A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 3 October 4, 2007

This is part 3 of the dialogue. For part 1 go here and for part 2 go here.


“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.


A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 1

The yellow-blue pillow covers carried Nandita’s thoughts to the friendship band Sanjeev gave her 9 years ago. “Those were the days!,” she thought, almost aloud. But her face gave no indication of the joy of that thought. She looked sad and wishful. And her fingers, knotted out of anger, nervousness and frustration, revealed the story of what had happened between then and now.

Sanjeev was taking a shower and she was waiting on the living room sofa, prepared to broach the subject of their loveless married life. A thousand thoughts whirled about in her mind. Some happy, some not-so-happy. It was as if she was being thrown about in a tempestuous wind. And she was frightened which way her life will go.

At last, after some 45 minutes, Sanjeev emerged, water dripping from his broad shoulders. He looked at her and then looked away. As if she did not exist.

“Sanjeev, I want to discuss something,” Nandita blurted. She surprised herself because she had intended to wait until Sanjeev had dried, combed and reached the dinning table for his breakfast.

Sanjeev, with a shade of irritation, “Can it wait until I get dressed?”

Nandita, still shaky with her false start, “Yes”

Sanjeev disappeared into the bedroom, out of her sight but very much in her thoughts. Minutes slipped by.

“Why is he taking so long?,” Nandita thought.
“It is because he does not want to talk. That is how it always is with him. I am the last in the queue for his time and attention,” she answered to herself.

Sanjeev was struggling to locate his crimson t-shirt. And the idea of Nandita waiting outside did not help focus his mind on where he had kept the garment. After a few frantic minutes he finally found it, neatly folded and placed along with his other clothes.

“That is not where I kept it! Why must she keep re-arranging my stuff when she knows I dislike it?,” he thought. He did not notice that the neat folding helped create space in the wardrobe or that it kept the garment’s crease just the way he liked it.

He hurried with getting ready and walked into the living room, glancing sideways at the dinning table to see if his food is served.

Sanjeev, “You haven’t set the table yet?”

Nandita, in an explanatory tone, “I did. But since you were taking longer than usual, I kept the food back to help keep it warm”.

Sanjeev, almost shouting, “Why do you need to do that? You know I am OK if the food goes cold. Now hurry up, I am hungry.”

Nandita, “It won’t take a minute. Why are you shouting at me?”

Sanjeev did not answer, picked up the newspaper, and sat down at the table. He did not even look at her.

She arranged the food and took a seat opposite to Sanjeev. He had not changed much since they first met nine years ago. Both, in outward appearance and the person he is. Those warm eyes were as attractive today as ever. It is just that the warmth did not get expressed in little deeds and actions like it used to. It seemed he was holding back his real self and all that she was presented with was this man who sat before her now. And this is not the Sanjeev she met, fell in love with and married!

“What are you dreaming of? More clothes to buy?” said Sanjeev, breaking her reverie.

“No,” she replied.

“What was it that you wanted to talk about,” he asked, staring at the plate before him.

He knows and wants avoid it, she thought. But today she wanted some answers.

“About our married life,” she said.

“What about it?” he cut in.

“There is something missing in it. This is not the life we imagined, is it?” she said, half-heartedly. She was already feeling lost.

“You have an enviable house, chauffeur driven car, two lovely kids, and excellent living standard. What is missing?” said Sanjeev.

“That’s not why I married you!” Nandita replied with a hint of anger in her voice.
“Love is missing. Companionship is missing.” she added.

He kept silent and looked out of the window. She waited. The sudden quiet was uncomfortable; like the silent space bounded by clanging of swords.


Continued as part 2 here


A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 2

This is part 2 of the dialogue. For part 1 go here. 


“Love is not missing. It is just that its definition has changed while you still want it like before,” Sanjeev said in a composed tone.

