Friday, July 09, 2010

Virtuous Lady: Fast Track

Renu and Ashok got married a year ago. They grew up in the same neighborhood. Ashok never dared speak with Renu in those early days. He eyed her from the sidelines and secretly crushed on her. Renu was lovely and vivacious. She had many friends. Ashok did not know how to make friends. Renu would break into giggles whenever she caught him staring at her. Then came Ashok's big break. He qualified for the joint entrance exams and got into a prestigious engineering school. Renu congratulated him with a winning smile. That was a wonderful day for him. Fate had unexpectedly catapulted his suit right to the front lines. How could Renu's art teacher ever hope to compete?


This morning, we find Renu sitting by their bedroom window.. Her eyes are puffy from crying. She is knitting a sweater for the son she is expecting in another three months. Her life has changed rapidly and unimaginably since her marriage.

Renu bleakly remembers the days Ashok begun pleading with her to give up school. Her college demanded a daily two hour commute. Ashok sometimes returned home before her and hated not to find her home, or when she returned home exhausted. A BA in art history is not that hot. Did she really need to complete it? Ashok was so well placed. Why would she ever need to work? Renu could do a computer course of sorts. That would give her a lot more job options she was told. Half heartedly she had agreed. The computer course never started. Before she knew it, Renu was a full time house wife. To be honest, in the beginning she thought it was fun. Staying at home and cooking interesting meals, dressing up for Ashok every evening. Having so much energy to go places and even make love end of the day.. it was exciting. It wasn't going to last forever, right?

Ashok begun to bail on their plans every so often saying he was tired, or, it was too expensive. Renu was left listless and bored, or, keyed up with a day's full of unspent energy. She grew estranged from Ashok. Her mother-in-law complained that she wasted time in front of the mirror, or with her story books and magazines. That, she paid minimal attention to housework. That, she had way too many friends calling on her all the time. Why did his wife have a dozen male friends? Why did Renu chat not less than 30 minutes at a minimum with somebody or the other whenever she stepped out of the house? Ashok felt compelled to speak to Renu about it. Renu's friends picked up the unpleasant vibes and begun to disappear.

Six months into their marriage, Renu discovered she was pregnant. Most others felt happy with the news. Her mother felt thankful that she will now have an anchor to rein in her restless spirit. Thats what a woman needs to settle her down, she was convinced. The gushing all around made Renu felt guilty about not feeling equally happy herself. Renu had tried to insist they have protected sex. Ashok hadn't listened. He coaxed her saying this was the safe period of her menstrual cycle. Renu thought they were pushing their luck being on the borderline... and so it happened. Ashok acted so enthusiastic with the news of the child. He refused to look her in the eye long enough for her to voice her uncertainties.. let alone voice options for an abortion. She seemed not to have many choices left in life.

This morning her friend Kanika had called excitedly to give her the news that she had gotten a job in Delhi at a museum. Renu congratulated her and asked for a treat. Inside she felt horrible with regret. That job could easily have been hers. She felt so betrayed. What had she ever seen in that stupid fool of a man! She had taken up knitting of late to keep her temper from boiling over. It was not good to be emotionally disturbed in her condition.

Friday, July 02, 2010

How Many Frogs? Get Set, Go

Continued from..
How many frogs? Saying I do

Radha has been out of town for three weeks, gone for a training on the east coast. Deb called her every night as usual and they would speak for hours. For Radha, it would get to past 3:00 AM by the time she would go to bed. She could barely keep her eyes open in class.

Previously Radha loved to hear Deb rumbling into her ears on the phone. Disconnecting was a sweet torment. Already Radha has begun to wonder exactly what they spoke about in those long hours. And more importantly, how they stayed clear of altercations. Ever since their decision to tie the knot, most of their conversations wound up in arguments. Radha found it hard to let go of a comment, whichever way, without pointing out a counter logic. It was really insane. Because often she ended up arguing for positions she did not believe in. And then she would blame Deb somehow for cornering her. Unfair to the bone, I say. How can you expect someone to fathom what you really think, versus what you say you think? Once when they were not arguing, Radha told Deb that sometimes when she got carried away arguing, he shouldn't hound her with logic at that point. Deb was amused. He said that this reveals how egotistic she was. That the need to dominate a conversation was a blatant pointer to her own insecurity. Radha hated his analysis. Who did he think he was!

Radha met with her gynecologist friend, Sumitra on the last day of her trip. Sumitra was very happy with her news. She advised that the couple start thinking about conception, pronto, seeing as Radha was already 35. Radha related this to Deb on their call. Deb wondered how to tell her, that he was not interested to have kids right away. He felt they needed to reach an equilibrium between them, before the next phase. But he also did not want to let her down. He felt guilty about the way their "proposal" happened. He had been meaning to bring up marriage, but just kept putting it off, the eternal procrastinator that he was. Having lived his entire adult life in a sort of a limbo with respect to women, he was finding it hard to keep pace with the rate of unfolding events. Radha sensed Deb's hesitation and tried to stem her rising bitterness.

Deb was there to take her home when she got back to CA. Radha had been sort of in two minds about seeing him again. But the sight of him, inhaling his cologne, his presence.. melted her heart. He leaned into Radha and brushed her cheeks with his nose as he maneuvered the car back on the road. He picked up Chinese food from PFChang's on their way. By the time they finished dinner Radha was smiling happily. Her opinion of Deb had risen some notches.

Deb and Radha are due in India in a week. Deb is averaging three missed calls from Shakti a day. He has stopped returning her calls to Radha's amusement. He does not have parents to prepare for him. So Shakti has taken it upon herself to coordinate things with him and Moni, Deb's sister-in-law, who is the only female from Deb's side of the family. Moni is not happy with Shakti's interference.. but being much younger than Shakti is finding it difficult to put up much resistance. Radha has stubbornly insisted on a modest affair attended by select friends and family. They will be getting married in court and follow it up with a single co-hosted reception. Radha whittled down Shakti's extensive guest list to a few lines. Shakti was quiet offended. But at least her daughter is getting married. And Deb is such a sweet man!