"Balance your cheque book, Sunanda!"
I could still hear my father`s exasperated voice as he tried to see whether I had any money left in my account to pay for the grocery and other mundane bills. I could not remember a time when I had not been asked to balance something or the other. Life was all about control and balance. Control your voice, control your emotions, balance your life and balance your accounts....! You are a girl, Sunanda, you`ve got to learn!
I would watch with envy mixed with sadness the way my younger brother gobbled up all the bananas and eggs for breakfast, and lunged for the scooter keys to rush out of the house to ride to college, studying, of all things, a commerce pass course. I had to satisfy myself with some coffee and "idlis". Eggs were out of the question since Indian girls like me had to be vegetarian. Eggs and meat would increase our desires and our tempers and make harlots (most probably) of us demure young things.
It was an irony of life that I had found work as a clerk in a Chartered Accountant`s firm. Here too, my time was spent balancing the ledger, making sure that all the money was accounted for to the nearest "paisa". I hated the job, but it brought in the much needed funds for running the house. My father had retired, and my brother was still studying.
At night, alone with my thoughts, I`d stare at the inky blue sky and the twinkling stars outside my window. I would think wistfully of how different my life would have been if I had pursued my dream. I had wanted to work as a journalist in a newspaper office, but my parents had said that such work was just not for young girls from respectable homes. Journalists kept erratic hours and visited undesirable places to interview strangers or record unusual happenings.
While I mused on this, my thoughts often went back to the day when everything changed for me. As a child I had written poems and short stories in a small diary. My father had come across it one day and thrown it in the garbage bin. He called my writing the outcome of unbalanced emotional upheavals.
He asked me to channelize my energies into learning how to cook to become a good wife someday instead. I cried and screamed at him, hurt and upset by his callousness.
"Vasanthi!" he called out to my mother, "Come and attend to your mad, stupid daughter!" He walked out of the house. When he returned, I was quiet and subdued. A heavy stone of sorrow had been placed on my heart.
I lived quietly with my husband, and continued to work at my clerical job after marriage. My life was following an uneventful, even keel. Only I understood the price I paid for it.
I finally managed to write and publish my life story. To everyone`s surprise, it became a runaway hit. I was called "mad, unpredictable, fantastic, emotionally vulnerable, unbalanced, charismatic...." Through my writing, I had shown the world the depths of despair that a balanced existence can bring about. The people were aghast. It was as if my story had turned their lives topsy-turvy. They had been cajoled out of their cocoons of complacency.
That summer, my husband and I took a small holiday to the beach. I left him sleeping one morning and walked towards the waters. There was a cliff overlooking the beach and I decided to climb it. I soon reached the top.
I had achieved the pinnacle of success. I stood with my arms spread wide at the edge of the cliff, ready to take off. I had finished with one life of perfect balance.
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