By Bhaswati Ghosh
An excerpt from a short story, published in the latest issue of Stealing Time (a literary magazine for parents), themed Relations. To read the full story, purchase the issue here.As she hurried for her train, a blast of snow slapped her cheeks, reminding Aruna of when she had landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for the first time. The frigidity had made her question her decision to come to Canada. It was too late, she had reminded herself.
When she landed in this haven for immigrants nine years ago, Aruna had been nervous. At their parting, her husband Raghu assured her, “It’s only a matter of a few months, maximum a year, Aru. I will be there after that.”
But those few months had multiplied into as many as it took to make nine years. Years that taught Aruna that time was as slippery as her husband’s promise to join her in Canada. Between trying to make a living and raising twelve-year-old Vishnu, she had aged by two decades instead of one. Looking at the mirror one day, Aruna tried to make sense of how it turned out to be like this—three lives that were supposed to make a family now fragmented like left-over noodle strands on a diner’s plate. Those early years they had spent together contained no suggestion of the later distancing. Her husband had seemed caring and involved, if excessively guided by his quest for a “good life.”
Now, snow and coffee — once alien to her– had become second nature to Aruna. And her good life had little to do with what her husband had imagined. She reflected on how time changes a person’s inner landscape in accordance with the outer one.
The train sped past white houses, streets, trees. Aruna planted her cheek, covered with the woolen scarf she’d wrapped around her neck, to the window. The thickly snow-decked walls that vanished and re-appeared on the horizon were home. She rubbed her glove-clad hands and sipped coffee from the paper cup that danced slightly to the train’s motion on a tray table in front of her.
Arriving in the province, she had felt confident of getting a job. Her many years as a lifestyle journalist in India couldn’t have been for nothing. So she consumed herself with the other variables—managing her son’s education, getting a health card made, securing a driver’s licence, and all the other minutia of moving to a new place.
But she rented a damp basement apartment and managed the other details with ease. Only the job eluded her.
In three weeks, the city had turned from an indifferent host into an unforgiving master. The city demanded labour from Aruna in order to grant her an extended stay. A conversation with her widowed landlady made the prospects look bleaker than the foggy winter mornings…
Reader’s reviews:The story very well opens the eyes of ‘outsiders’ in India etc., who look longingly towards the West as a utopia, to its sordid reality. The life of the immigrant, the brutal self reliance it has to fall back on in an unknown land, is nicely stated. In a way the story shows how non self reliant we are in India with all our relatives ready to absorb the shocks of our life and to make it more tolerable; in this sense, it is to the essentially relations-bound Indian mind to which the story speaks. ~ Prathap Kamath Your story brings out both the struggle and the elation after a successful struggle very beautifully. At first, it is quite unbelievable why Aruna was putting up with Raghu. Couldn’t she just pack up and start life afresh? And then it dawned upon me that life wasn’t so easy. Breaking all ties isn’t easy at all. And this difficult life is what you have described so well in this story. …Just the feeling that Canada is so far away from home – and Raghu, in India – and is so, so cold makes this entire struggle so sublime and so worth it. Congrats to you for making some kind of a comparative study between the bleakness of Canada’s climate and the bleakness within Aruna to more beautifully sketch her struggle.Another good thing about the story is its length. You haven’t wasted words and sentences. ~ Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar