It was a bright sunny Sunday. The sun mercilessly stared through the glass panels in Vrihad's bedroom. A severe headache gripped him. Oh yes! Last night was the party! May be the hangover. Vrihad reached out for the empty water jug. Frustrated, got up to grab a bottle from the refrigerator. The television glared and blared at him. Gaping at its night long, committed entertainment to no one in the hall, Vrihad switched it off. Smells of stale beer, dusty shoes, leftover pizza. All leave - everyone - leaving trails of memories behind.
Pavani and Vrihad sought divorce after a seven-years long marriage. Thankfully, they had no children to fight over and further complicate things. What went wrong is futile to think about. After all marriage is not all rose-tinted like a wedding - only smiles, only bling, only sheen. It has to be renewed each day, to be cared for each passing moment. And it is difficult. Difficult to wake up and see the same person every day, difficult to find cuteness in the irritating habits of the other any longer, difficult to keep respecting the passion for work and sense of social responsibilities in the other half, very very difficult to remain cocooned in the former days of courtship. Marriage is lot of compromise, lot of patience, lot of trust and above all lots and lots of commitment. And if any one of these begin being shaky, slowly but steadily, the edifice crumbles.
Vrihad realised a tear drop on the newspaper. The Sunday suddenly seemed bleak and boring. After all, one can not expect each day and night after 30 to be a college-goers bliss. Friends have to have their own family time. Colleagues have to have their space.
Yes, space. And suddenly Vrihad remembered that beautiful day with Pavani. That day when he realised, "This was it that i wanted!"
"Vrihad, i am out for a friend's home warming party. You want to join me?"
"Nah sweetie! I shall pick you up in two hours or so. I would better lounge around for some more time."
Pavani smiled, nodded and shut the bathroom door. This is what he looked for in their companionship. Mutual freedom, space, independence. Not being crushed by unnecessary social obligations, mutual friendship calls etc etc. Grabbing a mug of beer, he lovingly looked at the fresh-out-of-shower Pavani, getting ready for the bash. He went to her and looking deep in her eyes said, "Thanks Pavani! I am so damn lucky to have you in my life! Unlike other women who stifle one with love, you don't. And still you love me so much more."
Pavani's mouth opened for an affectionate laugh and she patted Vrihad on his forehead, "Mr. i-am-so-feverish-last night! Do not forget to pick me up in a couple of hours. I want some time with you too. This space is merely to atone for the day long engagement you have with me."
They kissed and she left.
The apartment, empty and insipid, stared at him all this while. Vrihad realised it was time for him to pay the dhobi, newspaper-vendor, cook...holy crap! He had left the milk to boil in the kitchen. He rushed inside to find a charred pan, staring teasingly in his face. Vrihad drank another glass of water, placed an order for a brunch and tried to occupy himself with the newspaper.
"US decides to withdraw troops from Afghanistan". And this headline transported him to his world with Pavani - only just a few days ago.
"Vrihad, i need to work out a paper for my lecture this Friday, honey! Drop me to Prof. Verma's place. He is a brilliant scholar of international relations. By the time you finish off catching up with Sharad, i shall be done with my discussion too." Pavani peered out of the kitchen cabinet to catch Vrihad shaving in the mirror.
"Yeah sure!" Vrihad muttered under his breath.
On their way to return, Pavani said, "Mmmmmmm....what about a lunch outside today, Vrihad? I am a little busy with work for this international seminar"
Vrihad blurted out, " No Pavani. I want to go home. Can you not reserve these articles and papers on days other than a Sunday. It is the only day we have, honey!"
Pavani glared at him, "Vrihad, it is a mega event. I need to work yar. And this US-Afghanistan thing is too complex and historical to be grasped in a day. I am sorry, i need my space to work. These two weeks i am super busy."
Vrihad looked at her. He nodded and gave her a peck on the forehead. "Yeah Pavani! I understand. Sorry yar! Wait! What about i cook something for you today?"
Pavani threw a disinterested glance at Vrihad. "It is okay, Vrihad. We shall order."
This was the beginning. Days after the seminar, which was a huge hit in the intellectual circles across universities, Pavani got enmeshed in more research papers, more projects, more assignments, more meetings.....Sundays were Mondays and weekdays were of course, working days. Vrihad's hectic week-long work in the law-firm guaranteed him no respite before ten and sometimes eleven at late nights. He reached home to eat cold dinner, a sleeping Pavani and of course a short night to rejuvenate for a new day.
Slowly, the oil crisis in the world, the judgements on Salwa Judum and the politics of Libya and Tunisia grew more important for both Pavani and Vrihad than catching a movie on the one Sunday they got, cuddling on the sofa once in a while, eating ice-creams from the same bowl - these became 'cheesy, juvenile and nonsensical' gestures within a very short span of time.
Vrihad thought of talking to Pavani. "Pavani, Maa wants to visit us for a couple of days. I was wondering if you could spare sometime at home after classes.'
"Vrihad, i need to work in the library yar. I need references and sources. I can get manuscripts and books issued. But then, you know, work-efficiency is much more there than at home. Why don't you take a couple of days off."
"Pavani, you know the current turmoil in the legal situations yar. I can't, unless i wish to shoo away some very powerful clients. Try to understand Pavani. It is a little difficult. Look, when you worked like a workaholic for your seminars, i did not complain. But do you realise, we have no time for each other now. Look, i am not complaining......"
