Sunday, February 4, 2018


"Next station is Karol Bagh. Doors will open on the left. Please mind the gap."

Nirmala got her back upright and her ears alert, to listen to the announcement in Delhi Metro. She didn't blink till the announcement ended, and stared in concentration. Anything important can't be missed, she told herself. Hundreds of people around her, though, were not bothered. For them, it was mundane. Metro had been their lifeline, as roads were increasingly getting clogged in the rush hours. For Nirmala, it was the first time aboard the modern commute. She had to ask four persons to confirm if she was going to the right platform. Someone else had to tell her how to use the token at entry gate. Even when she was in the metro, she was restlessly looking at the station map and was observing how commuters deboarded at stations.

Nirmala was 53 now. The wrinkles on her cheeks and forehead were a testimony to that. Someone had offered her a reserved seat for elderly persons. She accepted the seat, but her mind was still accepting the new environment she was in. The middle-aged lady sitting next to her had boarded at the same platform. She looked as worried as Nirmala did, and looked around with unsettled eyes- like a pigeon among cats. The metro, oblivious of it all, ran like clockwork.

A group of young girls boarded the metro at Rajiv Chowk station. A few of them stood in a  circle- chirping and laughing. A couple of them just stood alone, resting their backs against the walls of compartment and looking away pensively. The commuters were stealing glances at the girls, most of them were judging them for their fashion sense-; they wore skirts, or leggings or shorts, or rugged jeans, complemented by crop tops. The middle-aged lady sitting next to Nirmala, was among the ones who were judging.
"These girls only show skin to seek attention", she thought. "I would never let my daughter wear this.".

Nirmala's 53-year old mind thought the otherwise. A sense of guilt underlined her thoughts. " I wish I had not suppressed what my daughter wanted to do. These girls were blessed to have been given the liberty to live their lives. Their confidence speaks through their faces."

The middle-aged lady's thoughts, meanwhile, continued on the same track. "These girls, I have heard, don't think twice before sleeping with anyone. Characterless, their clothes reek of characterlessness. I am happy my daughter is not spoiled in the lure of becoming modern. I won't ever let her go for MBA She did well in written and that's it. Girls are not meant to be sent away before marriage, they need to learn household chores for their in-laws. Good marks in written doesn't mean she has a licence from my side to get spoiled. No. Never."

Nirmala's lenses saw a different world. "My daughter wanted to do something big. She was always academically brilliant. In her class, her thoughts were most modern. At every point of her life, I stifled her choices and wishes. Like a highway with many exits, everytime she wanted to run free through the highway, I told her to chose the smaller exit leading to service lanes.
She wanted to go to USA. She wanted to do MBA. she wanted to wear smart clothes. Her dreams could have taken off, had I seen things like I see now. Mistha, the less brilliant girl in her class, got freedom to fly from her parents and is now a successful career woman. And my daughter is now another Indian housewife. Sigh!".

The two set of different opinions ran adjacent in the heads of Nirmala and the lady next to her.
One had guilt, the other had bias.
One came from a 53 year old, the other from a 38 year old.
Both were triggered by a mirror they saw in those young girls for their daughter.
Both saw a different reflection.

 The station came for Nirmala to deboard. When she got up, she saw the seat besides her was vacant. The other lady was gone. Perhaps, she had never been there. Her past spoke to her, sitting right next to her, whispering in her ears. She knew she had changed. But it was too late.

The metro moved on. It had moved on..

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