getting a daughter. My father had this huge business empire, and they needed an heir, a male one, mind you, but that was not to be. They had to make do with a daughter who would not be able to carry forward their legacy. So though the birth of a child was celebrated the celebration was a little low key owing to the gender factor. 

But with time, they learnt to accept their fate and showered me with all possible love and affection. So my childhood was very happy. My parents doted on me. I was sent to the best of the schools, followed by the opportunity to go abroad and study. Somewhere this kind of an upbringing allowed me to think for my own and harbour some ambitions and aspirations. I wanted to put my education to use and work somewhere, as in pick up a job. But the day I expressed this desire of mine, I got the first dose of the reality of my life. I got a glimpse of the real world that I was a part of the status of a woman in that world.  The expression of my desire was met with disbelief by my mother, to begin with, who couldn’t fathom why I would want to work when I could get anything I wanted.  In her head, the reason for anyone to pick up a job was an economic necessity, so anyone who worked was in grave financial distress. For her, any other reason was unthinkable. So when I told her that my desire to work did not stem from financial reasons but from others like being independent, like getting out into the world, like being able to put my education to use, like holding my own, she just couldn’t get me. 

Her life was pretty set so therefore she couldn’t relate to me. For her a woman was supposed to be lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family, then be smart and good looking enough to get a rich guy and then spend the rest of her life, spending the money, attending kitty parties, going shopping and catering to the whims of the husband as he was the provider of all the luxuries and desires. So if it required playing second fiddle to him throughout life, putting him up on a pedestal [or making it seem as though he had been put there] it was fine. Her thinking was that as long as there was a man to take care of all the needs, there was no need for a woman to trouble herself. Though I was in total disagreement, she couldn’t care less.

My father though a little more open and flexible in his views, was cut from the same cloth and so he also did not agree with me. He tried to convince me by telling me that girls from our kind of families had no need to work. They were meant to rule the house sitting at home and giving orders to their husbands. I had always held my father in great regard, but when he spoke like that, it made me wonder how he could be so regressive in his outlook. And now when I started understanding him, my eyes opened up to how he had always treated my mother with disdain and contempt. She had to look good, keep the house very well, be his arm candy when he so desired, be an excellent mother but with no opinion on anything major. That was his domain. And the pity was that my mother subscribed to this view wholeheartedly. She had never felt the need to question it or oppose it. And it was strange that till that point in time in my life I had never seen my parents in this light. Or maybe I had never felt the need to do that because till I was a child, my needs were minimal. They were in the nature of material things, love and affection, which was not difficult for them to give. 

I understood that my parents loved me, there was no doubt about that, but I had to live my life within the boundaries laid down by them, and that entailed not giving wings to my dreams of stepping out of the house to work or anything like that. Their love was governed by the restrictions imposed by the society we lived in. They were very conscious of their image, of what the world thought about them. That image had to be picture-perfect all the time. The significance of how vital this whole image business was for them started becoming clear to me as I grew older. With time it started affecting me and my life in various ways, most of which were unacceptable and heartbreaking too. But no matter what the situation or its repercussion on me, the façade had to be maintained, a painful realization for me.

Six months after my arrival from my college, one day, my mother came into my room. I was reading a book, and it was close to bedtime. I was a little surprised to see her because after our disagreement over my desire to work; she had been largely avoiding me. So it was a surprise to see her in my room. I was curious to know what she wanted. I didn’t have to wait for too long as she came straight to the point telling me that in two days time, a boy and his family were coming to see me and I had to make sure that he liked me enough to get married to me. Though this should not have been a surprise considering the kind of family we were, this announcement caught me by surprise. I was just 22, had come back home after three years and was still in dreamland. And here I was being asked to get married!! Like really!! 

I realized within five minutes that my mom was dead serious about the issue, and so in the coming two days, I had to get my act together. I had to groom myself, buy new clothes and get ready to make the boy say ‘Yes’. The only question that I had was what if I didn’t like the boy, to which my mother looked at me both with horror and anger. She told me in no uncertain terms that I had no choice in this matter. The decision had been taken by my mum and dad and. In fact, I still remember her words.

