The Blue Curtains

Graphic by Eric Estibeiro

My grandmother slipped into oblivion after the death of my grandpa. For hours straight, she used to look out of the window and repeat the same line back and forth. “The flowers seem so wilted. Do they still smell the same?” She used to ask, as if she is stuck in a loophole and can’t find her way back. As the days passed, my memories about grandpa started shrinking. Everything and everyone around me moved ahead, except my grandma, who chose to deal with grief by living in denial. For all the years she was married to my grandpa, I’ve never seen them sitting together or occasionally smiling at each other. Just like every other Indian housewife, my grandma would toil herself in the kitchen and end her day by swapping the floor. And like a classic patriarch of the house, grandpa never acknowledged her and the endless efforts she put to bind the family together. On a midsummer Wednesday morning when only the two of us were at home, I sat next to her and put my head on her lap. ” Why do you miss him so much? Did he even love you enough? “, I bluntly questioned. Without averting her fixed gaze she replied, ” for a woman like me, the need of having a roof above my head, always overpowers the need of being loved. ” and in that brief moment, my world flipped upside down. I started seeing my grandma as an individual apart from her only identity of being a homemaker. For all my life, I have only viewed her as the woman who feeds me sweet delicacies and protects me from the scoldings of my parents. But I have never asked her about what is her favourite part of the day. Or what colour does she prefer while buying the curtains or what were her hobbies, dreams and ambitions while growing up. I was lost in thoughts as she gently kept stroking my hair. The realization hit me home. I decided to help my grandma to take the difficult step and begin again. I decided that I shall too, let go of the girl I was moments back and start my journey of being a better person.

We live in a country where the majority of women are dependent on their husbands for economical support. They are conditioned to believe that irrespective of the ill treatment by their in-laws and husbands, they must lower their heads and tolerate the male dominance without raising any objection. As I started to learn more about my grandma’s early life, I discovered that she has always been fond of classical music and would have preferred blue curtains over our magenta ones. She likes the moons and celestials and hates social sciences. She has read Amir khusro and knows every line of Yayati ( A Marathi novel by V.S. Khandekar ) by heart. She has had a dream of traveling to the north east of India and wearing dresses like a Victorian queen. She was never bound to be a housewife. She has always been a dreamer, a dreamer that was never understood.

It took my grandma a few weeks to deal with grief and begin again. When I took her to the home decor shop, she was skeptical about choosing her favourite curtains. When we were scanning through the wide range of dresses that would suit her, she was still holding onto the pallu of her saree and her hands started to sweat as if she was betraying her lost husband. It took her days to recite her old music notes. It took her days to realize that she too, can live the way she desires.

As I write the conclusion of my essay, my grandma is packing her bags for the north east tour. She still wears a saree but the curtains in our home have changed. She is moving ahead, one step at a time. And along with her, hundreds and thousands of women move ahead too. The girl in my neighborhood who failed her tenth grade has decided to reappear for the exam. My house help who’s husband beats her with steel rods, moved out of her home and filed a case against him. My friend chose literature over math and my mother is educating herself about women rights. These are the women I look upto. These are the women who inspired me when my heart was split into two. These are the women who began again, when there wasn’t even a way to begin with…and in their victories, lies my solace.

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