Suharabhi brought a gust of delicious smells and a plateful of beef cutlets when she came to our house. She came in a nightie with a thattam on her head and a big smile. My grandmother having lived in a more rural setting than my mom and I, meant that while we were happy within the four walls of the compound in which our house was in, my grandmother took it up as her duty to get to know everyone in the locality and find the nearest temple. She brought with her Suharabhi after her walk today morning, who was very fascinated to know what was inside this compound that saw construction for more than four years. Suharabhi fed us beef cutlets and told us about her life as my grandmother showed her the rooms in the house. In the kitchen, she told us about how she got married and came to this part of town. In the hall, she told us how she too had the exact same staircase in her house. In the bedroom, she told us how she had a daughter who was very pretty and who got many proposals where the boys didn’t want dowry.
Suharabhi talked to me for quite a long time. She stood there and didn’t take any breaks while telling me her entire life story. My legs were aching, having led a privileged life where I haven’t had to spend too much time standing, but her stories were worth it. She kept telling me that she’s never told her stories to anyone, that she always kept them to herself and cried about it at night. She told me that this was the first time she was telling someone all this, and especially to someone she just met. She started her story from when she was 19 years old and living like a princess, to when she got married to a man who it seemed was already married. The old wife, according to her, was quite unstable and came at her with a knife. She showed me the mark on her face where she got cut. But she said her husband was a nice man, thanked god for him being at least the kind man he is. She told me how her in-laws took away her 0.2 kgs of gold, which had cost her father Rs. 4000 at the time and how the in-laws spent all of her dowry which was half a lakh. They took all the beautiful sarees which her brother had bought for her from Delhi and then she digressed into telling me how all of her family was well settled. One brother was in Dubai, another was in Delhi and a sister was in Kochi. She told me what her kids were studying and she was quite proud of the fact that her daughter wanted to do post graduation before getting married.
Suharabhi didn’t seem sad for all of the sad stories she was telling me - having come from a house with a car in ’96, to a life of taking care of cattle and fetching water from tankers. She didn’t resent her husband even a little, she obviously hated her in-laws though, but that was a given. Suharabhi didn’t even know us, probably thought us snotty city folk who had moved into the village and didn’t even step out of the compound once, but in our cars, but still brought us very tasty beef cutlets. I think she liked me and considered me equal, and I was glad of it. I don’t think she wanted my validation but she wanted me to know that she was not very different from me, not that I thought it but I guess I understood the big house in the small locality automatically would let everyone assume that. She said she had granite floorings in her house. I told her we only had tiles. She smiled. She said she’d make me cutlets if I were to visit her house. Suharabhi made me feel small and big at the same time.