The three of us met each other outside the society gate. I was dressed in a pink skirt and a simple white top with sneakers. Anjali was wearing jeans, a light sweater and bright red lipstick.
“Hi..where’s Parul?”, Anjali asked, as she saw me approach her. I was right on time. It was 7 pm. Which meant Anjali was early.
“Let me call her and check.”, I said. “Ok, she said she was just waiting for her husband to reach home, to take over child duty. He just came in, so she’ll be here in 5 minutes.”
Five minutes later, we saw Parul walking towards us in a pretty autumn blue dress and high heels. Her curly hair wasn’t tied in its usual bun, but open in all its glory.
“Wow, you look super!”
“Wow! The red lipstick really suits you!”
Both Anjali and Parul blurted out, complimenting each other almost instantly. I smiled and agreed. The three of us looked very different from how we looked every evening, when we met at the park.
“Ready? The cab is here”, I said.
The three of us got in and we were silent for the rest of the ride, which didn’t last longer than ten minutes, since the decision was to go someplace close, in case an emergency arose back home, with the dads handling the kids.
We had met through our respective four year olds in the playground a few months back. One of us would always be working late, one of us trying to squeeze in the evening run, and one of us had to monitor her kid, since he wouldn’t leave her out of his sight even for a minute. We always met in our work out clothes usually, and just said Hi to each other. And listened to our kids chatter. It had taken us two dinners with the kids and husbands, to plan this evening. When its dinner at home, it was next to impossible to unwind.
We reached the pub walked in.
“Wow, this place is beautiful! Let’s order!”, I was already excited. I didn’t care there was no one there. I just wanted to talk and unwind. I wanted to re live my 20s I guess.
So, here we were. It was 7:15 pm and the pub was empty. Looks like we had completely forgotten about how this worked. But not to be deterred, we ordered our drinks. A Long Island Ice tea for Parul, A Vodka with Sprite for Anjali and a Gin Spritzer for me. And lots of finger food – bruschettas, lotus stem fries, watercress nut salad, to name a few.
All a woman needs is a few drinks, good music, good food and the company of other women. I wish someone famous had said these lines, or maybe they have?
While we were into our second round of drinks, we became unhinged and told each other our stories, or one of our stories at least.
Anjali had been a theatre actress before she got married, got a 9-5 job and became the mother of two. You could see in the way she spoke, the ageless beauty of her face and her expressive eyes, that she must have been a very popular actress back then. She told us about how she could get any man she wanted and about her wild, hectic and exhilarating days from back then. Until she was pressurised into getting married because she was ‘nearing the age’ and that’s what society expects right? Luckily for her, she had the option to say no to the guy at first. How could she marry a stranger? Then they courted each other, and she realised that she had fallen for this simple, shy, conservative guy. He was the first guy she had met through this arranged marriage meeting and the rest was history.
Parul talked about how for her, it was known from the start that the children in the family will marry the men or women their parents chose for them. She loves her parents so she trusted their decision. Then began the stream of men she had to meet to decide who would become her husband. Strangely, she didn’t like any of them. Her parents grew frustrated and impatient with each guy she rejected, until they met the guy she would eventually get married to.
“So, what was it about Tarun that made you choose him over others?”, Anjali asked.
“Hmm, I was attracted to Tarun’s quiet personality, I think. He didn’t say much, but he held his ground with the things that mattered to him without sounding pretentious or condescending. He actually listened when I talked or rather rambled about things and we both realised that we both loved going on long drives. What more could a girl want?”, she replied with a smile.
Almost as if on cue, the two women checked their phones and said, ‘oh just checking if the guys are alright with the kids and if they had dinner’.
We laughed and drank some more. We questioned the societal norms and expectations people have for women all the time. We wondered if we would’ve been better off not being married at all. But then we wondered, what would that kind of freedom entail? We had no idea if a word like that could ever exist for a woman. Where she could be free without expectations or intrusions or judgements.
The music changed and we got up to dance. We were drunk, but it was so fun. We didn’t have to worry about being mothers or wives that night. We were just us. We were free tonight.
When the night was finally over, the three Cinderellas got a ride back home and changed out of their magical dresses and shoes, and transformed back to their normal day roles with a smile.
Sometimes, Cinderellas don’t need to go to a ball to find their Prince. Sometimes they need to go to a ball to find themselves 🙂