Shagufta {A Short Story by Ravneet Sangha}

Every day, you think life would be different. You think, ok another sunrise, and its a new day, dawn and all that bull shit spiel that you sell yourself to live another day. But, you know what, it doesn’t change. You psyche yourself every day that oh things will be better. The planetary positions, thanks to the solar eclipse, and the ongoing lunar eclipse that was coming forth would have a positive influence. But it didn’t matter.

If you have a point, you’re stubborn and stupid ( aka big reveal you’re a woman ) and if you have an opinion, you have these labels. But if you’re a man, thanks to the biological assets given to you by the Holy Father, you are on the other hand forceful, manly. Men actually know everything beta, how many times had her grandmother told her this?

Crying, she knew this would be told her. She had to understand and adjust and compromise that was what was expected of nice girls who belonged to good families.

Where did they get these adjectives as nice, good? Shagufta thought. What was worse in these COVID times? Being a Muslim or a woman or a wife or being married? Every one of these situations was damning her, and she was suffocating. She wanted to take online classes and teach the students and earn some money. In that way, she would be independent, and she could also while away her time and use it constructively.

What is the point of an education if it comes with the sole purpose to marry? All her friends were educated, they all had dreams, but apparently, that didn’t matter, you just needed to marry well. Education was a tick in the checklist and not to be used for employment purposes.

She wanted to change the lives of others, but right now, it was as if she had no control over hers.

Ali didn’t even take her side. He was the one who abused her with these. Appeasement and love were just temporary to have sex and to get over with the physical urge; she doubted it was anything to do with love. Love was just an overrated emotion; she had provided him and the family with the three children. She was expendable with the three words, nothing that the Modi government had done had changed her life; it was just a publicity exercise.

What did they know about reality?

Shagufta, just knew that she could die and life would go on after the Janata. A few tears would be shed, a lot of wailing would be done, and two weeks; hence, they would start saying oh Bechara Ali, needs to marry. Who will look after his kids? He needs a companion; he needs someone to take care of his needs.

She knew if the situation were reversed, nothing like this would happen. No one would ask her to remarry; no one would wonder where her physical or other needs would be fulfilled. It would be deemed ok for her to live like a widow and deal with everything in her way.

The monsoon season was on them, and Lucknow was going to get flooded again, especially her street and by lanes. The first drop of rain, the unbelievable sensual fragrance that couldn’t be bottled would escape, and it was as if everyone’s temper and all the anger and frustration would melt away.

Ali came back and asked for his cup of tea, she made it in the way he wanted, and he got busy with his phone. Lost in his world, he kept on checking his messages and time elapsed. Dark clouds kept on gathering, and it seemed any moment it would rain. He shouted again for his chai, it was a sacred routine, coming back and chai and then unwinding. The first cup back from his office was all that mattered to him. The cup was there, and she began to pick it up and then replace it with another cup of steaming tea. He shouted as he did, you stubborn, stupid woman. How many times have you told I want my chai? Why can’t you get it right? You’re useless and not worth anything. Didn’t your mother teach you anything? Why don’t you go away from my sight?

Ask my Ammi to make the tea.

She went away.

As the clouds darkened and the wind started blowing like a banshee, everyone knew the monsoon rain had arrived, and the oppressive heat would be lifted. As the first drop fell, a sudden creak was heard. Ali heard it and dismissed it, must be one of the stairs and went back to his school group. Someone had sent a nude clip, and he was getting aroused. When the creak changed to a loud thing falling, he knew something had broken. He got up, and shouted Shagufta, Shagufta Kay Hua, Kahan ho? Kya Gir Gaya.

He opened the door, and the first smell of the raindrops came, and he saw her swaying from the fan, with her chunni, the chair fell.

Rain fell, and she had also escaped .. forever.