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It’s a year since Radhika and Naseer got married.

Radhika hails from a normal middle-class family and her mother was a government servant placed in Madurai. Her mother’s marriage was a failure when Radhika was a two-year-old baby her mother walked out of the marriage as her husband proved to be more of a liability to her. How much backlash her mother must have faced then that too in a city like Madurai Radhika always wondered. But she had never discussed it with her mother and her father never came to see them and they are not even aware where he is.

After completing her graduation in Madurai with Computer Science as a major subject Radhika came to Chennai where she got a placement through campus interview four years ago. Radhika had been brought up in a very liberal manner and Radhika’s mother had never imposed any restrictions on her daughter. Radhika and her mother were more like friends.

Radhika is a fast learner and in a very short period she switched over to a better job and her dream was to have a start-up of her own. Her mother had never been against any of her desires.

It was at one of her friend’s birthday party get together she met Naseer.

Naseer was tall dusky and handsome who  spoke gently. It looked like he had a way with women because in the first meeting somehow he managed to attract Radhika.

They just met a couple of times after that and soon Naseer moved into the single bedroom apartment which Radhika had rented in the OMR locality.

When Radhika spoke to her mother about her live-in relationship her mother, she  was not judgemental about it; since she had gone through a bad marriage she felt that Radhika had the right to choose her life.

Radhika and Naseer were very different from each other. From food preferences to religious faith they both differed but that was no deterrent to their love since they did not interfere in each other’s personal affairs.

She knew that Naseer came from a rich Muslim family and they had their own family business of jewelry shops with several showrooms in Chennai. But Naseer wanted to be on his own and was working for a multinational company.

Naseer used to visit his parents once a month and Radhika never questioned it. Everything was smooth till one Sunday Naseer’s mother dropped into their flat.

It was a lazy Sunday morning and when the doorbell rang Radhika opened it and saw a middle-aged woman standing with a smile.

“I am Naseer’s mother” she introduced herself and Radhika hiding her consternation at her sudden arrival ushered her in.

She looked around the flat in the meanwhile Naseer came out of the bedroom with sleepy eyes and welcomed his mother.

After taking much time she broached the topic and it was of course about Naseer and Radhika's marriage and needless to say, Radhika was taken aback since she had never even given a thought about it.

After she left Naseer convinced her with so many assurances and promises that nothing between them will change after their marriage except that their relationship will now be official. Radhika’s mother said, “if you are okay with this marriage I have no issues”.

Naseer’s parents accepted for a registered marriage and threw a lavish party at their expense. They gave expensive jewelry to Radhika as a gift though Radhika did not much like it. When she was hesitant Naseer’s mother just forced it on her with a very sweet smile.

In a short time, Radhika understood Naseer’s mother Razia was different from other mothers-in-law. She never forces anything but sweetly she makes her point with a fixed smile and soft voice and somehow knows the trick to manipulate the other person to listen to what she says. She is so sweet that Radhika is often left with no option but to listen to her though she may disagree with what she says.

Razia was not against Radhika continuing her job “Islam gives full freedom for women” and Radhika wondered where does Islam come in this but did not ask since it would be rude.

Similarly, she told Radhika that she looks very pretty in salwar kameez and sarees then the figure-hugging costumes. Radhika understood she was objecting to her dress code but looking at the face of Razia and her charming smile it was very difficult to be rude to her.

Nazeer had two elder brothers and the other daughters-in-law were in the house and they were all obedient to Razia as their respective husbands were all involved in the family business headed by the patriarch who was Razia’s husband.

After two weeks of marriage when Radhika said that she would be more comfortable in her flat Razia as usual smiled and said “I understand. But this is a very big house with two floors. I shall give the second all for you and Naseer. You can decorate it as you wish but please join us for dinner every day. Weekends Sundays lunch the family should have it together”. Radhika understood Razia was dictating everything sweet yet sternly. She was not giving her the option to say no at all.

Like the prayers they offer.