 She told me, ’No one’s asking you! Your yes is a given.” 

Much as it shocked me, I gave in and got ready to do my bit. The next two days, my parents went crazy trying to organize for this great visit by the boy and his family. The best caterers were booked, the most exotic flowers were ordered, the best crockery was out, and I was made to buy a hideously expensive outfit. It was as though their lives depended on the success of this venture. On the D day, my father came up to me and made it clear though in a tone that was sweeter than my mother’s that I had to do it for them. Now while I understood that they desired to see me married but what I couldn’t understand was why to that boy. He was the first boy, so why was he the last. But apparently, this was the case.

Anyways, I got ready, the VIPs arrived and guess what ?? I didn’t like the boy!! Karan was extremely good looking, well-spoken and of course, had all the money in the world, but somehow there was something that just didn’t click. I couldn’t put my finger to it, but something was amiss. And while sitting with him, I was getting alarmed and anxious as hell. I knew that I didn’t like him, I didn’t want to marry him, but I also did not have a reason. I knew that even with a reason my parents wouldn’t have listened and now when there wasn’t one, what hope did I have. And as expected when they left, my father announced that he liked the boy and if I had been smart enough to make him like me, then they would get me married as soon as possible. 

I was a bundle of nerves. For one, I did not want to ger married to anyone at that point. I wanted to wait for some more time, and I definitely did not want to get married to Karan!! I didn’t like him. I kept hoping and praying that I would have failed in my mission, and Karan or his parents would reject me. But like I said, destiny does play a role in our lives. Karan and his parents said the dreaded yes and my parents were over the moon. I didn’t know what to do. I decided that I would try and talk to my father about it. I knew that he would be a little more willing to listen to me. So I went up to him and told him that I didn’t want this alliance to go further because I didn’t like the boy. My father looked at me and said that they had already said yes, so there was no question of going back. I was going to get married within the next two months and didn’t have any choice. I tried arguing, pleading, convincing, but nothing worked. What happened was that hearing all the commotion, my mother came into the room, caught hold of my hand and took me to my room where she gave me hell. She told me that I was an ungrateful, horrible daughter who was trying to mess up her parents’ life. She told me that I owed it to my parents to say yes to the alliance as they had always given me everything that I wanted. They had done their duty by providing for me thus far, and now it was my turn. She gave me a long lecture on how it was the duty of every daughter to care about the happiness and comfort of her parents. And even if it meant sacrificing her likes or dislikes, she had to do it. What I couldn’t understand was why agreeing to get married to Karan was proof of my love for them. But apparently, it was!!  I got it when she said that I needed to get married, but why to Karan? She couldn’t or wouldn’t answer my question.

I tried my share of tantrums to make them change their minds, but nothing worked. In between, I was made to go out with Karan so that we could get to know each other, but the more I did that, the more I got convinced that he wasn’t the guy for me. Again there was nothing discernible; he paid attention, he bought me gifts, flowers but still… something was amiss.

So one day, I decided to speak to my paternal grandmother, who lived with us. I had only one question, which was why it was necessary to marry Karan. That conversation gave me an answer. My grandmother told me that this alliance was more like a business deal for my parents. My father’s business unknown to me had been running into losses for some time now, and he needed someone to put in the money. And as you have probably guessed the saviour, the messiah was Karan’s dad, and in return, his parents wanted me as their daughter-in-law. So this was a business idea, and I was being used. You can’t even begin to imagine what this revelation left me feeling. I was dumbstruck [did these things still happen, outside of movies!!], heartbroken  [didn’t my parents love me?], angry [how could they treat me like this?] but then slowly a stoic acceptance took over.

I now think that maybe at that time, I should have taken a drastic step, like running away from home or showing more resistance. But none of that happened. In all the time leading up to the marriage, my mother kept making me feel duty-bound, honour-bound to do what they wanted me to. And now that she knew that I knew the actual reason for the wedding, whenever she felt like it, she would take me on a guilt trip making me feel like a selfish prick who could even think of defying her parents!! Of course, her tactics worked, and I gave up and gave in.

