The hall was filled with the sound of applause and standing ovation as the curtains were drawn. “What a great performance!”
Many centuries ago, King Kumbha of Mewar ruled from his magnificent fort. In one corner of the fort, the king had a perpetual lamp burning day and night. The light of the lamp was said to be so bright it could be seen many miles away in the city of Jodhpur. The queen of Jodhpur was fascinated by the light. She sent word around to find out the origins of the light. When she got to know that it was King Kumbha, the ruler of Mewar, she wanted to meet him. The queen requested permission from her husband to meet this person. But then, alas, even if he was the king, he was still a man. Jealously overtook him and he fought with her, asking her to go on her own risk and bear the consequences of her deeds.
The urge to meet the great King Kumbha was so overwhelming that the queen decided to go against the wishes of her husband and sent a message to King Kumbha to fetch her. King Kumbha was surprised and thought that someone was in trouble so he sent his faithful men to fetch the lady to the safety of his palace.
The puppet show was over. Sarita was mesmerized. Was this a true story? Did the queen in those days dare to go against her husband for someone she did not even know?
The last lines of the show kept on haunting her, “Life is but a puppet show, finally we are all katputlees (puppets) in the hands of some divine power!”
“Hey Sarita, did you enjoy the show?” Anish’s voice brought her back to this world. “Yes, it was awesome, I love this place, and the bright red, blue, yellow colours, the people here are so simple and loving”, she replied. “Like me!”, he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“Well, let’s come to more serious discussion. The reason I have called you here is I want you to play the lead role in my next play. It is a story of an urban woman in India, in her early thirties, who is caught between the roles of being a career woman and wife and mother. Trying hard to balance, but not being able to keep everyone happy.”
“Sir, someone named Mr. Sanjay has come to meet you” the hostess came up to Anish. “Just think about it, Sarita and I’ll be right back.”
Sarita was once again in a dilemma. Little did she know, when she accepted to meet Anish her childhood friend, or her first love would be a better way to put it, that he would ask her something like this. He had invited her to the sets of his play to have some serious discussions, as he had put it.
“So ma’am, I hope you have made up your mind,” Anish always had a way of putting her has ease. “Anish, you know I have not stepped on the stage ever since I left college. How could you even think of me doing this role?” “I am the director, so you leave that to me!”, he said with mischief in his eyes.
“My dear Sarita, for once, do something for yourself. If only you had done what your heart told you some years ago, we would have been together today”
He had touched a sore string in her heart. She had refused to marry Anish to keep her parents’ word with their family friend. Come to think of it, the role that Anish was asking her to play, was the story of her life. Her husband Sunil was working in a multinational company. Always tense about his job and his status in life. She herself was working in an advertising company, had long hours, a child and demanding in-laws. Ever since she got married, her days were monotonous and dreary. Juggling between office and home.
All this, till the other day when her cell phone rang. “Hi there, how are you baby?” “Who’s this?” the voice sounded familiar but she could not place it. “So now my voice is also forgotten?” “Anish?” she was almost shouting on the phone. “Wow, what a pleasant surprise!” she said. “Well, I have a bigger surprise, I am doing some work in Jodhpur, and I want to you come and meet me there. I am sending you the tickets and your hotel confirmation. It is only for two days, I am sure you can do that much for your ‘old friend’” and the line got disconnected. The number was ‘unlisted’. She could not even call him back.
“Well Sarita, I hope you realize that taking leave at this crucial time is hurting us. Please ensure that you are back as promised”, her boss was forever cribbing whenever she asked for leave. All her hard work always was overlooked to promote her male colleague, who had a family to support! How she hated all this and hoped she could one day just quit all this.
The flight landed at Jodhpur and someone approached her with a placard. “Anish Sir said that he will see you at the hotel ma’am. Have a nice day ahead.” The driver dropped her at the hotel. For once, she felt she was free, even if it was only for two days.
“Penny for your thoughts!”, Anish had returned. “I hope you have made up your mind, I need to start working early next month.” “I really can’t do this, it’s too difficult. Besides, I have a job and a family back home.” “For once, Sarita, please do something for yourself. Your entire life, you have either done things for your parents, your husband, your child or your in-laws. For once, do something for the Sarita in you, the Sarita I knew, adored and loved.”
There was a moment of silence and their eyes met each other. She felt a strange kind of happiness. Anish was making perfect sense or was the guy at the puppet show right, when he said we are all puppets in the hands of some divine power?
“Thank you so much Sarita, Can I ask you for one more favour?” Anish asked her as he hugged her after the play. “Will you work for me? I will be a great boss!” They both laughed out loud.
As Sarita stood with the award for best performance in her hand, she smiled and said, “I’d like to dedicate this success to only one person, my mentor, someone who trusted me and understood me more than I could understand myself.”
“Someone who believed in me, and convinced me that we are not puppets in the hands of some divine power but makers of our own destiny!”
The curtains were drawn as the crowd applauded continuously.