“Oh god, it’s already 1, am late again” thought Sushmita, while she was trying to cross the road in a hurry to reach the restaurant where she was supposed to meet her school friends for their monthly lunch date with each other.
She knew her four dearest friends will have their patience at the limit. They were all in some big shot careers and never tolerated her coming late. Even though they expected her to be late all the time. Sushmita smiled thinking how irritated they might be this time. She could even imagine the words they are going to throw at her as soon as she sits down.
Hmm lets see, she thought. Ranjita who is an advocate will say “ Sushi come on now.. you cant be late all the time, for once please just to surprise me and come on time”
And Shoba who works as a software engineer will agree “Ranjita, calm down. But Sush you have to agree she is right”
And at that time definitely Aarathi who is a well-known reporter will jump in for her rescue “hey guys come on cut her some slack, she has two kids to look after. Hey sush how are the darlings?”
And of course she couldn’t forget Emily who is a famous model, she will have a comment “Oh shut it aaru, you always defend her, Sush I agree you have kids and family etc. but come on this is the routine of every month”
Well Sushmita knew her friends will scold her but she knew she never felt bad for that, she has to agree she was late all the time. But she has been friends with them from 3rd std. In school she first became friends with them at a sporting event and after that all 5 of them became fast friends and were always inseparable.
Finally she reached the restaurant and looked over to locate her friends and found them sitting at the corner table near the window overlooking the pool, she smiled and noticed that they were glaring daggers at her, she thought “Oh boy, this time I am going to get more than a few scoldings”
Sushmita reached the table and before sitting she started saying “AM sorry, am sorry, am really really sorry. I wanted to be on time this time, but what do to Aryan was in a tantrum that he will come with me. By the time I calmed him down and reached here I couldn’t find one parking place nearby. I had to park my car in the next street and walk over. Guys please please am so so so sorry”
By the time she finished she was sitting and all her friends were still glaring at her. She looked at Aarathi who was always coming to her rescue but knew immediately that today even she was angry.
Ranjita who is the short tempered one, took a deep breath and Sushmita cringed waiting for the Word War 3. But in time she calmed herself down and in a lower voice than expected by Sushmita she said “Come on Sushi, how many times. Its not like you are in a job where you cant come leaving your work or something. Its not like if you come here you will lose your job or promotion or something like that isn’t it. We four always come here on time every month no matter how much work pressure we are under”
Sushmita took hold of Ranjita’s hands and with apology in her eyes again said sorry. By this time everybody had calmed down a bit and didn’t want to waste time on this. So they proceeded to order food.
And once ordered everybody relaxed a bit and started talking while looking out to see that it had started to rain. Everybody was sharing their office gossips, promotions achievements and Sushmita could only think of Aryan who was afraid of thunder and lightning and now when he was upset he would be more scared.
Sushmita was deep in worry quite not following the conversational thread around her when Shoba noticed her inattentiveness and asked “Sush don’t slouch now , I know you couldn’t get away but it is only natural that we get angry isn’t it. I mean Ranju was right its not like you have a time obligation with somebody that you just can’t break. You are a housewife Sush”
Sushmita smiled back to her friend and said “no no Shoba am not slouching, just my mind was somewhere else. “
At that time food arrived and everybody got busy with serving up the appetizers. Sushmita’s thoughts returned to what Shoba said. Of course she didn’t have a time obligation after all, getting up everyday at 5 so that your family could get breakfast on TIME and pack the lunch for your husband and kids was no time obligation. Then she would drop her kids to the school, keep up with in-laws doctor appointments and picking up kids from school and cooking for the whole family for the whole day on TIME was no time obligation.
Everybody was enjoying their appetizers when Sushmita noticed that Emily was picking at her food as usual. Sushmita got into her mommy reflex and chided Emily “Em if you don’t eat properly how will you maintain your health, you are picking at food again.”
Emily who was always a bit sarcastic, snapped at Sushmita with a smile “Sush I have to maintain my figure if I need to keep up with my career. How would you know, you don’t need to maintain anything anymore, you are settled”
Sushmita didn’t feel bad as she was used to Emily’s sarcasm but her words sparked the train of thought. Of course she didn’t need to maintain, I mean if she fell ill even for one day the whole household will result in chaos that’s all, most of the times she even worked through her illnesses. Headaches and back pains were not even worth a moment’s consideration now. But this is not maintaining oneself isn’t it. Sushmita knew she was getting way emotional today. But today was not like everyday, today her son was upset, today it was raining with thunders and lightning, and after all these years today her friends were not letting go of their anger.