As my grandmother said to me and which became like a life mantra for me, “What cannot be cured has to be endured”.

 I decided to make peace with my circumstances and look forward to my new life. I started feeling that maybe I was trying to make a big deal out of not being able to gel with Karan. Maybe after marriage, as everyone said, things would change. And so with such thoughts, I entered my marital home. My in-laws showered me with gifts, with love so much so that I became the envy of a lot of people. And my mother couldn’t stop pointing it out to me. But though everyone else was warm and welcoming, what about the husband, the one with whom I was to spend my life with? Well, he wasn’t there anywhere. In front of the world, he was caring, loving, but once we were alone in our room, the reality presented itself to me. It was a shock that left me numb. 

On our first night, my husband dear was drunk out of his mind and fell asleep the moment he fell into the bed, aided and assisted by his friends. So all my dreams about being with him, spending time with him and getting to know hm flew out of the window. And it was made worse by everyone’s suggestive glances and innuendoes the day after. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. My mother-in-law figured out what I was going through and continuing in the same vein as my dear mother told me to keep quiet about it. She said that the world did not need to know what had happened in the bedroom. So this set the tone for the rest of my life. Whatever happened in the bedroom, stayed in the bedroom. I was to deal with it on my own and not seek anyone’s help.

Now the issue was that nothing happened in the bedroom. After the fiasco of the first night, I realized that every other night would turn out to be the same. My husband would come sloshed, pass out, and that would be the end of it. Next morning I would step out smiling away as if I had stepped out from heaven, all decked up. He would wake up at noon, get ready and go out once again to get sloshed once again. Was this to be my life? There was no mention of a honeymoon or being together. Though my in-laws were very sweet, they didn’t seem to be concerned about what was happening. It was as though they had wanted to get their son married and now that he was they had no other concern. But what was I to do? I tried speaking to Karan a couple of times though I really didn’t know how to initiate any kind of a conversation. But every time he just brushed me aside and walked away.

Although we had gone out a few times before getting married, there was still an element of awkwardness which prevented me from having any kind of a conversation with them. I was beginning to doubt myself. Did my husband not like me? Did he not desire me? Had he also not wanted to get married to me? What was wrong? His behaviour was contrary to what I had expected it to be, what I wanted it to be. So although I did not expect any help from my parents, one day when my mother called to check on me, I started howling on the phone. I wasn’t able to say anything, but she figured that I was upset and so she came to see me. And somewhere I feel my parents were also finding it strange that my husband and I had not gone for a honeymoon. It had been two weeks since we had been married. So she came and spent time with me, and I told her all about how I was feeling. For once she understood me, and though she did not say anything to me just after she left, my mother-in-law started talking about our honeymoon, and two days later Karan and I were off to Europe.

This led to the most miserable two weeks of my life until that point. It was as though we were two strangers who had no desire to get to know each other. We barely spoke, and many times during the day Karan just vanished without saying a word to me. And of course, there was no question of any sightseeing, any shopping. The meals together whenever they happened were a strain because we didn’t know what to talk about. And the awkwardness seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. By the third day, I was desperate to head back. I guess so was he, but we had to spend the time of two weeks that our parents wanted us to.

And finally, after a torturous two weeks, we could head back.

