Monday, April 19, 2010

Is this Marriage ?

by Pavan Kumar
(Hyderabad, India)

Is this marriage? Flowers amongst life's grassy patches. Pic/Sneha  Subramanian Kanta

Is this marriage? Flowers amongst life's grassy patches. By Pavan kumar

Mornings would pass by with him making a cup of tea for himself; and in the afternoons, he invariably turned to watch the news. This would exterminate about an hour or two for him; and then he would get busy in cooking a meal for himself. Once all of that was done, he would finally go to the bedroom and sit near the window. He could do this for hours.

Sikander Singh sat at the edge of the enclave that was built around the banyan tree and looked at his wristwatch. The hair on his wrists and hand had become grey; a sign that he was ageing. He wondered to himself that time never passed these days. However hard he tried, it was difficult to pass time. His watch proclaimed that it was 7:00pm in the evening. He thought that he should sit in the garden for some more time and enjoy the chill of Lucknow’s winter.

As sometime passed, he made his way to his house. He climbed three floors, as he usually did; as this was one of his ways of keeping fit. Fetching the keys from his pocket, his attention went on to the name plate which read:

Mr. Sikander Singh
Mrs. Jaspreet Kaur

He looked at the name of his wife. There was some dust particles gathered on the ‘J’ alphabet of her name. He took out his handkerchief and wiped it clean. He got into the house and opened the common cupboard that they shared. Many of her clothes were still lying there. He spotted the favouraite light cream colored salwaar kameez of hers which he had gifted to her. Thoughts pranced from one branch to another.

Being husband and wife, they had their own set of arguments and issues; but he could not still reconcile to the fact that she had left him and gone away. He missed her and yearned for her presence. At the age of fifty eight, the only solace in his life was the company of his wife. He felt terribly lonely and remembered the night the fight occurred. It was a gloomy Saturday night, and their daughter Rimi had called. Just after finishing the call, he got up and put his shawl for the night walk. His wife was agitated since morning, and today she finally started an argument.

“It gets very difficult for me to do the dishes, clean the house, everything else. It has been two months you are not at all helping me. You just have one time table for yours: coming home, eating and sleeping.”
“It is not like that, Jaspreet. I was a little tied up with Rimi’s wedding preparations, you know that. And after that, I felt I needed a respite.”
“Doesn’t it occur to you that I need a breather too? Like a get away from the house and all other things that keep running in our minds?”
“Is something worrying you, Jaspreet?”
“No, but I am getting increasingly tired of doing all the work by myself. I am fifty seven years old, not seventeen that I would have the kind of vigor and stamina.”
“I understand all that.”
“It doesn’t seem so. Now that our daughter has gone, I want your help for everything small or big that I do for the house.”
“We have a maid, don’t we? Ask her to do additional things.”
“That’s what. I want you to help me do the other things of the house- you always did. The past two months, you’ve become complacent and think I don’t need your help.”
“All right, I am going for my walk.”

When Sikander went out of the house for a walk, Jaspreet quickly packed a bag and left; to go to her sister’s place nearby. She could not bear the insensitivity of her husband and found herself getting increasingly impatient these days. She left a note for him saying: “I am going to Sonia’s house for some days. Call me if you need anything.”

“Hello Jaspreet. Good to see you!”
“Hello Sonia. I am going to be staying in your house for sometime if you don’t mind.”
“Sure, didi. You know I am all alone anyway, and any company is welcome. Did you tell jija ji?”

Sonia did not question Jaspreet about her abrupt visit to the house. They were like that right since childhood, and they did not ask too many unwanted questions to each other, but had a silent understanding of their own. Sonia had lost her husband a year back and did not have any children. She taught the primary section at the nearby school. Jaspreet often made a parallel comparison of her life with her sister’s: Sonia was financially independent, and kept her job as yet. Sikander and she meanwhile, lived on the pension both of them got from their respective government jobs. Their needs were few, and they lived a minimalist's lifestyle. More than anything else, they were content and happy with each other. Thankfully, they had a loving daughter who took good care of them and gave them all the love and support financially as well as emotionally. She remembered her daughter and took a long sigh.

Meanwhile, Sikander came home and saw the note. He was flabbergasted at once; for her sudden disappearance.

Sonia made the bed for her sister and called out to her. Jaspreet looked at the comfortable magenta colored curtains and the cream colored bedsheet. The fragrant room freshener made the air-conditioned room more snuggly. However, she struggled to sleep and missed her room. For once, she visualized the off-white curtains and remembered how she fought with Sikander to get them home. He had liked another shade, but she finally made him bow down to her choice.

Remembering her little triumph, a smile made its way on the edge of her lips and she somehow was tucked to sleep.

Today, it had been six days and yet there was no sight of hers. He did call her on five to six occasions, and she had told him that she would be there soon.

All of a sudden, in the afternoon, the doorbell rang. When he opened the door, Sikander saw that it was his wife. She had come back, and he was happy to see her. They both did not say anything; and almost instinctively, she entered the kitchen and started cutting the vegetables.

After a scrumptious lunch, she made her way to the bedroom. Sikander knew it was because she wanted to have her afternoon sleep. For once, she pulled down the curtains and was taken away into deep sleep. When he entered the room, Sikander noticed her sleeping in her pink nighty. He was happy to see his wife come back and sleep so peacefully in the house.

In the evening, when she woke up; she saw that he had made tea for her. She was surprised, and slowly drank the tea. After sometime, Sikander asked her to accompany her for the evening walk. She was reluctant at first; but finally relented. While walking, Sikander gently held her hand and said, “I’m sorry.”

Jaspreet looked at him and gave a bright smile. She knew she had got her husband back, and something in his eyes told her that he would help her in everything she does. On the way home, the couple enjoyed an ice cream and Sikander was most glad to see his wife in high spirits. They both loved having ice creams during winter, and here they were.

Jaspreet instinctively asked Sikander, “Is this marriage?” Both of them smiled at each other.

Sikander watched the childlike innocence that was alive in her even at this age and looked at her lovingly. He remembered that this was the first thing that attracted him to her, the first time they met; and had a love marriage. The love was still intact, and would always be; he smiled to himself.

Lucknow's winter was more pleasant today, with his wife being beside him.

As the sky was replaced by a hue of black, the moon stood as a silent spectator. The curtains were pulled down, and the lights were turned off.

Sikander and Jaspreet lay comfortably asleep in each other's arms.

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