It was just a regular Sunday at home. I got up around noon, had breakfast in my pyjama with my eyes glued to the phone, while my mother complained about how I needed to be more responsible. My father told her to cut me some slack, after all, his little girl was working now, all she got was weekends to unwind. He then left to visit a friend, leaving me with my mother, who by now, had half of my almirah out and was asking me to arrange everything properly. ‘Mom! I can do this on my own! I am old enough!’ I whined. ‘You will never be old enough’, came the usual reply and I couldn’t help but giggle a little. ‘And look at how dirty this bag has become, take out all the stuff and put it in the wash!’ she said, passing me my huge tote bag which, I have to admit, really did need a wash.
I took out all my stuff - the multiple bills from the week before, two of my hair brushes, three notebooks, my makeup kit and all the scrunchies I thought I had lost - and handed it back to my mom because I was too lazy to get out of bed. ‘Did you check all the pockets properly?’ she asked. ‘Yes, I did, mom!’ I rolled my eyes. ‘Really? Then what is - ?’ my mother stopped mid-sentence looking at something that she had taken out from one of the bag’s multiple inner pockets. ‘What is it?’ I asked, I couldn’t see it from where I lay so I shifted to the edge of the bed to have a look at it and my heart sank. My mother found a condom in my bag and she was shocked!I tried to find words to say something but it was like someone had glued my tongue to the roof of my mouth. All I could do was look at my mother’s face with a look of panic on mine. My parents might have known I was sexually active but this...this was proof, this was something they could not ignore even if they wanted to. Without a word, my mother left the room, leaving me guilt-ridden and fearful. What was going to happen? Were we going to talk about it? What will she say? Will we pretend this didn’t happen? My mind was racing with questions. I called up my then boyfriend and narrated the whole incident. He laughed for a while and then told me, ‘Relax, it’s just a condom, you can tell her it isn’t yours.’ Yes! I could do that! I could tell her one of my friends needed a condom so I kept it for her. Before my mom would come and ask me, I’ll just go and tell her. Problem solved. So I left my fortress of solitude and gathered courage to go and talk to my mom.
She was sitting on the sofa in the living room, the bag was sitting on top of the washing machine and I had no clue where the condom was. I slowly approached her from behind, ‘Mom, I...’ I began talking. ‘Sit down’, she said in a stern voice. ‘Are you getting physical with some guy?’ came the straight-forward question. I gulped, ‘No, mom…’. ‘If you’re going to lie, you should do that once your father returns’. My father? Was my mother really giving me the father threat? ‘I’m not lying. This is not mine, that day Sunaina wanted to get one but she was feeling shy so I went and bought one for her,’ I blurted out. ‘Sunaina, really? So this is what you girls do, buy condoms for each other?’ she asked. ‘I was just helping her, mom,’ I said. ‘Helping her? Do you know what happens when you sleep around with guys? Have you heard of pregnancy?’ my mom asked angrily. ‘Well, that’s kind of the point of a condom…’ I replied in a hushed tone. ‘I don’t want to discuss this with you anymore. No more night outs, especially not with Sunaina!’ she said and went to her room. I was left feeling confused about this unfair treatment. I was over 18, there was nothing illegal about having sex with somebody. Also, I could not stop thinking about how poor Sunaina would have a tough time coming to my house now. The day went on with a tense awkwardness all around us, I made sure I had lunch an hour after my mother so I didn’t have to bump into her and feared the moment my dad would get back. It was only in the evening after both of us had our cup of tea (carefully spaced out) that she finally came to talk to me. ‘Listen…’ she said, ‘I think it’s time we have a conversation.’ I sat up straight and put my phone away, hoping my sincerity would make a difference. ‘If Sunaina is buying condoms then I am sure you are not far behind.’ I opened my mouth to argue but she held up her hand telling me not to interrupt. ‘In our culture, we don’t sleep with people before marriage, but we have to adapt to the changes in the society. So, first of all, make sure the man is up to your mark. Don’t go around in skimpy clothes with men who are stupid. Second, use protection.’ At this point, she put the condom back on the bed and got up to leave the room, I was stunned by the turn of this conversation and sat frozen, not sure what move might sabotage the whole situation. ‘And third…’ my mother turned around to look at me at the door, ‘Don’t let me find out about it again,’ and with that, she left.
I had no idea whether what I was feeling was relief, panic or just an uncontrollable urge to laugh out loud. Nevertheless, I did all the things my mother told me to do but most importantly, I always always kept my bag out of her reach.* Names changed to protect privacyImages: Shutterstock