The passionate love at the time of marriage — my friends foretold that this marriage would go to the rocks, that I was crazy to go for the wild Pragya — soon petered off.
Barely had I wiped off the sweat when the red Zen zoomed from behind, missed hitting my car by a whisker, before grinding to a halt at the AIIMS redlight.
For a second I was stupefied at the utter carelessness of the driver–those driving in Delhi roads seldom thought about themselves or for others — it was a mad race for speed.
Being Sunday there were less vehicles in the road — probably that inspired the driver to drive at such a speed.
Taking a sip of water to wet my throat. I looked at the red Zen. A lady was at the driver’s seat. Before I could react, the light turned green and the red Zen picked up momentum and forged ahead. Even though it was both humid and hot, with the sun at its full fury, I decided to follow the lady — she needed to be ticked off for her reckless driving.
It was only at the Safdarjung Madrasa red-light that I could catch up with the red Zen. But when I caught a glimpse of the lady, I was dumbfounded — Pragya definitely hadn’t changed, she revelled in driving blindly. It was only my third day in Delhi since my return after five long years in Singapore. And out of the blue had dropped this old heartthrob, once my wife.
I quickly moved my car a bit forward thereby blocking Pragya’s car. For a moment she was infuriated and blowed her horn. I then gazed at her and she looked at me — she looked bewildered — there was no way she could forget me. After all one year was a long time in a human’s life-frequent blitzkriegs were the only feature of our 11-month-long tumultuous marriage.
The passionate love at the time of marriage — my friends foretold that this marriage would go to the rocks, that I was crazy to go for the wild Pragya — soon petered off. It dipped, giving way to intense hatred. There was never a day when we did not address each other with the choicest abuses.
Within three months of our dream marriage with an elaborate honeymoon at the Mauritius, we were almost living in two different worlds. We did not even eat together, what to talk of sleep together. I could not stand Pragya’s arrogance. She was indecent, in fact not fit to be taken to any social gathering; her actions were devoid of emotions and she perpetually came home late at night.
The face of the angry Pragya floated in front of my eyes. I had no idea as to when the light turned green. All my thoughts about her were abruptly disrupted when I found Pragya herself standing near the door of my car. “Pulakesh!” Pragya exclaimed, “When did you come back from Singapore?” Two traffic police personnel were already nearing us, we were disrupting the traffic flow.
“Follow me”, I urged Pragya.
“No, you follow me,” Pragya yelled as she jumped into her car. She was the same Pragya whom I knew five years ago, with whom I spent one year-she always tried to be dominant. I did not counter her, it used to by my response in the initial stage of our marriage too.
Pragya raced her car through Connaught Place. I had no idea where I was going. In fact I was finding it difficult to keep pace with her. Soon we had crossed Mandir Marg. Things had changed a lot in the five years that I was away from Delhi.
We crossed the Telephone Exchange, Pragya did not stop the car till we were in front of a house in East Patel Nagar. It was definitely Pragya’s house. She definitely had got married and perhaps had a few kids. I could not fathom why she brought me to her house. We no longer were tied by any relationship and the manner in which separated had ensured that we would nover talk again.
“How many kids do you have?” I asked casually even before Pragya could speak. I was specially interested for Pragya had a tomboyish image and it was hard to imagine that she would even condescend to be a mother.
“Just guess”, she said as she offered me juice.
“They must have gone out with their father,” I tried to change track.
“First guess how many kids I have got,” Pragya asserted.
“Well….” I fumbled. I did not want to make a wild guess.
“When did you get married?” I again tried to change track. I had definitely asked a wrong question.
“When did you?” Pragya shot back.
“I’m looking for a suitable bride,” I said as both of us broke into a peal of laughter.
“So you are happy?” I softly said.
“I’m contended,” she replied as she got up, “What would you like to have?”
“Definitely lunch,” I thought I was more at ease with Pragya than when she was my wife. There did not seem to be any tension between us, perhaps it was because we no longer owed anything to each other.
“Where are you putting up?” Pragya asked as she gave me a few onions to cut. I always loved cooking and in fact in those initial days of our marriage. I cooked so as to make the wild Pragya happy. “With a friend, but have to look for a flat.”
“Where are you working now?” I asked.
“In a multinational company, there are lot of tours so it is a problem.”
“It must be very difficult for the kids,” I avered.
“Definitely,” Pragya said with a smile. I yearned to see her kids. Even I had dreamt one day that she would be the mother of my children — that we would have a small family — full of love and happiness. But it was not to be and now at the age of 35 I was still without a family.
To my utter surprise, I found that Pragya had become a good cook. I had never imagined that she would one day cook chicken. I felt jealous of her husband–How did he bring about this change -I wish I knew. Then she would have remained my wife–from heart I had always loved her.
The entire day we chatted unmindful of the time. I had little to do so was the case with her. I told her at length about my experiences in Singapore while she told my about her work here. It was almost 9.30 p.m. when I realised I was getting late. I was not comfortable about moving in Delhi at such late hours after being away for five years.
“Your kids and husband haven’t come back yet” I asked as I prepared to go.
“What could be the reason?” Pragya said with her usual sensuous smile. She looked at the wall clock.
“Gosh! It is already 9.30 p.m. I must get dinner ready.”
“Where have they gone?” I enquired again.
“Come on , sit down. Let’s have dinner first,” Pragya softly said.
“It is too late. Sadiq bhai must be worried.”
“Definitely Pulakesh,” Pragya averred as she moved towards the telephone.
“By now Sadiq bhai must have lodged an FIR. Let us find out what he has to say.”
“Hello Sadiq bhai!” Pragya was speaking ,” Do you remember your Pragya bhabhi? I have kidnapped your Pulakesh. He won’t be going to your place tonight.”
I sat dumbfounded. How could Pragya do that? It was improper on my part to spend the night at her house.
“Your husband will smash both of us, how can I stay with you?” I protested.
“If only he comes,” Pragya softly said with a sly smile.
“What do you mean? ” I was exasperated.
“Have you gone crazy, Pulakesh?” Pragya yelled with a laughter clasping my hands. She was toucing me physically after how long-I could not calculate.
“Dear Pulakesh, do you think if I had a husband and kids, they would have been out so long and that too on a Sunday. If they would have existed, I am sure we would have never met today for I would have never wanted to venture out in such a hot Sunday with them around.”
Still bewildered, though I thought I was foollish to confidently assume that Pragya was married and that too with kids. I muttered, “You haven’t married again.”
“No Pulakesh, I could not find someone like you again. It was only after we split that I realised that you were the most ideal man for a wild and arrogant girl like me. You were the only man in this world who could understand me and stand my indecent behaviour,” I listened to her speechless.
“You said you are looking for a flat, so why don’t you stay with me. I am sure you would agree that this house is big enough for two of us.” Pragya came closer and clasped me passionately.
This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2003).
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