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But he loved and respected me. He made me feel intelligent. Mohan had even refused to discuss what was wrong with him. These were apparently matters beyond the comprehension of a woman, he had felt.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Narayani Manapadam is one of the winners for the March 2021 Muse of the Month, and wins a Rs 750 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. About this story, our author juror for this month, Andaleeb Wajid says, “This story was quite different. Not the usual sort of happy ending but I enjoyed it because it showed women taking ownership over their desires and longings as well.”
I wake up, feeling sticky and sweaty. The eccentric rooster in our locality has decided that the time is up, and others should be up and running as well. Somewhere in the night, the lights must have gone out. For the stench of perspiration overwhelms me. It’s high time we get the inverter, I remind myself. Ashok is sleeping next to me. His bare body emits a weird smell – that of stench and Old Spice aftershave lotion which he had applied over his chin the night. I snuggle up to him, ignoring the thought that I should pour a bucketful of ice over me. The delightful feeling down there persists, reminding me of the passionate sex we had. I trace my fingers over his spinal cord, and he moves a bit. I see traces of scratches – these are mine. I had dug my nails into them when I came hard last night. I smile to myself.
I get up, put on the nightie, and stretch myself like a cat. Then stifling a yawn, I proceed to the main door. I open it, only to find aunty greeting me.
“Good morning, beta,” she winks.
I suppress the urge to roll my eyes at her, and just reply with the fakest of smiles plastered over my face.
Taking the newspaper, I close the door.
I fling the papers on the table, and go to the kitchen, to make tea. The aroma wafting in from the Darjeeling tea will wake him up. It’s a daily ritual.
As the water boils, I am reminded of my mother. “What have you got yourself into, Shyama?”
After all, hadn’t I got myself into this situation? They say people dig their own graves, I seem to have fallen into it voluntarily, and decided to sleep there as well.
It wasn’t like that before. My parents have been the epitome of liberalism. I had taken up computers, and post that, I took up a job with an IT firm.
Huh! IT! The place where people have fun. Where workers booze during weekends. Where colleagues of opposite sexes mingle, and, horror of horrors, make out in offices. Don’t laugh!
This was the trash fed to my parents when I took up a job with a reputed IT company.
Those were the most boring years of my life.
I wasn’t too close with the people at work for these very reasons. They would all make plans to go out somewhere after work. To decompress, they called it. To have fun. I had to come back home so that my parents didn’t worry about anything untoward happening to me. But it was more to satisfy the wagging tongues of the many aunties in the family who were appalled that my parents were ‘letting me work’ instead of getting me married.
But finally my parents succumbed. Mohan was from a well-off family. He didn’t smoke or drink. Aunties went orgasmic outlining his virtues. He didn’t seek dowry. And so, I was bundled off to his house, which had an AC and a cook. I would live like a queen, I was told. And maybe I did.
The AC ensured that I didn’t wake up in the night, bathed in my own sweat. The cook dished out delicious meals one after the other. But was I happy? Was I a bad wife if I didn’t enjoy the sex? Was it my failure if I didn’t orgasm? Mohan hardly talked. His monthly targets had to be met. But aunties put on a show of happiness. Did I discern a trace of jealousy in them?
It was then I met Ashok. I bumped him into a bookstore. We shared a similar love for Milton and Tennyson. Gradually we got closer and crossed the line. So this was how a man made love to a woman! His house was the size of a room in a chawl, he had no AC. But he loved and respected me. He made me feel intelligent. Mohan had even refused to discuss what was wrong with him. These were apparently matters beyond the comprehension of a woman, he had felt.
My parents were aghast. Divorce was hitherto unheard of in our family. Aunties flashed an I-told-you-so look at them. This was the result of too much freedom given to me, they hissed. But finally my mother saw sense. My father came around.
The tea-leaves now have that right hue. I pour hot milk over them. The shuffling of footsteps tell me Ashok is behind me. He grabs me from behind and nuzzles my nape. But there is no time for a quickie, as they show in films. I will have to rush to office, for it’s appraisal time. Ashok promises to celebrate that in the evening. He has already booked a table for two at a costly restaurant. He is sure I will get a high rating. And that’s reason enough to indulge ourselves for a day. I turn back and ruffle his hair, giving him a peck on his lips. It’s been a difficult time for him. He shares with me his insecurities at work. I assure him that I will stand by him. Forever.
Those aunties might snigger over my present state. I know it’s been a jump from the frying pan into the fire. But as a mature woman, I know what I have got myself into. And I owe any success or failure to myself. I refused to blame, or even praise, others for my change in fortunes. I will face the challenges with Ashok.
With that, I switch off the flame. And we enjoy our morning sip when the lights come in, and the fan starts to whir. We heave a sigh of relief.
Editor’s note: This month’s cue has been selected by Andaleeb Wajid, author of 27 published novels, scattered across different genres such as romance, YA, and horror. Her horror novel It Waits was shortlisted at Mami Word to Screen 2017 and her Young Adult series, The Tamanna Trilogy has been optioned for screen by a reputed production house. Andaleeb’s novel When She Went Away was shortlisted for The Hindu Young World Prize in 2017. Andaleeb is a hybrid author who has self-published more than 10 novels in the past two years.
The cue is from her latest book Only You that releases on March 5 on Kindle.
“I wasn’t too close with the people at work for these very reasons. They would all make plans to go out somewhere after work. To decompress, they called it. To have fun. I had to come back home so that my parents didn’t worry about anything untoward happening to me. But it was more to satisfy the wagging tongues of the many aunties in the family who were appalled that my parents were ‘letting me work’ instead of getting me married.”
Image source: a still from the series Love Per Square Foot
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