Life went back to the pre-honeymoon days once we got back. But not quite. Within six months, the cat was out of the bag. I got to know the reason for my husband’s weird behaviour, and I also figured that my in-laws were very much in the know of things. And the respect that I had for them just flew out of the window. One day I had gone to meet my mother for coffee and was out of the house for a good two hours. When I got back, I found my mother-in-law sitting in the family lounge, and I detected a look of surprise and just a wee bit of alarm on her face. I wasn’t too sure about the alarm bit because the expression kind of came and went. And then as I turned to go to my room, she suggested that the two of us sit and chat for a bit which was quite a shocker as this had never happened before. So though I agreed to do that, I couldn’t be with her for too long. Once again, I wasn’t getting a very good feeling about this desire to chat. I got up and went to my room which was on the first floor of the house. The door was shut as was the practice in this house, and then to my surprise, I discovered that the room was locked from inside!! Why ?? Who was inside? I could hear some sounds and could make out that my husband was inside but with whom. I had reached the end of my tether with the family by then and so wasn’t prepared to take any more crap. I started banging on the door. The commotion got all the staff rushing to find out what was wrong. And then the door opened and out came my husband with two other men who I had never seen before. They looked quite strange, and they were laughing loudly as they came out of the room. What were they doing in our bedroom? Even though we didn’t have a relationship, the bedroom was our private space, what were these two men doing there. Their clothes also showed that they could not be Karan’s friends. Then who were they?

My husband went down with them without even glancing at me, and when I turned to look at the staff, they also were on their way down. 

This was just too weird. I started shouting and just couldn’t stop. All the pent up frustration of the past few months had been getting to me. I started cursing everyone, my husband, my in-laws, my parents and then I saw my mother-in-law come up and telling me to be quiet as girls from respectable families did not behave in that manner. It was too pedestrian and low class. By now, my anger had reached the limit, and I started shouting back at her. I asked her if I was being pedestrian, then what about her son? Why had he been holed up with the weirdos in the bedroom? If they were his guests, why were they not in the living room? She had no answer, but that did not stop her from abusing me.

Obviously, my husband was not oblivious to what was happening. He came back after having seen his friends off and telling his mother to leave, he caught hold of my hand and took me inside the room. And there, to my shock and horror, he revealed that he was in a relationship with not one but two of those guys. He had been in it for the last six years and was likely to remain in future also. My obvious question to him was as to why then had he got married me. Who had given him the right to mess up my life? As expected, he had no answer. It was obvious that his mother knew about it.

Having no other option, I called my mother. Since I couldn’t tell her everything on the phone, I asked her to come and see me. She obviously could sense that something major had happened and, so she came rushing to see me. I took her straight to my room and told her everything. She was, of course, as shocked as I had been. She pacified me, consoled me but then also made it clear that I had to accept this reality and learn to live with it.

Though I was aware of the reason my parents wanted me to marry Karan, I couldn’t believe that my mother would want me to still remain in the marriage after knowing the truth!! Did she not care at all for me? Was she for real?  That day I learnt one more hard lesson. My parents were for real, and they loved their image, their reputation more than they loved me. There was no way that they could allow me to walk out of my marriage. I had to adjust. And then my mother said another thing which chilled me to the bones. 

She said,” Listen Taraana, there is no way that you can come back. You have to stay here. The advantages of being Mrs Taraana Sharma far outweigh anything that you may have in mind. If you leave him, the cost will be too high. And I don’t want that to happen. Your image, our reputation will be ruined, and I won’t have that”. Having pronounced her verdict, she walked away.

Her tone with that cutting edge to it shook me to the core. My mother knew that her only daughter was married to a man who was gay, a fact that had been hidden by him and his family. Her whole life was at stake, and all she could think of was her image in society!! Was she serious?? She had actually left me to deal with the situation, but how! How was one supposed to handle this? How was I to lead a normal life? There were no answers. I tried reaching out to my father, who refused to take my calls. I sent him a message to which he replied in pretty much the same way as my mother. He told me that though he was shocked by what had happened, there was nothing that he could do to help me. On the contrary, he pleaded with me to take pity on my parents and not open my mouth. He advised me to stay quiet for the betterment of everyone.

I felt abandoned, lost, cheated, betrayed and angry. I realized that I was all alone. No one was there to help me or to take pity on me. My tears wouldn’t stop. I was so distraught that I couldn’t step out of my room for the next two days. No one bothered. Finally, on the third day, my mother-in-law came, and I thought that there was a ray of hope. But no, there was no such thing. She told me that if I intended to stay in the house, then I had to start behaving myself. She would not tolerate any more crying or screaming, the servants were all listening, and the reputation of the family was at stake. As the daughter-in-law of the house, I had to be mindful of my duties and responsibilities. By now, I had become quite numb to all this reputation business and chose not to enter into any kind of a dialogue with her. Having no choice, I collected myself and got up. I had no direction, no support.

