Neena and Inder Bahl had two children Sunil and Aprajita. Aparajita or Apu as she was called was a happy go lucky, fun-loving girl, the apple of her parents’ eyes. Her brother too doted on her. As a result of all the love and affection, she was a tad spoilt, which was quite apparent to her mother but not really to her father and brother who never tired of indulging her. Apu too loved her father and brother a lot, but as far as her mother was concerned, it was a different story. As Neena was a little strict with her, Apu always got into trouble with her and sometimes did things which her mother didn’t like just to irritate her. It wasn’t as though she didn’t care for her mother; it was just that she found her to be too overbearing and controlling. Anyways life was good. Her parents were well off and could afford to give a comfortable life to their children.
And then at the age of fifteen, Apu fell in love with Atul, her brother Sunil’s closest friend. She was in school at that time while Atul after completing his education had just started working. Since he was her brother’s friend, he was a regular visitor to their house, and so the two of them ended up meeting each other very often. He was incredibly good looking, which was what had drawn her to him in the first place.
At that tender age, looks are the deciding factor for most things, especially things related to the heart and of course Apu’s heart was no exception. She was totally mesmerised by the whole persona of Atul. She loved the way he looked, the way he spoke and the way he carried himself. Whenever he came, which was often enough, she would stop everything that she was doing and find reasons to be around him. Even when Sunil and Atul didn’t want her around and made it pretty obvious she would still keep hovering around just in case she could manage a glance or get in a word.
In her eyes, he was God and could never do or say anything wrong. It wasn’t long before all this attention started getting noticed by the recipient who though initially amused by her actions gradually started expecting her to be always around. He loved all the attention. Who wouldn’t??
Her behaviour started getting noticed by her parents, in particular by her mother, who did not like it at all. She tried to throw subtle hints at her daughter to stay away from the two boys, but when it didn’t work, she categorically forbade her from being anywhere near them. Now Neena had nothing against the boy, but she could see that her daughter was infatuated with him and so did not want her to do anything foolish. But when Apu chose to ignore all her hints and instructions, Neena decided to take matters in her hands. She told Sunil to discourage Atul from visiting them too often, and she also tried to ensure that if he had to visit them, then it would only be in the evenings when she was around.
But the matters of the heart are never open to any reason or logic. Such matters tend to flourish more under the umbrella of restrictions which is what happened in this case. It wasn’t long before the infatuation turned into love and not from one side only. When Atul’s interaction with Apu diminished as a result of her mother’s instructions, and he couldn’t see her that often he started missing her. Before that, since she had always been around, he had begun taking her presence for granted.
What happened as a result was that Atul started seeking out Apu because he wanted to meet her. And she, of course, was ever ready. So, therefore, contrary to what her mother had wanted, the two became closer than before. They even started meeting on the sly whenever they could. And that added to the thrill and excitement of the whole affair. Love was in the air, and Apu was floating. And now that Atul had started reciprocating her joy knew no bounds.
This went on for a year. The feelings that they had for each continued to grow and deepen. Apu was clear that he was the man for her, and she would get married to him at some point. She didn’t know when but she knew that it would happen. But she was also aware of the fact that she was far too young to broach the topic of marriage to anyone and so needed to wait.
Her 16th birthday came, and it was made special by everyone. Her parents threw a big party for her and flooded her with gifts. Atul who by now had started earning reasonably well bought her a diamond ring which for all intents and purposes was like an engagement ring. Apu loved it but for obvious reasons couldn’t show it to anyone. She was over the moon.
As a result of her preoccupation with her love life, Apu who had always been a reasonably good student started slipping in studies. Her grades reached a point where her parents were summoned to the school and apprised of the situation and the possible consequences. The summons got Apu in real trouble with her parents and as always more with her mother.
Neena Bahl had always been a bright student and extremely ambitious too. She had worked hard to become a doctor and then worked even harder to continue to work after getting married and after becoming a mother. So a person as ambitious as she had similar kind of goals and aspirations for her daughter as well. She wanted her to perform exceptionally well in her academics and choose some profession which would make her a financially independent woman. She could never identify with or relate to women who were housewives as she felt that just looking after the house and the children was an underutilisation of a woman’s abilities. So, therefore, she had always pushed Apu towards academic excellence ever since she had started school. But the current situation it school made it pretty evident that that wasn’t going to happen. Apu had barely passed in the exams!! And this was of course, unacceptable. So now Neena put more curbs and restrictions on her daughter not letting her go out very often and also monitoring her television time. But nothing seemed to work because Apu was way too distracted to bother. She had her own set of ambitions and aspirations, which were the exact opposite of what her mother had for her. Her aim in life was to get married to Atul as soon as possible. She wanted to have her own house, have children and spend her time taking care of her family. To her having a career or having financial independence which her mother kept talking about meant nothing at all.
