The Power of Choice by Vijayalakshmi Sridhar

Get out, my mind screams, in high pitch.

I close the laptop with the acceptance mail, bolt out of the apartment into the night that is dense with humidity, the overhanging clouds laced with downpour. Pacing the pavement, I try flagging down the auto-rickshaws passing by.

“All fine?” I hear a friendly voice near the entrance. I nod, shocked at how much my face gives away and try to make up with Varsh’s news-the first one to know. “She got through the School of Economics with a full scholarship.”

“That’s great. Then you must look on top of the world—not like this.” She points at my faded bottle green military shorts and wrinkled cotton shirt, my pale eyes swimming in self-pity. I brush it off adding more. “She might not be taking this up. Her sights are set on International affairs. She might go next year.” I tell her my plan instead of Varsh’s, feeling the guilt that is dangerously balancing itself on the tearing sensation of joy in my heart. I can’t deny it anymore. “That is the power of choice,” she gives a thumbs-up. I move on, before she strips down my pretense.

Get out and lose this loser—I hear it again.

It is close to 9 o’clock when I get into my ride. Face to the whipping wind, I tuck my emotions in each of the shadowed street corners, silhouetted tree tops so that I have nothing of it when I see Varsh.

As always the city bewilders me with its never-ending circles and junctions and ubiquitous parks at every corner. “We are near Forum Mall,” the driver pulls the woolen cap off his ears and gives me a heads-up in Kannada.

I direct him in broken Hindi until St John’s Hospital, after which he melts into the gathering traffic and turns left. I am lost until he touches the park Varsh and I have crossed so many times en route to her class. A few more weeks and she might be in the TUBE and I will have no reason to come to 8th Main Road.

I spot her walking out of class- slim in the Bharatnatyam saree. I wave and she crosses the road and comes to me- my first born.

“You got through.” I break the news before she sees it herself.

“Yay!” her joy erupting, she claps, hugs me and gets busy informing her world.

“You happy?” she asks me. I nod, plant a kiss on her sweaty forehead as the auto trundles back through the pot-holed roads.

“You hear from anyone?” She asks me sweetly, her dad who has been out of work for the last three years, putting me right on the bubbling center of my anguish, the black hole that has almost swallowed me. In addition to a negative for her query, how can I tell that her accomplishment is making me more insecure, that it would be better if she lands her goals after I get a job? Won’t I have to be on my feet to see her take a wing?

Since young, stories have been part of Vijayalakshmi Sridhar’s world—both telling and listening to. She believes that human relationships and their dynamics are the most interesting things to write about. Ms. Sridhar is keen to explore her journey as a fiction writer in many interesting genres and formats.

Photo by Matteo Fusco.

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