Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bleak House

IndiBlogger - The Indian Blogger Community Bleak House

She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his 'last seen at' status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn't stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.

And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.

But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn't know if he was joking or not. What was this?
No. He cannot be joking. He is not a person of jolly temperament to indulge in the harmless fun of playing pranks on friends or family members. Does she not know the man she is married to for more than twenty years?
Yes. He must be serious. He definitely means what he says. She sat in a daze. Her senses numbed, she sat staring in front of her.
This was just waiting to happen - the message he had sent. Only she was too gullible and hopeful. Her favourite quote was Alexander Pope’s words:”Hope springs eternal in human breast.”
Whenever she had reason to suspect something foul or fishy in his acts she hastily hushed her intellect and blindly hid behind her sentimental trust. The writing on the wall which she refused to see all this while now glared at her with stark reality.
She was engulfed in awe at the sight of all the puzzle pieces falling into place and completing the picture. All the little gestures, short utterances which had looked insignificant then are discovered now to have specific, clear meaning and purpose. All the odd behavioural changes in him which she had brushed aside as figments of her imagination were real she recalled now.
She found it difficult now to recognise the man who was her husband for more than twenty years. She cannot believe she had been living under the same roof with this complete stranger. It agonised her to see her partner in this new light. The revelation was cruel. A chill ran down her spine as she witnessed her dream castle tumbling like a pack of cards.
Overwhelmed by a bout of nostalgia she recalled the happiest moment in her life when she first met her Prince Charming. He came to her college on official duty when she was in the final year of her postgraduate study. She was an outstanding student in the college excelling both in studies and extracurricular activities.
It was love at first sight. They fell head over heels in love with each other. After a short, heady courtship they got married. Ground realities loomed before her soon after the cloying joy of honeymoon was over.
His tantrums at first upset her very much. She cried inconsolably. He remained unmoved and unchanged. In course of time she got resigned to the taunts as the habit of a spoilt brat who is used to having his way.
She was shocked to find their tastes and thoughts diametrically opposite. Being an intelligent woman she consoled herself by remembering the fact of opposite poles attracting each other. But unfortunately she felt in a vague manner she no longer attracted him.
There were other issues too in the home front. She was disappointed when he behaved like most of the Indian husbands refusing to give credit to her management skills and unwilling to entrust important responsibilities to her. He did not lose a single chance to remind her that he wore the pants in their house and that he was the boss.
The servitude he imposed on her, the subordinate status assigned to her irked her to no end she having been brought up on ideals of gender equality. Having enjoyed full freedom so far this unfair, unexpected serfdom devastated her completely. She has had least respect for male chauvinistic pigs. What a cruel irony it was that she should end up in the clutches of a classic specimen of the species!
Her woes did not end with being crushed by the tyranny of male supremacy. Her sorrow knew no bounds when he began to show another vicious aspect of his character. He was a very suspicious husband. The first evidences of this symptom were not taken seriously by her. She even felt flattered for having a doting, possessive husband who hated her male acquaintances. But very soon her concern grew and her pride winced when he atrociously trampled on her freedom of speech and movements. He shamelessly hurled malicious accusations at her in the most obscene language possible. The verbal attacks when resisted callously progressed into physical violence. Reeling under constant ominous threats from the wretch she clearly saw the signs of a pathological condition of an incurable psychological malady. Bewildered by the mousetrap she was caught in she tried desperately to dispel any feeling of insecurity or inferiority he might be suffering from. All her attempts failed miserably.
Marital bliss had disappeared into thin air and she had become a mental wreck. But an educated, self-respecting woman has to maintain pretences of normalcy and not let out the secret of the inferno she had fallen into.
She wore a bold front and bore it with grit. She had to. Any other woman would have walked out of the squalor she was in. Certainly she possessed the stamina to face the challenges awaiting a single mother. But because of her peculiar reverence for the institution of marriage she chose to remain in the hell she was forced to live in. She had adopted from her tender years the sterling values of a bygone era and dared not to put on the mantle of the modern, emancipated woman who has happiness of self as her priority. She believed she and her children can live with honour only under the banner of a united family.
Her heart ached for her son’s and daughter’s sake who were not lucky to grow up in a happy, healthy, loving family atmosphere. The despicable man continued to turn the home front into a constant battlefield. The children were helpless witnesses to very ugly domestic scenes.
She gulped her personal sorrows and began to focus on nurturing the children’s natural talents. Both children were gifted with extraordinary brilliance of brain and heart. They were her main sustaining force enabling her to pull on in her drear life. The son had entered the medical college, a burning passion for the profession making him the achiever he deserved to be. The daughter studying in high school had dreams of proving to the world the pen is mightier than the sword. Her mind was set on becoming a freelance journalist.
While trying to save her sanity doing creative activities and helping the children shape their future she had not failed to notice the growing coldness. She strongly suspected him to be indulging in liquor consumption. He knew very well how much she hated drinking. She was powerless to control his activities outside the house. But he had no chance of indulging in such activities inside the house under her nose. She noticed with a disturbing feeling some strangeness in his behaviour. It was a strong intuition. But her noble nature and gullibility prevented her from suspecting any sins perpetrated by him.
She moaned in secret at the mysterious changes in him which her womanly shrewdness noticed. His countenance was steadily losing the colour and candour it had when they first met. She was mystified by the very obvious facial “darkness”. She was not kept in suspense for long.
The revelation came as a bolt from the blue. A medical test conducted after an unusual illness he was infected with bore witness to his moral depravity. He was unshaken by the revelation. No guilt. No shame. No remorse. She wept inconsolably. She never expected him capable of such brazen infidelity. She was heartbroken.
The incorrigible rogue had the audacity to add insult to injury. Since the cat was out of the bag he decided to live his loose life to the full defying all restraints of social, moral and personal responsibility.
The poor woman was totally unprepared for this. For long she knew her marriage was dead. But she proudly kept the pretence of it being kicking and alive. Such a drama was of paramount importance to her. In spite of her higher education and enlightenment her spirit was immersed in old time values and virtues. In spite of her modern lifestyle she held on dearly to old-fashioned ideas of honour and respect. In spite of all that he had done to her she swallowed the indignities and wanted to continue the show of family for the sake of honour. An absolute rarity in this twenty first century! Utterly unbelievable! Laudable or not is debatable. But she remained stuck in her beliefs.
The dissolute fellow planned his escape to uncontrolled lechery with speedy manoeuvres. His unexplained absence and silence kept her on tenterhooks. She was torn between pride and honour. Being born with a silver spoon in the mouth finance has never been her problem. Her only fear was the family’s tarnished image in the eyes of society.
She believed in the sanctity of marriage. She saw marriage as the pinnacle of mankind’s civilisation. Divorce was anathema to her. She could never bring herself to accept the defeat of walking out of the holy vows. Had she not valid reasons to sever herself from the lifetime contract she had entered into with devout ardour and affection?
The blows and insults her noble womanhood received at the hands of the wretch of a husband all these years never for once made her entertain thoughts of separation from him, legal or otherwise. As far she was concerned forced widowhood is the worst infliction of pain a woman can suffer from. Natural widowhood status befalling a woman after her husband’s death has nothing ignoble about it. But widowhood thrust upon a woman by separation from the husband who is alive is by no means an enviable status. How can a court annul a sacred contract made under the auspices of an assembly of kith and kin?
Being the sentimental fool she was she shuddered at the horrid prospect of a bleak future indicated by the short message she received:”Let us divorce”.

(A contest entry for TOI –spinning a yarn around a given passage from another author.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

IndiBlogger - The Indian Blogger Community