"Yeah right! Vrihad, i know what you mean. You want me to baby-sit your Momma when you build a lucrative career and i sacrifice my work for being a homely married woman! Brilliant, Mr.-i-am-all-for -gender-equality!"
"Pavani, Relax! I am merely requesting you to spend some time back home, AFTER your classes get over. And not to baby-sit my mom, but to just be here at home, working in the other room if you wish too....It is ok. I shall manage. I shall say, i could not get the tickets or something else. You enjoy your workaholism."
"Vrihad, this is preposterous! Yes, yes, why won't you? After all, i am the one anyway, to carry the tag of being the negligent daughter-in-law always. Go ahead! Do what you want to!" And she burst out in her tears.
Vrihad looked at her in disgust and stomped off.
The door bell rang. Vrihad collected the food and decided to get a quick shower and wash out the morning fatigue before digging in the meal. In the shower the bitter sweet memories of Pavani assaulted him again. How they shared the happiness of Vrihad's first job salary in the quasi-rain of the shower! How they celebrated Pavani's first success in the literary festival's seminar on the rooftop on a moonlit night! And it all seemed just yesterday. How adorable Pavani looked with her wine-sipping lips and ringlets of hair caressing her cheek that evening! Vrihad emerged out of the shower.
Memories are the worst faculties of a human mind. They store so much, they torment so much. Why can we just not live and let things be? Why is it always important to remember birthdays, goddamn "first kiss day","first date day", "proposal day"...and what not! Vrihad stared at the food and felt fresh onslaught of tears on his face.
"I still love her so much. After all the humiliation, disrespect and bitterness that the past few months offered to me with Pavani's new and fresh ways to insult and instigate me, how can i still love her so much? Is she right when she says,"You men have zero self respect when you fall for a woman!' Whatever it is, i love you Pavani. I love you so very much!"
Vrihad got up to grab some alcohol again. Chugging deep gulps of the same and forcing himself to eat the ordered mess of food in the plate, Vrihad realised it was long before she actually signed the divorce papers that she had exhausted herself of the love for him. Just as their wedding was a formal solemnisation of their love in the respective societies they hailed from , those papers were merely to announce an end to their mutuality. He began to feel sick. He began to feel giddy.
Pavani got home late and announced calmly, in her usual, sophisticated, pretty and silken voice,"Vrihad, things are just not working out between us. We don't talk, we don't laugh, we do not spend time together. Look, it is none of our faults, you know. Reality post-marriage is different. We become habituated to each other after sharing so much after a couple of days. There is no romance left in our lives, Vrihad. Let us call it off."
Vrihad looked at her in dismay. "Pavani, are you saying we should consider divorce?" His voice shattered, just as a crystal glass on a concrete slab.
"Oh! Come on, Vrihad! Don't be such a Puritan! It is ok. It is not the end of our lives yar. We can still be friends. Just that, off late, i have realised it is increasingly becoming taxing for me to see you around. I confess honestly, Vrihad, i do not feel anything for you anymore. Forgive me, Vrihad, but please let me go. I can't bear all this."
"Pavani, you merely need a break, sweetie. Nothing more. Look, i have seen you all these years. Trust me, give ourselves some time. It will all work out."
Pavani looked at Vrihad and said, "Vrihad, you do not know about it perhaps, but i am also involved with this colleague at work."
Vrihad looked crushed.
He broke down, all of a sudden. He signed the papers and asked her to leave his apartment at the earliest. Pavani was inconsolable too.
Before leaving she hugged Vrihad. "Vrihad, i am sorry. I know i have hurt you. But trust me, when i say this. It just happened. This equation between us. Just as we gelled so well because we had common passions to talk about, Aniket and i bonded for the common interests in the subjects. It makes work easier for us. It makes lives simpler for us."
Vrihad looked at her with a stone dead expression. "This 'us' and 'we' does not include me, Pavani. I am a crumbled man. I have lost faith in myself."
"Oh, come on Vrihad! As it is you are so busy with work. Trust me, all this will fade away with time. See, anyway, things have changed between us drastically. You never compliment now. We never enjoy quiet times together. All that is left to our marriage is crumbs of leftover exhibition of lust - nothing more, Vrihad. Which, by the way, is easier to procure anywhere."
"Pavani, are you punishing me because 'i' did not have time for you? Because "i" fell short of love for you? Is it always necessary that men pay compliments every alternate day to their women in order to convince them of their love? Is love all about words and crooning sweet nothings in the ears all the time?"
"Vrihad, you are indirectly accusing me now. May be it is a mutual fallout. Maybe it was a wrong decision to begin with. But whatever it is, Vrihad, it is all over from my end. You look out for yourself."
Pavani said this and left the apartment, robbing the house of its homeliness.
Vrihad had had enough of beer and food for the day. He slouched on a sofa, opened his laptop to finalise tomorrow's work schedule. Work was the best way to drown oneself, apart from beer, of course.
Vrihad opened a mail that Pavani had sent, perhaps moments ago.
"Just wondering, is love never enough? Sorry for what i did, but next time, i say from experience, you do not try to immortalise change in forced permanence. I loved you exactly as i loved Aniket. Nothing more, nothing less. But even that was transitory, Vrihad. However, i would not leave him for the simple reason that i can not keep changing men in my life as fresh clothes each day. Just realised that it might be difficult to continue to love eternally but it isn't to live without it. You just need to grow immune to its call. Maybe i learnt it from you. Thanks."
Vrihad deleted the same and twisted his face in a cynical smile. Yes, love indeed is never ever enough, wondering if it ever was, would he have failed in making her understand all this?