‘The word is independence, Aahana,’ it is the third time Poonam has corrected her daughter since morning.
‘Yes…impendence. Impendence Day,’ Aahana repeats after the news reader. Today is 15th August. An Indian news channel is showing Honourable PM of India, Shri Narendra Modi hoisting the tricolour in Red Fort. Poonam has redolent memories how she came with a laddoo in her hand after flag hoisting in school every year as a child.
‘No, Aahana it’s….’ Poonam giggles after taking a look at Aahana. The glass full of milk has created a white moustache on Aahana’s upper lips making her look even more cute. Poonam wipes it with a tissue paper.
‘Mummy, what is Impendence Day?’ Aahana takes the remote from the coffee table and changes to a cartoon channel.
‘Independence,’ Poonam gives one more try to make her daughter’s pronunciation perfect. ‘Independence means freedom. To live life freely, happily without any fear. When you are free, you can play, read, talk, eat and be the way you want,’she explains. However, Poonam is not sure how clear the idea of independence can be to a five year old.
‘Are you guys ready?’ comes Anand’s voice from bedroom and Aahana at once switches off the TV. Poonam’s heart flinches in pain seeing this.
‘Yes, almost,’ Poonam answers Anand while braiding her daughter’s hair hurriedly.
Anand comes downstairs and takes the car keys from key holder. ‘Need to be at work on time today.There is an important meeting with…..Aahana? How many times have I told you to get ready by yourself?’ He shouts. Aahana’s starts shaking in fear.
‘Anand..she is still a kid,’ Poonam protests and tries to calm down Aahana.
‘And will never grow up if you keep on spoon feeding her like this,’Anand comes closer and touches Poonam’s protruded belly.’Mrs. Poonam Kaur, we will have our son in next two months. It’s better his big sister learns her responsibilities soon.’
Poonam decides to keep mum and end the matter here itself.
‘Anand…show some love and care while talking to Aahana. You scare the hell out of her all the time,’ Poonam says after dropping their daughter to school.
‘Don’t start again on this topic, Poonam. She is fine.’
‘That’s what you think, Anand. Ask me.I can see fear in her eyes when you are around her. It’s not healthy. Nothing will go wrong if you talk to her with a smile on your face, take her to the park, play with her….’
‘What?Play?She is a girl. How am I supposed to play with her?’Anand chuckles as he starts the car. ‘Let our son come. I will play with him.’
‘And how do you know it’s a son?’ Poonam asks in disgust.
‘It is. I know. It has to be,’ Anand touches her belly one more time. Poonam looks outside the car’s window trying best to pacify her anger.
How come Poonam didn’t see this male chauvinist side of Anand before marriage? And Aahana’s birth made it worse.
‘She is cute, but you know what? I was expecting a boy,’ Anand said after taking Aahana in his arms for the first time. This was not exactly what Poonam expected from her IIM graduate husband. Still she decided to ignore this. But Anand’s temper and displeasure grew with Aahana over the years. He is not a cruel father, but not a good one either. Over the time, Poonam has fought with him to know why he is so averse to his own daughter.
‘I don’t feel connected to her. Only after she came in my life, I realised that I always wanted a son,’ answered Anand every time shamelessly.
When Poonam conceived second time, Anand’s joy knew no bounds. God knows how he became so sure that it’s a boy this time. What if it’s a girl again? And even if it’s a boy, then what is he going to learn from his father?
Poonam has decided what to do next.
She will take her kids away from Anand and go back to India. If Anand mends his ways, she will come back. Else she will divorce him.With her investment banking work experience in London, getting a good job in India will never be a problem. She has already few offers lying in her emails. Poonam can handle an egoistic husband, but cannot afford to let her kids deal with an insensible father. She wants to give Aahana the independence to express her feelings, to be her own self in her house without any fear and stress.
‘See you after work and take care of my son till then,’ Anand smiles after stopping the car in front of Poonam’s office.
‘Sure, I will,’ Poonam says firmly and gets out of the car. ‘It’s a matter of just two more months…’ she thinks.