And then though I hated myself for it, I did what all of them wanted me to do. I accepted the situation and decided to take it as my luck, my destiny. I could have chosen to be courageous enough to take a bold step, but I did not. Maybe it was the lack of guts, the lack of support or just the fact of being the only daughter-in-law of the city’s wealthiest industrialist family and the perks associated with it. I chose to keep quiet and get on with my life. The only concession that I asked for and which was given to me was that I could shift to a separate room. But then maybe they agreed to let their son carry on with his lifestyle without any hindrance. And although I wanted to ask my in-laws why they had got their son married despite knowing the reality, the answer was pretty obvious. His reality was a secret, and the only way it could be kept that way was by getting him married. The girl or her future was obviously of no consequence.

And so the next two years of my life went by in this fashion. I lived the life of a Richie rich socialite. My in-laws had sanctioned a nice hefty monthly allowance for me. I could do whatever I wanted with it. I could go out, meet up with friends, shop, nobody questioned or interfered which in a way eased up my life a bit. The deal was that as long as I didn’t object to my husband’s lifestyle, helped to keep it a secret, everything was fine. The reputation of the family was the only thing that mattered. But of course, something had to change. How could life continue the way it had been? And so one day, which happened to be a Sunday, I was summoned by my father-in-law in his study. I had no idea what he wanted, but of course, I could not ignore the summons. And then when I walked in, to my surprise, I found my husband sitting there along with my mother-in-law. My father-in-law told me to sit down and looking at both my husband and me, and without batting an eyelid, he told us that now we needed to seriously consider starting a family and it would be preferable if we could have a son. To say that I was shocked, aghast would be an understatement. I looked at my husband, who was equally shocked. At least we had something in common!! I looked at my in-laws completely dumbstruck. Did they not know what their son was all about? Did they really think that having a child was even possible? But obviously, they did. And then we had to keep in mind their preferences!! Which century were we living in?

And then having made that proclamation my father-in-law went back to doing what he had been doing as though the topic was closed. It was left for us to figure out the way forward or whatever. I looked at my mother-in-law, and if I had expected any kind of support from her, I was sadly mistaken. She just looked at the two of us and told us that we needed to find a way out. I looked at all of them. Had they lost it? Had they gone mad? But it was as though I was the only one feeling that way. Karan walked out of the room with an air of indifference about him, and I was also left with no choice but to go to my room.  Now, what was this?  But then I thought to myself that I needed to relax. If this diktat was my problem, it was my husband’s too. After all, it was his father’s wish. And I couldn’t really do much about it by myself.

But whatever the reason, money/position/status/society, Karan realized that he needed to pay heed to what his father had said to us. So one night as I was preparing to go to my room after dinner he told me that we needed to talk. He made it very clear that we had no choice but to listen to his father. And while I looked at him with a million questions in my eyes, the primary one being, how was it even possible with him being a gay, he told me that we had to try. It sickened me, disgusted me even to hear him talk like that. I  walked away from him but knew that it would not be possible to walk away from this new predicament. My biggest question at that point was that how could you have a normal sexual relationship with a gay? And if one could then wasn’t the person a bisexual? Wasn’t I exposing myself to all kinds of risks and infections?  But as always, I had no one to talk to, no one to consult. The situation was of helplessness and fear. I was terrified of getting close to my husband. I wasn’t ready to share a room with him, how was I going to share a bed??? I couldn’t sleep that night and many other nights after that. The future looked bleaker than ever before. Again I had a choice of putting an end to this horrific, horrible situation but guess what ?? I didn’t! I lacked the guts, the courage to take any drastic step. And so I had no choice but to wait and see what fate had in store for me. I felt like a complete coward and a loser. But that was a choice I had made.

