She stood there at the doorstep. Wearing a red T-shirt and cream coloured trousers. She was not like all those women. Like all those women in sarees. Women who bowed their heads. Women in ghoongats. Women who made perfect round rotis or idlis. Who made the best saambar or daal in the whole world. Who made lip-smacking dishes. Or like those sanskari women who were followers of the famous Sati Savitri.
She was a rebel. A woman with innocence as a small child but with a soul of independence and courage.
"Go and get some tea. And make some snacks for them."
He looked at her with those blood-red eyes. Her papa. Her dad. A sign of strength and pride for every daughter on this planet. Her best friend who should have loved her like anything. She was still searching for that from papa. Papa was never happy with her. All her life had passed just be up to the mark for him.
That day was different. The house was filled with zombies. Zombies who didn't have any other job to do. They were supposed to be the to-be in-laws.
Zombies who were looking for a commodity to buy for.
A living commodity who could cook tasty food, wash utensils, clean home, work like a robot for the family, would not question anything and be a wife for their beloved son.
Her to-be mother in law asked her.
"Why don't you wear something that is worth it? Why is your face like this? Don't you apply something? Cover yourself with a dupatta. Tie up your hair and adorn yourself with a bit of ornaments. You are a girl. Wear a bindi. You are a Hindu."
Her in-law had such caring a nature . Any girl would fall for a woman like her. Nadhiya was erupting from inside with a tonne of lava. She didn't answer her.
She went into the kitchen. Staring at the 'Taj' tea bags on the granite shelf which lay there in the corner. She was missing coffee. She wondered if she would be even allowed to touch packets of 'Bru' if she would go with the Zombies.
Papa had asked for tea. She took the tea kettle. Some tea leaves, milk and sugar was all that she needed. The tea leaves had to be a bit of more. That is how papa liked it. It had to be sugarless for papa. He was diabetic. Nadhiya got some biscuits and made tea. That is all she could do. The Zombies didn't know that she was too lazy to cook snacks for them.
"Have you gone to the tea farm to pluck tea leaves? What are you doing till now? Always sleeping! You are useless! "
"I am here. Just a minute!"
Nadhiya had lost again. Papa was again annoyed with her. He never was happy with her. Always complaining and critical about each thing he noticed.
She served the Zombies with all that she could. Papa was still staring at her.
" Don't you know that you serve with your right hand always. What have you learnt all these years?"
This was too much. Too much to handle. She went back to her room. She looked at herself into the mirror. She was reminded of her best friend's remarks.
" Nadhiya. Go for a man who would love the acne scars you have on your face. Who will not bother about those crooked teeth. Who will never notice the extra flabs you have. By the way, I don't have any problem with you. Why don't you marry me?"
And then Sana laughed away to glory. She was like the best buddy one could ever get. Sana was her best friend. Those good times at college still haunted her.
Nadhiya looked at herself in the mirror again. This time she was talking to herself.
Who would know that loose T-shirts and trousers are the most comfortable clothes in the whole world? And why do I have to wear a bindi and show off that I am a Hindu? This is pure racism. Bindi means Indian. Not Hindu or Christian or Muslim. I will make her understand that before she leaves.
Why does she feel that I don't look like a girl? Obviously I look like a girl. I don't need gold and a bindi to look like one.
The door of her room was being banged continuously. Nadhiya shouted.
" Come in. Don't bang the door."
There she was again. Maa. Her mother. With that puppy dog like face. Nadhiya knew that she would again deliver her half an hour long lecture. She would again cry in front of her and convince her. She would again emotionally blackmail her. And there she began.
"Nadhiya! My child! Please don't reject this guy also. He is a good man. He earns 20 lakh per annum. It will be enough for you to run a family. And they have a big bungalow in Noida. You can live like a queen. His mother is also a sweet woman. Please Nadhiya! Don't break my heart this time. Else I will die soon."
Nadhiya looked at her mother. She felt bad. She felt like a good for nothing daughter. Not worth anything.
" Maa! Please don't tell me to marry. What sort of life are you living? It feels like a slave. You are a very good person, Maa. You have got a lot of patience. I am not like that. I can't live with anybody and serve him like a maid. You have made all sorts of dishes for dad all these years. What have you got in return? You help him whenever he needs you. You gave him what not. And still you are here. Why should I go and marry a man whose mother is so demanding? I want to live my way. "
Something struck the soft flesh of her cheek. Nadhiya's cheeks were red. Maa slapped her. Slapped her hard. Her left cheek was visible with the imprint of all the five fingers of her Maa's hand. Maa left the room.
Nadhiya was a rebel. She was confused. But she couldn't see her Maa in pain. Maa was her best friend. She took care of her. She was like a gift from God. She didn't want to lose Maa. She didn't want to disappoint her. She was all that she had got.
And there she was in the marriage hall. The Zombies were a part of her family now. Nadhiya had to fake her smile all the while. Millions of photographs were clicked. People were so happy to see the smile. The pomp and show. The gold she had worn. The food being served. Little were they concerned about what was going inside Nadhiya's mind.
The marriage got over. She looked at those tears in her Maa's eyes. Papa was busy blabbering with all the uncles. Everyone was so happy in the hall. So happy that it made her puke.
Nadhiya went inside her room. This time she looked into the mirror again. Looked at her heart. Not at all the makeup on her face. Not to be happy like all other girls who had got the love of their life.
Something weird happened. The Nadhiya in the mirror talked to her.
"So, tell me, who was the love of your life?"
"You know it. Why are you asking? Travel is my love."
"Then why wait?"
Nadhiya removed all those heavy ornaments. Removed the extra-tight blouse. She was suffocating wearing it. Threw away her saaree in the corner of her room. Wore her favourite red T-shirt and trousers again. This time with her Puma sneakers. She packed all those things in the rucksack.
A hammer. Nails. A portable induction stove. The one and only Swiss knife. Toothbrush. Toothpaste. Towel. Tent. Canned fish. Biscuits. Bread. Marmalade. More T-shirts. More shirts. More trousers. More Bermuda shorts. Some money. All the ornaments she could sell off. Other important things.
Everything was packed. She could listen to the loud music of 'Tum hi ho' on the speakers.
And that was a romantic atmosphere. Love was in the air. Nadhiya was ready to make out with her true love. She had found it. Wanderlust.
She was too happy. She was going on a road trip with Sana.
Nobody knew that she was a victim of wanderlust. Nadhiya left.