A small message from me before this blog post starts. There haven’t been too many stories (in fact only one very tiny one) on this blog yet. So it will add a new flavour to it for sure. Plus, I loved the message that it conveys. – Aditi Bose, “CEO of this Blog” 🙂
I read what Manu wrote in his post on how kids were entering the dating arena too soon. A trend I seem to be noticing lately, now that I am a mother of two. It got me thinking about the other end of the spectrum, how it’s sometimes too late to enter the arena. Here’s a story I penned for the TOI WriteIndia contest some time back, where it was just too late to show the love.
The Story Starts…
She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. What was this?
“Flying to Singapore tonight.”
‘Sandeep had left for Bombay three days back, from where he reached Chennai and now to Singapore? And, this had started as a one-day trip. One hell of a one-day trip this has turned out to be. Does he even have clothes? But, why does he not pick up my phone? Where could he possibly be so busy, he can’t pick his wife’s call?’
‘Something was wrong…what was I doing wrong? Was I not a good wife? Does he not like me anymore?’ Love had long seemed like an illusion to Deepa.
The past year had only been the baby. Deepa had focussed on the baby independently, day in and day out. Sandeep had left her the day the baby was born. One hour post the delivery, congratulatory calls started pouring in on Sandeep’s phone, which moved on to official matters marking the end of Sandeep’s involvement in the baby.
“Where’s the father?” the doctors would ask during their rounds. “He’s gone for a change,” Deepa’s 70 year old, widowed, mother-in-law would defend as Deepa would turn away in the pretext of finding a diaper, here, there, somewhere.
Thank God for modern medical infrastructure, the suite came with a full time nurse who took care of Deepa and her new baby’s medical needs through her stay at the hospital.
‘This too shall pass,’ thought Deepa.
But, nothing passed. What passed was an year of independently toiling away at baby care and home management.
After a tiring day, as Deepa would lay down with the baby next to her, she would long for Sandeep, for a supportive hand, for a warm touch.
‘I’ll tell him all about Maira’s new tooth when he returns from his tour tomorrow.’ But, Sandeep would return after the week and another milestone would take precedence.
As days passed, Deepa found herself increasingly prioritise the topics to be discussed with Sandeep. Sharing, love, intimacy, sex were low priorities. Medical, bills, and emergencies became P1.
‘When was the last time we had sex? Oh yes, we did break the spell post delivery one time. But then I’m tired most days and I don’t feel like it, with the baby feeding and things. Sandeep would have been present had I shown a desire,’ was Deepa’s consistent defence for Sandeep.
After Maira turned one, Deepa had more time in her hands and decided to take control of her life back again. She had started feeling the pangs of her broken career, her sagging beauty and her depleting self confidence. She stopped breastfeeding the baby, started applying for jobs and bought sexy lingerie. Gradually, with freelance assignments trickling in, Deepa regained a bit of her self-worth and also her body image.
She began planning for their wedding anniversary. “What do you think about Interlaken for our anniversary and new year Sandeep?”
“Sounds great, can you make the arrangements? I’ll ask Jagrit from office to coordinate with you and make the bookings. Whatever you want dear.”
“Should we leave Maira here with Mama and the maid?”
“No, let’s take Maira. She hasn’t stayed away from you yet.”
“Oh ok, cool. I was just wondering if it would be too cold for her, you know snow and stuff.”
And so, Maira, Deepa and Sandeep headed to Interlaken for what Deepa anticipated as an opportunity to rekindle some romance in her life.
It was nearing dinner when they reached the hotel at Interlaken. Deepa got Maira ready, wore the most appealing dress she had put on in ages and felt great about the holiday ahead.
The hotel’s restaurant was beautifully laid out in Victorian style. The arches and carvings on the walls reminded her of details she had read in the History textbooks of the Renaissance period.
“Can you pick a good wine for me Sandeep?” Deepa piqued and Sandeep obliged.
“A Pino Noir for the lady and a scotch for me, please. What would you recommend?”
Sandeep and I spoke about what a beautiful year it had been with Maira, how she had grown and how fast time had flown by. ‘It was the best dinner I had in ages, actually one in five or ten dinners I had with Sandeep since our wedding three years back.’
After dinner, they took a leisurely stroll around the hotel and Deepa felt a renewed hope and joy in the clean and beautiful air of Interlaken. The weight of her daily chores and responsibilities seemed to lift from her shoulders and wings of peace and freedom seemed to grow in her and fly her away to a land of bliss and love.
