One from the Audience

"Keep down the cricket bat!" uncle announced in the house.

"girls... don't play after..."auntie whispered in Malti 's ears.

"After what..."Malti shouted in her head.

But that is how our thirteen year old, Malti kept down the cricket bat.

She saw her mother lowering down her head went in the kitchen. Slowly, Malti did the same, because it was easy if not right.

Sometimes, I think women in the society celebrate a son 's birth because she is assured that she will not have to see an unchained slavery once again.

Malti, slowly developed furrows between her eyebrows and the cheeks got unhealthily swollen. But the scariest part was, her eyes,brown and sharp, were red on most days and were now covered with spectacles.

"Girls, should not play in the sun, they will get dark. No one will marry them. They will damage their faces, no man would like her."

This was what Malti would over hear while serving the widows during their evening artis.

"Oh! poor men they are raised to marry unhappy women. Because neither are divorces glorified in the society, nor allowing women to pursue their dreams. They, say no man will marry a tanned woman, oh! God damn it! Men won't marry women with reddened and scared eyes. Who are taught that their husbands are a life long project."

Malti and her mother, a widow herself thought this day and night.

But the funniest part comes here. Labour pain is excruciating,tougher than earthquakes, and women bodies are made to prepare for it from the first mestrual cycle. Every woman can handle so much pain, but they can't play sports!

Was it because men thought that they were mocked by nature by not being bestowed with the ability to give birth,that they unanimously decided to stand taller than them while breathing on this planet.But how could women submit to such conditioning? Ok, the same family that she cherishes,when it threatens to abandon her, I understand her limitations.

But, is the society not responsible for more crimes?Because everytime a child comes home after winning a sports trophy or a medal,his mother 's smiles are welcoming but aren't eyes devoid of fulfillment? Isn't the future being raised with dissatisfaction.

Malti, is a mother now. When Rahul came back home after school with the gold medal from a school cricket match. He ate puris, jaggery and paneer.But he sneaked into the prize rooms and as every time he saw the same things. Malti rubbed her thumb on the medal and wore it around her neck. Immediately, she removed it. "How could I be so selfish?"

"How could I not be a good mother?"

she repeated the same dialogue, she has been repeating for last seventeen years.

This time, Rahul stuffed puris in his mouth and grabbed her hand and the bat.

"Hey you are a bad bowler!"Malti shouted.

"Am I not your son?"he taunted.

"Do you always bat?"she questioned, and wiped her sweating forehead.

He just smiled.

Her salwar was stained red, he noticed it. But his time, he just ignored. Atleast, for this evening he didn't want her to fight the mental anguish.

He wondered silently, they say those five days in the month are painful for women, so they must not play. But they throw them in the life long dungeons of mental depair and disappointments. Wherein they just know how to kill their dreams to raise a family. But aren't women suppose to lenghthen their wings and teach their kids flight instead of being a mute and sad spectator?

How happy, it would have been, if mumma was always one from the cheering audience, when I would have played. Instead of regretting her gender while decorating the house with my medals.

He noticed, the red blot again, and Malti was already ashamed. He kept a hand on her shoulder.

"Teach me that last strike you made."He ordered.

She smiled.

As she got up, his heart repeated out of no where,

'Red can also mean take more care, it shouldn't mean stop always.'

Monica Pathak

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