Missed futures

No one ever told you
when in school you would obsess over
dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s
while being taught to be polite
lady-like and perfect,

(Cover your legs and cut your nails,
put your finger on your lips
and work so fucking hard
that you know Newton’s third law
like the back of your hand.)

that growing up would be about
staring at the ceiling at midnight
after a hard day at work,
wondering how you’d pay the rent next month.

No one ever told you
that those countless 10/10s in class tests
which had earned you a clap or an occasional blush
wouldn’t get you anywhere,

nor would a bloated MA in Sociology
take you nearer to a stipend
to make a future or even pay your bills.

Your mother had once slapped you hard
when she saw you standing on the pavement
on your way back from school
and talking to the milkman.

Never accept gifts from a stranger,
she had screamed,
only relenting at grandma’s intervention
to let you off with a stern warning.

Now she scans the matrimonial column
of all dailies with unfailing dedication,
trying to find you the most suitable stranger.

Your high school boyfriend,
who always made a big fuss about kissing you in the rain
and had used it as a convenient excuse
to slip his hands inside your garments
to fondle your breasts,

he never told you
that he was just flirting without conscience,
who wanted to know
what a woman’s body feels like,
and satisfied with the discovery,
he would always walk away.

Because loving is short and living is long,
and sometimes it’s good to fall back on clichés
for an answer.

No one ever told you
that the meddlesome Sharma Aunty next door
is just a minor inconvenience,

her insistence on matching horoscopes
shouldn’t have let you ruin your life
and give up on the man you loved;

nor her shameless persistence
should have been reason enough
for you to quit a stable job
and plan an untimely pregnancy.

When you spent hours dreaming
of what Prince Charming would look like,
who would quietly take you in his arms
and ferry you softly to his island of the clouds,

you never thought about
the absurdity and boredom of existence,

how life can be about lying quietly
side by side, not sharing a word,
and staring at the nothingness of the ceiling
to worry about unpaid bills and EMIs.

Some nights are so beautiful
that you don’t make love.

And all those old, wise men
with nodding heads and sagging beards,
who counted the stars at your birth
and consoled your mother’s pain
with prophecies of your greatness —

All the planets are favourably aligned
to welcome a savant or a poet,
doctor, mathematician, software engineer,
everything ready and packaged into one,
muchas gracias!

 They never told you that
you would be just another stranger
anxious to look good on Instagram
and scripting your fairytale to the world

while your tap keeps dripping
and the plaster on the moth-eaten ceiling
slowly peels away.

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