Crossing the Mirage – Passing through Youth, Chapter - 2
Continued from “Shackles of Psyche”
When Chandra had graduated in commerce, Yadagiri wanted him to join him at the Princely Pearls. Though Chandra knew it was coming, yet he felt like it was a bolt from the blue. Having come to mirror his misfortunes in his father’s visage, the prospect of the paternal proximity in perpetuity sickened him.
‘But how can I possibly object to something that’s obvious, natural even!’ thought Chandra, and the more he thought about it, all the more he wanted to avoid being drafted into the family business. ‘Come what may, I won’t have any of it, that’s all,’ he resolved in the end.
So he began to stall the issue on one pretext or the other, all the while weighing his options, and Yadagiri, who envisioned grandiose plans for the Princely Pearls with Chandra in the saddle, was not amused by his prevarication. The inexplicable conduct of his pride-of-the-future perplexed the father in the beginning only to vex him in time. Chandra, for his part, could not conjure up a credible escape route though he thought long and hard about it. But, in the end, having come to know of an obscure management institute, he tried to sell the idea of MBA to his father through Anasuya’s good offices.
“I’ve more business tricks up my sleeve than the market feel of all the MBAs put together,” said Yadagiri dismissively. “They are but snobs in the tweed suits, these MBAs.”
With his hope of good hope too ending up in the deep desert, Chandra feigned sickness by way of finding an oasis. Losing his patience at last, Yadagiri forced the issue and fixed the muhurtham. Dreading the diktat and determined to avoid the draft, Chandra became pensive. But, slowly, pondering over his predicament, brought about by his parent, he felt outraged. The perceived dominance of his father, and his own inability to resist him, made him hate his parent and pity himself in the same vein. His sense of inadequacy to oppose his father overtly made him think of revolting against him covertly.
‘What if I run away!’ spurred on by the stray thought, he felt. ‘Won’t I be free then? Am I not qualified, after all? Can’t I live on my own?’
Plagued by the fear of the unknown and pricked by what was known---apprentice on sufferance---he thought he was caught between the devil and the deep sea. Compounding his misery was the thought of the effect his desertion would have on his hapless mother. Thus, he felt as though he was a bird caged at birth, not acquainted with the faculty of flying.
‘What’s the way out?’ he racked his brain. ‘Why not tell mom and seek her support?’
But on second thoughts, he became doubtful about the wisdom of it all. ‘She would sympathize with me only to plead that I fall in line,’ he figured it out. ‘What’s worse, she may even extract a promise from me never to desert her. Moreover, what if she blurts out, it would only make matters worse.’
Puzzled by the predicament, his mind played snakes-and-ladders with his resolve---even as his enthusiasm for freedom surged him to the threshold of action, the fear of the fallout pulled him back to square one. Unable to take the plunge and yet detesting the status quo, he decided to approach his sister for a solution.
‘Being in the same boat,’ he sought to pump himself up, ‘won’t she appreciate my lot? Besides, she won’t let me down even if she doesn’t help.’
When Chandra revealed, Vasavi was raveled.
‘It's okay for women to feel helpless in this man’s world,’ she contemplated, ‘and advantaged that they are, it ought to be different for men, isn't i? But, it doesn’t seem to be so with my poor brother. Oh, how miserable he looks! Is he afraid of the devil when there is none? Still, if pushed to the wall, wouldn't he be further embittered? Isn’t one hapless soul in the house enough to hurt the family health?’
She couldn’t help but smile wryly.
‘What about poor mother?’ her thoughts continued in the same vein. ‘As it is, she’s worried to death on my account. If something goes wrong with him as well, her cup of misery would be overflowing indeed. Why, she wouldn’t be able to take it at all.’
Unable to bear her silence, Chandra clutched at her hand nervously.
“Help me,” he pleaded. “I’m sure you can.”
“Let me think it over,” she sounded hopeful. “You better go now.”
As he left, she began thinking about the plight of their lives aggravated by his predicament.
‘At least he has me to turn to for help,’ she felt melancholically. ‘What about me? I can cry over mother’s shoulder and she is sure to wipe out all my tears. Likewise, she would lend her shoulder to him as well. But can she address our worries? How she can, isn't the poor thing half-dead on my account. Well, should he desert us now, she would be shattered and may even become insane. All the same, she would never let him go if she ever gets wind of his mind. That’s the problem. But what’s the solution?’
‘Much of his misery may be imaginary,’ she began thinking after a pause, ‘but its effect appears real. He’s really psyched out. Or so it appears. Maybe, it is better that he goes. Being away for a while may relax his nerves and help him clear his mental blocks. There’s no other way over there. Dad is bound to be upset about it all. He may even lose his bearings and disown him forever. It would be a tough ask to assuage father and console mother once he’s gone. But the family good lies in his going, so it seems.’
At that, she mapped out a strategy for her brother’s deliverance but became doubtful about its fallout. ‘Won’t they be cross with me for abetting his desertion!’ she thought in the end. ‘And will that help him in the end after all? What possibly could go wrong with him? Oh, life seems to be partial to the males. Won’t it come up with escape routes even when fate corners them? Women, oh, they seem to be forever trapped in the man’s world, in every way that is. At least some occupation would’ve served my cause. It might have proved to be an opportunity even. Who knows, I could’ve met my man at work to work out the rest. Thanks to father’s dogmas, I’m condemned to this vegetable existence. How tiresome life has become for so long now! Those silly old values that make vassals out of women! With its oppressive social lock well in place, it’s but a calibrated culture trap to entrap women. There is no breaking the shackles my father and fate together had put my life in. But Chandra could be a free soul soon. That’s the advantage of being born a male.’
As the euphoria of her role in his brother’s escape gave her ideas about her own deliverance, she became ecstatic. ‘Why not go along with him?’ she deliberated at length. ‘Maybe, single women are vulnerable if they are on their own. There is no mistaking about that in our society, at least as of now. But with Chandra around, it would be different; there won’t be a problem that way. Once I feel secure, the rest should be easy to get a footing. We both can work hard and breathe easy. Can’t we? We can, that’s for sure. Who knows, I may find my man at last to lead a meaningful life.’
The possibility excited her in the beginning only to dampen her at the end.
‘Well, it is one thing for a boy to run away from home and another for a girl to do the same,’ she thought dejectedly. ‘My rebellion could be labeled loose character and my adventure might be dubbed as elopement. Won’t all that shame my parents, and who knows, they may even commit suicide! Oh, how can I bring infamy to my family and ruin my parents in the process? If it comes to that, it’s better that I die. It looks as if death is the only escape for me from this life denied.’
In the melancholy of that thought-wave, she found herself in tears, but as her brother came back to her in apprehension, she wiped them away in dejection.
“I’m sorry I’ve upset you,” he was upset himself.
“It’s the accident of being born a girl that is upsetting,” she said as a fresh bout of tears gushed out of her eyes.
Seeing Chandra perturbed, she patted him for equanimity.
“I’m sorry for both of us,” he said, himself in tears.
“It’s no use your living in misery here,” she said thoughtfully. “I will help you break free.”
“What if they turn sour with you?”
“Don’t worry,” she said resignedly, “I'll find my own release.”
“Thanks to you,” he said clasping her hand, “I don’t feel helpless anymore. And I owe it to you for ever.”
“I know life wouldn’t be the same for you,” she patted his head, “and try to be brave always.”