Maybe it was a reaction to the way she had seen things in her house where her mother had always been very busy. She, on a typical day, was never around to take care of the house or the children. Many times the parents got into fights because of one issue or the other related to the house. Sometimes it was the food, sometimes it was the children, but most of the arguments as Apu understood were because her mother had been too busy at work to bother about her duty towards her husband and children. So, therefore, from a young age, she had decided that she would place her husband, her children and her home on topmost priority. For her having a career was not as important as having a home where everyone was happy.
However, the situation as it had unfolded itself did tell her that she needed to pull up because no one would support that kind of an academic disaster. And she was quite ashamed of her performance. Even Atul advised her to work towards correcting the situation. So for the next two years, she decided to focus on her academics and improve her grades. Of course, Atul was very much around, but, she had reached a stage where she was confident about him and his feelings for her, and so it was relatively easy for her to focus on something else as well. Atul also supported her and so much to the surprise and joy of her parents she performed brilliantly in her school-leaving exams. She even topped in two subjects.
Seeing her result, her mother was thrilled. So now she wanted her to join a good college and pursue higher studies. But that wasn’t part of Apu’s plans. She had worked hard to satisfy everyone but now no more. Apu had decided that having finished school, she was now going to get married to the man of her dreams, and no one was going to come in her way. She told her parents about her relationship with Atul and about their intention of getting married as soon as possible. Her mother tried very hard to convince her otherwise, but she wouldn’t relent. She had made up her mind, and that was it.
But getting her way wasn’t so easy for Apu. If she was stubborn, so was her mother. Her mother was clear that no matter what, Apu had to study further and therefore take admission in college. Her father was also in agreement with the mother. And so Apu was left with no choice but to apply to colleges for admissions. Since her grades were very good, she got into one of the best colleges in the city. So much against her wishes, she had to study further.
But her heart lay elsewhere. She didn’t like college. She wanted to get married to Atul as soon as possible and didn’t want to waste time. Atul was also equally keen though he wanted her to continue with her studies. But there was one thing good that came out of her going to college. She and Atul could meet without any problem. They could meet whenever they wanted to and for as long as they wanted to. Nobody could question them because no one knew what she was up to during the day. There was no one at home, and so she could choose to do whatever she wanted with no questions asked.
Soon it was time for her exams. She again performed very well. What was surprising was the fact that with close to a minimum amount of effort, she could get great results. But in spite of that, she couldn’t wait to get married. It was as though she was fixed on that one track and no matter how many tracks she was made to change, she still came back onto that one. By now, Atul had taken up a small apartment on rent, and both of them were itching to start their lives with each other.
All this stubbornness had only one positive effect for Apu and Atul, and that was that Neena agreed that the two of them could get married, but there was one condition. The condition was that Apu had to complete her graduation before getting married. For Neena, it was impossible to understand as to how someone as bright and intelligent as her daughter who could pursue any career and be a financially independent woman would not want to do that. Her obsession with getting married defied all logic and made no sense to her.
The thing was the mother and daughter were as different from each other as it could get. They could not see eye to eye on most things, but this issue took the cake. The two of them could not relate to the other one at all. For Neena, it was impossible to accept that her flesh and blood could be so regressive [as she thought it to be] in her thinking. And Apu could not understand why her mother had to make everything so complicated and why couldn’t she let her be. However, one thing which the two had in common was their stubbornness, and in this case, it made matters worse.
By now Apu had reached a level of rebelliousness where she just wanted to defy her mother. She had started feeling that she had been pushed far too long, and it was high time she put an end to it. She told Atul that he needed to speak to her parents about them as soon as possible.
Atul chose a Sunday to seek out his prospective in-laws and ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Though somewhere they knew what was coming Neena and Inder had been under the impression that like before they would be able to push Apu and get her to finish her college. They had a twin purpose. One was the education angle, but there was more to it. They did not want her to marry Atul, who was from not a very affluent background. His parents lived in a small town in Rajasthan and in all their years of knowing Atul they had never met his parents. But Neena had gathered over the years that the backgrounds of the two families were completely different and so knew that it would be difficult for Apu to gel with them. But Apu neither had a clue about all this nor did she want to get one. She loved Atul, and that was all that mattered to her.
