Is it worth marrying a girl whom society has termed ugly?
By all definition, he was handsome and he knew it. It did make him a talk of the town, (or college in this case.) Then he was in his twenties and had many admirers. This also meant that a date with any of his admirer didn’t need much persuasion. All this made those four years of college, an awesome experience. Then there was a job and subsequently a marriage. But this is such a hackneyed plot, isn’t it?
Well, having a perfect wife is a blessing, but here this blessing came at a price. Sumedha, was only eleven years old when the disease affected her. There was patch all over her shoulder, chest and it was progressively expanding its hold in the neck region. A small patch was at the forehead. No, dowry didn’t make him marry her rather it was his Father’s command. Being a retired army doctor, patriotism also meant fighting the society’s apathy towards Sumedha, and he knew it was completely non-infectious. Also, if she is lucky, it might stop progressing after a certain age.
“He didn’t deserve her!” This was a trademarked tag line that followed Sumedha whenever she visited her in-laws. Her mother-in-law, who couldn’t accept her as her daughter-in-law, passed away shortly after their marriage. One of her in-law stated, “Jijaji, I think didi would have lived a few years more, if you had taken a wise decision before marrying Shankh!”
She heard the whole episode of protest lodged by her father-in-law from the adjacent room. She managed to hold her tears when she heard one of her cousin-in-law (who stayed in Delhi and was preparing for Medical Entrance) say, “Fufaji should have got a post-mortem done, who knows what is in one’s mind!”
Sumedha didn’t speak a single word in protest. She followed her tradition which asked her to be courteous to her in-laws. But somewhere inside the heart, Shankh’s indifference towards her did hurt. Sometimes she thought, it was her destiny and this provided a momentary relief. But, when she saw her friends post there updates hash-tagging 2nd Honeymoon at Gangtok, or heard about someone whose husband had proposed her in a retro style, on their second Anniversary, it made her realize that there was a void in her life. She did question herself that, could she actually complain about Shankh?
He was perfect in all sense, he never questioned about her expenses, as and when required, she was free to use the debit card. Her need to visit her relatives never required his approval. An intimation in the evening meant that air or rail tickets would be made available the next evening. He would chivalrously accompany her to the station and get her seated on the train. There wasn’t and nagging on his part regarding food or anything else. Whatever she cooked, was eaten without complain.
But all this perfectness tore her apart. Each time he didn’t complain regarding salt in food, or shopping bill, or didn’t ask her why she would be staying at with her Aunt for seven days or when he would silently see the scores on mobile without for once asking about the T.V. remote, the perfectness of her married life, chocked her. Since the very first day of their marriage, Shankh had always turned to his left, faced the wall and slept on their bed. All this made her realize, she was wife of Mr. Shankh Pushp, but not his life-partner. She thought her presence was a derogatory remark in his life.
It was her second anniversary, and like any other wife she had decided the gift for her husband. She knew, he wouldn’t remember the date. She was happy to know that Shankh would be in Delhi, the previous week, and would reach home on their anniversary day. So, she carefully decorated the drawing room with expensive curtains, gorgeous sofa cover and jasmine fragrance. She placed his favorite yellow marigold in the vase. Probably, he didn’t know but she knew his taste in great depth.
Things turned out as planned; Shankh returned home in the evening, and found her dressed in her wedding saree. She looked gorgeous in it, (if only someone had the eye to see it!) He sensed the difference in her mood but couldn’t guess that what would follow.
“Is someone visiting today?”
“No, but today is a special day in your life.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Aren’t you hungry? Come, let’s have dinner.”
The dishes were made with utmost care and love, like any other wife does on her anniversary. Shankh ate silently, but his eyes reflected his satisfaction. After the dinner Shankh sat quietly in the balcony. The city of Mumbai shone in the glitter of its night life. Shankh loved this view and often sat here for hours. Sumedha entered the balcony and stood in front of him with few papers rolled in her hand.
“I have a gift for you on our second anniversary,” saying so she handed over the sheet of paper to him. He was surprised and replied, “Oh…I am, I mean …I didn’t remember and the food was delicious.” His style of reciprocating to wife’s greeting was strange indeed. Sumedha understood he wants to convey that this date wasn’t particularly memorable one for him. She smiled, but the calmness on his face disappeared as he read the document.
“This is a divorce paper,” His eyes were wide open as they toggled between the paper and Sumedha’s eyes. Her eyes reflected serenity.
“Yes, I think we should get a mutual divorce. The procedure is not at all complicated. It would take around fifteen days at most. I have got everything planned with the lawyer. You won’t have to take leave many a times.”
There was a long silence on both the ends but eyes continued to talk. Sumedha wanted to bring back happiness in his life. She wanted him to have a beautiful relation with a woman who had a spotless face. But moreover she wanted to free him of a derogatory attachment. But, what did Shankh want or rather could Shankh leave her with just few signatures?
“Where will you go?”
