Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cracked pains

It was the alien eye roving about them, that made her mind restless...that forced her to thrash these same thoughts out, again and again.
She'd always been independent..according to her way of defining things. Some others may have thought her to be the servile wife, whose life remained confined to making sure that her husband's coat and tie were ironed, the kids had good food in their tiffin and creating a comfortable ambience at home. But she liked it that way...she was her own boss for hours and hours. In the evenings, when the kids were young, she would take them out for a stroll or if her husband was back, they'd take a ride to the beach, the four of them on that bike that she could never learn to love. Thank God for the scooter that she had...made it much easier to pick up things without having to walk all the way and to socialise with all those women who couldn't but keep their minds off other's lives and bedrooms. That's why she'd been a bit of recluse, and hadn't kept a maid. After all, maids were the leaking taps that dribbled gossip all over the place. And it wasn't as if anyone had condemned her to this position. Her husband and she had talked about it when he came to meet her first. She was in the mood to work in those days and he'd only encouraged her. In fact, she was the one who decided that she would give it up, not for him or for the kids that they had in a few years, but simply because she wanted time for herself. And he had always respected it, despite the fact that her income had meant that they could splurge a little more on clothes and the movies. Moreover, she liked to be there when the kids came home, surprise them with the little daubles she'd picked up for them or the chat-patta stuff that she'd made for teatime, drink tea in the tiny lawn with her husband or just watch him read the paper. The little pleasures of life... she relished the thought that she was the one who made it all possible. The comfort that she could give and deny!
Which is what made everything harder now...here she was, unable to get up from the bed in the morning till her husband came and propped her up with pillows and got her to sip on tea and biscuits...No she couldn't eat them, not because of the chemo but because her mind rebelled against being waited on hand and foot and her throat just wouldn't co-operate to push those morsels down. And the ultimate humiliation, she needed help to dress and bathe herself. It was humiliating to feel her that husband had to put her bra straps on for her...her arms and fingers just wouldn't co-operate. And then to keep things simple, she would go out for her chemotherapy sessions in a nightgown. In her 30 years of married life, she'd never made an appearance in public in her nightie...let alone step out of the house in it. And her she was, in an auto, on the way back from chemo, hating herself for being dependent. And then this kid in the next auto was looking at her as though.....
He looked at the kid in the next auto. She looked young enough but by the looks of where her auto was going, she was headed towards one of the offices that lined the road ahead. She seemed sensitive enough, after one quick look at his wife's bald head and him holding her with one hand and a wheelchair precariously perched in front, she'd gauged the situation and had the sense to look away. She appeared the young confident type, who probably thought that she had learnt all the lessons that she would ever learn in the few years she had spent at work. Poor thing, little did she know that there were somethings that she would never know about herself. After all, till a month or two ago, he'd thought of himself as the strong one. And all it took was one piece of paper, a medical report to shake him out of a universe that he had thought would remain unchanged till the time he beat a quiet retreat from it altogether. His wife hadn't been unhealthy at all. There were the few times when she'd had the occasional backache and the tiredness but after a night of good sleep, most of her problems had been sorted out. She'd never been one for lying in bed. Three weeks after their first child had been born, she'd rushed back to be with him rather than staying at her mother's place for the first three months. And the second time, she had refused to go altogether saying that she had enough experience to deal with it herself, provided she got an ayah to just help out a bit. When their elder son asked whether he could go to the States for his undergrad, she'd told him flat: you either get a scholarship or don't go, despite the fact that he had been willing enough to pay. She'd been equally staunch about the two children marrying kids from their income group and type of family. Coming to think of that... he hadn't told the kids much yet.. just mentioned that mom was weak and that she needed regular treatment at the hospital. But they were soon going to ask why mom didn't come to the phone or why she needed to be hospitalised so often. Moreover, his daughter had threatened to take the first flight out of San Francisco when he told her that her mom was taking a nap and couldn't be disturbed. Before they arrived that he'd had to steel himself up. He couldn't afford to let them see how much it hurt to see the one who had supported him and opposed him equally, to wane so quickly...Just as much as he wanted to show the world how strong he was, at that moment he craved support himself. He looked at the kid in the auto...she would learn too..he only wished that it wouldn't be the hard way.
The kid in the auto looked at the aging couple in the auto next to her. She'd never know who they were or what the story was, but their picture remained intact...in her head the lines were forming already...
"It was the alien eye roving around them, that made her restless......"

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