‘Yes, mom. ….No, please. Don’t worry….just a stomach ache….I am fine….yes, definitely… ..no, won’t miss it from next Friday……..Ok, then. See you on Sunday. Bye’
Sruthi let out a sigh of relief when Madhu entered her cabin.
To her enquiring looks, Sruthi said, ‘Mom…. She insists I light 18 vilaku (earthen lamps) at Swami Vithyanandhas’s feet every Friday. Looks like, that is the only way this 30-year-old hag would ever find a husband.’
Madhu sneered, ‘I don’t know about a husband, but going by the rumours, Swami, sure, can give you many babies. So, tonight’s hot date, cancelled?
‘Oh! No, no. See, I have a tummy ache’, she winked at her friend rubbing her belly.
After dating for three months, she and her boyfriend, Anand, decided tonight would be the ‘special night’. She could not stop thinking about it from morning. Her newly waxed skin tingled, giving her goosebumps.
She looked at the sheer lingerie with amusement. Three grand for a fabric so tiny!
She smiled to herself and slipped into it.
No makeup, he had insisted. He did not like foundation smeared all over his body.
Then, she went on to light the scented candles, strategically placed, making her studio apartment aglow with soft light.
She wrapped a satin nightdress around herself and practiced her come-hither head flip.
Something that reflected in the mirror, irritated her.
Vithyanandhas’s enlarged photo, hanging on the wall at the far end of the room. His toothy smile was as ridiculous as his famous quote printed on it,
‘Sometimes there is no happy choice, Dears, only one less grievous than other’.
During her last visit, her mother who lived across the city, had insisted on hanging the photo there, for a perpetual discharge of blessing from it.
Sruthi winced. She felt stared at and judged.
She decided to take it down.
While she was climbing down the chair with the frame, her doorbell rang.
She placed the frame against the wall and ran to open the door. In her excitement, she did not bother to check who it was.
‘Mom?’, She instinctively tightened the wrap, cinching it closer.
‘How’s your stomach?’, her mom barged in, leaving Sruthi trailing behind. ‘I got you some of Swami’s herbal concoctions and also……’ she stood stupefied at the scene that greeted her.
Sruthi stammered, ‘I …ma…my friend… I am sorry…I must say….’
She saw no other way out of the mess except to confess. She braced herself for the associated drama, a few slaps and curses and denial of Sruthi’s lineage.
Her mother turned to her, teary eyed.
‘Oh! You poor dear! You lit 18 candles in front of Swami’s photo. And with a severe stomach ache and all’, she hugged her daughter.
‘Come, a good bhajan will appease Swami more.’ She said as she sat facing the photo asking her to join.
She nodded in agreement. Yes, the bhajan sounded better than the confession.
The above story is an entry into #TheChoice a Five00 entry.
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Photo by Joanna Kosinska