“I call myself a half orphan. I never knew my father, because he died when I was a baby,” Anshu said introducing herself to her class on her first day on campus. She looked at the class with a pair of large soulful eyes, set on a bronzed face, framed by huge dark unruly curls. She had just turned seventeen and this was the first hour in her new class addressing a sea of total strangers her age.
She knew what she was saying didn’t make sense to the class. It was an impulsive decision. It was wrong. Her teacher instructed them to say their name first, followed by all the nice things one could think of. Never mind, she thought. Self-pity was the last thing she wanted.
“I’m sorry,” uttered Miss Dina, her teacher.
Anshu turned to her teacher. “Please don’t be. No one is to blame. Not me, not even my mother.”
The class remained quiet as Miss Dina continued. “That was a rather personal intro,” she said consciously pulling a lock of hair behind her ear. “We didn’t catch your name.”
“My name is Anshu. I live in a small world with my mother and I have come here to secure a degree that will help create opportunities for me to grow. Thank you.” She returned to her seat amidst applauses with mixed feelings.
Anshu went through all her classes introducing herself the same way in every class. She got the same reaction every time, but she didn’t care. It was the way she was feeling, and it was the truth.
When her classes were over, she returned home. When she reached her house, she wondered where her classmates lived, and if they lived anything like her. She shook her head, took a deep breath, and started toward the front door.
The house which she shared with her mother was an old, run down, single story building with a huge grass field in the front. The garden, which at one time a beautiful haven of flowers and grass, was now just a bunch of overgrown weeds that would dance against the wind. Anshu often saw snakes in the summer. She would sometimes watch them as they moved along the tall weeds. They were harmless, unless threatened, so she never bothered them.
Anshu tossed her sandals aside as she walked into the house. The wooden floors creaked under her weight as she made her way into the kitchen to make a nice cup of tea. Her mother, whom she called Ama, was at work. Anshu looked up at the clock. She should be arriving any time soon, she thought.
While she waited for the kettle to boil, for some reason, she thought about the father she never knew. She remembered the story her mother told her about her father’s death. On that day your father was driving to the army cantonment after the Dasain festival was over. There were several days of fun and laughter in this house with goat meat delicacies served to all the family members who visited us. You were only three months old then. Your father carried you around to show you to the family and friends. Before he left he hugged us both tightly in his arms as if to say his final goodbye. I remember it was raining. He stepped outside and straddled his motorcycle. He gave us a smile and he pulled away. That was the last I saw of him. His motorcycle collided with a truck. His death was instant, and I was assured that it was painless.
The kettle she was waiting on began to scream, letting Anshu know her water was ready. She reached for the handle, pouring the hot water into her cup. All the while wishing she could have seen her father at least once. She yearned for the fatherly figure that was snatched away by destiny according to her mother.
To make matters worse, his sisters never forgave her mother; blaming her indirectly for their brother’s untimely demise. They severed all ties with her for bringing ill luck on the family. Venya was sad that she lost her only connection to her fallen husband and father to her only child. There was nothing she could do but hope they would eventually forgive her for something she had no control over.
Her husband was the last surviving male member of the family. It was up to him to allow the family name to move forward, and instead of a male child, a daughter was born. According to his sisters, Anshu’s birth ended the dynasty. She could never fathom which dynasty they were talking about. As far as she was concerned they came from a humble background with only a roof over their heads. Surely the old dilapidated building wasn’t fit for kings.
Anshu sat at the table sipping her tea thinking about another conversation she had with her mother.
We are destined to lead miserable and lonely lives, dear. Her mother stated. Anshu did not agree.
She shook her head and replied, I don’t believe in destiny. If destiny really existed, why do we go to school? Why do we go to work, to create wealth? Why do we do anything at all? If destiny exists, we may as well sit down in a corner and wait for things to happen.
Her mother had no words. Anshu was determined to bring a change to their lives. She had to prove to her aunts as well as anyone who was watching her, what she could do. Just because she was born a girl, she was not destined to fail.
Her father was twenty-five when he passed away, and her mother was only twenty. Her mother put aside her youth to give her child a normal upbringing. They were two women living in a man’s world fighting for survival. Theirs was a patriarchal society where male members were revered. It would have been perfect had her father lived to father another child, preferably a male thus completing the cycle. Her mother would have been spared the pain of being the victim of circumstance and would have been considered lucky to bring forth a male offspring to rule the abstract kingdom. Perhaps he’d still be alive, and they would be leading normal lives. People would accept them as proper citizens in society. But this was not meant to be. She never believed it was her mother’s fault, but her father’s.
He had overtaken a bus when a car zoomed in from the front to collide with his bike. Both the driver of the car and her father died instantly. Anshu and her mother had their whole lives ahead of them. And this was only the beginning. Her mother took the place of the breadwinner and raised her to keep what was left of the dynasty moving. Their family and acquaintances truly believed that they both played their demonic roles in ending it.
Tears and sadness became Ama’s constant companion while Anshu was determined to change the wheel of fortune. She was named her Anshu, meaning tears. Maybe her little daughter reminded her of her husband who left them in uncertainty. It was eminent that they would be ostracised by her husband’s family and the rest of the world in which they lived in.