After putting Maira to bed that night, Deepa and Sandeep lay lazily on the bed surfing channels as it struck 12.
“Happy Anniversary Deepa,” and Sandeep pulled a blue velvet box from under the pillow.
“Thanks Sandeep, its beautiful.” Deepa slipped on the solitaire in her ring finger in assurance of it solidifying their relationship and negating all the loneliness and rejection Deepa had felt the past one and a half years.
“Vrmmm!” The phone vibrated and wishes started pouring in from India. Sandeep headed out to the balcony to take the calls. Deepa followed. She was in the seventh heaven. But, soon the calls diverted to official matters. After a while, Deepa headed back to the room and surfed channels in wait. But, Sandeep did not return and Deepa fell asleep.
The following days went by touring Interlaken. It was truly heaven on Earth, and Deepa had the time of her life seeing the original of picturesque postcards she used to see back home.
On December 31, the restaurant was set up in crystals and silk and so was Deepa. All guests were required to book a table at the hotel for the New Year’s Eve Dinner. The restaurant came alive with eternal classics played on various string instruments. Free flowing wine and delectable food made it a magical evening.
Unfortunately, Maira did not quite take to the momentum in the atmosphere. The fatigue of the past days built up and she wailed and wailed. Deepa was down just one glass of wine when she had to run back to the room to quieten Maira.
“Pee.Vee.” screamed Maira and Deepa obliged. ‘Anything to get the baby to sleep.’ It took an hour of T.V. to quieten the baby and put her to sleep. But, then she could not leave the baby alone and so she called Sandeep. He returned to the room irritated and agitated.
The turn of the year was marked with death silence in their room as Deepa slept and Sandeep smoked in the balcony under the spectacular fireworks that sparked the Interlaken sky. They left Interlaken the next day; back to the daily rigmarole.
Despite a beautiful vacation, Deepa could not put the lack of sex behind her. ‘Did Sandeep not love her anymore? The solitaire stood rock solid on her finger, but weren’t words and actions more important?’
Moments of introspection and doubt creeped in, as also, a pot belly and joblessness. Joblessness, pricked her heart with its accompanied lack of stature and designation.
‘I am unattractive to talk to! My most intelligent conversation is on baby poop and baby food. What have I become’ critiqued Deepa.
‘But, it wasn’t all bad during the trip, we seemed to have had some fun time, except a lack of physical intimacy. There were no complements or touch from Sandeep, but he was a fun roommate,’ reminded her little guardian angel.
Deepa searched the past year. It was nearly an year since they had any sex, of which six months had been part of breastfeeding and intense baby care, a phase during which Deepa would not have been bothered by a lack of physical relationship. But now, the lack of love bothered her.
That night as she was changing into her night dress, Sandeep walked into the room. As he caught a glimpse of Deepa, he looked away picked his pack of cigarettes from the table and walked off.
‘Did he just walk off because I was changing?’
‘Something is definitely wrong. I need to get to the root of it.’
As Deepa lay on the bed, she saw Sandeep’s phone on the bed. She picked it up and casually scanned his phone. ‘Well, was I looking for something? What? Was I expecting to find something? Hmm…or was I hoping not to find something? Questions…questions. Answers? Answers?’
The contacts all seemed to be from work. She looked into the call log, some were numbers, some saved contacts from work and the rest were random banks and services. ‘Phew! Nothing out of the ordinary.’
But, there was something still tugging at her heart. The next day, Deepa scanned Sandeep’s cupboard, and there behind all the jackets and papers strewn around, lay a small brown paper packet. Deepa opened the packet by squeezing its two edges and slid her fingers in. It felt like some medicine. She pulled out the strip. It looked different from Sandeep’s diabetes tablets. She had never seen these tablets in the house before.
She quickly punched in Sildenafil Citrate Tablets on her iPad. The links started populating the results page, and Deepa’s heart started beating at 10,000 mbps.
‘Viagra? Whaat? Why?’
Deepa sank into her bed tears stinging her eyes threatening to pour down in front of Maira who lay on the bed sucking her toe. She ran into the bathroom, sat on the pot and cried. ‘My fears were not unwarranted. Sandeep was having an affair!’
That night Deepa walked in to the balcony as Sandeep stood there smoking. Leaning next to Sandeep, on the railing, she pulled out the strip of tablets. A slight shiver ran through Sandeep’s fingers and the cigarette butt fell off and landed in the garden below.