“After divorce? One of my friend is living in Varanasi said there is an opening for teacher in the twelfths standard in a reputed school. I have forgotten most of the things but still I think Chemistry can be revised easily,”A momentary pause appeared in their conversation, while Sumedha waited eagerly for an answer.
“OK, so let it be so! I will sign the papers tomorrow. I am bit tired.”
“Well, take rest. I am going,” she said with a smile. He reciprocated it. Strange thing, they seldom smiled together but their discussion on divorce ended with a smile.
The next morning had a usual start; she prepared the tea and handed it over to Shankh. He took it while scanning the newspaper. Sumedha thought that, after few days she won’t have to prepare tea for anyone, on the other hand, the person who hadn’t ever entered the kitchen while she was at home, will have to prepare it himself, regularly. She decided that a discussion with her father-in-law regarding his re-marriage was must. Though, he wasn’t aware about their decision, it was decided in the morning that Shankh would inform him about the same. She often questioned herself as to why she hadn’t found any evidence of infidelity against Shankh. She wouldn’t curse him or the lady like any typical wife, but would rather be happy to handover Shankh to her.
“The papers!! I mean you have to sign them.”
“I have to leave for the office immediately; I have a meeting regarding a crisis that has suddenly come up.” Shankh went for the wash-basin mirror and adjusted his tie and, left in a hurry.
“OK, you can sign them in the evening.” She got busy with the vegetables. Kamala, her maid thought looked curiously at her. She ignored it and chopped the ladies’ fingers.
Sun had set few hours ago and the mob of Mumbaikars struggling to race back to their home had vanished from the street. Sankh was sitting in front of his laptop while all the cubicles visible from his glass partition were empty. The phone buzzed the third time. He didn’t care to see the name. He was thinking of the life that awaited him. Numerous thoughts appeared in his mind. But, strangely remarrying a girl of his choice never crossed his mind.
Marriage appeared to be a painful event though he couldn’t understand why it felt so, after all, he was going to be free from a person’s presence in his life, which he had hated right from the beginning. She felt like a burden to him, but it was his conscience that always asked him to be kind and courteous to the person who had left everything behind for him.
He faced a dilemma each time she came close to him; “Her heart is wonderful but I didn’t choose her and nor did my consent matter.”
A sip of the coffee and again the soul questioned, “Why blame her for that, she didn’t beg to come in your life, did she? And you should be grateful to have a wife like her. She takes utmost care of your desires and discomfort.” He said, “Yes I accept and have always tried to be a good husband, but I can’t fool my heart. ”
The soul mocked him, “Is that so? Then why didn’t you fight for your will? Why didn’t you ask her to leave the next day after the wedding? You love to play the victim part! But that’s unmanly.”
“I told my father several times but he denied.”
“That’s excuse for running the life of a girl, isn’t it? The truth is, like your father, you too felt warmth in her voice, confidence in her appearance and, somewhere down the heart, you fell for her the first day you saw those patches on her forehead.” The soul looked deep into his eyes and said, “You talk about your heart, then tell me whom did your heart find suitable for marriage before you met Sumedha? Why didn’t you ever think of getting involved in a relationship outside your marriage? Why didn’t you meet Sumedha and tell her that you wouldn’t be able to love her, before the marriage occurred?”
“Accept the facts; first, her presence in your life gives your soul the satisfaction that you couldn’t get from any of the girl you knew before. She is the woman for whom your heart skips a beat. And, you sometimes stare at her and admire the innocence that her face reflects when she is asleep beside you. You just don’t play the good husband role merely to satisfy your conscience, but rather try to express your gratefulness without hurting your racist and male chauvinist ego.” He sat still as the mobile buzzed for the fourth time.
“Now coming to the ego part; you thought that she would appear as a beggar who would beg for acceptance from a handsome man like you, but this didn’t happen. Had it been so, it would have helped you satisfy your male chauvinistic ego by illuminating yourself as a savior who sacrificed his status to help a poor girl. Rather, she was confident about her appearance. She spoke to you looking at your eyes. She didn’t show a bit of insecurity about getting a handsome man as her husband. Or she didn’t feel ashamed to expect love from you, and all this has made you respect her from the core of your heart, but hate her from the outer tough skin.” The mobile gave a low battery alert.
“Last this is that, you like to sail with the society, or rather, are afraid to fight its will. Your father isn’t, and that is something that you haven’t learnt from your father. The society made you realize that you are handsome and she is ugly. You accepted it. It didn’t ever ask you to question your worthiness in comparison to her. She has been struggling to fight the society and earn her love, simultaneously, while you have been a spectator. ”
Shankh clenched the key and sprinted towards the lift. He forgot his mobile. He drove as fast as he could without getting the constables’ attention. Finally, ran up the stairs (as lift was engaged) and knocked on the door of his flat. She opened it.
“I called you because usually you don’t take so long to return. Actually, I thought that if you could get a few books for me. I have interview on ninth so!”
“I will get them and take you to Varanasi, but please don’t ask me to sign these papers.” He was in sweat and tears. Sumedha couldn’t speak when he took her in his arms. She felt it would be derogatory to even think of living a moment without her life-partner.