As she sat there in her bathrobe drifting away, Roma had a vivid memory. Memory of a hot summer day, many years ago, of her Mother, fighting with her baba. At that time she was too young to know what it was all about. But as she stood there watching her mother make her case, little did she know that her mother had changed the course of her life. Years later when Ma told her that she had to fight with her baba to get her admitted into an English Medium school, it had all come back to her. From that day on, the memory was vividly emblazoned in her mind and today of all days it came back to her.
Roma was glad that her mother had managed to have her way that day; also she was surprised that her baba who loved her so much had wanted to put her in a Bengali medium school. But then that is how it was with her parents. Baba was the emotional one and Ma was the one who was more pragmatic, farsighted. She could see why her father had fallen in love with this beautiful and talented Bengali singer. But then she could sense that today her Ma was only a shadow of what she must have been all those years ago. It hadn't taken her mother long to realize that she would have to give up her dream to pursue a career in music after her marriage. She had ailing in laws to look after and there was this young brother in law, almost a child. As her mother had stood there as a young bride, looking into the innocent eyes of the child she knew she was to be a mother to ,she had stifled her dreams, resigned to her fate and told herself this was her destiny.
Back then what her Ma did seemed to be the right thing to do. Growing up she saw her Ma playing the role of a supportive wife, doting daughter in law and mother to her uncle to the hilt. She stood by her father as he reached the pinnacle of success, rejoiced by the sidelines and watched him take all the accolades.
But all these Years as her mother toiled through the life that she had chosen for herself, she made a silent promise to herself. She wowed she would not let her daughter fall into the same trap. She would ensure that her daughter will not succumb. She would see her daughter fulfilling her dreams, achieve success that mattered, that stood the test of the world. Throughout her daughter's growing years she made sure she instilled this sense of freedom and independence in her little princess. Oh so many of her own dreams hovered around her daughter, waiting to gain wings, to take flight.
As Roma struggled to find her way in the world, she knew she carried her mother's burden. She couldn't help but smile to think of how proud her mother was when she got her first job, how the tears wouldn’t stop. That day her Ma made peace with the world. Although Roma was as relieved as her mother was, she could sense that she could only imagine the weight of the cross that her Ma bared.
Today as she sat there thinking of her mother she tried very hard to fight back her tears. She could feel their sting, just as her mother would have felt the sting of betrayal that cold December day not so long ago. She knew it then that it would not be easy to tell Ma, that she was taking a break from work. But she was left with no choice. Her boss had refused to give her the option to work from home after her pregnancy. She decided she would take it easy, that a sabbatical would do her no harm. It had not been so easy to convince Ma though. Only for a short while she told her. She offered to help, said this was bad timing, that she was up for a promotion soon. But the independent streak in her stopped her from seeking any help. She knew she was doing the right thing, the biological clock ticking.
She had told her it was all right to give up her career for her unborn child. She told her it would make her happy. Her Ma did not do a very good job of hiding her disappointment. She was shattered. But what could she have done, she found herself helpless yet again.
Roma had not felt her pain then for she was not a mother yet. Not just yet. Three months later as she held her daughter in her hand, tears of joy burning down her cheeks, she wished the world for her little princess.
As weeks turned into months Roma found herself battling the trials and tribulations of motherhood. There were days when she was overwhelmed by it all, when she cursed her own child. The feeling soon turned into guilt and then remorse. She knew what her heart wanted but was she right to want it? Her husband did not know her anguish; he did not feel her pain. Wasn't motherhood rewarding enough he seemed to ask?
Day after day as she took care of her baby, life seemed to pass her by. Roma made a promise to herself. She told herself that her daughter would not suffer as she did. She will get to live the life of her dreams, make it big.
The thought possessed Roma like it had possessed her mother not so many years ago. It gave her the strength to go on but then one day she could not take it anymore. Was this what would become of her ambition? Was she so helpless that all she could do was to pass my dreams to the next generation, in the vague hope that they would find wings? Was one Woman's ambition to become the burden of another? Will they always be so helpless?
It was the strength she had inherited from her mother that made her make that call. As she hesitated to dial the number, she wondered if her boss remembered her. But then he had always liked her. In fact her colleagues always teased her about how he flirted with her. She was overjoyed when he agreed to meet her. A rendezvous at a hotel sounded only practical. She debated whether she should tell her husband, but then did he really care? She thought she will tell him once she had an offer in hand. She wondered if he would be supportive. As she struggled to keep all such negative thought at bay, she smiled as she imagined how thrilled her Ma would be.
She snapped out of her daze as she heard the door latch. As she watched him come out the bathroom, with that rueful smile on his face, she knew she had passed the interview. The cross had been demolished she told herself, she had relieved her daughter of the burden.