“I would not call it a problem but I wish it were better than what it is.” said Sanjeev with a hint of sadness in his voice.
Nandita looked at him. He seemed like a child in need of love. Like someone who has lost his way and needs to be held and guided back.
“I love you,” she said and let go of the tears she had been holding back for so long.
Sanjeev felt lost and kept silent. He had no clue what to do or say. She wished he had walked over and hugged her.
Nandita, mixing words with sobs, “Sanjeev, I know there are problems at my end too. I am ready to listen and make every possible effort to correct those. At the same time, I want you to acknowledge issues at your end. Let us work together and get this moving. I want back the man I married. When we started out nine years ago, I could feel the assurance of your presence even when you were not at home. Now, when you touch me it feels strange and cold”.
“OK. Let us begin with me,” said Sanjeev, feeling more responsible and more emotional than he considered appropriate.
“Do you love me?” asked Nandita
“Yes I do,” answered Sanjeev
“Then what stops you from expressing that love?” she continued
Sanjeev, “Maybe I have changed. I find it silly expressing love the way you want”.
“But then you are expressively loving, kind and considerate to everyone else, your parents, friends, colleagues and even the car mechanic and pizza delivery guy”, she blurted feeling a little choked.
“I need to present myself like that with them. With you the presentation is not needed. You are mine.”
“You mean to say what is yours needs less love than what is not yours?” she asked sounding a little shocked.
“That is not what I meant. What is mine should know that and I should not be required to keep proving my love.”, Sanjeev said, not very sure he worded it well.
Nandita, “We all need to be reminded that we are loved. Tell me, do we water our plants or our neighbour’s plants? Relationships are like plants and they continuously need the water of love. If we do not nourish our relationship, it will die, just like the plant which was not watered”.
Nandita, “I have no issues with the love and affection you have for other people. Infact, it tells me that you are a nice person. My only problem is that the way you treat me is such a contrast to the way you treat others. How can your love be selectively missing for me but present for others? How can you be polite to others and not me? Show respect to others but not me?”
Nandita, “Lately you have also started shouting at me. Something you never did and still never do with other people. And you shout at me in the presence of other people. Do you have any idea what it feels like to be shouted at, to be humiliated in the presence of the very people who you say are not yours and yet who you never shout at?”
Nandita, “I know I am not as smart as you are. But this is nothing new to either of us. One of us has to be smarter and it is you. That is something we knew even before we got married. But now you are intolerant of me and my mistakes. You pick on me so much that I am fearful of being myself. That is suffocating me.”
“Oh come on! you are not the only one suffering here” he said.
“Look at yourself. You have become unfit for any outdoor activity, have age old ideas, are usually incoherent, and want to shop eight days a week”, he continued.
“While I have been keeping fit, am considered smart, well connected, aware and good conversationalist”
“You are an embarrassment to me Nandita”, said Sanjeev.
Nandita felt numbed. Like lying on an ice bed. She stared at the floor, her eyes motionless.
“Sanjeev, you are not wrong there. But then not all of it is my fault. When I had that job offer from the accounting firm, you put your foot down saying the kids need me”
“I have never been to a workplace even though I wanted to work and was qualified to work”
“You wanted the kids to have the best – their mother’s full attention. But what of the mother? Does she have a life outside the kids? And when the kids grew up, you took that posting in New York. A new place and new culture. So, while you were building your resume and persona by spending time at the office, I was again left to the mundane task of attending to the house and keeping it warm and equipped for you, because we could not afford a maid”
“Time and again, I requested for a life outside the house. Time and again you put forth a compelling reason to refuse me my wish.”
“I agreed not because I could not disagree. I agreed because I loved you enough to not disagree”
“Maybe I should have loved myself a little more”, said Nandita, in a wishful tone.
“Most of what you say is an excuse”, Sanjeev replied.
“How do you explain being overweight?” he continued.
“One thing led to another. My spirit felt so crushed, I hated myself and my body. I have no excuse for being unfit but that it was the only way I could punish myself”, said Nandita, now flat and totally devoid of emotion, as if the fact had no meaning for her.
Sanjeev had not expected this and it hit him like lightening. There was so much pain in that thought. The guilty feeling was coming back. His thoughts floated back to Nandita being crowned as the most beautiful girl in her college. And she had celebrated it by buying a swimsuit and enrolling at the same pool he visited. He could not take his eyes off her when she first walked into the pool area that summer evening. The sea green swimsuit made her look like a Goddess.
“Sanjeev?” she said and broke his train of thoughts.
“Nandita”, he said with the practiced speed of a top level manager about to accept his mistake, “you are right on many counts. I had no clue you were so eager to work. Maybe I was simply blind to your needs. I am sorry!” said Sanjeev, for once feeling light and warm.
He cupped Nandita’s palms within his own. She was a cosy warm and that felt good. Her skin as soft as the first night they made love.
Continued as part 4 here.