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He doesn’t remember the last time he spoke lovingly to his family about their lives. And he understands how she felt all these years.
Once again, today, Sobha has to get up early to help her husband with his toilet. For the last two years, her husband has been bed-ridden. They’re both in their 60s. And only Sobha knows how the responsibility of taking care of her husband every minute is taking an emotional and physical toll on her. She never failed to show her unwillingness of the responsibility and yet again, leaves bed to help him.
After cleaning him up in bed, she made him a light breakfast and chai for herself. Chai was the only thing she prayed she could enjoy without any disturbance. But she also understands that in the 60 years of wishing this, it has never manifested for her. Binod calls out to her as he has pressure and wants to freshen up. She leaves her chai to go help Binod.
Meanwhile, her son, daughter-in-law and three-month-old grandson, all wake up. She feels blessed when she takes the baby in her arms. It is the only thing that feels like the best thing to have happened to her.
When she looks back at her life, she feels a hollowness and emptiness. She’s dedicated her entire life into getting love and attention from Binod. From the first day of their marriage, she’s spent every day into being the perfect wife to him. Right from keeping the house organised to cooking as per his taste to even keeping the clothes crisp and perfect. But even today, she is clueless whether she lacks something that didn’t make Binod love her.
Binod’s voice brings her back to the present. He’s asked her for an apple. She goes to the kitchen and brings him a plate of sliced apples, just the way he likes them – thin slices with the skin peeled off. After she keeps the plate on his bedside table, she moves to get her other work done. But Binod’s harsh tone stops her.
She turns around to see Binod showing her an apple slice with one seed in it. While he doesn’t yell at her, he asks her to take the place back. And without a word, she takes it and leaves the room. Tears roll down her eyes but she simply wipes them with her saree.
Life was going by this routine when one morning, she woke up hurriedly realising she was late. She wondered why Binod still hadn’t woken up like he usually did. It didn’t take her a long time to figure out that something had happened to him. She took her time to process it and gazed at him for a few minutes, realising, she wasn’t scared. Without shedding a tear, she stood up and woke her son up.
It is almost evening and Binod is still in the ICU. And someone from the family needs to stay with him at the hospital. She doesn’t feel the need to do so but tells her son that she will stay. Kunal, her son, says that it will be of no use, since Binod is in the ICU and suggests that they all need not worry and can stay at home. Sobha agrees without a second thought to this.
Three days pass by like this. Only Kunal and his wife Shivi visit Binod in the hospital. On the third day, Binod regains consciousness and is shifted to the normal ward. And on the fourth day, Kunal says it would be difficult to spend nights at the hospital. Since Binod will be discharged soon, they decide that it can be managed without spending nights at the hospital. Sobha agrees with this.
At home, things are going normally, especially for Sobha. She is now able to sleep peacefully without the fear of responsibility. Sobha spends more time with the baby without any disturbance. The thought of her ailing husband hardly affects her now.
It has been eight days since she last saw him and now she knows she doesn’t want to see him anymore. And she also understands that Binod knows that his wife doesn’t want to see him.
Whenever Binod is awake, he just wants to go home but he knows he has to wait a few days. He expects he will see his wife each time he opens his eyes. And he finds it strange that Sobha is at home. He tries to convince himself that now that he is conscious, she will rush to see him. Though he asks no one about her, he desperately waits for her to visit him.
It is Kunal who comes to say bye and to inform him that he will see his father in the morning. And not to be perturbed as the hospital will call him in case of an emergency. Binod is shocked and can barely process this, he doesn’t understand how Sobha has spent nights without him. He tries hard to control his tears and to stay calm. By now, Kunal has left.
Alone in the hospital, Binod is flooded with thick clouds of thought and is trying to figure out the answer. The answer to why Sobha wasn’t with him at the hospital when he needed her.
He tries to recall the day when he married Sobha and brought her home. She used to be so cheerful. Though he never expressed this, he really loved her. All his life, he’s seen Sobha try to meet his requirements as best as possible. She even forgot her own self in the process. However, his obsession with everything being perfect, especially with regards to his wife, dragged him away from his family.
He doesn’t remember the last time he spoke lovingly to his family and heard about their lives. And now he understands what Sobha must’ve felt all these years. It was his responsibility to make her feel loved and desired. One he failed miserably at! And now, nothing can be done. But now he knows what he needs to do to ease the discomfort his wife felt all these years.
It has been eight days since he’s in the hospital. And still only Kunal and Shivi visit him. He tries to act normally around them, trying to show them that he is doing perfectly well without his family. Binod knows that his family can live without him. He thinks, ‘They believe I am a person devoid of emotions. And I have been acting the same way too.’
Kunal is having breakfast when he gets a call saying Binod is being shifted to the ICU since something has gone wrong. And again, Kunal alone rushes to the hospital. On hearing the news, other family members also reach there.
The doctors suggest that Kunal inform his family that Binod’s chances of coming back are negligible. Thus, Kunal asks his mother, despite knowing her answer. Calmly, Sobha tells him, “I don’t think we need to do this. He is unconscious and cannot see me anyway. So leave it.
A few moments later, Kunal calls her back saying Binod is no more. That moment, a tear rolls down her eye and she howls hard – pouring all the years of grief. And with each tear, she starts feeling light and at ease.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Lipstick Under My Burkha
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