She was rejected in the final round of interview. “So Mrs. Roy, do you have an ITIL certification? The senior recruiter asked? “Um, well I have completed the course, but I am yet to write the exam.” Aranya replied. And that was it. The recruiter politely told her that he will get back to her in case she was selected. Aranya knew what it meant. Rejection.
Feeling dejected she left the multinational company’s premises and waited at the bus stop. ITIL certification; only if she had taken the exam and postponed the wedding date. But three years ago she was fascinated by the idea of marriage-the idea of living with a gorgeously handsome man; under one roof; in one bed. Today she realized her foolishness. The handsome man had become a stranger and although she was living under one roof with the stranger, the bed had separated. All that remained of the marriage was her name, Mrs Aranya Roy. Only if she had not over romanticized the idea of marriage, today she would have had her certification and the job.
The sudden rush of people running towards the approaching bus broke her train of thoughts. She got on to the over crowded bus. It was becoming suffocating – physically as well as emotionally. So she decided to get down one stop before her destination. The warm breeze provided her cold heart with some relief. She began walking towards her house. Soon the warm sun gave way to heavy clouds. She looked up to see the reason behind the changed weather. The dark heavy clouds were a reflection of her own heart. Her footsteps fought with her will to move on. As she was looking away from the sky her eyes caught sight of a tiny balcony at a distance. There were two figures perched on a swing like love birds. She began to walk towards it to get a better look…What she saw made her cheerful and morose at the same time…
It was an old couple. Really old. Probably in their late seventies. The woman had wrinkles etched on her face. The man was bald with a white mustache. They were having their early evening coffee. The man’s toothless smile made the wrinkled better half blush. They kept talking to each other with no care of the world. It was a blissful moment that Aranya witnessed. But she could not experience the beauty of the moment for long. It would look weird if she kept staring at them. So stealing one last glance at the couple she hurried towards home.
Suhas returned late at night. They had dinner in silence. Then Suhas sat before his laptop in the living room and was soon immersed in work. Aranya, inspite of the gulf between them, wanted to share her experience. So she started. “I found a new route to our house from the main road. It joins our lane from the left side of the Lakme Salon. There is a nice house with a…”
She was cut short. “Yes I know it. I take that route in the morning to avoid the main road traffic.” Suhas said even without looking up from his laptop. Aranya went to sleep. There was no point sharing any story of man and wife between two strangers.
The next evening Aranya went out for a walk. She chose to take the route which would lead her to the house with the swing. Again she saw the old couple. Today the wife had worn a ‘gajra’ (a string of flowers) on her salt and pepper hair. They were drinking coffee and talking. There was something about their companionship that emanated a positive vibe. They must have been married for decades and yet the lovers’ charm was evident. The romance had not been wrung out of the relationship, unlike Aranya’s marriage.
“Where did we go wrong? When did we begin to drift apart? Why did the life go out of our marriage?” Aranya began asking herself.
They were completely head over heels in love when they got married. On their honeymoon they couldn’t keep their hand off each other. Suhas even went to the extent of celebrating their monthly wedding anniversary. Aranya had always thought that it was a little too much but enjoyed the undivided attention and pampering. And then one day there was nothing. Days turned to weeks. Weeks to months. ‘Let’s go out’ became a lost phrase. ‘How was your day’ was just a customary phrase and was met by monosyllabic response or silence. Kisses became figments of imagination. Love making a fantasy. But she still could not pin point a specific reason. Maybe they had grown too used to each other’s presence. They had become like the walls of the house to each other. No one really paid attention to the walls and yet lived within them. Aranya got busy with television soaps and e-books. So most of the time she was on her laptop. Suhas’ dedication was channeled towards his work and he got busy preparing project plans and presentations. So most of the time he was on his laptop. Then suddenly after some time, the gulf expanded to a bay and building a bridge seemed impossible. However, they could not deny the fact that socially and legally they were united still. So they kept living on two separate sides of the bay…till Aranya saw the blessed couple on the swing.
That day Aranya came back and after giving their marriage and the current status of their relationship a good amount of thought she took a decision. She decided to call her lawyer friend, Amrita in the morning. The night passed. The morning looked gloomy. As Suhas left for work, Aranya called her friend. The lawyer heard everything and they decided to meet at her office the next morning.