After about a week, my husband came into my room and informed me that we were to go to London as suggested by his parents for a vacation. I felt like telling him that I knew why we were going. It was basically to make sure that the family got an heir, but I kept shut. I informed my parents about the impending trip, but that was it. I didn’t feel like talking to them any more than what was necessary, and meeting them was out of the question. In these two years, my relationship with them had reached an all-time low. I had no desire to see them or having anything to do with them. That part of me which depended on them or cared for them was dead now. I did still love them because they continued to be my parents, but our relationship was very stiff and formal.

So off we went. I was dreading the whole situation and was edgy as hell. But then I had no choice but to endure the ordeal. My father-in-law gave me extra money to spend but taking it made me feel cheap and horrible. I had very little self-respect left, but again it was a situation that was the result of lack of guts on my part. We went and as I had expected to leave aside our bedroom shenanigans my husband left me alone for the rest of the day. I could do whatever I wanted, and I was sure he was doing his own thing. A fortnight of the so-called holiday and we were back hoping that we had done what was expected and would get the desired results. Somewhere the Gods decided to take pity on me, and as luck would have it, I managed to conceive. The day I told my in-laws about it, they were over the moon. It was as though all their prayers had been answered. They probably had been!!!! And this led to nine months of pampering, loving and caring for the daughter-in-law. The son was forgotten entirely, who also almost disappeared from our lives. Knowing that he had done what was expected of him, he just vanished. And no one seemed to care!! This family of mine never ceased to amaze me!!  If my parents were heartless, insensitive towards their daughter, my in-laws were no less. The only person who mattered now was me. Obviously!!!

My pregnancy was going well, but I was putting on crazy amounts of weight. And though initially, I was careful about how much I ate, as the pregnancy progressed I couldn’t do that. I had become like this giant who couldn’t stop eating. I wanted to eat all the time and the amount I ate!! Soon the mystery was solved. My doctor informed us that I was carrying twins. Now my in-laws’ joy knew no bounds. They were so sure that at least one of the twins would be a boy. They went crazy preparing for the birth. Nannies were booked, nurseries were designed, clothes, toys, latest gadgets were bought. The money you see had never been a problem, and now the reason to spend it was such a great one. I couldn’t complain about anything. My mother-in-law took care of everything. My wish had suddenly become my command. At that time, I think I had become the most important person in the house, the carrier of the ‘heir apparent’.

Many times I would wonder at the sheer hypocrisy of the society, my family. But then wasn’t I too a party to it. I was doing, had done what they wanted. Even though I knew it wasn’t right. How was I different from any of the other women? 

My parents were equally excited about the forthcoming birth. I could detect a sense of pride in my mother’s eyes as though her daughter had fulfilled her part of the bargain. The nine months went by, and I gave birth to my lovely twins, a boy and a girl. The family went berserk. There was a huge celebration, and I was given the status of a queen. My in-laws showered me with gifts, jewellery, the works. Somewhere my husband also stepped out from the shadows to share a bit of the limelight though he was largely ignored by most of the immediate family.

With the birth of my children, my life just went on a different tangent. From being like a sidekick in the house, I became a very important person, if not the most important one. The most important were the children, my children. Somewhere I understood that like before I did not have an identity of my own. From being a daughter to a daughter-in-law, I had become a mother. My worth, my identity came from my children. But then I thought, what the heck, they were my children, I had given birth to them.

Now I had a sense of purpose; my life had a direction. The purpose was the upbringing, the caring of my children who I wanted to shower with all the love and affection. I wanted everything perfect for them, and I was helped and supported in this endeavour by my in-laws. They too wanted the best for them. But somewhere this obsession with perfection for the children became a bit too much. We started stressing over every little thing that had anything to do with them. What schools were they to attend?  What were they to eat, when were they to eat, who were their friends, what were their hobbies everything began to be strictly monitored and controlled. Somewhere we were all trying to make sure that nothing ever went wrong. But the greatest obsession as I figured with time was their grades in school. They had to be the best, and I was the one who had to ensure that. So as they grew up, there was more and more pressure on me to make them study hard, as hard as possible. I had to organise the best tutors for them, make sure that they got the maximum attention in school, basically anything and everything to enable them to top. I had to keep them away from distractions, in the form of friends, TV, outings which as they grew up became more and more difficult.

