Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reinventing Your Exit

“Hello?” Aakriti answered the landline phone that had been ringing for almost a minute.

“Good evening, Mrs. Kapoor. Can I speak with Taj?” the voice at the other end said.

The sun had just set on a chilly December day. The sky had already turned pitch black and one could not fathom whether it was 5 pm or 9 pm.

“May I know who’s calling?” she questioned.

“It’s Akshay from the office.”

“Okay. But, he is not at home. He’s out of town for some official work. Surely you knew that?” Aakriti sounded suspicious.

“Oh? Oh, yes. Sorry. I had forgotten,” Akshay mumbled, “It was some urgent piece of work. In all this hurry, it totally slipped my mind. Sorry to have bothered you. Thank you. Good night.”

“Good night.” Aakriti ended the call.

She just stood there next to the coffee table, deep in thought, staring off into space. A cold draught of air from the open french window tousled her hair. She hugged herself tightly and shut the window securely.

“Hi. Could I talk to Mr. Kapoor?” Aakriti called at her husband’s office from a private number.

“Sorry, ma’am. He’s on leave.” Aakriti recognized it as the voice of his assistant, Megha.

“Out for some official work?” Aakriti enquired.

“No, ma’am. A leave means he’s not working. He’s at home or somewhere, but not at office. You are?” the irritated woman said.

Aakriti disconnected without bothering to reply.

The past week had been particularly difficult for them. Taj always seemed to be zoned out.

Aakriti was having problems conceiving, and both their families were immensely disappointed. She blamed nobody but her own self for her state. Taj loved kids. He wanted a chivalrous son, and a cute little daughter. All his dreams were dashed to earth when a week ago the doctors had declared that there was only one percent chance that she would be able to carry a baby at all. Her health would be in jeopardy. He loved her too much to endanger her life. Nevertheless, he was brooding.

She tried to call him. His phone was switched off. She felt uneasy and queasy as flung her phone carelessly onto the bed. It rang while she tried to induce vomiting in the bathroom sink. She turned on the faucet and let the water run in the empty basin purely to have some noise. The screeching silence was unbearable.

Picking up the phone from her bed, she found it was one of her best friends calling. Aakriti knew she meant well. However, she was in no mood for anyone’s consolation. All the past week had been nothing, but everyone’s efforts to keep her normal; countless suggestions, umpteen recommendations of better gynaecologists and whatnot had been coming in from everyone. She was fed up.

She let the phone drop lightly, and it bounced off and landed near the pillow. In Taj’s absence, she did not have to maintain a semblance of normalcy and hence, did not cook any dinner. They both had been eating only so that the other ate. Now she was free to sulk. She slid down to the floor, her back resting against the side of the huge bed, and cried. Again.

* * * * *

When Aakriti woke up the next day, it was nearly noon. The sun was shining without warming up anything. She had dozed off during the wee hours right on the cold floor. Her body was stiff and aching. She reached out for her phone from where she sat, retrieving it with difficulty. She pressed a button to unlock it, but nothing happened. She had no desire to get up and charge it, but had to do so in order to check if there were any calls or messages from her husband.

Since phone showed no signs of life, she figured she'd take a hot shower till it became conscious.

When she stepped out of the shower, reluctantly, twenty minutes later, her room was comparatively dark. She quickly glanced at the mahogany-framed window wondering if Taj had returned and drawn the curtains as he was wont to; the curtains were still open. Only the clouds had engulfed the sky, curtained the sun.

She sighed. She had never liked the sunlight. Now, however, its absence made everything look gloomier. Changing into a faded tee and a pair of loose jeans, Aakriti made her way to the kitchen to cook something for keeping herself occupied.

When the doorbell rang, Aakriti came back to earth. She had lost track of time, stirring the contents of a casserole as if hypnotized. The stew that she had been cooking had reduced a bit too much and resembled a gooey mass.

She turned off the stove and opened the door. It was Taj. She hugged him, tightly. Tears rolled down her eyes, automatically. He caressed her hair and kissed her forehead. Picking up the duffel bag, he entered their home and shut the door behind him.

“Have you been cooking?” he asked, sniffing.

“I had too much free time. And-” she let the sentence trail off.

“You haven’t eaten anything.” Taj stated as he poured himself a glass of water in the kitchen. He wasn’t asking.

“No, I did.” she replied hurriedly, feeling blood rushing to her cheeks. Lying was not her forte.

“There are no dirty dishes in the sink.” he said, sipping his water.

“We’ve a maid, remember? She washed them.” she said, turning his back toward him, trying to hide her flushed face, busying herself with the hopeless stew.

Taj gently hugged her from behind, removing her hands from the casserole and the ladle, kissing her hair.

“There are no freshly washed dishes, either, honey. I know you didn’t eat.And, if it helps you feel less guilty, I didn’t, either.”