The parents had all along felt that as she grew in age and maturity, she would be able to see for herself how she and Atul were poles apart and not suited to each other. However, this proposal threw a spanner in their plans. They realised that things were not going to be that easy. But then Neena was not going to stop trying. When Atul told them about what he had in mind, she heard him out patiently. Then looking at him she said that she was surprised at him. She had expected that since he was much older than Apu, he would have had more sense than her and persuaded her to finish college rather than listening to her and approaching them for their marriage. She told him clearly that no matter what they wanted, they would have to wait for some more time, and though Atul tried very hard to convince them, he couldn’t. Neena also got very upset with Sunil for not being able to figure out what Atul had been up to all along. In fact, the three of them were so angry that they got onto a blame game with the parents blaming Sunil and Sunil blaming them, and finally, the parents blaming each other. And they got so busy doing that that they forgot all about Atul who was left wondering as to what he should be doing.
Finally, Apu, hearing the raised voices walked in and shouting at the top of her voice, asked all of them to keep quiet. She looked at her family and told them in no uncertain terms that they could spend the rest of their lives trying to find who to blame, but she was certain that there was no stopping her. She was determined to get married to Atul, and no power on this planet could stop her. So saying she caught hold of Atul’s hand and walked out of the room and the house.
It was a good ten minutes before her parents realised that she had left the house with Atul. There was complete chaos after that. They tried calling both of them, but their phones were switched off. Neena was getting frantic, but there wasn’t much that anyone could do. Neena wanted to file a police complaint and wanted Atul to be charged for kidnapping their daughter, but her husband reminded her of the fact that Apu was a major now and in a position to make her own decisions, so, therefore, their complaint would not solve any purpose. They tried calling her friends, Atul’s friends but no one had any idea of their whereabouts.
Finally at about 11 in the night Apu walked into the house with a nonchalant air about her. She could see what a commotion her action had created. She looked at her parents and told them very clearly that if they did not let her marry Atul, she would elope with him and they would never be able to find her. She told her mother that if she wanted to have any relationship with her in the future, then she had to comply with her wishes and let her marry Atul.
She told her to put all her apprehension aside as they didn’t bother her at all. Atul’s financial position or his small-town background was of no concern to her. She knew he was a good guy, and she could depend on him and spend the rest of her life with him.
Neena now tried pleading and cajoling, but that didn’t work either. The only thing Apu agreed to was to complete her graduation after getting married, so though they were not at all convinced about it, her parents decided to let her have her way.
But Neena was very conscious of the fact that her only daughter had got married into a family that was way below them, and so she was very cold and off-hand with Apu’s in-laws. She made it known that not only did she disapprove of her daughter getting married so young, but she also disproved of her getting into such a family. And although Inder advised her to be gracious about the whole situation and accept it, she wasn’t listening. Even with Atul, she was quite rude. She was convinced that he was a gold digger and had tricked her daughter into marrying him.
She disapproved of his’ matchbox-sized’ apartment and of the fact that he couldn’t even afford a fancy car. What most people and in particular her daughter couldn’t see behind all of Neena’s raving and ranting was her worry, her concern for her daughter. She knew that her daughter was used to certain luxuries in life. There were certain things that she took for granted like the servants, the drivers, the money, the holidays, so how would she be able to live without them.
Apu couldn’t understand or foresee any of that. She was happy that she could now fulfil her dreams of living in her home with her husband, her children, and showering them with all her love and affection.
But the first damper came when on getting married she realised that she would be moving to a not a very nice part of the city. Though she had always known where Atul lived the actual significance of the address hit her when she moved there and had to tell her friends about where she now lived. The raised eyebrows and the smirks were enough to tell her what they thought of her new address. Then slowly and gradually, reality started sinking in. She no longer had a car to ferry her around, enough money to shop or entertain. Atul could barely give her enough to run the house, which in itself was a challenge. She didn’t know the first thing about running a house, she had never cooked or lifted a finger in her parents’ house, and now all of a sudden, it was her responsibility. It was quite a shock. But the biggest shock was the realisation that Atul the husband was completely different from Atul the boyfriend. From a loving, caring person, he had become this typically Indian husband who expected his wife to wait on him, to pamper him and to take care of his every need. He expected her to obey him with no questions asked. If she ever tried to question, she was either ignored or shouted at. He wanted to be in control of everything she did.