She expected such an answer. And yet it was infuriating. It is just one of those trap sentences which are put into a discussion to delay the arrival of truth. And she knew it would be difficult for her to go around these polished but untrue arguments. But today she is going to try her best.

“Is no expression of love an acceptable form of expression?” she asked, regaining some confidence.

He noticed the change, shifted his legs, and looked into her eyes.

“I care for you above all else. And I slog 14 hours a day so that you and our children can have all possible comforts of life,” he said.

“Yet love is missing and for me that is the essential comfort. I am ready to bargain some material comforts for more of your time.” said Nandita.
“Your care is expressed only in the stuff you buy for us?” she asked
“What about time, words, intimacy? What about simple gestures like holding my hands and expressing love in as many words” she stated, the anger returning. She made a mental note to calm down.

“You sound like an eighteen year old teen. We are both twice that old.” Sanjeev replied.

“So?” she retorted.

“So, grow up and understand the difference between age groups,” he replied with a touch of sarcasm.

“From what I know, the form of expression can change but expression itself cannot disappear. While a child needs to be held against your chest, suckled, hugged, and kissed. An adult needs support, warmth, space, respect. Look at successful marriages. Invariably you will find the couple indulging in small gestures as frequently as permissible. Like holding hands, a gentle caress, looking into each other’s eyes and smiling, calling to say “I miss you”, buying spontaneous gifts however small in value, asking for advice on both trivial and critical issues. Sharing their dreams, aspirations, struggles. Asking for opinion. Showing respect. Never being rude. Never shouting.” she said, not stopping for breath.

She left lighter, as if a burden taken away.

“You mean to say I don’t do that,” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised.

“Do you?” she replied.

“This is how all marriages are. You have no idea of reality and I have no idea why we are having this discussion,” quipped Sanjeev

“If you do not acknowledge there is a problem, then there is no way we can find a solution,” she said, feeling lost again.
“And since I am feeling increasingly suffocated in this relationship, the only way I can continue is if we work on this together. Otherwise I think we should call it quits,” Nandita said, surprising herself with that statement.
“So, I ask you again Sanjeev, is there or is there not a problem?”

Sanjeev looked at her. For the first time feeling threatened and not just irritated. The idea of losing her had never occurred to him. Was it because he took her for granted? That thought made him uncomfortable. How can he be like that? He considered himself a loving person and that is what people around him say he is. Then why is his wife feeling otherwise?

He saw a woman completely in love with him. Ready to forsake all she had for his companionship. And that made him feel  guilty for the crossroad their relationship had reached.


Continued as part 3 here.


Giving and Receiving October 2, 2007

“Why do you have to be so formal?”, she said in the manner of a comment.

For a second my thoughts were frozen as I had not imagined my gesture as “formal”. I somehow found that comment-question to be out of place, a little dry and bordering on the impolite. My mind whirled and quickly consulted whatever little I knew of her disposition and sensitivities and it was only then that I made some meaning out of the comment. So, I answered explaining the informality of the gesture. And all it took was an ordinary birthday gift, given out of sheer love and respect for her interests and associations!

Later, in the comforting solitude of aloneness, I pondered over the incident and its origins. Here I was expressing my joy through a socially accepted gesture. I would prefer a bearhug anyday but then not many people can take a public hug. Especially so if you are a young beautiful lady! Alternate responses could have been: “Thanks, that’s very nice of you”, or “Thanks, that’s very thoughtful of you” or the all time classic delivered with a smile that goes upto your eyes – “Thanks!”.

For strange reasons, giving and receiving have become burdensome. People keep score, see ulterior motives where none exist and have built a whole universe of complexity around one of the most fundamental acts to Life. While one would expect a natural act to be easy, the truth is far from that. Few people can receive with grace, fewer still can give gracefully.

Giving and Receiving is as fundamental as breathing. You receive breath and you give breath. The giver exists because there is a receiver. Neither is above the other. Neither can survive as a singular entity.

Giving is Receiving.


