Highly Commended Story - Herself
“Herself” by Anika Punjabi, Arya Vidya Mandir Juhu, India, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Anika Punjabi was born on the 5th of November 2007. She enjoys writing stories that impel the reader to learn as they go. Her aim for the future is to help people get stronger both physically and mentally. She hopes that her writing helps raise awareness.
“God! Has she not woken up yet! Is this what a daughter-in-law is supposed to do?” She said in a disappointed tone. “Who is going to make the food and clean the house? Told him not to marry her…”
And so, went on the rant of Mrs. Dixit about her daughter-in-law.
Anjali came from a very loving family; she had always believed in keeping an open mind towards everything. But two years in a marriage had changed her. Covering her head with her sari and always having her hair in a long plait, these were the little things she did to survive in that household.
At times when she missed her parents, she remembered a day from her childhood, when her mother had told her to always be herself no matter what. But she was wasn’t sure if she knew how to be “herself”. This 27-year-old wasn’t happy for reasons she couldn’t understand. Was it because now her life had become just making lunch for her husband? Perhaps.
Finally, one gloomy day, the much-awaited day came, the day she broke down. She just couldn’t take the constant remarks of her mother-in-law. She just couldn’t take the fact that she felt oppressed. So thus, Anjali did what had lingered in her mind since the day she got married. She ran away.
She woke up at four in the morning, having a sinking feeling in her stomach. Knowing that she was doing something that in no world would be approved by her parents, she stealthily picked up her bag. She had only wanted to pack two outfits from her cupboard, too many bad memories. As for the money, she had made a large transaction from her bank account three days ago. And thus, leaving the miserable Mumbai girl she had been, she boarded a flight for Kerala.
After Kerala came Udaipur and then Goa. From making amazing friends in dining rooms to trying the spiciest sea food, she had cherished every bit of it. To every place she would visit, she had collected some souvenirs. From Kerala she had a small wooden elephant, Udaipur was a large pair of earrings and finally Goa was an amazing recipe of some delicious coconut curry. These small things reminded her of the places she had travelled to.
After 3 years of learning about herself, Anjali had gone to see her family. At the doorstep, stood a girl wearing jeans with a full sleeves top, she had a gorgeous pixie cut and walked with a stride. There had been a lot of tears, but in the end, they were all just elated to see her. After sixteen days full of love, Anjali had to go back home.
On her way back, at the airport, memories of her divorce papers rushed back to her, she was reminded of what she had run away from. She remembered how hard it had been for her to get up and leave everything. But although she had struggled for a while, she was very happy with where she was. She was proud of herself for coming this far. With a faint smile on her face, she walked towards her flight.
She was glad that she had finally found “herself”.