She thought she knew it was never going to work even before it started. Definitely not the way one read in books. She was just playing along. After all she was not the naïve sixteen year old anymore nor was she the young temptress of twenty either. She was bloody twenty-eight and just two years away from becoming a dinosaur of thirty, or so she thought. When her parents brought up the idea of marrying the spectacled ape of a man, she simply nodded her head in agreement. Well it was not as if she was dating someone or pining over a lost love.
To begin with, he was not a romantic; not the one who will bring her flowers or small gifts just too see her smile. Big deal nor was her dad. (The only flowers her dad bought home where the big bright yellow marigolds for aarati for god.)
He never bothered to compliment her or admonish her. Bad and mediocre cooking never elicited a reaction from him. An extremely well cooked meal would bring about a smile and a humming of 70’s Hindi songs while he cleaned up the dishes. There were so many things irritating about him. He was so laconic that sometimes she felt she was talking to a wall. The fact that he never complained about anything left her puzzled. ”Amma, does he think I have mind reading capabilities to understand the thoughts running in his mind?” She had complained to her mother in the early days of their marriage. Her mother had simply smiled at her,” In time my child, you will learn that as well.” and continued rubbing the fragrant oil onto her scalp. She felt even more helpless with Amma’s cryptic advice; if Amma had no solution what was she going to do.
Along the way, she did love him for those small little things he did. She was not quite sure if it was love or his extreme sense of duty which made him do things without so much as ever mutter under his breath. He did not complain about waking up umpteen times to rock their boy back to sleep or changing nappies every half hour. When she had broken her leg, falling off the “chandrakaran maavu”* amidst plucking ripe mangoes to cook his favorite “mambazha pullisherry”**, he had carried on as if nothing of consequence had happened. He woke up early, cooked her food, took care of the kids, and went to office for the entire six weeks her legs hung in a plaster without even letting out an unpleasant sigh. His tenacity surprised her to no end. After all, she was the free radical between them, extremely volatile and prone to emotional explosions.
Today years after the sacred thread bound them; the arrival of children and grand children, her old man sits next to her hospital bed holding a bunch of flowers with a “Get well Soon Love” card stuck on top of it, his face red with embarrassment."
”Ee kuttyolu.Enikku ethonnum nishchyilla ennu Saro-nu ariyallo.” He says looking at everything except me.
“These kids; you know I have no clue of any of these things, don’t you Saro?”
So it’s them, my grandchildren, who has made him carry around these flowers like a lovesick sixteen year old. I want to laugh and cry. He has actually called me Saro short for Sarojini. There is something I feel inside me, something like a flutter. At sixty I cannot call it a butterfly in my stomach, can I? He puts those flowers near my bed stand and quietly sits down near the window to read the newspaper.
I look at him, my eyes moist. As my mother had said long back, I had mastered reading him. I could read his mind from the arch of his brows, the movement of his lips and the gait of his body. Eventually I just had to look at him and his thoughts would appear in front of me as though written on a sheet of paper in his neat handwriting.
I have never regretted the flower or gifts he did not give me because somewhere at some moment or may be over a course of time we had fallen into a rhythm. We had tuned into each other like a pair of walkie-talkies, picking up signals even before they were send. I would not call it love and dismiss it as fragile emotion. Because it is much more than love, it is a complex emotion made of trust, faith, patience, and a generous sprinkle of love. So what if he does not mouth his feeling? I can, as kids these days say, always log in to his mind to see what is happening there.
*-Chandrakaran maavu is type of mango tree that bears these small sweet succulent mangoes. My personal favorite.
**-Mamabazha pulliserry is the bestest dish in world because it has Chandrakaran manga/mango cooked in coconut gravy.
P: S: This story was inspired by a short film Bastille, one of the eighteens films part of the French anthology
Paris Je t’aime ( , I love you) Paris