Radhika is not a staunch Hindu and is not in the habit of frequenting temples or keeping idols or photos of Gods with her. Just a week after marriage one Sunday Razia came and told her “it is the practice of the house to offer prayers. My other daughters-in-law always pray along with me so even if you don’t know you just join us”. Radhika was truly aghast. She did not know how to say no. She realized being well-mannered is also not a good thing.

Slowly she realized that what Naseer promised that nothing will change after marriage was a lie. Everything had changed.

Naseer had also joined the family business. Here he saw a different Naseer. When they were together before marriage Naseer never went for prayers. They had a cook who used to cook nonvegetarian food for him on Sundays apart from that there were no differences.

But here Naseer went to mosque regularly along with his brothers and father wearing a skull cap. He even changed his dress,wearing pajamas which were well above the ankle and never missed even a single prayer. Last month the whole family fasted for the month of Ramzan and she saw Naseer also fasting.

Razia never asked Radhika to fast but Radhika felt awkward eating in front of all the people who were fasting from morning till night. So automatically Radhika had to skip her breakfast and of course, she had her lunch in her office.

There was a car and a driver at her disposal and all her friends thought she was “very lucky” to get such “rich and nice in-laws”.

Radhika was amused. Was she really lucky she wondered? She realized that her life is now fully controlled by Razia. There was not a single thing she could do on her own. When Radhika wanted a new fridge in her room it was there in the evening. Everything came to her but it was given to her by Razia.

Is this love or is that lady a control freak wondered Radhika. She did not want to discuss this with Naseer as Radhika that would sound silly and what could she say if she wants to say – that his mother decides everything for her.

Only at this time, the most unexpected incident took place.

It was Sunday lunch and all members of the family including the children of her brothers in law were present.

“I think the next good news in the family should be the arrival of Naseer’s baby. We have grandsons so this time we want a granddaughter” said Razia and her daughters in law who never miss a chance to please her said “yes” in chorus. We want a pretty girl baby like Radhika and I am sure the baby will look like a pretty doll” said one of them.

Radhika was dazed. She looked at Naseer. He seemed to be happy at this conversation.

Baby ????? Now ??? What about her dreams of a start-up and her own business? Radhika had chalked out a plan for a start-up. The new idea which is very successful in Delhi is a small company that takes care of senior citizens’ needs like providing food, medical care, giving 24 by 7 care, finding the right Doctors and fixing an appointment with them, providing dependable maids and servants and nurses. She had spoken to several doctors and hospitals, women for catering services, and cab owners and she was about to kick start it, she had even named it –we care for you. She had even found the investors.

And this lady is talking about a baby – and by the way, who is she to decide when I should extend my family wondered Radhika.

But she did not want to behave indecently at the dining table when others are present.

Before that Razia dropped another bombshell.

“Another good news. I have made all arrangements for Radhika’s conversion to Islam. If she gets a baby there should not be any confusion. By now Radhika has got used to all our practices and our faith –she will be a perfect daughter-in-law and mother and what name she wants to choose I leave it to Radhika “ she said with her usual smile.

For the first time, Radhika lost her patience and manners.

“stop it” and she pushed the plate on the table and went away from that place.

“From my side, I am very firm Naseer and Razia madam. This marriage is over. I am not marriage material at all. When you started the marriage topic I told  Naseer that he  was free to go but he convinced me that nothing will change but now ….. madam you  have taken control of my life. You decide which God I should worship and when I should have a baby. You may be the boss of the house but I will not allow you to be my boss. I have left all the gifts you imposed on me here and taking only that I have purchased with my money”.

Naseer looked stunned. Razia attempted to say something but Radhika said sternly “sorry Madam, no more sweet talks. You always smile and get your things done. You will be very good in the customer care business but sorry I am not ready to take any more”.

“Why did you break your marriage, “ asked her colleague.

“Because I discovered marriage is a costly affair. I had to completely surrender myself to the man and the family which I am not prepared for”.

“What about Naseer don’t you love him”

“If love means losing your identity then I cannot afford it,” said Radhika with a smile. Her start-up is already at the nascent stage. Her dreams are waiting for her.

Radhika realized that no man is worth the sacrifice of our dreams.

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