Chatma believed that she needed to be a little less meek. The other day she happened to have this conversation with her mother, while they were having dinner on that dreaded and boring looking dining table that she despised since she was 12 years old. She was told that old habits die hard, and it was a habit of her mother’s, to always make her feel that she wasn’t good enough, or that she was living her life wrong. You needn’t find it surprising if Chatma wondered for once, even if for a fleeting second, that whether her mother and her father ever planned her to happen, if she was an unexpected outcome from actions on a cold, lonesome night. She always felt like she was playing for runners-up to her elder brother Firscha.
The flash floods across Alarek had taken quite a toll on Chatma’s hometown. Her mother’s house, and the surrounding regions within a nine kilometer radius were completely submerged. Well, almost. The rains haf fallen from the skies above for about a week, tirelessly, and she literally had begged her mother to come stay with her, but in the end, all of the pleas had fallen on deaf ears because her mother never gave in. Until her father came down to escort Chatma’s mother back to their place, all the way from Birka, a region in the Kingdom of Fidrak. To Chatma, that seemed a little extra, because she was about 132 miles away from Alarek, while Birka was 300. But there they were, sitting in her father’s house, on that 10 year old dining table. Houses had been moved out of and moved into, and rebuilt. But the dining table had outlasted them all.
‘I hear the roads to Chifrad are blocked’, said Chatma, to break the silence that had grown so awkward and strong at the table. The table had some unknown superpower to be in the thick of heated arguments, awkward conversations, divorce paper signings, and now impending doom. Chatma’s parents were separated for about a year now. Since she and Firscha were adults, there never was a question of custody. That felt like a backhanded compliment in way to Chatma, like the court was telling them, ‘Congrats! You’re adults. You don’t need anyone’s guidance in fucking up your lives. You’re old enough to figure that out yourself’!
‘Nonsense! my brother Kizrak had traveled all the way to Shiktar by road a couple of days back’, her mother interrupted as they all sipped their soup in unison.
‘But, it’s on the news. They blocked off all routes to Chifra-’
‘They are probably feeding us all with lies. The roads were quite empty and he made the trip in under two hours from Michkal to Shiktar. No bumps, no traffic’, she answered in a voice that sounded like an inch away from a sneer. Chatma began to doubt herself, but she was so sure a moment ago that she was right. Maybe she was wrong and her mother had a point. Michkal to Shiktar under two hours was impossible if the roads were busy. Maybe the mass hysteria on social media was to keep them all under check.
‘When had he traveled?’, Firscha quizzed their mother. He had decided to join their conversation. The soup they all were having must have turned boring instead of cold to him, with time.
‘It was on Monday, dear’ she said in the most loving voice that she could muster up while having hot, boring soup. The sneer that Chatma almost experienced couple of moments ago, suddenly seemed to have ceased all existence.
‘Monday?, that’s the day you traveled to Birka. Roads were fine all over that day. They were blocked from Tuesday. All routes to Chifrad have been blocked, since the floods are critical there’, Firscha sounded warm as he looked in Chatma’s direction. Chatma had doubted her views unnecessarily. Why though, she pondered. How easily had she doubted her brain? How easily she was willing to believe what she heard, instead of what she had read and confirmed. How easily she was willing to submit and agree to another person’s views, when she was the one who was right. Was it mere humility, or was she just afraid of confrontation in the end, she wondered. Chatma realized that she had to be assertive, if she ever wanted to be taken seriously. That look on her mother’s face was more than confirmation, when she reiterated her words at the dining table that night. Her father too had agreed to something she said after a very long time. The dining table wasnt dreadful as much as she believed it was after all. Amidst all the painful memories that it had gifted Chatma over the years, there was this one, that she would remember in the coming years, where she had finally decided for the first time to be more confident and assertive in her life. Where she had taken a baby step in moving closer to her brother whom she believed that she could emotionally never connect with.
She smiled softly as she took a sip from her soup. Somehow, it tasted a little less boring this time.