Riya sat in front of her computer screen for seven straight hours when her class 12th board exams results were to be declared. Finally, the moment came. 94.2%, flashed on the computer screen before which she was sitting for a time long enough to complete two Quentin Tarantino movies. Riya was an academically bright child ever since she learned to speak. Apart from academics, there was nothing much about that girl. The word spread fast; everybody was to watch out for her. All eyes were on her since relatives came to know of Rita’s pregnancy. It is obvious that relatives be eager about the family’s first grandchild if your family is quite successful and more so, well if your parents are not that…. Successful. Relatives wanted to see how high a child of not-so-successful parents could go, and what would become of her. That was exactly the case with Riya. She never lost more than five marks on any test. In a way, her marks on a particular test defined her to the world, or at least the people who meant the world to her. She was a promising student. With great performance, follows great expectations. Riya had fallen into the ‘Great Expectations’ trap. Anyone and everyone could start expecting great results from her, whether she knew them or not. It is one thing for society to expect great things for her and another for her mother to do the same. It was becoming difficult to keep up with those expectations from her aunts, uncles, teachers, mothers of her friends, etc. It started eating up from the inside. She was no longer able to maintain her personal streak of losing not more than five marks in a test. “She must have fallen in bad company”, said her mother to her father one night. “She would never fall in bad company, she has very few friends, whose bad company do you expect her to fall in?” said Ramesh to Rita.” You don’t know kids these days, they are not like how kids used to be in our generation”, said Rita. Luckily, her father was the only one who SORT OF understood how difficult it was becoming for Riya to keep up with the expectations from random strangers as well. And he was right, Riya was not only a promising student but a daughter so many of her classmate’s mothers wanted for them. But her father could not be with her all the time due to high workload from his office. It was Riya and her mother most of the time. Her mother was becoming increasingly furious with Riya’s declining streak. Her teachers also found it a bit strange, but not as much as Riya’s mother. Even if she topped the class, it was never enough for her mom. Her mother missed no opportunity to remind her of her faults. For Rita, it was a sign that her daughter had fallen prey to the immoral vices of the teenage world. As for relatives… well you know, they would call specifically on her birthday and important festivals as soon as she entered class 10. Not even a phone call from those ‘well-wishers’ when she was shivering with fever or had to be admitted to hospital. But, man, as soon she was promoted from class 9 to class 10, all eyes of her relatives were on her. She was the oldest grandchild of her family on both sides of her family. The world was waiting for her to fall. Uncles, aunties, grandmothers, friends, their mothers, oh man the list was endless. Every conversation they had with Riya on her Birthday, important festivals, Christmas, and New Year was about her academics, old books if they could be handed over to a cousin, her marks, and not a tiny bit of their ‘well-wishing’ was about her health or how she was. She saw her friends, her classmates. None of them were subjected to the kind of pressure that she was subjected to. Even they had relatives. But their parents were not the black sheep of their family like her parents were. This might sound harsh, but that is the truth. Then came the most dreaded class 10 board examinations. People in India love hyping things and trust Indian parents for that. Riya was calm and prepared well for it all year long. All her exams went well… for her, but for her mother? Well, you know anything she ever did was never enough for her mom. She did not get to enjoy the transition period from class 10 to class 11 because every successful person her mom knew worked like a horse, like a machine you could say. They never rested, never chilled, never slept early, studied for 8 hours always whether they completed their work or not, and had no friends. That is what Rita wanted Riya to be like: like a machine. So, she became one. Even then it was never enough for Rita. All Rita cared for was ‘what would people say.’ This is a very famous phrase in India used by Indian parents to discipline their children. The class 10 results were declared. Riya’s blood-thirsty relatives started calling her mom Rita even before the results were actually declared. Riya’s maternal uncle, paternal uncle, and aunties, paternal grandmother, maternal aunt, a friend of her mothers, mothers of her friends, a very distant aunt, an even more distant grandmother everyone was waiting for the curtains to fall. ‘94%’, flashed in front of the computer screen. Rita was happy for a split second. This was before she noticed that she got the least grade in science. Science! Oh why, science for heaven’s sake! In India, it is important for kids to excel in science, no matter whether they wanted to pursue it in the future or not. This could not have been truer for Riya and her family. She missed the perfect grade, well perfect for her mother by just one mark. This was