A Purse Full of Love

WordPress Story- 2

Bala called herself ‘BPO Babe’. The reason: she worked with the Amazon call center in Pune. There were three of them in the flat: Bala, her brother Venkatesh and his wife Ramya. Their parents were no longer alive. Venkatesh was a software professional while Ramya was a homemaker. She didn’t like Bala very much and often, Venkatesh would come home to their never-ending arguments. Ramya was selfish by nature and disliked Bala staying with them in their 1 BHK. There’s no privacy at all.. And Venky is more bothered about her than me, she thought. For some days now, she had been thinking about ways to get rid of Bala, and marriage was the best excuse to get rid of her once and for all.
That night, after they had made love, Ramya said, ‘Venky, listen to me…It’s time we got Bala married. She’s been working for three years now. And it was your parents’ last wish to see her married.’ Though Venkatesh was sleepy, he heard what Ramya had said. Hmm…. must do something about it, he thought.

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The next day, he got an advertisement inserted into The Times which read: ‘Looking for a Tamil Brahmin boy for beautiful girl, height 5’6”. Must be well-educated, financially sound. Contact:9876543210’.  

It can be said that Badri was the one Bala was destined for. He worked with Bank of America, owned a bungalow in one of the posh localities in Pune, had a Skoda and maintained a high standard of living. He lived with his widowed mother. 

When he came to their apartment to see Bala, he just couldn’t take his eyes off her. She had almond shaped eyes, a small nose, full lips and a figure shaped like an hourglass. She was also fair, unlike most Tamilians. Then and there he decided that he would make her his wife. Venkatesh asked whether Bala could continue working even after marriage. Badri answered in the affirmative and said that his mother wouldn’t stop her daughter-in-law from going to work as both mother and son were quite modern.

Her brother liked Badri and Ramya was overjoyed. Preparations for the wedding began in full swing. 

Soon, the day arrived. Bala and Badri sat behind the sacred fire, doing all that the priest told them to do. Badri tied three knots of the taali around her neck. Finally, she was his. Venkatesh blessed her and said, ‘Bala, you’re no longer a girl. You’ve turned into a married woman. Take care of Badri and his mother. May God bless you.’ Bala replied, ‘Thank you Anna,’ and they both bent to touch his feet.

As Bala entered their spacious room with a tumbler of milk, she felt nervous imagining what was in store for her. What sort of a person is Badri? she thought. Will he be aggressive in his love-making? Will I be able to lead a happy life with him? One look at his kind eyes, sensual mouth, curly hair and the way he stood tall, clad in a white shirt and white dhoti set her fears at rest. 

‘Come here, my love,’ he said. She obeyed him and came closer. His arms held her in a tight embrace. Slowly, they moved to her waist and his palms felt her smooth skin. Bala felt shy and averted her gaze from his face. He lifted her chin up and said huskily, ‘Bala, I promise to give you a life full of happiness and satisfaction. You can trust me. I’ve been craving for you from the time I laid my eyes on your enticing body. I want you.’ And they kissed, each feeling the warmth of the other’s lips.

The next morning, Bala woke up early. Badri was still sleeping. As she took a shower, she remembered the touch of his hands the previous night, how he had made love to her in a gentle way. It all felt like a dream. She came out, draped in a sari with water dripping from her long hair. She strode up to him and kissed him on the lips. Badri mumbled dreamily, ‘Mmmm… Come closer..’ ‘Not now, darling. Come on, wake up and have your bath.’ It took a lot of coaxing to get him out of bed. After he had freshened up, he called her and said, ‘Get ready. We’re going for a movie.’ ‘Wait, let me tell Amma.’ ‘I’ll tell her, don’t worry. You get ready quickly, I’m waiting in the car.’ Bala smiled to herself as he left the room.

They went shopping in the mall and later went for the matinee show. Time had flown so fast, Bala hadn’t even realised. Badri was horny by the time they returned and they made love once again.

Badri had to go to work the next day. Bala woke him up early and she too got dressed as she had managed to get only two days leave for her wedding. Call center jobs are hectic, she thought and sighed. She laid out his favourite shirt, tie and trousers on the bed. He was ready in a few minutes’ time and they both got into the car. He dropped her at the Amazon office and zoomed off. 

Over the months, both of them got to know each other very well. Badri teased her by calling her ‘BPO Babe’ and she, in turn, teased him by calling him ‘Boring Banker’. Coincidentally, both their names started from the alphabet ‘B’. They had a tiny garden of their own and loved gardening. They planted a hibiscus and a mango sapling, the hibiscus symbolising her and the mango symbolising him.

Badri was in a senior position at work and would carry his work laptop home with him. His job was his first priority. Often, he would come home late into the night, drunk. When asked, he would make some excuse that they had a business meeting cum party and if he would say no, he’d come across as being unmanly. Bala often chided him for driving his car in a drunken state but he brushed aside her worries saying nothing would happen to him. It was obvious that the excessive workload was getting him.

Gradually, he began to come home heavily drunk and started beating her with his belt. He used to treat her like a slave and not make eye contact with her. His mother, being an old woman and Badri being her only child, blissfully ignored her son’s behaviour. 

Initially, the old woman had agreed to Bala working in the BPO but now, she didn’t fancy the idea. She created a scene, one day when Badri was at home, on the topic that Bala was not taking adequate care of an old woman like her and that he should tell her to leave her job. Badri’s heart went out to his mother who was sobbing in a corner of the house and sternly ordered Bala to send in her resignation as she didn’t need to earn when her husband was bringing home the money.