“Oh these!” Sandeep fumbled. “They were for our trip to Interlaken, but well, we didn’t have time to use them. Deepa, the diabetes has effects and symptoms that are difficult for me to talk about.” Sandeep wrapped his arms around Deepa, she shrugged them off. A shudder passed through her spine.
“Ok, but you could have told me. We need to discuss these things. I am your wife, I need to know.”
“I know Deepa, but it’s difficult for me. You know I don’t talk about such things.”
“You never talk Sandeep, about anything.”
“But, we had a great time during the trip. We spoke of old times, the new, Maira…”
‘You use Maira as an excuse to stay away from me, Sandeep.’ Deepa wondered but could not say out loud, for she’d be using Maira to prove her point. She kept quiet and walked back into the room.
The next few days, Sandeep complemented Deepa on her dress, told her she was looking slimmer these days. But, Deepa was not convinced. Sandeep’s explanation didn’t fit the puzzle snugly. He had not shown the slightest interest in her these past months and now he claims he wanted to use Viagra?
‘He doesn’t get it, does he? It’s not about the sex, it’s about showing his love for me. Loving my body, shows me he loves me, as well. You can’t just not care, not talk, not look for months and then have sex one fine day. It doesn’t work like that.’ All arguments that exploded Deepa’s mind as she would cry in the bathroom at the end of each day.
The next night as Deepa watched T.V. on the bed, Sandeep’s phone lay right next to her. Sandeep always said, leave the booty in the open and a thief will never look, hide it in a cupboard and that’s the first place he will look. Deepa went directly to the emails. There were quite a few forwarded emails from Mrinalini, a colleague who manages Sandeep’s travels.
“Reminder: EMI for loan account number <XXXXXX>.”
‘We don’t have any EMI!’
Deepa scrolled down, there seemed to be a pattern, a monthly forward. Deepa opened the email. Mrinalini had forwarded a reminder message for a housing loan from a bank. Deepa then moved on to the messages. There were messages from an unsaved number, “EMI reminder sent.” Deepa checked the call log for the number, at least five calls from the number per day, some late at night for over an hour. Deepa then fed the number through the Truecaller app on her phone. She knew the result that would pop up. It was Mrinalini.
Deepa could not digest the fact. It was unbearable. ‘How could he leave me and go for Mrinalini! There is absolutely no comparison. That class D worker! That’s the woman he’s fucking! That ugly bitch! He’s paying her EMI! He bought her a house?’
She was going crazy, rage filled her entire being. With a pair of scissors she slashed Sandeep’s clothes in the cupboard, smashed his Davidoff bottles on the floor, banged, banged, banged his Breitlings and TAG Heuers with the pumice stone from the bathroom…..she was crazy.
Sandeep rushed in from the bathroom, picked a wailing Maira and secured her with his mother. Sandeep tried to intervene, but to no avail. When life around Deepa was shattered to tiny bits, Sandeep walked in and Deepa threw the phone at Sandeep’s face.
“You bastard! I have read the messages from Mrinalini. You are housing that bitch. That’s the one right? Your Viagra girl?”
Sandeep stood still as Deepa packed her and Maira’s stuff.
“Let me explain.”
“No Sandeep, now, I get it all.”
“My diabetes and smoking affected me. But I could not quit, and yet I craved for intimacy….you would not have let me use tablets…what could I have done?”
“So you do it elsewhere?”
“You could have told me Sandeep. All I wanted was love and sharing. But, I guess you will never understand.”
Deepa and Sandeep got divorced six months later. A bitter divorce battle had names other than Mrinalini and words like Viagra, STDs and impotence flung nonchalantly in court. Deepa won the custody of Maira. Once the home loan was over, Mrinalini left Sandeep. Perhaps, Sandeep moved to the other names. But, life moved on for Deepa and Maira in their little world filled with love, happiness and time for each other.
Was it too late for Sandeep to show his love for Deepa? I don’t know.
Was Deepa oblivious to Sandeep’s medical problems, too engrossed in baby care? I don’t know.
But, do we ever know in life?
Life is never black and white. It is always a complex rainbow, so near and yet so far, so real and yet just a reflection. We’ve just got to make a real rainbow by the decisions we take, the paths we chose.
This has been written by Donna Abraham. She is the author of ‘Or Forever Hold Your Peace’. She writes short stories inspired by the various twists and turns of life. To read her short stories, do stop by her blog at http://donnaabraham.blogspot.in