The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, December 15, 2002

Life Ties

Flowing along with life’s rhythm
Taru Bahl

MALTI was an effervescent girl. Nothing could pin her down. She gave a thumbs -up to her parent’s choice and settled for a conventional match finalised through a newspaper advertisement. She hit it off with Satyam from the word go and for the 16 years they were married, they shared (in her words), "a boyfriend–girlfriend relationship". He was a scuba diver with the Indian Navy and also an amateur light aircraft pilot. She was a talented girl who always found something to keep herself creatively busy, while contributing to the family kitty as well. Whether it was running a beauty parlour from home or showcasing her designer creations, her priority remained home, children and the motivation of saving enough to take an adventure holiday every year.

By the time the kids were in middle school, they took the decision of sending them to boarding schools, even if it meant slashing expenses. The constant transfers were disrupting their life. The children did not let them down. They were focused high achievers who never allowed themselves to forget at what cost their parents had invested in them. They set high targets and worked harder to achieve them. These were the years Malti and Satyam became closer still, finding new thing, like golf, to do together. Unfortunately, right from the beginning Malti had problems with her mother-in-law. It was difficult not to get along with a person like Malti who had no ego problems. But for some indecipherable reason, the elder lady never accepted her. Malti, on her part, did not take this badly. Since her interaction was confined to small doses, when either of the two visited each other, she kept the contact cordial and refused to let herself get drawn into any argument.


They were travelling through Punjab when militancy was at its peak, to see their son in Sanawar. A local police friend of theirs sent them his official vehicle for the journey. On their return, mistaking them to be the police officer, they were targeted. In the explosion that followed, Satyam died and Malti survived with serious injuries. The real battle for existence now began. The fairy tale was over. Returning to Delhi to her in-laws and finding a place in their ancestral home was something that was difficult and her in-laws made a big noise about. Coping with both the trauma of losing her husband and of trying to pick up the threads of her life once again, was not easy. The desire to be close to the children was strong, as was the temptation to pull them out of their expensive boarding schools. After much thinking, she decided to soldier on and work harder so that the kids didn’t have to go through yet another adjustment.

The fashion industry had opened up and she got a good break with an export house which was willing to invest in training her. The children did exceptionally well. The daughter secured admission to The London School of Economics and the son got a scholarship for an MBA programme in the USA. Meanwhile, she found that the so-called fraternity of the armed forces was neither united, nor was the concept of brotherhood so deeply entrenched in the psyche of her husband’s ex-course mates. For, now that she was a widow and the customary period of mourning long over, they looked at her differently. Many made passes at her and suggested a relationship. This was a huge betrayal. While she could deal with the situations what she was unwilling to accept was that the very service which she and her husband swore loyalty to, could turn around and show this ugly face too. Not one to lament over her fate, she was also now past getting shocked over anything. She took it in her stride, put people in their place and moved on. She had a different agenda and she had a lot to do. Just surviving was a challenge and she had no desire to let others make that any more difficult for her than it already was.

On one of her trips to Europe, she met Mark who had his own spinning and weaving mills. They hit it off well. While she put their easy friendship to common interests, he saw a spark which he wanted to pursue. For two years he kept returning to India and proposed to her when he felt she was ready.

She had her reservations, especially considering she was over 40 and a change all over again, would require a complete overhaul. Besides, there were the children to think of. She casually mentioned it to her daughter, almost laughing the whole thing off. Within a week, both the children flew down to talk to their mum and to tell her how wonderful it would be if she settled down again. It was their support and confidence which made her go ahead, irrespective of what family or friends would say.

Today, Malti is an unfettered and happy woman. At 50, she has a great career and loves doing what she is getting paid fabulously for. She devotes a lot of her time to charity. She has arrested the aging process, not because she is in the fashion and beauty trade but because she leads a simple life and is completely at peace with herself. Memories of Satyam are always with her but they are a reminder of another day and time. For now, she is happy to see the way life unfolded itself and allowed her to be happy.

On one of her trips to India, she decided to meet her husband’s old colleagues and was most upset to see that they had not evolved as human beings. They were stuck in the same mould, cribbing as always about the awful pay packets, the poor perks and how it was so difficult to manage.

Malti was in India to look up her ex-mother-in-law who was suffering from terminal cancer. The older lady had finally made peace with her. Old ties, old relationships don’t just wither away even if one acquires a new life and a new set of people to inhabit it. Malti felt blessed to have shared some of her best years with Satyam and though she had not worked towards a second marriage, when it had happened she had embraced it and given it her best shot. She had never cribbed about what she did not have. She had, instead, focused on what she did have and the result was that she shared some wonderful relationships with the people who mattered most to her and more importantly she had no grudges against Him.

Home Top