Sonali has never been a favourite of her in-laws, not because she isn’t a good wife or an obedient daughter-in-law, but because she refuses to accept the decades’ long slavery that runs in the veins of the residents of the Haveli.
The slavery dates back to her husband’s grandmother’s times, who dictated terms to her children and they were expected to follow all the orders without of any questioning. The whole family dedicatedly served ‘Her Majesty’, the grandmother. Somewhere down the lane they completely lost track of their own desires, aims, ambitions, likes, dislikes. They loved whatever Her Majesty loved; hated whatever she hated; or atleast they thought so. Total control! Amazing control over the psychology, thoughts and actions of the subjects! Oh yes! ‘Subjects’ is perhaps the best term for they could hardly be called as ‘family members’.
Three generations trapped in the slavery; seemed to be living within the system created by Her Majesty; not exactly happily though for Sonali had never seen a smile float on their otherwise very serious faces as if carrying a heavy burden in the effort to please the master all the time which seemed rather impossible a task.
No rights to decide their profession; the decisions were already dictated and any deviance meant a revolt which was suppressed successfully. No desires to sparkle in the sky among the twinkling stars for their lives were being spent in fulfilling someone else’s desires.
What happened when the throne was left vacant after Her Majesty’s demise? ‘Long live the queen, though the queen is dead.’ The crown was successfully passed on to Her Majesty’s daughter, Sonali’s husband’s Bua (father’s sister). Ah! She resembled her mother in almost all aspects. She has very efficiently been ruling the subjects for the past three decades or more.
But Sonali could not make herself to accept the system that’s been going on for decades and decades in the Haveli; but how does a person who has spent just a few years in the family get the right to differ from the others! She accepts freedom of thoughts and actions, choices and decisions as the birthright of every person. Why should someone else take decisions for her life and her family when she is mature enough to take sane and wise decisions for herself? This one question could not be asked in the Haveli; no one had the courage to put up this question when the grandmother and then her daughter ruled; all the family members were conditioned into non-thinking robotic individuals.
But something in Sonali could not accept the system. She did not revolt, but did not follow either; she did not oppose but did not accept either. She just carried on with whatever she felt was right for herself and her children; her husband obviously non-supportive of her all the time for he was more inclined towards Her Majesty’s orders than to his wife’s love. Why was the entire family not able to decide for themselves what’s good or bad for them? How was it that the minds of so many people were hijacked by a single person? Why did they always look upto Her Majesty for everything? Out of respect? Doubtful; perhaps they weren’t allowed to think and develop their reasoning and analytic skills at the proper time and were subordinated and subdued to such an extent that they forgot to think forever. They had been proudly and faithfully following the orders of the crown, still continue and shall perhaps continue to do so till they live. The faces of the ruler and the subjects may change but the system is persistent; it never fades away.
Sonali’s presence was a hindrance in the smooth functioning of the prevalent system. Her constant denial to accept the dictates often infuriated her in-laws. She could not, though, understand what was wrong in taking one’s own decisions, especially when they weren’t hurting anybody! The problem, she was later to find out, was that she did not take the approval of Her Majesty, her husband’s Bua who now owns the crown, who alone had the right to take decisions in the family. ‘You need not ask from us’, her mother-in-law once advised, ‘but don’t forget to ask her.’ When even her in-laws sought her advice in all matters, who was Sonali to refute?
Again, she did not revolt, but did not follow either.
She continued with her life as a free individual, not as she was expected to be. This further worsened the situations for her as her husband and her in-laws stood against her unitedly, blaming and accusing her for faults she had never committed. She was heartbroken and crestfallen when one day her mother-in-law declared, ‘You can go away from here. We can take care of the kids without you. I will bring another daughter-in-law of my son’s choice.’
Her head as heavy as a mountain, her thoughts bustling and crashing against each other, the walls of the brain as if bursting out, she found it impossible to face the situation alone. Where would she go if she was abandoned by her husband?
Oh! Was her love for freedom worth all this sacrifice? Perhaps, it was! After all, people everywhere in the world, have fought for centuries, sacrificing their comforts and lives to attain and maintain freedom. Freedom surely is worth all the sacrifice! She was determined not to give into slavery- mental, physical or psychological whatever it was!
She refused to bow down to Her Majesty and continued to instill the courage and the love for freedom in her children who, today, are blooming as the beautiful flowers in the fresh air, shielded away from the thunderous clouds of slavery that still runs in the other residents of the Haveli.
Sonali and her children, though still a part of the family, successfully managed to break free from the manacles and shackles of Her Majesty’s Empire.