Suhas came home early that evening. Aranya noticed a certain restlessness about him. Instead of monosyllabic orders like water, dinner, he was making an effort to use long sentences like “Aranya could I have a glass of water…oh forget the glass, give me a bottle from the fridge.” Now this was a new development. Aranya was surprised.
“You did not tell me about the interview. What happened?” Suhas asked out of the blue.
“Well I got rejected because I did not have the ITIL certification.” Aranya responded keeping her tone as technical as possible.
“Weren’t you supposed to write it on the day of our wedding? Remember I had told you to write it. But you were stubborn. You wanted to be a bride first.” Suhas said the last thing with a smile on his face.
Aranya’s heart skipped a beat. This was the same gorgeous man she had fallen in love with. That same drop dead smile. Wait. What was this emotion that she was experiencing? Was love coming back to her? How could it? It couldn’t be. She knew it just couldn’t be.
Taking a hold of herself, she said, “Yes. You are right. I was too eager to start my life as someone’s wife. I wish I wasn’t so eager. Look where all that excitement has landed me in.”
And then she left for the kitchen, lest her statements gave rise to an argument.
She was busy kneading the wheat dough when she sensed a presence in the kitchen. She chose to ignore it. “He must have come to get something.” She thought. But Suhas lingered on.
When she turned to see why he was still there she was shocked at what she saw. Suhas was standing leaning on the wall and there were tears streaming down his face. “What happened Suhas?” Aranya asked panic stricken.
“Do you still love me?” he asked. His voice was earnest.
“Suhas, tell me what is wrong? Why are you behaving this way?” Aranya replied
“You avoided my question Arny. Do you still love me?” he was pleading for the answer.
It was Aranya’s turn to break down. “Why are you asking me this after all this time? You chose to ignore me for so long. You strangled the marriage till it was dead. You were devoted only to your work and promotions. You did not care for me all this while. And here I was still waiting for you to come home. Cooked for you, so that you enjoyed your dinner. Kept track of your clothes so that you could look your best in office. Packed lunch so that you stayed healthy. I have become a machine for you Suhas. My love for you turned me into an emotionless robot that does everything without expecting anything in return.
I cannot live like this anymore. I am going to see the lawyer tomorrow and be done with this marriage.” Aranya was crying uncontrollably and pouring her heart out.
“Whether you tell me or not I know you love me, Arny. My Arny. I have missed you so much. I am guilty of all that you have said. I am sorry. I will make everything alright. Things will be like our early days I promise. Just don’t let go. I love you.” And saying that Suhas hugged Aranya.
Aranya hugged him back tightly. Their emotions were flowing like the tears in their eyes. Suhas began to wipe her tears. He touched her cheeks and then her lips. And then they kissed. They kissed like it was the last time. Basking in their renewed passion for each other they went into the bedroom together…
They were lying under the sheets, tired yet happy. They were quiet. Just listening to the love filled breathing of one another. And then Suhas broke the silence.
“I was mad with the rush hour traffic and so I discovered a new route that led to the junction way ahead of the main road. And one day while driving i saw an old couple sitting on a swing in their balcony. They looked so happy and in love despite the years. I saw them every day on my way to office. When people were busy rushing to work, the old man and his wife seemed oblivious to the worldly cacophony. They sat on the cushioned swing and enjoyed each other’s company. It was like life started and ended for them in each other’s company. They did not need anything else to be happy. They were the perfect picture of happily married…
And then today when I was going to office, I saw the swing empty. It was like a fairytale that had just met a tragic ending. I don’t know what happened to me. I kept thinking about them the whole day. I could not concentrate on work. No banter, no work news seemed to interest me.
I was searching for a way to feel better, when your face showed me the way. I sped to come home to you. I wanted to share my experiences with you. As I entered the house and saw you, I knew that I wanted to spend my entire lifetime with you. All these days, I was chasing something unreal, when the real bliss was right here with me. I am sorry for everything. Forgive me Arny. Let us grow old together, like the couple on the swing.”
It was morning. Aranya was lying comfortably in Suhas’ warm embrace, listening to him. There was a peaceful smile on her face. The impossible had happened. Her Suhas was back. Her marriage was miraculously brought back to life. It was the swing. It had to be the swing. It was the magic of the swing…
Her phone beeped Amrita calling…
Aranya disconnected the call and snuggled up to her husband!