  The twins who we had named, Tanya and Rishi were good kids who followed the rules and did what we wanted them to do. They had strict schedules with fixed timings for their classes and free time. Apart from school, they had to pick up a sport, a music class along with their tuitions. But in our desire for everything perfect for them, we forgot they were human too and not robots. They had feelings, desires and wishes, which did not always match with ours. My job as a mother was to keep them away from distractions which became a nightmarish task when they entered their teens. I was like a tiger mom who wanted the best for her children, and if my views clashed with theirs, then mine had to prevail. They resented it, argued, fought, but I would never relent. I was extremely unpopular with their friends, even with their teachers, but I didn’t care. I was like this hawk who kept an eagle eye on their activities., their social media accounts, their phones, everything was in my control. 

But now when I look back, I do realise that I was going too far and it wasn’t only unreasonable but unfair also. I had all but forgotten that even my controlling parents had given me much more freedom than I was giving.  Though most of the times, my husband was a non-existent parent as I started to get more and more unbearable,  somewhere he realized the mistake I was making and started pointing it out to me. I who didn’t care about him or his opinion didn’t pay any heed. I was so sure of what I was doing that his views didn’t matter at all. 

As was bound to happen, something had to happen to make me realise how wrong I was. It was my father-in-law’s sixty-fifth birthday, and we had thrown a big party at the house. Most of our friends, family everyone, had been invited. It was a big celebration, and my mother-in-law had left no stone unturned to make it a huge success. And of course, the most important requirement was the presence of each and every family member. I was entrusted with the task of ensuring the presence of my children. Knowing how important it was, I had given both of them explicit instructions to drop everything else and be there. The day dawned, and I got busy with helping my mother-in-law with the finishing touches. It was a pretty hectic day, and I had no time to check om Tania or Rishi. It was a given in my head that they would show up at the time. So at the designated time, I went down to be with my in-laws. The children were to join me in a while. I got busy with the guests and did not have the time to check if they had arrived. It was only when it was time to cut the cake that I realized that though Tania was there, Rishi could not be seen anywhere. I checked with Tania, but she had no idea about his whereabouts or maybe now as I see it she didn’t want to tell me. I tried reaching him on his mobile, but his phone had been switched off. I told my daughter to check with their friends, but no one knew anything. I was getting frantic, but there was nothing that I could do.

And then right in the middle of this elite gathering of almost a thousand people, from the corner of the eye, I saw two cops enter the house. My heart in my mouth I rushed towards them. I was praying that everything was okay, but of course, it wasn’t. My son, who was supposed to be the epitome of virtue, character had gone and done something totally out of character and unacceptable, unbelievable!! He had chosen to miss this big party in the house to go to a party at his friend’s house which had turned out to be a rave party!! The police had got wind of it, had raided the place and arrested everyone, including my son!! My father-in-law was furious, my mother-in-law was shocked, and I could scarcely breathe. I couldn’t digest this piece of information. My son, who didn’t go anywhere without my permission had a set of friends who I didn’t know about, and they indulged in substance abuse!!!  And now he was in the police lockup!! It was unbelievable, seemed to be a scene from a horror movie!! My in-laws were looking at me as though wanting to kill me.  In the meanwhile, someone asked the guests to leave, and I could see them trickling out. Not that I cared!!  

I could sense that my in-laws were worried about the gossip and the damage done to their reputation. I, on the other hand, wanted to rush to the cop station and get my son back. Somewhere my father-in-law also realized the need to do that. Both of us rushed, he pulled a few strings and before a lot of damage could be done, Rishi was home. But now my in-laws took off on me. They held me responsible for the situation. They felt that I had not played my part very well despite all the facilities and support from them. My father-in-law started shouting at me and told me that this mess was my responsibility, and I would have to pay for it. My husband felt that this was the result of all the control that I had been exercising on the children. He was livid with me. I turned to my children who too didn’t want to have anything to do with me. They went and locked themselves into their rooms.

