Raanu saw me trying to read this book. I had it since my father forced me out of school in the first grade. I like reading books. I want to be Kalpana Chawla. She went into the sky leaving all this mess. “Columbia” could not bring her back to the earth. At least she was doing what she loved in her last moments.
It is only a week since my father married me off to Raanu and I ended up here. I remember the time when my father saw me reading the same book.
“Raaji. You lazy girl. Did you feed the cows? You and your useless book”
“Yes Father.” I said. My hands went cold seeing him.
“Did you make dinner?”
“N…No … I was…” I felt the chill and tears started rolling out.
“If your husband asks for food….” He slapped me on my cheek; “Are you going to serve him this book? He is going to need real food. And he is going to blame us.”
He picked up a tree branch besides him and shouted, “What is this stupid book going to do then? This is not your future.” And Wham! I could feel the branch on my back.
I ran gasping for breath. I could not even cry from the pain. A constant moan came out of me.
Raanu had seen me read the book the previous day. My hands and feet were cold again. I could feel the same shiver. I was terrified. I remember thinking how I would be the reason my father would be blamed for not raising his daughter right. It was late and Raanu hadn’t come home. Raanu had not beaten me before, but, the book? Was he going to beat me when he came home? Or was he not coming at all? I felt so alone.
I could hear a knock on the door after a lifetime of wait. I knew it was Raanu. Raanu pushed the door open. The sound of the door colliding with the wall was deafening.
“Raaji… I will come at this time every day from now on.” Raanu said. He stood upright with mud all over his shirt. The hard day’s work on the construction site had made his eyes weary. He looked at me as a soldier looks at the national flag.
“Wh… Why? I will not even touch the book from now on. I promise. I am sorry,” I blabbered through my parched mouth.
Raanu reached the back. There was something tucked in his pants behind him. I was sure it was a cane. I closed my eyes in fear.
“Here…. That one is too soiled to read. I bought you a new one,” Raanu said. I opened my eyes to see him smiling and holding a new copy of the same book, he caught me reading.
“I know you want to study. I picked the evening shift up at my work to earn some more. From now on, you will go to school. You will study. Give me the best out of you. Only thing. I will come late, every day. What’s the big deal?” Raanu said with a casual smile. He put his hand on my head.
“Your father was right. You are stubborn. And you certainly did not give up that book. Well! You have met your match, haven’t you wife?” Raanu laughed. “I am going to dig in my heels, too.”
My vision blurred with the tears building up in my eyes. Was that happiness? That moment was the happiest since I was born. Someone actually listened to me. It was not I who was sacrificing it this time. Someone is ready to make my dream his own. And, he was my husband. I was not alone.
“Whatever your dreams are, Raaji, We will chase them together,” he said
I don’t know whether I can be Kalpana Chawla. But, with this beautiful person; sitting beside me; it feels like I am among the stars.