“I am so sorry.” she broke down.

“Shh!” he whispered, turning her around and embracing her, “It’s not your fault.”

He knew she was apologizing not for missing her meals, but for not being able to give him babies.

“It is.” she sobbed, frantically.

He rubbed her back softly, and swayed her mildly, much like calming down a baby.

“It isn’t.” he said firmly leaving no room for further argument.

* * * * *

It was a rainy, dark and cold night a couple of days later. Aakriti was laying the table for dinner while Taj changed into his pajamas. Both were trying their best to get back to their normal lives, pinning their hopes on the treatment that Aakriti was undergoing.

Taj turned on the TV in the living room, switching promptly to the news channel.

“There was a match today?” Aakriti smiled.

“Yeah. Couldn’t catch it. Gonna make do with the highlights.” he smiled back, sitting at the dining table while Aakriti served him.

The news channel blared out a morbid story about a man who had woken up at an abandoned hospital in a semi-nude state. It seemed to be an update to a previous piece. The news anchor revealed that the man had been castrated without his consent, probably by some gore-loving psychopaths.

Taj choked on his food and coughed.

“Have water.” Aakriti said, getting up, rubbing his chest and his back.

The news anchor continued the story; the man himself was clueless why he had been targeted. A case had been registered, and the police had raided the hospital where this stranger had regained consciousness.

Aakriti stared at the TV screen as a photo of the protagonist of the horror tale was flashed.

“No! Don’t change the channel!” she squeaked the moment Taj had picked up the remote control.

Taj put down the controller and chewed his food quietly, not taking his eyes off his plate while Aakriti gaped in stunned silence.

“Taj,” she whispered, “That-”

“I know. It’s that asshole.” his voice venomous.

The victim was none other than Himanshu, Aakriti’s ex boyfriend. Himanshu had been involved with Aakriti for only three months, two years prior to her falling in love with and subsequently marrying Taj. They had been happily married for more than a year now.

The news piece recapitulated the story, stating all the events according to the timeline. All this had happened three days ago.

Taj switched off the TV, picked up his plate with congealed remains on it and lumbered into the kitchen. She heard him scrape off the remains into the dustbin and run water over the plate.

“Three days ago, Taj.” she had joined him in the kitchen.

“What happened?” he asked, opening the fridge, peeping inside, apparently looking for something. The yellow light from the reflected like a flame in his still eyes.

“Himanshu was fully neutered three days ago.”


“Where were you then?”

“Are you suspecting me?” he shot her a maddened look, “I told you. I had gone out for some official work.”

“Akshay had called here. He didn’t know you were out which I found odd. So I called at your office. Your assistant said you were on leave.”

“She did?” he shrugged, closing the door of the fridge, “Absent-minded, useless girl. Remind me to sack her.”

“Look at me.” she whirled him around, looking into his eyes, “Where had you gone?”

“For an important and urgent work. Honestly.” he said, “But, it’s God’s righteousness, isn’t it?” he added, leaning against the refrigerator.

“Taj,” she began, looking timidly at his rigid face. He appeared eerily calm now.

“I mean,” he started, “It is kind of cool. You can’t have a baby, he can’t, either. God is fair. I like it.” he sounded abnormally normal and that frightened her.

Years ago, when Himanshu had broken up with Aakriti for a trivial reason, she had been heartbroken, depressed, almost crazy. Within days he was seeing a new girl and Aakriti knew she had been played with. The only silver lining was that they hadn’t been physically intimate. However, she had been much too emotionally attached. He had suddenly ousted her from his life. She could not cope up.

One night, she overdosed on the sleeping pills that had been prescribed in limited amounts by her psychiatrist. When the pills hadn’t seemed to be taking any effect, Aakriti had driven off in her car, unbeknownst to her family. Driving had always been therapeutic for her. Somewhere on the road, the drug had done its thing, and she crashed her car into a truck coming from the opposite direction.

Severely injured, half-dead, she had been brought into a hospital by a samaritan. Her family was called after her identity was established by the police. Miraculously, she had survived.

What they had been ignorant of, then, was that her injuries, though healed, had left her womb weak. It had been hurt, too.

Now, years later, that fateful night had come back to haunt her. One mistake had caused her immense loss. She wouldn’t be able to carry the baby, the doctors had told them. Her uterus that worked normally otherwise, would not be able to support the baby.

“Tell me you did not do this.” she cried, fearing her plight had driven him to such a horrible crime.

“I didn’t.” he said quickly, “Although he deserves much worse, some sort of justice has been served.” his eyes, burning with hatred, bored into hers.

Taj left the kitchen, dragging his feet to the bedroom. Aakriti closed her eyes, for once, unbelieving but wanting to believe he had no hand in the incident.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.