She did not feel like telling her husband. It did not seem strange that the thought of telling him did not occur to her.
She couldn’t have known why — it was not a reasoned decision. After their return from office, when they were eating, they were sitting together for more than forty-five minutes; she did not tell him. When they were later watching ‘Dream Girls’ on the TV, even though the episode of the day was a similar subject, it did not occur to her to tell him. After the episode was over, the thought did cross her mind.
She could have used the topic of that episode to start talking about it. It perhaps is not a good news for him — she was not sure. She did not feel like telling him. She did not feel bad about it. Rather, she felt a sort of elation. A sort of happiness.
It appeared to her that she never wanted to give him any good news. No use also telling him. Not this, nor anything for that matter. His reactions would be very perfect — like what is prescribed in any standard textbook on good manners or etiquette. Very polished. Never out of the way. Voice in perfect pitch and with proper intonation and matching modulation. Words would clearly exhibit a happiness, which should be exhibited. No, no she did not want to give him that opportunity. She did not know the answer to the question “opportunity for what?”
But she thought she knew the answer non-verbally. “You can have knowledge, you can know… no need for any verbalization,” she told herself.
She did not want him to notice even this sullenness in her mood. She wanted to hide it from him. But he would find out. She knew it. It angered her. It angered her that she did react. She knew that he would endeavor to bring her mood to normal; it is what any understanding and good husband should do; or expected to do; she did not want it; she did not want that.
She said nothing was wrong when her mother came to her and asked, “What Radhu, what is the matter? Head ache or something?” She only thought that her mother was needlessly giving an opening to her husband. He did not show if he had noticed it.
Beds were apart. He wanted it like that. It was convenient for her too. “Only with our deliberate plan and our wanting it and deciding that way… only then any sort of….” He did not want anything accidental happening out of physical proximity. That was he thought and that was why their beds were apart. It suited her admirably — perfect it was for her.
Everything was over in the TV. With the announcement “We hope all our programs of the day did entertain you and we sincerely hope to see you tomorrow morning with our Good Morning India program, Good night”. Even the smiling face of that new announcer disappeared from the screen. This announcer reminded her of the ever-cheerful Rama who was with her in the college. She noticed a surging wish in her to be with her, to sit on the steps of the in-door stadium and keep chatting until the dawn.
She switched off the TV. She checked whether the front door was locked properly; her mother many times forgot to do the safety latch. She pushed a small piece of cloth beneath the door to plug the gap between the door and the floor — tiny little rats very smartly manage to get into the flat making it very difficult to chase them out. He hated them. She liked them – rather she liked watching them. Like a tiny little baby. With bubbling life and action, the way they turn their pretty heads, they hide in a little corner, see here and there in quick succession, suddenly dart. It was absolutely refreshing for her to watch. It was almost getting into deep relaxation.
Before getting into bed, she undid her hair, spread the strands wide apart, under the fan, shaking her head left and right, up and down… She removed everything except her inskirt and threw the whole thing away, far away from her, with the strength needed to throw away something-quite heavy. The mass went and hit the lotion bottle on the dressing table, which started rolling on the floor — thank God it did not break. There was a smile on her face. She got into her bed.
“Radhu” her husband was coming into the bedroom.
She looked at him with an audible wordless sound conveying what.
“What is the matter?”
He went out of the bedroom. She was sleepless in the bed. He came in again in darkness after about an hour.
“It’s okay, Radhu, if you don’t feel like telling me what it is,” he said.
She had kept quiet.
“What is it that I can do, if you do not want to say?”
She now spoke. “What do you want me to tell you, There is nothing”.
“Oh, I see. I am sorry. I thought there was something,” saying he was going away. But then turned back and came nearer, “In case you want to say something…” he sat near her.
“Oh! No. Nothing is there. Please go to sleep. I want to sleep,” she told him without looking at him and making motions of turning herself away.
“You can sleep. I have not even switched on the lights,” he said.
“It is not something very great,” she started with a mumble “It is… Today they have promoted me in my office. As senior manager, meaning an increase of Rs. 2500, ” she completed.
“Oh, so nice, great. I am so happy for you. Congratulations. You deserve it… you deserved it for a long time. Shouldn’t we be celebrating it?” he said.
It was typical of him. She was sure that it would be exactly like that. Nothing different.
“You could have told me as soon as you came back from office, couldn’t you? Or was something else bothering you, headache or something?” he asked her.
She did not know what to tell him. She did not want to tell him anything too. Nor did he wait for an answer from her.
“Good night,” he said and went out of the room. She could hear him snoring after a few minutes. She got up in the darkness. She did not switch the lights on. She picked up a glass of water. She drank it. She walked over to him. She switched on the lights and looked at him intently. He was sleeping. The twitches on his face and the movement of his lips told her that he was taking a stroll in some other world. In spite of the closed eyes, she could see the movement of the eyeballs. Would he be showing his true unvarnished reactions and responses in the world of dreams at least or would the perpetual mask be there too, she did not know.
She came away from him. She came into the drawing room. She was sitting in the rocking cane chair of her father for a while. It was a street dog barking its throat away somewhere without any threat or response. It started drizzling. A very thin one. Muted. She got up and went in. She switched on the lights in the bedroom and picked up the bottle of sleeping pills and emptied all the contents on to her right palm. She took a glass of water too. She walked up to the balcony, opened the door, saw the unclear sky. She wanted to talk with somebody.
She came back in. She picked up a pen and the writing pad. She started with “My dear Renu”
She heard some steps behind her. It was her husband. He was coming towards her. “What is this, Radhu?” he asked.
Yes, she said she was sorry — she had not switched off the lights in the bedroom.
“Oh, I am sorry, I forgot,” she said again.
“It’s all right. In your office they have to see their senior manager tomorrow with a sleepless face, if you are awake for long,” saying this he walked back to his bed.
This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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