And what is more two months into the marriage and he announced that his parents and younger sister were to move in with them. He told her very categorically that since now he had a wife and a home, he didn’t want them to live in a small city. He wanted them to live with him and his sister to study there and eventually he wanted to get her married into a good family. To say that Apu was shocked would be an understatement. She couldn’t understand how she was expected to take up all that responsibility with absolutely no help from him. As it is, she was finding it next to possible to deal with her life, and now she was expected to play the part of a dutiful daughter in law. She didn’t know what to do and had no one to talk to or share her problems with.
And then within a week, her in-laws moved into their small apartment lock, stock and barrel. Even before their moving in, she had been trying to adjust living in a small apartment. All her life, she had lived in a large house and was used to large spaces. After getting married, she had tried to adjust, but now she was expected to share the small space with three other people!!. How was that going to happen?? The day her in-laws moved in with them, they took over one of the two bedrooms and her sister in law took over the living room. So now there were five of them in a small apartment, and she was the maid. She had to cook, clean, run errands and take care of everything and nobody ever thought of helping her.
And what is more, her in-laws were always ever ready to pick holes in everything she did. Her food was bad; her house was not clean enough; the clothes she washed were not clean enough. As a result, she and Atul fought constantly. The moment he stepped into the house, her mother in law would be full of complaints against her and then Atul without giving a chance to her would take off on her.
Apu tried to adjust with everything but after almost two months of doing that she just gave up. She wanted to talk to her parents and take their help but didn’t know how to. She kept debating over this for many days but then ultimately decided that she would swallow her pride and speak to her mother, who she knew would immediately come to her rescue. She may have a few things to say to her, but she knew that listening to her mother would be far better than this constant bickering of her mother in law.
Apu had come from a family where it was the women who had the upper hand, her mother being a case in point. All the men in her immediate and extended family were taught to respect women. She couldn’t understand how, after knowing all this about her family Atul could still treat her like that. And where had all the love, all the sweet promises gone? Had all that been just a ploy to get her to marry him? Though her parents had been against the marriage but eventually when they had given in, then they had done everything that they would have done if the groom had been of their choice. But her mother in law never stopped complaining about how her parents had mistreated them and how her poor son had been tricked into marrying a girl who couldn’t take care of him. And though she had been in love Apu had been aware of the difference in the social standing of the two families. She knew that whatever her parents had done for her and her in-laws had been way beyond what anyone else would have done for them. So she couldn’t quite get her mother in law’s point. If that wasn’t enough, she would always compare her to her sister in law and try to prove how her sister in law was better than her in every respect from her looks to her housekeeping abilities. Her sister in law was no less. She would borrow her clothes, her jewellery at the drop of a hat and would either not return her things or return them in a state that they could not be used again.
So in a matter of a few months from the pampered life with her parents who adored her, she had become a daughter in law, a wife who no one cared for. She was like a prisoner who was not allowed to step out of the house without the permission of her in-laws, a sharp contrast to the times when in her parents’ house no one asked her what she did or where she went. She was just a tool to get things done. She was at her wit’s end and wanted a way out. So she decided to approach her parents.
But as they say ‘Man proposes, God disposes. Her parents and brother she learnt were travelling at that time, so she had no choice but to wait for them to come back. And while she was doing that she discovered that she was pregnant. This was a shock and caught her by surprise. It kind of added to her problems. She didn’t know what to do. She knew that if she shared her problems with her family, they would tell her to leave Atul and start her life anew. But if she did that, then what would happen to her child? She also knew that her parents would advise her to terminate her pregnancy but would that be right? Would it not be unfair to her child? She thought about it for a few more days and then took a decision which changed her life from bad to worse. She decided to stay on in the marriage and give birth to the child. She thought that the child would have a positive change in her life, and her husband would start becoming more loving towards her. She had always seen the way her father had brought them up, giving them his time, his love and his care. In her eyes, a father could be the best thing for a child, and so she mistakenly believed that her husband would also be the same.
But sadly Atul was cut from a different cloth. In his world, a child was only the mother’s responsibility which belief was reinforced by his own experience and his mother’s telling him that. So although everyone was happy about the fact that she was expecting the happiness did not mean that her life was going to be made easier. In fact, life became even more difficult because along with everything else, she also had to deal with her health issues. The initial days especially were very trying because of the morning sickness, the discomfort and even the idea of motherhood. But what troubled her the most was the absolute lack of sympathy or concern from Atul. He just couldn’t be bothered about what she was going through which, according to his mother were just reasons to get attention and of course, it was always her word that prevailed.
