"R..R..Ring, R..R..Ring........" Damayanti placed a paperweight on the papers she was going through and picked up the receiver. She could hear Malini`s frenzied voice at the other end, "Why did you take so long to pick it up? I thought of reminding you once again. I have got a very bad impression of your memory." This was the third time, since morning that Malini had called up and reminded her of the treat she was going to give her. "Of course I remember. How can I ever forget that? You don`t have to worry, I`ll be there in time." Damayanti put the receiver down and got back to work. Yes, how could she ever forget this date? This was going to be, perhaps, one of the happiest moments of her life.
They had known each other only for a few years but the bond they shared had grown stronger and stronger, each day. Damayanti worked as a chief executive in a reputed company and Malini`s office was very near to hers. So, very often Malini would come to her during lunch hour and sometimes Damayanti would drive her to her hostel after office. Besides, they occasionally went for movies, exhibitions and to restaurants. Previously, it was Damayanti who used to pay for everything but today it was going to be different.
Damayanti and Malini didn`t make a perfect twosome, however. Damayanti in her late thirties, always beautiful, confident and elegant. Malini in her mid-twenties often felt very small and unimportant before her dynamic personality. The two, however, shared something in common. Their iron determination and also a very, very bitter past.
When Damayanti saw her for the first time, she was filled with instant hatred. She had gone back soon after her divorce to collect her jewellery from the clutches of her greedy mother-in-law, after the court decree. While leaving, she shot a quick glance at the fragile frame, covered from head to toe in a saree, standing awkwardly at a corner. "So, this is Varun`s new doll?" she had wondered. Varun and Damayanti had a love marriage. Soon she realized that Varun was a compulsive womanizer. Not only that, soon her mother-in-law started abusing her as she did not conceive. Life had become a nightmare . Still she endured everything. But when she could not bear a child even after four years of marriage, her mother-in-law decided to re-marry her well-educated and wealthy, 30-year-old son to a 16 year old from their native village. Damayanti could take it no more. She filed for a divorce.
After 4 years, Damayanti met Malini for the second time. By then, she had married Kaushik. Malini had come to their apartment. She had a three year old child with her. Varun had abandoned them soon after his mother expired. He proved very easily that their marriage was not a legal one. Malini was an orphan, brought up by her maternal uncle, who would not accept her back. She had studied only till tenth, therefore, unable to take up a job. She knew no one in the city other than Damayanti. For an instant, Damayanti had a desire to throw this woman out of her house but she controlled herself.
Malini had some jewellery. Her only dream was to educate her daughter, Keya, so that she never would have to suffer a similar fate. Damayanti and Kaushik decided to keep them. Malini offered domestic help. Damayanti never guessed that this ushered the beginning of an ever-lasting relationship. She never realized when and how this poor, uneducated woman won her over, with her devotion and sincerity. Keya was sent to a boarding school at a hill station. Damayanti persuaded Malini to continue her education. She moved to a hostel and graduated from a private university. Side by side, she learnt Spoken English and Computers. Damayanti had been her source of inspiration and support through these six long years. Finally, Malini got a job in a tourism office last month. Yesterday, she had got her first salary.
"R..R..Ring, R..R..Ring." The telephone forced Damayanti out of the reverie. "You are still in? It`s almost 1:00 p.m.!" Malini complained. " I`m on my way.........just 5 minutes." Damayanti rushed towards the car park.
21st century women have come a long way. They are unfettered, undaunted. Now, they refuse to restrict themselves to the overused and exploited relationships like mother, daughter, wife or sister. Today, they reach out beyond their boundaries to create their own world and redefine relationships. Damayanti and Malini`s story is just the beginning.
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