not what Rita wanted, she only cared about her prestige, her ego. None of that actually belonged to her. All the prestige, and ego that Rita thought belonged to her was actually because of her daughter’s excellence in academics. Before Riya came into the world, nobody really cared for who she was, what she did etc etc. She got the highest marks in the school in a subject out of five sections was not what her mother saw or appreciated. She missed the perfect grade in science by one mark, that is what her mother saw. And you know, it was never enough for Rita. Even though she herself was barely educated with less than average marks, she badly needed her daughter to get more marks to show off to society. As for relatives, Rita blabbered all of Riya’s marks in all subjects. The fact that her least score was in science, did not go well with her relatives and her mother as well. Nothing was ever enough for Rita. She leashed all her frustration on poor Riya. She had to bear the wrath of her mother. Rita started crying, crying badly, she started crying on the floor lying down. All that she needed was somebody to console her. Her father was also not at home, he was busy with work. But there was nobody. She had to fend for herself. From that moment on, she stopped keeping a personal diary because her mom read it once, and she had penned down all her anger against her mother. She socialized lesser than before, did not open up about her feelings, she became isolated. It was never enough for Rita, even when the entire school congratulated her. One fine day, after coming from school, she could no longer tolerate her mother’s erratic and unforgiving behaviour. “Why is it that anything I do is never enough for you? What should I do to make you happy? Why is it that I never get appreciated by you? Why? Tell me. When will it be enough for you? It is not my fault that both of you are mediocre. I did nothing to deserve this. I deserve better,” angrily shouted Riya at her mother. Her voice was loud enough to catch the attention of a neighbour who enquired whether all was fine in the house. Rita dismissed the neighbour as crazy, and over-nosy. Rita did everything in her power to tell Riya that her performance was indeed very bad and that it was Riya’s fault for ‘underperforming’. Crazy Rita was gaslighting poor Riya. Riya understood that there was no use talking to Rita or asking anything. Even her father could do nothing to protect Riya from Rita’s wrath. Rita thought she was right, infallible, she was the mother and had the right to expect good results from her child because her dignity depended on it. In Asian societies, parents really don’t care about your well-being. They want you to think about them, what they want from you, and not what you want from yourself. She was nothing without her husband’s bank balance and Riya’s excellence in academics. Rita drove Riya crazy. She had to perform ‘better’ in class 12 exams. Rita made sure Riya missed all the important opportunities like a small get-together with her friends, a picnic, and a movie night out. Riya had to miss all of that because of her mother’s insistence that she keep studying. “We are doing this to protect you” was her mother’s explanation for her bizarre rule. The time arrived for the class 12 exams. The same things started happening what happened during her class 10 exams. The pattern followed even here. After class 12 exams, she was free as a bird. This is what she thought. One day it so happened that she was watering the plants, her mother came and asked her “ I hope you are not expecting to get less than 98%. Are you?” Her inner self shrank knowing that she was expecting around 95%. It was again never enough for Rita. Then when again the computer screen flashed 94% after sitting there for hours, she and both her father knew that it was not going to be enough for Rita. Same marks as class 10. Not a single mark increase. Her mother started comparing her to a cousin whose parents were academicians. “Look at his parents, and look at you. I deserve much better than you,” came Riya’s reply. “I just want to protect you from all the bad things that might happen to you in college admissions, and further in life because of this” was her mother’s reply in her defense. Her father did not utter a single word, nothing to stop Rita from gaslighting her again. She could not believe her mother. Anywhere else in the world, what Rita did to her child would be considered child abuse, but not in India. In India, it is considered the most important form of parenting. She went to her room. Luckily she had a room of her own. The next morning when she did not come for breakfast as she usually did, her father sensed something suspicious. He went to her room and saw her lifeless body hanging from the fan ceiling on the roof. A note was found on her study table. The note read, “Congratulations, you will not have to protect me anymore. Thanks to the phrase mom that you kept saying, you got a daughter who lied to you 24/7, never opened up about the time she had a high fever, was anxious all the time about the wrong things I did and didn’t do, and scared that I will never be forgiven. Is this enough? I hope this makes you happy. I hope it is enough now. Dad, I hope that at least now you have the courage to stand up to Mom and speak for yourself at least now. If this is not enough now, I do not know when and what will be enough?”- Riya. Her father shed tears, not a single tear came from Rita’s eye. Was it enough now?