Meera and her Guru:
Meera had aspired to be a great artist and rightfully so, she did gain the status of being one. The journey which began as a music enthusiast converted her from a listener to a learner moving ahead to become a music teacher and now a composer. Deepshikha Roy not only mentored her musical life, taught her to pamper her self esteem and respect but also gave her confidence a boost every now and then. It was mutual, the love for music, the unspoken grasp of each other’s sentiment and taste and coming to each other’s assistance when they or their families needed support.
The relationship had grown from that of a student teacher respectful awe to that of friendship which obviously didn’t scale itself to the age of 45 to 67. Deepshikha who had always craved to have a daughter seemed to have found one in Meera, who cared for her Guru’s emotional needs more than anything else.
It was during one of the concerts that Deepshikha skipped a step while descending the stairs after the show. She suffered from fractures in her right foot and left leg besides being injured on the forehead. Meera left no stone unturned looking after her mentor and took upon the added responsibility of running her own house along with Deepshikha’s.
During this period, she would often be exhausted but ran several errands of the Indian Music Scene too which fell on her lap now. Deepshikha was very impressed with the efficiency with which Meera handled the professional and personal life with the perfect balance. She actually felt quite proud of the way she had groomed Meera for not only had she been attending to her, she even cooked for her and Mr. Roy and performed the chores for him like a dutiful daughter.
Having to spend more time at the Roy residence, Meera delegated some of her household responsibilities to her daughter Bindu. Himesh wasn’t very happy about their daughter taking over household responsibilities but when Meera explained to him that they must teach their daughter all this so it comes useful to her in her life once she is married off, he somewhat understood the logic. This made sense to Himesh and he accepted the explanation. Meera felt great relief after convincing her rigid husband.
She could now spend more time at the institute, Indian Music Scene and the Roy residence. Mr. Roy often joined her to work to help out with the accounts and publicity. This wasn’t new for him as he had often helped Deepshikha since his retirement. With the traffic situation becoming worse by the day, they often used one car to go to the institute. Meanwhile Deepshikha was gradually recovering from her injuries but her backache was getting bothersome. She was able to move around the house with support but she was still quite week.
The end of the year concert was just a month away and there was a lot left to do. Deepshikha requested Mr. Roy to spend more time with Meera in planning and execution of the concert. This Helped Meera a lot as she could concentrate better upon the students and the script of the musical they had planned together with Kamilla’s School of Dancing. Mr. Roy handled most of the administrative chores but often required input from Meera and guidelines from Deepshikha.
The day finally arrived and everything seemed to be in order as per plans. The posters were everywhere, the adverts were in the papers, the tickets were sold out, dress rehearsal was over. The doctor had permitted Deepshikha to be brought in a wheelchair as she was still suffering from the backache and shouldn’t be standing for long. Her right foot too was taking longer to heal and she would often lose balance walking. Deepshikha was excited to be finally coming out of her house for the Auditorium. Being her perfectly proud Indian self, she had to wear her Bengali saree , a gleaming white with a red border. Hair tied up in a neat chignon, she looked admiringly at her image in the dressing table mirror. She was dressing up like this for the first time since her injury and loved every moment of it.
Meera and Mr. Roy came out to the driveway to receive Deepshikha who came in Himesh’s car. Himesh who had reluctantly accepted Meera’s growing popularity in her new Avatara of being a caretaker of two families and the institute was now quite in awe of his wife. He had volunteered to pick up Deepshikha along with Bindu. Bindu opened the car boot to remove the wheelchair and steadied it hurriedly as the students as well as the photographers from various media houses waited to capture a glimpse of Deepshikha ‘s first public appearance since her fall. Meera quickly rushed forward to push the wheelchair forward once her mentor was seated on it.
The much awaited moment took a sudden turn as someone from the crowd of people pushed in such a manner that Meera lost her balance and fell over Deepshikha. As a result the wheelchair along with Deepshikha fell to the floor and Meera found herself pushed down to the floor. Bindu’s heart sank seeing her mother fallen along with her guru. Mr. Roy too hurriedly rushed to assist them both get up while Himesh oblivious of this accident went to park his car.
Fortunately as Bindu helped Mrs.Roy along with other students, Mr. Roy gave his hand to Meera and realized that she just had a few minor bruises. They were both relieved that the show could move ahead unhindered. Deepshikha meanwhile appeared very shaken up and in pain. Her back couldn’t handle this jolt and Himesh had to be called back with his car to rush her to the hospital.
With slightly dampened spirit, Mr. Roy and Meera put up a brave face as there was merely half an hour left for the show to begin. Meera needed to once again check if all systems were in place and groom herself back into form to welcome the Chief Guest. They quickly decided that Meera would now call upon Mr. Roy to light the lamp with the Chief Guest instead of Deepshikha as they commence the show.
The program ran very smoothly and the musical presented by The Indian Music Scene accompanied by Kamilla’s School of Dancing was one of the best the City had witnessed. After the event as Meera and Mr. Roy were leaving for the Hospital they heard abusive names being hurled at both of them. There were some people seemingly annoyed at them for some reason.They looked at each other in a questioning manner but the concern about Deepshikha was bigger than some loose tongues, hence, they drove off without any further delay.