It never ever occurred to him to spend time with her, pamper her or take care of her. He never accompanied her to see the doctor. It was always his mother. The doctor constantly told her to take care of herself, her diet, but she couldn’t do that because her mother in law always trashed whatever the doctor suggested to Apu. So, as a result, she started looking run down and haggard and instead of putting on weight started losing it. One day when she was at the hospital, she bumped into a colleague of her mother’s who had come there to meet someone. Apu didn’t want to meet her, but despite all her intentions, the lady saw her. Now Apu had not told her parents about her pregnancy because she knew that on getting to know about it they would come and see her and she didn’t know how her husband and in-laws would treat them. Moreover, she didn’t want them to see her in the state in which she now was.
By now she had realised that all her mother’s misgivings about the family, about Atul, had proved to be correct. Atul had turned out to be what her mother had always told her, but she had been so blinded by her love for him that she had refused to believe her.
So not only did she not want them to be mistreated by her in-laws, but she also had a certain amount of pride which kind of discouraged her from meeting her parents. She didn’t want to admit that she had made a mistake. So, therefore, when she saw that lady, she tried to avoid her. Another reason was the way she and her mother in law were dressed in very, very ordinary clothes, unlike her mother’s colleague, who was turned out very smartly. But then she had to acknowledge her and introduce her mother in law to her. Nothing much happened at that time, but within an hour, her mother was at her doorstep and very angry with her. But when she saw her and the state in which she was all her pent up motherly love came out in the form of tears. She couldn’t believe that her daughter had been reduced to that state. She was livid with her husband and in-laws and told her to pack her bags and come with her. When her mother in law objected and said that she would have to wait for Atul to get back home before taking Apu anywhere, Neena gave her a cold look and told her daughter to pack her stuff.
Apu though shocked at the development, had had her fill of eternal love and wanted a break to get herself sorted. For once, she listened to her mother, packed her bags and went to her parents’ house.
Suddenly it was just like old times; she was back in her room, her lifestyle with no care in the world. Her parents took over her life, and her mother started nursing her back into health. She put everything else on hold and decided to stay back home to take care of her daughter’s diet, her health, and her general well being. She wanted every detail of her marital life to figure out the road ahead. And Apu was more than willing to share. All the pent up feelings, emotions started pouring out of her. It was as though till that moment she had put a stop to all expression of sadness, loneliness and misery as there hadn’t been anyone who wanted to listen to her. And now that she had found someone, there was no stopping her. Her mother couldn’t believe that her daughter had been subjected to so much of mental torture by the man she supposedly loved. She regretted having given in to her at that time and not having put her foot down. But not someone to indulge in regret or self-pity for too long she now wanted to rectify things for her daughter. The only thing she told Apu was that she should have spoken to them much earlier and not endured all the torture for so long.
Inder and in particular Sunil were very upset with Atul for having treated Apu so shabbily. Sunil felt let down and betrayed because he and Atul had been very close to each other. He wanted to confront Atul, but his parents dissuaded him from doing that at that point because they wanted to see how Atul was going to react to Apu’s leaving the house. But to their surprise and shock, he didn’t react at all. Days went by, and there was no reaction at all. There was no call, no message, no communication at all.
Finally, after two weeks, when there was still no sign of Atul, Neena told Sunil to get in touch with Atul. But when Sunil did that, Atul was very rude and brusque with him. He told him categorically that since Apu was the one to have left the house, she would have to apologise to him and his family before she could be forgiven. That tone and the choice of words shocked Sunil. He was livid with his so-called friend and could not believe that he had never been able to see through him. He had always thought that Atul was a caring and considerate person. But the person that he spoke to did not seem caring at all. He sounded just the opposite and to think that he had let his sister marry him!! What a blunder!
He shared the details of his conversation with his parents, who decided that the only way out now was for Apu to leave Atul and start all over again. They understood that she would have to give birth to the child, but they didn’t want her to go back to her husband only for that reason. They decided to support her in every possible way, but then they needed her to take the decision.
So what did Apu decide? How did her decision affect her future?
So now what?? What was going to happen to Apu now??
Want to know more?? Wait for Part 2.