I was left by self, angry, hurt, let down and as before with no one to talk to. My parents too felt that the blame lay squarely with me. I was sitting by myself in my room, wondering where I had gone wrong. I had done the best that I could have. I had tried to give my children a good upbringing making sure that all the money did not go to their heads. I had tried to make sure that they didn’t get spoilt, valued hard work, respected their elders and loved each other. Yes, I had been strict, but that was because I wanted the best for them, and also there was a lot of pressure from my in-laws to make sure that they always outshined every other kid. It was so unfair!!  When they had done well in school/ everyone had been there to share the accolades, but today when things had gone wrong, I had been left alone to deal with it. Why, why? 

But there was no answer to the why. I wanted to talk to my child, I wanted to know what had caused him to be a part of such a group of people, but he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Yes, I was angry, but I was worried too. I was his mother, after all. But no one seemed to realise that. I couldn’t sleep for the whole night. I couldn’t stop crying. Once again, I was lonely, helpless. Finally, in the morning, somehow, I was able to get Tania to talk to me. She saw me teary-eyed and miserable, and I feel her heart melted. She came and hugged me and told me not to worry. She went up to Rishi and implored upon him to at least talk to me once. The sister managed to get to the brother, and he agreed. He was also feeling very ashamed of himself. He confessed that though he had known this set of boys as they were in his school, he wasn’t a very good friend of theirs. They had all made a plan and dared him to join them. They had jeered at him, telling him that he was too chicken to defy his mother. They had ridiculed him and all that had got to him, and he had decided to go. He had meant to stay only for a while, but somehow he hadn’t realized how quickly the time had passed. And before he could get a chance to leave the raid by the cops had taken place.

I could see that Rishi was stressed and worried sick about what was going to happen. I too was scared but didn’t want to pass my fear onto the children. Somewhere I knew that the influential person that my father-in-law was he would be able to hush it up, which is what happened. Ethically it wasn’t the right thing, but it happened. I was greatly relieved when the matter got hushed up, and people forgot about it.  Though very shocking, the incident made me come to my senses as I realised that I needed to loosen up and give freedom to my children.  They were grown up now and capable of making their decisions.  I had to learn to let them be.

What also emerged was the fact that my children became more understanding about my situation and the peculiar dynamics of our family. Even if I had gone wrong in many ways, my upbringing had managed to make my children sensitive and caring. That was a huge achievement. Rishi having realised his mistake went and apologised to my in-laws. It made sense to forgive and forget which is what we all did.  Life moved on, and soon it was time for the twins to go overseas for their education. Though I had worked incredibly hard to make sure that they got into good colleges the day it happened, I was struck with a sense of loss and sadness. I realized that I didn’t want my children to leave.  What would I do without them? My life would go back to where it had been before they were born.  But of course, pushing aside these feelings, I went with them to drop them off. And to my shock and surprise, Karan decided to accompany us. And guess what ?? I was ok with it. Maybe with age, I was becoming more accepting of situations!!

We went, and we came back. As expected, I have become lonely and don’t seem to be having any purpose in life. But somewhere I know that I am not going to remain in this state for too long. It was Tania who before leaving gave me the idea of starting an NGO or something like that which could keep me gainfully occupied. I like the idea and am going to approach my father-in-law to help me. Despite everything, I am glad about one thing. My children have enabled me to hold my head high. I am proud of the way they have turned out, and I am absolutely sure about one thing. I am not going to curb them. They will be able to do what they want and when they want. I will encourage them to follow their hearts and find happiness. Lesson learnt !!  I may not be proud of myself, of my choices in life, but I have made a resolve. I am not going to let anyone interfere with their choices. They have gone away from home, away from this society and hopefully will have the courage to say “No” when it is required. They will have my unstinted support to do that.

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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