In her village, across the street where Sri used to live, lived Mr Naresh. Till she was thirteen, she had thought that his name was ‘Seth Ji’ for everyone around her used to call him that. It was only when a few Christian Nuns had begun to come to her village, to teach students like her — poor and not so privileged — and when she had learned how to read, did she come to know that his name was Naresh. It was written in front of his shop above which he lived. Inside Seth Ji’s house was the television, housed inside the square wooden cabinet with tiny doors fitted for its protection. The only television in the village. It was on that television that she had watched the Bollywood movies, in parts, till as long as she along with the others were allowed to. Life had seemed so simple in the movies, eventful yet simple. The hardships that the actor underwent were always rewarded in the form of a beautiful girl. Love was never easy, the movies had taught her, but it was always a one-time affair. The pursuit, onerous as it was, resulted in a togetherness that lasted forever. Love ignited once, burnt forever; and beauty that managed to lure the lover, never seemed to fade.
By the time she was done taking care of the things inside the kitchen, it was eight. She came to the room and headed towards the calendar. She picked up the pen hung by the side of the calendar and stroked the yesterday’s date out. All the past dates on the calendar were stroked out. She looked at the television mounted on the tin can that contained wheat in it, and the Television had to be lifted off it whenever she ran out of the flour. So many days had passed since the television was last switched on. There was a time when it would be on for hours at a stretch when her husband used to watch cricket matches. But, when she thinks of it now, she realises that they have had never watched a movie together on it. He worked in a factory nearby, and by the time he came back home, he was energetic enough only for the sex. Not that she was not thankful for that, she loved his body over hers, even when he refused to take the bath and jumped over her as soon as he came back. I have learned a new position today, he said to her on certain days, and every time he said that she had wanted to ask ‘Where from’, but her aunt had admonished her against questioning on anything, at least till the permanency kicked in. But when Sri had asked ‘And when would that happen?’ Her aunt had nudged Sri by her elbow, and so Sri never actually got to know if they had already reached that level of ‘permanency’ in their relationship.
She sat on the bed and picked up a notebook she had been practising handwriting on. She had promised the Nuns, who had taught her, that she would come to meet them, at least once every year. The Nuns, thinking practically, had asked her to just write something up whenever she missed them, and that if she did that, they would know of her love. How transforming has had the act of learning been for her, she thinks. And what would have become of her, had it not been for the Sisters who selflessly devoted their times to teach children like her. Especially after her husband had abandoned her for another woman.
She heads to the wall and takes the current year’s calendar off, the last year’s calendar surfaces. She shuffles its pages and reached to the first date that was stroked. June, 13th. On the night of 12th, her husband had announced to her that he had impregnated a woman, and that it happened by chance, he had added, as if having sex with someone was a happenstance. He had disclosed the news to her in such a nonchalant way that it seemed like a joke. Like the way couples in the movies tease and test each other. But in their marriage there were no jokes, he worked hard, all during the day, and they had sex in the night, some times before he had dinner and sometimes after it. On the same night he had told her about the woman, he had packed the trunk with his belongings and had moved to the other lady’s house. ‘She won’t be able to raise the baby all alone’, he told Sri, ‘she is only seventeen’. Flummoxed, Sri had wanted to ask, ‘but what about me?’ But then that would have been a question and her aunt had warned her against it. And before leaving home, he had told her that he would ensure to send her money, more than she’d need, every month. And that she could live in the same place and he’d pay the rent.
Sri misses her aunt a lot lately. Her aunt had died a year back. Sri wishes that her aunt were still around so that Sri could go to her and confront her one final time. To tell her how wrong she had been — all her advises, her disinclination to answer Sri’s questions, and her attempt to contain marriages in certain accepted notions. Notions that now seem as apocryphal. Bollywood movies weren’t any better. In life, what began in a smile didn’t necessarily result in perpetual laughter. And love. Love was tricky. The flame that once ignited, if not properly paid attention to, was often doused. But sometimes, she is convinced now, even if one pays all their attention to it, the flame is doused by a gust of wind that blows out of nowhere.
The picture used along with the post has been downloaded from here.