Because No One Else Will

Sonali Misra

I turn my head around to find tears streaming down her face. I extend my hand to put it on hers but she pushes it away. I try to console her by saying, “It’s all right…don’t cry. Your father told you that you would get a chance to sit in the front seat in the ride back. Don’t spoil your mood, Tanya.”

“But it’s not fair, Mom! Rohan always gets to sit in front!” replies she.

“I’m sure that’s not true…now come on, stop crying.” I hand her a tissue from my purse. She wipes away her tears but still mumbles about it not being fair. I try to make eye contact with my husband, Sameer, in the rear view mirror in the hope he will calm her down but all I see are his dark-tinted sunglasses covering his eyes. I cannot read their expression.

After the film, we move towards our car in the basement parking lot of the mall. Tanya, just to be sure, races Rohan to the front seat of the car. She reaches there first, and is just about to open the door when Rohan pushes her out of the way and seats himself there. Tanya starts to protest and refuses to get in the car. I try to strike a compromise between them but no one pays any attention to me. I look at Sameer to see what he plans to do about this situation but he just ignores the entire scene and proceeds to put his sunglasses on, and gets in the driver’s seat. I somehow get Tanya to sit in the backseat with me.

“This isn’t fair! Dad. You promised that I’d get to sit in front. Please, say something! I want to sit in the front! It’s my chance!” says Tanya.

I try to hush her but she again bursts with “No! It’s not fair! Dad, you promised—“

Rohan interrupts her by saying, “Oh, shut up, will you? I’m taller than you and I need the leg space. That’s why I get to sit in front.”

“But you’re as tall as Mom and she always ends up sitting in the back with me!”

“That’s because she’s Mom. She doesn’t mind.”

“Dad! This is not fair!”

Suddenly Sameer stops the car on the side of the road, swivels his head towards Tanya and shouts, “Both of you, keep quiet! I’m driving and I don’t want this tamasha1 around me.”

“But Dad…“ Tanya tries to say but is interrupted by my husband who says, “I said QUIET.”

My husband starts the car and continues to drive. Tanya stops speaking but cannot control her tears.

Hence ends another family trip.

The car turns in to the driveway and my husband parks it. As soon as it stops, Tanya shoots from the car and runs into the house. I get out and follow her in. I know she is headed towards my mother’s room. I go up to the room and knock on the door. Without waiting for a reply, I open it and find Tanya’s head buried in my mother’s lap as she cries and tells her nani2 about the ‘sorrowful injustice’ done to her. Mother pats her head and tells her to stop crying. I look around the room and notice that Mother hasn’t finished packing yet. She had come to stay with my family for a month. She normally stays with my brother, but he has gone to Bangalore with his family for a holiday and returns today. I decide to finish packing for her and I go around the room doing that while my mother consoles Tanya. When I complete my task, I turn around to find a sleeping Tanya on the bed. I sigh and sit next to Mother.

“Bringing up a child isn’t easy. It’s all right. You have to handle such things at times,” says Mother.

“Yes… I know that,” I reply. “You know, things like this remind me of the times when you acted as a mediator between different members of our family. Remember that one time when I wanted to get a tattoo and Papa3 totally blew it?”

My mother laughs and says, “Oh yes, I remember it very well. That argument went on for days and our home had lost its peace for that entire time.”

“Hmm…. He forbade me from getting it because he thought it looked cheap. I asked him what he meant by that. I was horrified when he said that the family I would enter in the future may not approve of it.”

“Yes, he said that.”

“I could never understand it then and I can’t understand it even now. Why should anyone have the right to say what I can or cannot do with my body?”

“Parents have to think about such things, Sweetheart.”

“Not parents. If I remember correctly, you took my side in the argument. You supported me.”

“That’s because you told me what that word meant to you and I understood. I still think it looks nice.”

I cast my eyes down to look at my inked wrist, which reads “dream.”

“And anyway, we women have to stick up for each other, you know. Because no one else will,” says my mother.

I look into her eyes and then turn to look at Tanya sleeping, tired from crying for so many hours. I get up, walk towards the bed and bend down to whisper in her ear.

“Tanya, do you want to go for a drive? Just you and me?”

She opens her eyes, beams at me and wraps her arms around my neck. I scoop her up and walk towards my car. As I put her down in the front seat and shut the door, I look at her excited face. She wipes away the tear marks. I turn around and go back to my mother’s room. I hug her and whisper, “thank you”, and she smiles at me with a twinkle in her eye. I leave the room, go to the car and buckle myself in.

Tanya asks me, “What was that all about?”

I smile and say, “nothing”.

She nods and says, “Thank you for doing this, Mom.”

As I sit in the driver’s seat this time, I say, “It’s all right, Sweetheart. Anyway, we women have to stick up for each other, you know, because no one else will.”

And I drive on.

1 Colloquial Hindi term for creating chaos
2 Hindi term for Maternal Grandmother
3 Hindi term for father