As they arrived at the hospital they found some press reporters exiting from there. “They might have found out about some celebrity or something severe happening”, said Mr. Roy and without giving too much thought to them they rushed to see Deepshikha who had been sedated as the pain was quite acute for her. Mr. Roy decided to wait over her while Meera exhausted from the eventful day’s thorough activity and the sudden mishap left with Himesh and Bindu to go home.
The next morning was a cloudy one. As the family woke up to the dark gloomy morning, Bindu brought in hot cups of tea for her parents. Himesh asked for the newspaper but saw Bindu’s reluctance at giving it to him. Meera gave her a quizzed look and Bindu burst out crying.
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Hell had broken loose in the lives of Mr. Roy and Meera since the day of the Musical. The public and the media seemed to have become their instant enemies. God knows how that silly notion entered their uncultured minds which ruined all the peace in the two households. Thanks to the coverage of the event by the Indian Times, Asian News Times, National News, Asian FM, Outward FM, National TV, Outward TV and a few Weekly radio programs, people now had found new gossip.
The news making rounds was that Mr.Roy and Meera were having an illegitimate relationship and that both the accidents Mrs.Roy had had were in fact manipulated by them. “Good gracious”, thought Meera ” Why can people not understand that she has a family with grown up children”.
In an instant a lot had changed. Meera started getting weird phone calls, abusive remarks and strange looks from people known and unknown to her. The students too started looking at her with disrespect or at least she felt it that way. Thankfully her family understood and believed in her and stood by her like a shield. She was unwillingly forced by her own ego to reduce drastically her visits to the Roy residence. She was partly protective of her public image and partly concerned about the effects of the loose talk on Deepshikha’s health.
Mr. Roy was taken aback at such accusations and pitied the small minds of people who gained pleasure at causing distress to others. He had loved his wife of 46 years very dearly and still loved her. He was pained to see her in pain and the thought of even causing her any discomfort had never crossed his mind. He stood by Meera only on insistence by Deepshikha and knew how fond and concerned she had been of her.
It was quite sad to see Mr.Roy sitting at home most part of the day as he was heart broken. He couldn’t believe that the students who used to greet him with big smiles now waved wicked glances and cunning smiles at him. He was anxiously waiting for Deepshikha to regain her health and manage the Indian Music Scene as Meera had resigned to maintain her sanity and dignity. She didn’t have the strength to listen to the nonsense being hurled towards her and Mr. Roy.
Their relationship had not been grasped by immature minds to whom a man and a woman could only have a certain type of friendship. They had always got along very well and their spouses and children had understood that very well. All along they were good friends and the age was never a barrier too. They were both equally saddened by Deepshikha ‘s injuries and wished well for her always. Why is it that all of a sudden people started thinking differently about them?
The conservative Indian mentality was to be blamed for this. In this age of a fast paced society where young boys and girls freely moved around together a mature relationship was still not understood by many. A married man just simply was not supposed to be friendly with a married woman. The society needed the tag on each relationship and the fact that Meera and Mr. Roy did not attach a label upon their relationship their relationship invited stigma on itself. Meera wondered if things would have been different had she been addressing him as uncle or chacha ji instead of calling him Mr. Roy. On the other hand even he had never called her as a daughter. He had always called her by her name and introduced her as a friend.
The Indian society was gradually turning modern in many ways. Young boys and girls would be noticed holding hands and walking, though kissing in public was still not very common yet not so rare. They often boasted of having boyfriends and girlfriends. Wonder what that meant and why was it not frowned upon. Here there were a pair of genuine friends yet they were being stigmatized because they belonged to be of opposite sex of each other. Strange are the ways of this society which considers itself to be very modern and appears so but it’s sick, extremely sick to the core.
The stigma of unacceptable norms of society had finally led to Deepshikha having to shut down the institute as she suffered from stress and found it futile teaching such a pious art to children of insensitive, unreasonable and uncultured parents who couldn’t speak up in defense of the teachers who taught their kids. Mr. Roy lost interest in most of his activities and hobbies as he found himself answering unwanted questions of rebuke at most places. The couple finally moved away to California to be closer to their two sons and their families.
Meera and Himesh too had to undergo a major shift. Their three children had to be protected from abuse and the shameless shame being forced upon them. Himesh sold off his business and the family moved to South Africa and together they started life with a different note. Meera opened her own Music Academy where Himesh with his years of experience was the perfect manager and financial controller. Their first born Madhur who had just graduated from college found this to be the perfect timing and after a few months of job hunt secured himself a job at Cricket Academy. Bindu was unsettled and decided to help Meera with setting up of the Academy till she decided on her future plans. Meanwhile Harpreet, the youngest daughter was glad at the move as this brought forward her opportunities at the research she was planning to do on marine animals.
The stigma came and went but wouldn’t be forgotten. It brought some distasteful memories but also came as a blessing. Mr. and Mrs. Roy were finally closer to their two grandsons and a granddaughter and adapted to life at a different part of the globe. Meera’s family now had their own family business and Madhur had dreams of venturing into a sport based business as well.
Stigma is stigma only in the mind. It ends a chapter of life to begin a new chapter. The strong may appear week but remain steadfast and unearth their victory overcoming hardships.