Just Jazz – learning with my 8 year old niece September 22, 2007

Me: Jazz, look at the untidy pile of books on your shelf! You can do better than that.
Jazz: Hmmm, ohh..hmm… listen, that is my shelf. (followed by the most authoritative look possible from a 8 year old).
Me: I am not denying that. But 15 years ago it was my shelf and looked far better than this.
(Jazz now visibly on the backfoot, her pride at stake)
Jazz: You had fewer books!
Me: Wrong, I had twice as many.
Jazz: Show me then. (Throw a demand that cannot be met. How did she learn it at such a young age?)
Me: They are all gone now. Though some might still be in the storage under that bed.
Jazz (excited and showing her irregular teeth): Let us get them out!
Me:  And where do you suppose you are going to keep them?
Jazz (still excited): I can clear up…. (starting to throw the pile onto the floor)
Me (alarmed): What are you doing? Show some respect to the books.
Jazz: Wait … (she has this amazing monosyllable answer when she does not want you to interrupt her great labours)
I wait. In no time the contents of the shelf are on the floor.
Jazz: Let us open the bed and get your old books out!
Me (pointing to the pile on the floor): And sweetheart where are you going to keep these?
Jazz is visibly puzzled. She clearly had not thought of that part of the problem.
Jazz: The space beside Dad’s reading table?
Me: No way. He will throw the stuff out and probably you along with it.
We giggle. Like we are in the possession of some exquisite knowledge.
Me: I have a better idea. How about me giving away some of these to a friend who runs a school for poor kids? Those kids probably cannot afford books such as yours and they will be very happy.
Jazz (sounding not at all enthusiastic): But these are my books.
Me: I know love. That is why I am asking you. Wouldn’t you like to give something to those kids?
Jazz: NO. They can buy their own books. These are mine.
Me (now fully aware of the challenge): But they are not as lucky as you. They do not have a house like this or a daddy who can buy books. When they get these books and know who sent them, they will smile and say thank you.
Jazz (pleased with herself): Where are these kids? Who is your friend? How do you know him? Was he in your school?
Me: My friend’s name is Anurag. We used to play together until school years. He was in a school different from mine. Hey, infact he was from your school. This Thursday I will be going to meet him.
( I missed her first question but true as kids are she keeps a good record of it)
Jazz: Where do the kids live?
Me: In the villages close to that school.
Jazz: Is it a big school?
Me: No. It is far smaller than your school. Remember it is for poor kids.
(she weighs upon the information now available, her hands on her waist)
Jazz: OK, I will give some of my books. But first you must promise to open the bed and get your books out.
Me: I promise.
Jazz (now sounding chirpier): Which of these books will they want? No, wait! I will decide what books to give away.
Me: Sure love. Those are your books.
(she spends almost a minute staring at her pile, clearly at a loss on what to give away)
Jazz (picking the least inviting book): Take this.
I accept that book and wait.
Jazz (not looking at me): hmm.. that is all. I need the other books.
Me (sounding both angry and unhappy at the same time): Just one book? And it has the last few pages missing!
Jazz: You need more?
Me: Sure I do. You have so many books. Try and give a few more.
Jazz: OK, just two more. OK?
Me (eager to move ahead): OK!
Jazz: Quickly picking up two volumes of Amar Chitra Katha and handing them over.
Me: Thanks. (did I have a disappointed look on me? I will never know..)
Jazz: Maybe I can give some more.
Me (perking up): That’s like my girl! The more you give the more space you get for new books.
(Ugghh, did I just fast sell? Did she buy that?)
Jazz: And I have read all of them a few times over.
Me: Right.
(she goes into a drive and the best thing I can do is stand aside. Her collection is spread all over the floor as she ponders over each volume for its give-keep ratio.)
Me (wanting to let her have her space): I’ll go get some water while you decide?
Jazz (not looking up): OK
(I return after 5 minutes to find two heaps, both equally high.)
Me (a little unsure): Done?
Jazz: Yes.
Me: So where are the books to give away?
Jazz (pointing to one of the heaps): All those.
(Now I am a little stunned. The heap she is pointing to had no less than 15 books, out of her collection of maybe 35).
Me: Jazz, you want to give away all those?
Jazz: Yes.
Me (bending over to see what is in that heap): OK, thanks!
(I find some really nice books in the ‘give away’ heap. Clearly she had not segregated them by their cost, size or condition)
Me (picking up an extremely expensive looking copy of Cinderella): You want to give this? Where did it come from?
Jazz: Tina massi brought it from the US. I have read it a few times.
Me: Hmmmm…
Jazz (pulling out another two equally beautiful volumes – Snow White and Rapunzel): She also gave me these.
Me: Those kids will be very happy to have these books. Thanks, love.
Jazz: All those books I have read many times. You can take them.
Me: And what is in the other pile? You haven’t read those?
Jazz (looking at me suspiciously): I have read them but only once. Those I will not give.
Me (defensively): No, no. I am not asking for them. I was just wondering if you have read them.
Jazz: OK, listen (her fave phrase). I want you to buy me two thick volumes of fairy tales. The ones with big pictures on each page. OK?
Me (a little emotional now): Done!

