Ashalata was a normal twenty year old in India. She had her own set of hopes, dreams and aspirations, some of which had already been unceremoniously crushed down by the wheels of time; others, she guarded zealously, lest they too abandoned her. She didn't want to be perceived by everyone as a loser. In her mind her parents, friends at the university, facebook pals and relatives were all there, waiting with bated breath for her to slip up. She sometimes gave herself a pat for having managed to keep everybody reasonably happy. Smiling smugly she thought of all the accolades she would have earned had she taken up PR as a career option. However, convincing middle-class Indian parents that Public Relations is actually work, is easier said than done. Having resigned herself to the fate of a conventional 'respectable' career option, she had little to look forward to in terms of excitement for her chosen filed of work. She found solace in hanging out with her friends, a vivacious group of university students. They called her 'Ash', much to the disappointment of her parents.
"How do your friends overlook Asha and Lata the legendary singers and call you something that does not even symbolise something living?"
It took effort to explain that it was hip, and to her that made all the difference. Her appearance, the image of herself that was projected to all those around was what mattered the most. Many accused her of being snobbish because of the big fuss she made about appearances. Her life encompassed going to university and returning home, interspersed with a healthy dose of partying and discussing the shortcomings of others.
Very often in the university she would see a sightless person walking with the help of a stick, crossing the road, walking through corridors. She avoided them. They belonged to that part of society she would never want anyone to associate with her. Sometimes she even felt they were trouble to walk near. What if they veered too close? She wouldn't even be able to say anything as they had a valid reason for mistakenly doing so, they couldn't see. She steered clear of them at all points of time as they represented the unexpected, and all these years of being conventional had instilled a fear for the unknown deep inside the recesses of her mind.
Her brother Arun was her companion at home. Their parents had immense dreams for him and he had never let them down in his seventeen years of existence.
"You will be like the Sun", their parents proudly declared, "blazing a path for yourself, destroying hindrances by your fiery presence."
Arun had good grades in all subjects and a wonderful voice with fine oratory skills. At times she envied him just a little, but her consolation was that he would always be the 'good' boy, never would his life be as eventful as hers. He would never be the rebel.
It was an ordinary Monday evening when she returned from the university, only to find her parents in an exceptionally sombre mood. They were dejected and downcast like all had been lost. Her mind immediately went on overdrive trying to churn out anything scandalous she had done in the recent past. Vignettes flashed through her mind. Did they get to know about her contemplating to get a tattoo? Was it because of her plummeting grades in the godforsaken subject she studied? Or, yes, this had to be it. Arun, that little twat, had belched information about the booze party she was planning with her friends that weekend.
She rushed into her brothers room, banged on the door and demanded to be let in hollering imprecations and threats. Finally after he opened the door, Arun gave her a glazed look, then comprehending what was going through her mind, he smirked.
"Get over it didi, it's not always about you. I've changed my subjects for the board exams, shifting from science to arts."
Ashalata was dumbstruck. She was swept away by a tsunami-sized tidal wave of emotions. That little mummy's boy had rebelled! Why?
He said coolly, "I always did what made me happy. That just luckily coincided with mom and dad's happiness."
Changing subjects in class XI was a big deal. He'd probably have to repeat that academic year. Knowing all this he had mustered the courage to stand up for what he wanted. Asha was filled with awe for her baby brother. He had managed to do what she hadn't. For the first time she was inspired to do the right thing for herself and not just for 'the family, the society etc'. Inspiration can indeed come from the most unexpected places when one is least expecting it.
Ashalata completed the course in which she was enrolled at the university but then went on to make a career in an unrelated field, in a line of work that gave her satisfaction. Arun excelled in the Arts, becoming an artist. It took time for her parents to accept that the son of the family would not be a mid-day Arun[sun] shining harshly and destructively, but much more mellow, illuminating everything around with a subtle golden glow, unobtrusively making his presence felt. Initially adamant, their parents finally accepted their choices and realised that unless the avocation and vocation merge, true happiness cannot be attained.
Madhulika Ghose, a Kolkata-born writer, did her schooling from Loreto House. Since childhood she developed love for English literature, the result of which are her several publications, both poems and literary articles, in numerous reputed newspapers and magazines. Currently she is a Research Scholar in Chemistry at Jadavpur University. The intense laboratory work during research has not deterred her from dreaming big and following her passion to be a writer.