She thrust the last napkin of this month in the already choked dustbin in the washroom. Another month passed and with it the unfertilised egg. And with it grew her mother's frowning tension in the creasing folds around her eyes. Ritwika emerged out of the shower to be greeted by her cousins and a host of other family members for another of her birthday celebrations. Oh! How she hated each 'her'-centric celebration in the house these days. Each of these formalities meant prying eyes of her relatives on how old she had been this year, very curious onlookers into her career prospects and hence relevant matches in the 'lustruous' brahmin community and all the more ravenous eyes smelling some meat into her absent love affairs. The non existent love in her life was a way for the free her to explore more on life and for the homely her to be deified into the cocooned world of her relatives and family as this 'oh-so-virtuous' daughter of the family in the rapacious metropolitan city.
Ritwika made it to the prestigious college in Delhi as an assistant professor. Amidst the Shakespearean 'to be or not to be' and the Keatsian sensuality she has still been struggling like Sisyphus to pronounce that one affirmative to Vihans in her department. She could and she couldn't. How could she openly say yes to an illicit dynamic with a married man? How could she resist his charms in her world almost smitten by his smells all around? While she taught Romeo and Juliet, while she discussed Gordimer's serious flirtation with extra-marital equations, while she immersed in the world of many of her friends' woes, fun and the pains in 'double-timed' romance, all she could sense each time was the fundamental impurity of love. Did it matter in the long run if Radha was an unchaste woman of the Hindu mythology? Did it matter if Ahalya could not resist Indra's sexual charms? Did it matter if Draupadi shared her bed with the five Pandavas and still served in the royal house during the chhadmvas? Did it matter as long as all of these women ultimately accepted marriage and its representation in the husband figure as the sole meaning in their respective lives? Just one touch of vermillion in the parted hair and all the transgressions, all the deviant traits vanish as a heated knife does in the cesspool of hardened butter. Curling and twisting around the corridors of history and mythology while she taught and studied and debated and saw realities all around, all she could feel was an abyss of her lost self - lost in so many different roles, so many different dimensions and in so many different dreams and desires that she at times cursed her birth in the Brahminical, bhadralok of the very 'cultured' and 'educated' family of her lineage?
"Oh! Look how pretty and fair our Ritwika is! How can anyone say no to marrying her. And now that she is posted in such a respectable position in such a reputed college, i am sure Sushant will never be able to say no."
As usual it was Hema Masi yet again pushing forward that NRI, IITian dying to come back to his motherland and settle in delhi.
"He says he wishes to serve the nation and not slog in America all his life. And this is when i thought he was so much in tune with our Ritwika's world of social commitments. Ask Pahun ji to say yes and let us fix the engagement soon enough. There are so many families after the guy. Each day delayed would only harm us in the long run"
This was masi's further nudge.
Ritwika touched her mausa ji's feet and sat beside her dad, well aware that the conversation in the kitchen was merely to inform her of what was transpiring in the drawing room between mausa ji, her dad, her uncle and the other patriarchs.
She asked his cousin, Prabhav, digging into his vada sambhar, "How is life at IIT, Mitthu? Must be placed, huh?"
Prabhav looked at her, "What di? No good prospects this year ya. Very few American companies offered jobs this year. Coupled with the whole economic slump thingie, the OWS has anyway taken a toll. Yahan log wapas aa rahe hain, aur aap placements puchh rahi hain. By the way, you look so cool in this kurta shurta di. He he.." He looked up and winked at her cousin.
If there were any sensible creatures in her family, they were Ritwika's cousins and one of her Buas settled in Canada. She hi-fived at him stealthily.
"Papa, i have an appointment with the international seminar participants today. I shall come back a little late. Hope you guys do not mind my absence. She planted a kiss on her dad's cheek, rushed in to hug her mother in the kitchen and mumbled, "Ask Mitthu, the Amreekan guy is only a loser to be coming back. Ask him to open an NGO at Telhara in Bihar than settle in some posh Civil Lines area in Delhi if he wishes to serve the downtrodden of his motherland."
By the time her masi could gather any word in her mouth, Ritwika had sped of in her modest car out of the apartment.
It was already past three. No sign of Vihans. For the Nth time she called him, his phone was answered by the answering machine. She had had her share of wait. She picked up her bag and was about to move out when suddenly the restaurant dipped in pitch darkness and from one end of the private cabin, emerged a soft musical light. Vihans with his guitar and then the candles all around....the details later just left her in a swoon. She could only feel his tongue slid deeper into her mouth and his hands assure her of his unending love all over her skin in the hotel room late in the evening. For the Nth time she had succumbed herself to the Grecian body of her Miltonic Adam in the Edenic bliss of this forbidden fruit, sinfully chaste in the endless desires of her still virgin body, all this while.
To be continued....