Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Television

“That scoundrel sabziwala ( vegetable vendor) robbed me. There were better tomatoes at the next redi ( stall) and at a cheaper price too.”
“There goes the laundry van.”
Every week she waits for the bus at the same stop. She is not of the type who travels by bus.  But she still does, twice every week when she comes to drop off her daughter at her dance class. She returns by bus. This is the only time when she gets a chance to have some moments by herself. Besides at this time of the day the buses are not much crowded. She would board the bus and sit in the corner seat reserved for ladies. It was a treat for her. She would sit there and listen to other people sitting around her engrossed in their conversation. Their conversation in part bemused her and in part taught her things about life. After all it was during one such journey that she had learned about the homemade cure for common cold. Her children were too susceptible to catching cold. When she had discovered the cure, she in her mind had thanked the old lady who was telling the cure to one of her distant daughter-in-law. The cure actually worked. She no more had to worry about her children catching cold in winter. She cared too much about them. More than care she worried too much about them. She often had sleepless nights thinking about what her children might have to face when they grew up. She had to be prepared always for the sake of her children.
She had done a lot for her children. She thought not once before resigning from her position as the advertising head of a reputed firm. Her career could wait but not her children. Her train of thoughts came to a halt by a screeching sound. The bus she had to board had stopped just inches away. She straightened her saree and boarded it. She again thought what her neighbours may think about her escapades in the bus. Mrs. Ahuja would often tell her about the image it would project of her in the society. She once offered her, her car too. She didn’t need her assistance. She could ask her husband for the car for her return trip too but she needed those twenty minutes for herself. She looked around, a seat was vacant near the window. There were a few passengers in the bus, but enough to keep her occupied for the next twenty minutes.
“She will never be able to learn anything.”
“Why do you worry so much? She is just two years old.”
“But she hasn’t started to speak yet.”
“Some children start late.”
“She will be slow in learning everything.”
“You worry too much...”
She smiled. She never had to worry about her children. They were a bright lot and were sure to get their way through the JEE’s and AIPMT’s. Everything was planned. She had left nothing undone required for her children’s future, the policies, the coachings and online mentoring. Once they get through the exams their futures were set. What else was needed then? The world would be at their feet. She was a proud mother. Everyone in the society envied her good luck at having such bright children. Why wouldn’t they be? After all she had sacrificed a lot for them. She would stay awake at night with her children during their exams. She had never missed any parents-teacher meet at their school. And every time she met their teachers, they had only praises for her children. At school too, the teacher’s lauded her efforts for her children. They seldom met such parents. She always dreamt for her children’s bright future.
“I always dreamt about a beauty parlour of my own.”
Dreams, she thought, were such an interesting phenomenon. Everyone had different dreams. She had taught her children to dream big. She turned her attention to the two women sitting in front of her and talking about dreams. The two women were rather young, one of them would have easily passed as a teenage girl had she not seen her so closely. They were talking about their dreams in life.
“I had worked hard at Rina di’s parlour and now I have my own clientele.”
“It is good then, right?”
“Yes, this way I can start off pretty well in my parlour. And besides it will also help me to spread word about my parlour.”
The woman went on and on. These women were returning from a puja ceremony to mark the opening of a new beauty parlour. The older one of the two owned it. She was talking about how hard she had worked to finally fulfil her dream. Her companion thought she was fortunate. Finally she stopped and asked her companion about her dream. The girl had a very queer dream or so she thought.
“I want a television.”
“Oh! You want a television.”
“Yes, I dream of it every day.”
“ I don’t want one of those fancy ones which are there in the big shop on the Kalyani chowk. I just want a normal one.”
“ Why do you dream of a television? There are so many other things that you can dream of.”
“I know. Earlier I dreamt of a washing machine. You know its a thrifting industry, washing linen, drying them and then ironing them.”
“People who earn big money want others to do their cleaning and washing. So a washing machine would have helped me to set up my own washing business.”
“But you know I want a television more. I will be able to know things. You know there are so many news channels these days. I can see foreign countries.”
“Yes, that is right. So...”
“Yes, I will continue at Rita di’s parlour. I can sacrifice this much for my dream.”
And the women kept on chattering about other trivial matters. These women sent her on a new train of thoughts. Something of immediate importance. Television. She had been pestering her husband for a new television for a while now. They had a television alright, but a new television of the newest model would have been better. She rarely asked for something from her husband and when she did he made sure to fulfil her wish. But this time, somehow, she had to remind him every day about the new television.  They had had a long discussion about the television. The television they already had was of the new technology but she wanted one of those she saw in the new commercial. One that would occupy a whole wall of their drawing room and would practically convert their room in a mini-theatre. Her husband had argued against it. He said they didn’t need it. Their present one was quiet enough. She was stubborn. She wanted it and she would have it. She, in her heart knew that her demand was ridiculous but once her heart was set on something she made sure that she got it.
But this conversation between the two women set her thinking. She was at first bemused at the girl’s choice of dreams but listening to her justifications, she went into some serious thinking. Here was a girl who dreamt of a television and that too not a fancy one and here she was who already had a fancy television and still she had spent days arguing with her husband for a new one. She thought about the girl what her life could be like, but she couldn’t arrive at some concrete situation. All she could deduce that this girl could not afford a television and so her dream was to buy a television. She felt a sudden surge of pity for the girl. She was reminded of all those lofty phrases and dialogues which were meant to inspire people to think and dream big. She was suddenly filled with a pang of pain and affection for the girl. This girl, right in front of her, all she dreamt of was a television, not a big house, not a fancy position at some company, not a prince charming, just a small television. This girl may live her whole lie dreaming about a television. She again looked at this girl sitting in front of her. She was young. She had a whole life before her. She again felt pity for her. Before this girl would realise, her age of dreaming would be over. She would be burdened by the responsibilities thrown at her by life. And now when she could dream, all she could dream about is a television. How weird, she thought, she had a television, a good one, the likes of which this girl can never dream of and yet she was adamant on throwing it away and replacing it with a bigger one. How weird, she kept thinking.

The bus stopped and she stepped out. She was still thinking about the girl and her dream and the television. She was still thinking about herself. How could she, she who sacrificed so much for her family did not understand the idiocy of her demand. She had never thought twice when it came to sacrificing things for the comfort of her family. She had done a lot for them and now she was quarrelling over a petty television. She remembered all those times when she would buy a new game console for her son or a new dress for her daughter and just pass by the jewelleries’ counter pretending she didn’t desire them. It felt like a long decade stood between her. She had come a long way. And now they were pretty well-off so they could easily afford a new television. She unlocked the door of her apartment. She switched on the light and the first thing she saw was her television. It looked old and did not synchronise well with the new decor of her house. It was old after all and they definitely needed a new one. She made up her mind. She always did this. She has to have a way. This television must go.