~ 4 ~
Smriti was alone the next night, as Ninad, her son, was sleeping over at a friend’s house. A most-of-the-night study session, he called it. When she took the notebook to write, she remembered the days after her best friend’s death. Even there, she had been alone.
“Was I so lost because of what I had lost? Or had I been ignored?” she wondered, but she knew the answer to that. Her life had been fragile then, the strength her best friend had given her having ended suddenly. And she had turned to her husband for support.
Every yin needs a yang to balance. After I lost Ninad, my best friend, I felt broken. How could I not? He was the first person I’d turn to when I was in doubt, the first person who’d find the gloom hidden behind my pasted smiles and cheer me up, the one who made me feel at home in a new city where I didn’t know what to do, what to say, where to go. At that time, I had hoped my husband would be the one to realize I was hurting, and take a step towards me, to console me by telling me that it would be okay because he was there. When it didn’t happen, I had taken the step towards him.
“Darling, can we go away for a week? Let’s go to Pondicherry. You’ve been so busy after our marriage; we’ve hardly spent any time together,” I had asked him one day as we got ready for work. The look he had given in reply could have frozen water. I had asked him if I said anything wrong, but he didn’t say a word. I had tried bringing up the topic again that evening, only to get that same look again.
A few days later, he had walked into our room when I had been lost in some thoughts of home. My appa’s birthday was nearing, and it was the first time I would be away from home on that special occasion. I hadn’t meant to ignore him of course, but he had thought that way.
“Caught red handed, you bitch!” he had yelled. “Almost every time you are alone, you are lost in thoughts of that fellow. Best friend, it seems. He was your lover, wasn’t he? Don’t deny it. I’ve heard it from so many colleagues. Some of my friends had told me even then that you were sleeping with him while I was away on tour. I had my doubts, but no. Now it’s certain. Even months after he’s gone, you keep thinking of him and ignore me. Fine! Have it your way!”
Without even giving me a chance to explain, he had walked out again. I collapsed on the bed and began to cry, sadness and anger filling every inch of my body. I called my mother on the phone and told her what had happened.
“Marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other, Chinnu,” she said, imploring me to be strong.
And I tried; for her sake. When he came back home, I gave him a hug as he stood in front of the mirror. I told him what I had been thinking about earlier and assured him nothing mattered more to me than him. He only nodded. I had made his favorite dish for dinner, lemon rice and coconut chutney. Yet, after a few spoonfuls, he complained of a lack of salt and threw the rest away. I broke down and cried some more, but made sure he didn’t see me.
A week passed by, and he continued to find ways to hurt me. I began to wonder if I mattered to him at all. Then one day, I caught him red handed, my jewels in his hand and wrapping them in a newspaper. I had my answer then.
(© Vinay Leo R. @ I Rhyme Without Reason, 4th August 2016)