by Kusum Choppra
They lay in bed, entangled limbs, exhausted, yet replete.
Tea, talk, drinks, dinner had taken hours before inexhaustible sex took over.
He “You know I had my eye on you for years?”
She “Thirty years ago!” disbelief.
He “Has it been that long?”
She “Shame on you, with that enchanting wife of yours.”
He “I know,” he grinned. “But so what? You were too.”
She grinned back. “Were?”
He “Been thirty odd years. She went to the parlour twice a week.”
He “Twice a month.”
She giggled. “I go once a month. No beauty left.”
He archly “Says who? We’re here now, aren’t we?”
She “Isn’t it wrong? She was a great woman and my friend too.”
He “What do you know of her?”
She “College together, leader material. It was a shock when she allowed her parents to pack her off so young into a docile wife and bahu. Did the transformation come after your transfer out of home? Parents can be a huge pressure “Settle ho jao’ is their refrain. What after the settle? We spoke of her often. She was ambitious, married to a plantation manager? But she was made of stern stuff.”
He “Like what?”
The lady sat up to think clearly. Recalling the cheerful gang leader, trying to reconcile what she’d heard over the years.
She “Wasn’t there a huge gap between your kids?”
He “Uh huh. Happens often.”
She “But she never made an issue of it. Just got busy making a showcase home to dazzle the rest of us and push you up the social scale ... everything to get you that “Successful” label. Guess some women are built that way. No sacrifice is too big.”
She didn’t realise she had vocalised all that, till she heard the fury and repugnance in his voice.
He “Did she ever consider my feelings? My desires? Who wanted that rat race? And for what? We were comfy, weren’t we? Now with this flourishing, ever expanding business, she’s gone, condemning me to a Fancy Lab Camp!”
Her eyes widened at the ‘fancy labor camp’! He thought that of the money treadmill? Things fell into place in her mind, complacency over a plum job and catchy wife, shaken by her pushing, his reluctant dragging of feet to plunge into the business world himself; then it started to roll; he felt in charge and
on the money bandwagon. That is when came the realisation that it wouldn’t stop there, there was always another goal to be scored. One of his first actions after taking complete charge after a decade of two of them together was to push her completely OUT – totally and firmly side-lined. Plus that obvious randiness!
She “That’s why!”
He “What’s why?”
She “The pain in her eyes.”
He “She was in pain. Her kidney failed.”
She “Physical pain racks the body. Pain in the heart shows on the face. The fate of so many wives who struggle to push their men up, only to find themselves kicked down from the pinnacle, overlooked / ridiculed / shamed with rivals and an eternal sorrow. Kids never understand except ‘you were always chasing Pa.’ That’s when disillusion shows in the eyes, like hers did.”
He “And you read it long distance?” Smirk.
She “She avoided meet ups. We met a couple of times, last ran into her at a clinic.”
He “Your kidney too?”
She “O No! another type clinic somewhere else.”
He “Where?” tone belligerent.
She sarcastic. “Why? Didn’t you know her problems?”
He “It’s as old as the hills. We worked hard, drank hard. She couldn’t take that,”
She “What else?”
He “Otherwise, fine. She was smiling till the end.”
She. Cutting. “All chips off the same husband bloc, aren’t you guys? Every single one of you. If the wife doesn’t support you, she’s a Bitch. If she does and learns the ropes to help you, that’s worse for her. Dropped like a hot potato, while you philander with stories of ‘Poor me’ over drinks; her crime is that she not only propelled you up the ladder, she scrimped, saved and plotted to buy you your own plantation. One with a foreign market. Damn that woman! Why did she have to do that? Sacrifice her whole life for an impossible dream.“
He “I made it possible, didn’t I?”
She “You just admitted, she pushed you up. By the time you got there, she was jerked aside, with a sick woman label.”
He “She was more than sick -- up there,” he knocked on his head.
She “Thank you. You just proved my point. She was foolish to dream that impossible dream and survive to the bitter end. Thank God she’s dead and gone. No more sorrows haunting those eyes.”xxxxx