In the end,she mused,it was her fault. It was the denial,she reasoned,the main factor due to which she hadn’t confided in Rukmini. The reason that she lied through her teeth when Rukmini asked her,if she felt anything,anything at all for the man who’d stolen herself from her. But even as she convinced herself of this, she had a sinking realization that perhaps the reason was a far more baser emotion,Fear. Fear of judgement. Fear of Failure. Fear that he would never love her the way she did.
She lost count of the number of times she lay awake at night,lost in thought,dreaming of an impossible future.
It had been three months since Greg had first made his entrance into the Haveli,and into her dreary life.
Three months of stealing looks from behind the lattice,always finding an excuse to be on the parapet overlooking the entrance.
Three months of standing silently,eyes lowered, at the back and call of the Sahib and his company,courtesy of Jodhaa’s perceptive nature and alleged lack of need for Zohra’s services every time Greg was around after his initial stay there.
And so the days passed,undemanding and allowing for diversions that allowed her to deceive herself.
Until the day the blinds were forced to fall.
Our Heroine’s anguish may best be described in her own words,for these thoughts flew so rapidly through her head,that a third person would never be able to comprehend them.
An Excerpt from the thoughts of Zohra, a lady of a different sort.
I felt hurt and betrayed. She was my friend. my closest companion. someone to whom I could reveal anything. And when she said that she had given herself to him,my heart broke . I understood what writers meant when they said a whirlwind of emotions.. But I kept my face straight. my emotions hidden. I said it was fine. That alone,was her first clue that something was amiss. I despised the word fine. Despised it implied normalcy. Hated it with a fiery passion,not unlike the kind of pain I was feeling. I felt sick in my stomach. And through it all I breathed. I kept a straight face,failing a little ,and for the brief moments when the mask fell,she saw the damage she had wrought. But I covered it up. it was fine.
With a heavy heart,I asked that she begin at the beginning,sparing no detail. It was done anyhow, perhaps the situation could be an excuse. And she began.
It started just like it did with me,waiting on the Sahib and Greg ,the same seemingly innocent yet meaningful brushes,always carefully calculated to seem accidental or unconsciously done. Something that I, in my lost daydreams had noticed occurring with anyone besides me. Of course my head was lost in the clouds,thinking of all the what ifs and could bes. He never looked twice,never gave any indication, that he felt like I did.
Lost. Confused. Intrigued. Attracted.
So why then did I lose my heart?
To someone who wouldn’t have even noticed me had it not been for my wilful,tempestuous nature?
Someone to whom I knew I wasn’t worth a second glance?
Someone,whom, if I’d known the consequence of loving,I never would have dared?
Because he was different. He believed in things I could scarcely fathom,and had a trait of inbred arrogance I found myself helplessly drawn to.
Like the proverbial moth drawn to the flame that burns it.
And I denied it. Profusely. To the extent where I believed it myself.
As Rukmini spoke ,my traitorous heart whispered,maybe if I’d admitted it to myself,confided in my friend like I had since I came here,I wouldn’t be sitting with a broken heart and a seemingly curious and benign smile,as my faith in my fundamental self shattered.
Somewhere in the midst of these thoughts I could still hear her speak. She spoke of how she’d been offered an alternative to our life. The firaang , had offered to take her back with him. Not for a position of the household staff,but as a kept woman. Men had certain needs and someone had to fulfill them. And when offered a choice,he had chosen her.By virtue of chance,she had a choice,one that was actually valid and not a formality, for the gentleman refused to take a woman against her will.
Rukmini said yes. He had bedded her,and made the necessary arrangements to take her along when he left.
After that I couldn’t bear to hear more. My ears wouldn’t stop ringing. All I could think,over and over,was what had occurred between them. And how it stung,because she was my companion,my friend and she had taken the man I loved.
Perhaps what stung the most was the realization that had she been aware of my feelings,she would have said no. She would never intentionally hurt me.