“She is a liar and a cheat. She is an elephant. She is my wife.”
And it was the end of an almost perfect day.
She thought of her beautiful daughters and her grandchildren. She counted on her fingers the number of times she had lied in the last few days. It was for the sake of small things that she had bought with cash carefully saved from a monthly allowance. Small luxuries she bought as gifts to give to her daughters and their husbands and their husbands’ families. They would come in handy when at a short notice she would be asked to produce something special to take with her to mark one of many ceremonies and religious events.
She thought hard and for long, but she could not come up with anything that she had bought for herself with those bills.
The big ticket items for which she had told most of her lies were the L’Oreal lipsticks. She had spent less than what she had said she had spent from her allowance, and had spent more than what she had claimed to have spent on those gorgeous lip-colours sealed within the gilded cases that she had impulsively bought for her daughters.
She had put on weight over the years. That was her own fault and she had no excuse for it. Nothing to show for it – nothing like what she had stashed away under her clothes, well hidden inside the deep wooden shelves of her almirah. She could always predict when the word ‘elephant’ would hit her with stinging humiliation. At times, the ‘elephant’ would be replaced by ‘buffalo,’ but it never missed its target, never failed to strike where it hurt most.
Then there were these three women murdered by a man whom they had loved at some point in their lives. “The media folks are quick to blame the man,” he had said,
“What about the women and their responsibility? Like that teenaged girl who had committed suicide. Why was she found naked at a drunk party? What was she doing there? Why did her parents not stop her from going there? Why did she not listen to them? It is easy always to blame the man, never the woman!”
She went back to counting the number of lies she had told and asked herself:
“Why do I lie? I know it is wrong and I keep fooling myself that it is not a lie, but
I would have nothing left to give to my daughters if I told no lies.
“My daughters are beautiful. They live for my happiness and I for theirs. One of them needs to be careful because she is seldom alone, surrounded by her parents-in-law, brother-in-law, his wife…..the other one is bolder and speaks her mind. They cannot work outside the home. Husbands don’t want them to or perhaps it is their families. It doesn’t matter. They are happy to be away from this nightmare of an existence.
“Another daughter was born to my older daughter. Had it been a boy, she would have been able to rest for 40 days. I am not sure now. It is another girl. It is not the same. There will be a celebration, but it will be a muted one. There will be no distribution of traditional sweetmeats, and preparations will begin for when she will have to leave for another home.
“Yes, I am the ‘elephant’ or the ‘buffalo’ that carries on my back the weight of the sons I never had. I am the ‘elephant’ with the wisdom to hold peace at home. I am a woman with a name and two beautiful daughters with equally beautiful daughters of their own.
“So where was I? I have lost count of the numbers – the number of lies. One lie compels you to lie again, and the numbers begin to add up. Initially, I had meant to stop at the first one. Who would have thought I would end up with so many? They are, after all, mere lies.”