Bala’s mother-in-law never let go of an opportunity to abuse her for bringing very little dowry. Bala was fed up of such comments and felt bad and insulted. Her dream of a happy family was crumbling to pieces. Bala had her doubts that her husband was seeing another woman as she once found a condom in his trouser pocket. He never used protection when he was with her. But she feared questioning him lest he beat her up. Badri had also begun to force himself on her. She would lie there, her thoughts far away and let him have his way.

Even though she had been reduced to nothing more than a servant in the day and a free prostitute at night, life had some surprises in store for her. They had been married for 3 years now. When she vomited once, she passed it off as food poisoning. But when it happened a second time, she bought a pregnancy test kit and it showed that she was indeed pregnant. She told her mother-in-law, who smiled on hearing the news. Bala was on cloud nine and eagerly awaited Badri’s arrival. She thought now that she was pregnant, Badri would be happy and give up drinking. 

But, she was in for a shock when Badri was angry at her for becoming pregnant. ‘How did this happen? You know I’m not ready to support a baby right now!’ He was in two minds. It was his baby, after all, he would become a father which was something he had always wanted. However, he feared that he would lose his freedom, it would put a check on his going to the discotheque and he’d have to shoulder the additional responsibility of looking after a child. The baby will keep me occupied when I’m at home, leaving me no time for my recreational activities, he thought. And it happened that his negative self won. He said, ‘Get the baby aborted. We can have children later on.’ 

Bala broke down. She had never imagined that he would say such a thing. Oh, where was her dear Badri who had loved her so much? She felt it was a stranger sitting in her room, on her bed. She corrected herself, her husband’s room and on his bed. Nothing was hers in this house, not even her relations. The memory of how both of them had woken up in bed one morning and seen the sun as it rose from the horizon came to her. She dried her tears and switched off her bedside lamp.

Badri and his mother had a long discussion the next morning. His mother tried to convince him. He was already 32 years of age and he ought to expand his family now. Her ardent wish was to see her grandson before she closed her eyes forever. Bala stood as a silent spectator to the drama. Badri simply couldn’t disagree with his mother and agreed reluctantly to have the baby. Bala said a silent prayer to God.

Her mother-in-law took her to the lady gynaecologist that evening. The doctor checked her and assured them that there was nothing to worry, in fact they were lucky that Bala was going to have twins. She didn’t disclose their sex as it was illegal. Badri’s mother fervently hoped and prayed that it should be both boys or at least a boy and a girl. 

Bala continued doing the household chores as exercise was essential for her babies’ growth. Her mother-in-law’s behaviour  towards her had softened to a great extent. She began to make her eat nutritious foods and never once scolded her.

The due date was near and the old woman was getting anxious. A day before the due date, Bala went into labour and at the stroke of midnight, delivered two chubby and cute girls. 

Badri sat beside her, caressing his babies. His mother couldn’t contain herself and started abusing her for giving birth to two girls who were worthless and a liability. Badri said, ‘Amma, don’t shout. This is a hospital and one of the best ones too. They won’t tolerate you and will tell you to shut up. So say whatever you want when she gets home.’ His mother sealed her mouth and went about looking after Bala grudgingly because Badri had a lot of pending office work and came only in the evenings to visit her.

Bala was discharged after five days and she settled into her new life. She wished to give her daughters the best of everything, love and care of both parents and their grandmother, good education and make them independent and self-reliant.

One day, Badri announced at home that the top authorities at his bank were planning to send him to New York for six months. Hearing this, Bala felt like holding him tight and not letting him go away from her.

It was 9 pm. Badri had to fly to Mumbai and then take the flight to New York. His suitcases were packed. Bala told him to call once he reached New York. ‘Happy journey’, she said. Badri kissed his daughters and looked at both of them lovingly, as if he was seeing them for the last time. He had told Bala to go to sleep and not bother about him, as both of them would start crying if they didn’t spot their mother around. They had grown into one-year olds. And so, she went to bed with a heavy heart.

It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.

She felt as if a part of her was missing. In his absence, the bedroom, house, garden, trees held no importance for her. She was unsure whether Badri had really come to love her children or had shared his mother’s views on the subject. He hadn’t loved them like her. 

When she came down the stairs to her room, she spotted her mother-in-law sitting on the sofa and reading the newspaper. She greeted her and made to go to the kitchen when the old woman stopped her and said in a tone of disgust,’ Pack your bags, woman and get lost. I’ve arranged for another Tamil girl living in New York to marry my handsome boy. Did you really think I would feed you and your useless girls even after knowing that you can no longer become a mother again? See those papers on the table? They are divorce papers. Sign them and clear out of my house this instant. Don’t forget to take those curses with you.’

For a minute, Bala couldn’t believe what she had just heard. She stuttered,’ Does Badri know…?’ ‘Of course! He is very kind at heart, maybe that’s why he didn’t tell you. It’s all arranged.’ 

Tears flowed down the young mother’s eyes. Where will I go? I cannot stay for many days with Anna along with my daughters. Oh God, why are you trying me so much? Their birthday falls on Women’s Day, is this their fate? There was no use pleading with her mother-in-law.

Just then, the doorbell rang. On opening the door, Bala stood rooted to the spot. It was him. He had been her colleague in Amazon and her first love. He had had no money then. He asked her why she was crying and she told him. He said to the old woman, ‘Despite being a female, you despise a girl child! You are a curse, not those poor girls! Come with me, Bala. I’ll take care of your daughters. I’m a rich businessman now. Sign the papers and let’s go!’

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