I did get her the two volumes she asked. I also gave her the unabridged Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. She is too young to read that though. But I loved that series so much I needed an excuse to read them again.

I hope Jazz grows up into a kind and sensitive lady. Like all kids, she is born beautiful. The onus is on society to ensure she carries that beauty to adulthood.

This episode cements what many of us know – children are no less sensitive or sensible than grown ups. They seem kiddish to us because their priorities are different from ours. Seven out of ten times when I have approached a kid as an individual capable of thinking and deciding, I have received a response that upheld my belief. And that is way better than what adults manage to score.


Folk’s Lore – the seven coloured squirrel September 7, 2007

I (with a glint in my eye): Dad, I was thinking about that seven coloured squirrel you saw in the jungles of Gua. Do you remember the colours?

Dad (with no idea of the trap): Hmmm… (staring hard into infinity) they were very much like the rainbow. Ya, I am sure that was it.

I (glancing at brother, he winks back): So, you mean to say if this squirrel were to move blazingly fast it will appear white?

Dad (catching up): You pay attention to your food and stop thinking about the squirrel.

I: But this is important, I am intending to do a true story report for my school task. I want more details to make it a winner.

Dad (a little alarmed): But it was so long back. You weren’t even born then. Really, I have only a faint recollection of that squirrel.

(which is quite a reversal because he always had details… though they kept changing with passing years)

Brother (shifting into a more alert position than his usual satiated python pose): We could help with the recollection.

Dad: Why don’t you tell the full story then?

Brother: Dad, if I tell, it will sound like a BBC report. If you tell, it will sound like a CNN report. At school, CNN wins.

Dad (looking around for support and finding none): What is this school report about?

I (now a little cautious): We need to write about an amazing wildlife creature.

Dad (seeing some hope): Aha, well then why write about the squirrel? Maybe the Peregrine Falcon or Electric Eel or why even the ordinary Elephant can be quite extraordinary.

I (sounding alarmed): Dad! everyone knows about these. Maybe three other people are writing about the same creature.

Dad (now starting to enjoy his hold): Err… how about Sherlock? He his amazing!

(Realising the slipping advantage I squirm at the mention of Sherlock our dog)

I (vigorously): Don’t be a spoilsport! Nobody is interested in knowing about Sherlock. I will be booed. The creature must evoke amazement, wonder…

Brother (as if suddenly realising his role): He is right! You must help him!

Dad: You shut up. Why are you so supportive of him today?
Dad: Listen, I am not even sure I saw this squirrel. I think I had seen it but then it was 15 years ago. (Looking a little dreamy eyed). Hmmm… the jungles surrounding the ore mines of Musabani and Gua…