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“You wait, longing to hear
Words of reason, love or play
To lash or lull you toward the hollow day”
Reading these words filled Alisah’s eyes with tears. How could they resonate what she felt so deeply? It was true, wasn’t it? Don’t we all just crave for a few words from our partner of love or play at the end of the day?
Alisah’s day started early- earlier than anyone else in the household. She woke up before others could. Lunch boxes needed to be prepared for both the children and her husband. Uniforms had to be put out. Milk needed to be boiled. Breakfast needed to be prepared. Then there was tea for Babuji, milkshake for husband, clothes to be put in the washer, kids to be dropped off at school bus and finally, seeing Rajan off to the office. The day did not end there. Babuji had to be taken for dialysis three times every week. Hours in the hospital with the cranky old man drained her out. The other days were spent cleaning the house, buying groceries, mending clothes and other household tasks.
Alisah hardly ever got the time to pause and think about her life. 25 long years had passed. But when she did, she did not understand where that young girl with fiery ambition and go-getter attitude had disappeared. While driving towards the supermarket today, she got nostalgic about the time which had passed by in a whirl. She still remembered the first day she arrived at the management college. The young girl with dreams of dominating the covers of business magazines all over the country one day. She was a natural charmer. Before long, the entire college knew her name. In a week, she was dating one of the most popular seniors. She was smart, intelligent and passionate about her pursuits. But soon, without realising how her pursuit became this young man in her life. Her routines began to revolve around him. Post management she bagged one of the most coveted jobs on the campus, only to give it up a year later to follow her now husband’s dreams. Her career just became secondary.
Baby one soon arrived and she got sucked into diapers and doodies. The cooing bundle of joy was her whole life. She never got the time to think it might be too late for her to get back to her dreams. Before she could think about getting back to work, baby two arrived, and her days seemed to revolve just around her family. Alisah had forgotten the girl she once used to be.
As years progressed, Alisah’s husband got busier and busier. His career kept him working long hours and travelling constantly. The time left was spent with the kids as they missed their dad. Alisah understood this and watched them with a smile as the girls smothered their dad at the end of a long day. What she did not realise was how lonely she too was feeling inside.
There were subtle symptoms. First one began when she had begun sleeping with pillows as walls beside her. The comfort of a pillow was there on the nights her husband was missing. She had stopped talking to her friends. They complained that she hadn’t gotten back to them in months. She soon stopped going out to meet her neighbours. She did not like dressing up any more. But the most distressing part was that she did not feel like spending time with her children too. She would snap at them if they were being difficult, which if you have children, you would know is 24*7! There were days when making it out of bed seemed the most difficult task of the day.
But there was one person who did not realise that she was going through all this pain… it was her husband. For him, she was always there. Whether he needed her for thrashing out his business strategy before leaving for work in the morning or being a punching bag on those stressful days of long-standing meetings or when he needed a head massage and more at the end of a hectic week. She never complained. And he never noticed.
Their fights started increasing… but she would pick up her bits in the morning and the day would go as usual. He never even noticed her signature smile had now faded into a shadow.
Then one day, a new neighbour moved in. He was a singer. Not the soothing kinds. Rock music kinds. The ones who Alisah instantly hated. He wore ripped jeans and was tattooed. His breath reeked of cigarettes. Ugghhh… Alisah thought as she averted her eyes even when she saw him in the elevator. He always greeted her politely though.
One morning, her head was throbbing as she and her husband had an argument the night earlier. He had left for his conference early morning. Once the kids were off to school too, she thought she would take an aspirin and a nap. But the rock music from next door was blaring. She tried to ignore it for a while. Put on her earplugs, closed her bedroom door. But nothing seemed to be working. Finally, she stormed to her neighbour’s house and rapped on his door. After three knocks, just as she was about to leave, he finally opened.
‘Could you turn the volume on that thing down, please? I have a terrible headache!’ she tried to speak up above the blaring music.
‘Oh, I am sorry. Didn’t realise it’ he said. ‘This is the first time you have ever come. Would you like a cup of coffee? You look dreadful!’
‘Thanks, just what I was waiting to hear’ she said rolling her eyes.
‘Oh c’mon in! It’s just a cup of coffee! You can hear the latest piece I have been composing.’
‘Umm…. To be very honest, I am not really into rock music.’
‘Well, then it must be a delight to have me as a neighbour’ he gave a throaty laugh.
A cup of coffee soon led to conversation. The conversation led to talks. Those talks eventually led to laughter. The laughter which Alisah thought she had long lost. Soon without realising, she started yearning for these conversations. She would look forward to bumping into Rohan accidentally. She was falling into a never-ending abyss, and she did not even know it.
The more the closeness between her and her new friend grew, the farther she started drifting from her husband. One fine morning, after another one of their fights, Alisah was in tears as her husband left for work. The doorbell rang. She was still in tears when she opened the door.
‘Oh, I am sorry. I ran out of milk. Thought would borrow a cup. But I could come back later.’
‘No, that’s ok… I’ll just get some’ Alisah said stifling the hoarseness in her voice from crying.
‘Are you ok?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, just fine! Was chopping onions for sambhar’ she fibbed.
When she turned with the cup of milk, she didn’t realise Rohan was right behind. The milk split all over his t-shirt.
‘Oh shoot! You startled me!’
‘Oh, that’s ok… It’s just a t-shirt!’ he said and then pulled it right off.
Alisah averted her eyes. ‘Well, I’ll get you some more milk’ she fumbled.
As she turned around, she could feel him… right up close. His breath on her shoulders, a whiff of his cologne, the warmth of his body. It was overwhelming her senses.
‘We are friends you know… you can tell me… anything…anything at all’…
Alisah couldn’t hold it in any longer. No one had asked her how she felt in a very long time. The dam which was her feelings broke down and she hugged Rohan and cried her heart out. She cried and cried and couldn’t remember how much time went by. He was there all along… just stroking her hair and trying to comfort her.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she looked up. Red-nosed, blurry-eyed, quivering lips…
‘I am so sorry… I am not sure what came over me’ she started to pull away. Only she couldn’t. Rohan still held her. He cupped her face ever so softly and kissed her gently. Alisah was shocked! She had never thought of Rohan that way! She was a good wife… the honest wife…one-man woman. But the comfort of Rohan just being there, she was feeling feelings which were buried in layers and layers of a woman inside her. One thing led to another, and before they knew, they had been swept away by emotions which had been underlying for months now. Lying in each other’s arms after hours of love-making, Alisah almost couldn’t believe when Rohan told her that he had found her desirable since the time he had laid eyes on her. She blushed fiercely pink, and he laughed the same throaty laugh. But this time, a woman inside stirred.
As Rohan left her apartment that day, Alisah couldn’t help but ruminate ….. After all, don’t we all just wait to hear words of reason, love or play? To lash or lull you, towards the hollow day? At the end of the day, we are all humans, aren’t we? Looking for that touch of comfort, that word of kindness, that look of validation? After all, we all sometimes give in to our weaknesses, don’t we?
And somehow, she didn’t feel so guilty.
Image is a still from the movie Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
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