Every inch of her body was perspiring. She was laboring hard to dance in harmony with every single music beat. Every single emotion was fake. But she felt contented inside for she was visualizing the accomplishment of her younger brother.
"He must be receiving his degree at any time now", she was thinking and this thought alone was giving her constant energy to dance on the stage.
This stage was the most important part of her life for it had acted as a mean to all her aims- the bread of her family, the wedding of her sister and the education of her brother. Though she never liked the fact that she was a ‘B-grade’ stage dancer but, without any other choice in her life, she had learnt to live with the image of a dancer reluctantly. But for everyone, around her, this image was totally unacceptable. These were the people who, despite being her close relatives, offered no help to her family after the death of her father. Instead they advised her mother to marry her to a dying, old man, for his money. So seeing the selfishness of those around her, she had stopped caring about them or what they say.
The memories of her first audition had always stayed with her. She could literally recall every single step she took from her doorstep to the cheap theatre. She silently fought with those filthy, yearning eyes in public transport for which the innocent agitation of a 18 years old girl was a source of fun. She ignored the dirty way in which the play director stared at her on seeing her for the first time. She felt deeply ashamed and worthless at all the dirty jokes and dance moves she was asked to do for audition. But she had to clear the audition at any cost and she did it at the expense of her modesty and chastity.
Time moved on and with the passage of time she became cold and insensitive; and started focusing on the responsibilities she had. But still she managed to gain the respect of her colleagues - a result of her dedication and hard work accompanied by her decency and reserved attitude. She was successful in getting her sister married after eight monotonous years of hard work and struggle. It was the happiest moment of her life. But still she knew she had to go on for the education of her brother and so she continued her work with dogged persistence.
Four more years flew away and she turned thirty. She felt so old and tired after years of hard work. She longed for doing what every girl wants to do for she had sacrificed it all for her family. She missed having proper sleep, watching movies, attending marriages, having conversation with her mother, walking on the beach, counting the stars at night, eating oranges in the sunshine of winters and other things like that. The list of her appetencies was endless and, on occasions, it created ripples in her otherwise calm demeanor.
It was autumn's another sad day. Her brother was leaving for the job he got in another city.
"Aapi, I'll send you the money order every month. From now on you really do not need to work because that money would be enough for you and Mama ",He said.
"You just take care of yourself.", She hugged him with mixed feelings of happiness and sadness. And he left her feeling carefree and without any burden.
She was still astonished with the fact that she had managed to achieve all her goals.
"Daddy must be happy up there! Yes Daddy, I have received your hug", she said to herself with tears in her eyes.
Sipping the tea she planned to furnish her room. She decided to buy things just for herself and made a long list on coloured paper with the glittering pen. She was giggling and singing and dancing. But this time it was all just for her own soul. She looked into the mirror and felt beautiful. She looked at her eyes which were glowing of excitement and she thought about the desires and dreams she had. She decided to be selfish, very selfish from then on.
“Finally I can do all the things that I wanted to do”, she thought.
But at that very moment she heard someone at the main door, from her sister's in-laws, tell her mother that her brother-in-law had died and her sister is returning to her home with her three children. Suddenly all the money that her brother would send did not appear enough to support her mother, sister and her sister’s children. Looking at herself in the mirror, she felt herself hollow from inside.
"So! What now?", she asked herself.
Soon she was tearing her retirement letter into pieces. She has realized that she is in a race in which everybody was running in a 'vicious circle'. No matter how fast or slow you run, you are always going to reach the identical point again and again!
I would like to thank Mr. Arif Iftekhar for corrections .