Even though Sushmita’s thoughts were running at a breakneck speed, her face had the same serene, calm mask as always. She thought she should have been a poker player to maintain such calm with the storm inside. She smiled at her own thought.
Aarathi who was noticing that Sushmita’s was distracted more than usual scooted near to her and whispered to her “Sush you know am always defending you but you do need to agree, this was long coming. Now forget it and enjoy. Not that you need relaxation like we do, but still we won’t feel good if you are sad here”
Sushmita assured Aarathi that she was fine and not at all sad or angry with them and agreed that she deserved the glares. Aarathi got covinced and returned to her food. Everybody finished their appetizers and by the time main course arrived, the friends were in full-fledged good mood of the month with laughs and jokes. But Sushmita while actively talking was thinking what Aarathi said “Of course she didn’t need relaxing, she just worked morning 5 to night 11. Who needs relaxation with such flexible timings? It was very rarely she went for movies with her hubby and her choice was most often none. She hasn’t seen tv in almost 4 years now. And she didn’t get break even in weekends. Well of course she didn’t need relaxation.
Everybody were in full swing enjoying their food when Ranjita was explaining how she had to work till late night because of a new case and hundred and one things she still had to complete for her boss within a deadline. Sushmita didn’t want to talk anything but she couldn’t stop her concern for Ranjita and exclaimed “But surely ranju if you had explained your boss you could have got more time isn’t it”
Ranjita who was still a bit angry with Sushmita snapped back “It was a deadline Sushi, which means you cross it and you are dead. And more over my increment depended on it. Of course how would you know” Sushmita settled back on her seat and didn’t attempt to talk again. But her thoughts were haywire “Ofcourse she didn’t know any deadlines, she never had to maintain one. The payment of bills on time, attending PTA meetings, filling up prescriptions for the in-laws and maintaining household budget and buying things within budget and still keeping everyone happy is very very easy. Increment is a far cry, she didn’t even get salary. She didn’t have responsibilities, she was settled.
By the time the dessert arrived everybody had let go of their anger and were asking Sushmita about her family and kids. After all they were friends how long they could stay angry reasoned Sushmita and answered them happily recounting many naughty episodes of her kids.
The group bid farewells to each other and promised to meet again next month like always, and started to walk away to their different destinations. Aarathi walked a certain distance with Sushmita and while walking she said “Don’t feel bad Sushi we were just angry for a bit longer than usual. By the way I always wanted to ask you. The whole group is bit amazed by it”
“About what” asked Sushmita
“Well we were wondering that, you were the brightest amongst us. I always expected you to jump into some hot shot career and stride milestones in it. But you married and became a housewife. Why is that? Didn’t you ever yearn for a career?”
Sushmita laughed fondly at this question of hers, and seemed to give a thought before answering and when they reached the crossroads where they had to separate ways she just said to Aarathi “Well lets just say that it was destiny”. She gave a big smile and a huge hug to her dear friend and bid goodbye.
She stopped at a store nearby her car and bought lots of chocolates to bribe Aryan for not taking him and as she sat in her car she thought “of course it was destiny. But not a destiny thrust upon her, a destiny she chose. The secret which none of her friends knew was that Sushmita always wanted to be a wife, mom and daughter-in-law and in more modern terms she always yearned to become a ‘homemaker’. And she knew she was good at it and happy in it. This was her career, and she did stride milestones in it. Her marriage was a huge one and in between small achievements the birth of her two kids was huge milestones again. And every time they got appreciated in anyway that was her incentive and every birthday, mother’s day and anniversary was her promotion. And biggest of all the bonus was when nobody in her family ever underestimated her importance and always loved her as she deserved, that love was her bonus, which just grew every year. Although she knew she was unfairly judging her life today, but she knew she loved living her life and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. She was a career women, and her job was the best in the world. She was not only responsible for her happiness, she was responsible for the happiness of a whole family.”
Sushmita started driving towards her home, and smiled with contentment