The days were long and grilling. I felt incapacitated every evening, to face Radhika and endure the daily pandemonium. Ever since Aahana’s birth, she had changed drastically. Irritable and impatient, although I understood her post-partum issues completely but at times it was a tough task to balance office chores and her drastic demands. Of course, she was dealing with her unwanted weight issue and also sleeplessness was affecting her temperament. But wasn’t that natural? Wasn’t every woman conditioned to withstand the hormonal, physical and psychological anomaly that comes as a part and parcel of childbirth? I kept wondering. I even felt very lonely at time, with no one to understand my woe.
It was just a few days back, when my boss and I, had an unwanted confrontation. I felt miserable and wanted to talk to Radhika. But as soon as I reached home, she didn’t even spare a glance at my subjugated demeanour. Instead she inquired if I remembered to get the diapers.
So one fine evening, hurt and alone, I decided to be selfish and treat myself with some solace. I lied to Radhika, told her that I had some peer exercise to abide and would be late. I desired to go to the lakeside, my most favourite corner in the lifeless city buzzing with pseudo euphoria. The place was Radhika’s favourite too; we had spent many evenings hand in hand, seated on the benches by the lake.
As I parked my car and walked towards the spot, floodgates of memory opened in front of my eyes. The tranquil lakeside was our favourite hideout ever since we shifted to Mumbai and continues to be so. There was a strange occurrence of peace in the ripples of the water and the waving branches of the decorative palm trees. One can quietly sit on the benches and witness the running city without being a part of that gasping. Radhika and I would often visit its serenity after office for few moments of accord, have dinner in our favourite Italian restaurant, and then return home rejuvenated.
But parenthood had changed our equations. Although I celebrated each moment with our little princess, but Radhika’s altered persona was causing me internal turmoil. Her newly evolved motherhood had turned her into a perpetually panic stricken woman, at times crankier than the baby herself. I never foresaw that one day; I would go to the lakeside alone to rid myself of Radhika’s irritability.
I don’t know how long I sat there drowned in thoughts and postponing my return journey. My oblivion broke with the ringing of my phone, it was Radhika. Initially I hesitated but finally I took the call,
“Hello” I said.
“Hello, Aniket…where are you? Its 12 already,” panicked Radhika.
I had no idea that it was so late, but I pretended to be aware and reverted “Of course I know that…I will be reaching in half an hour. I have started.”
“Oh God, you are driving. Why didn’t you tell me that? Anyways drive safe, I and Aahana are waiting,” she returned with concern, I could imagine the smile on her face, when she pronounced the last bit.
“Ok” I hung up and a bite of guilt hit my heart. I felt sour and immediately decided to make a move.
Probably I drove much faster than my normal practice and hence reached much before ‘half an hour’. When I stood in front of the door, about to press the bell, plethora of emotions choked me,
‘Aahana is the most beautiful gift God has given us, she is our responsibility…how can I behave this insensitive?’
‘C’mon Radhika is not enduring office toils for the time being. After all it’s easier to focus on one difficult task than juggling different chores of varied intensity.’
‘It is Ok to be irresponsible once in a while’
‘No...Not really! Can Radhika say the same?’
As my mind fought its own battle, I had absentmindedly pressed the bell. So when Radhika opened the door, with a widely awake, smiling baby in her lap, I was probably engulfed in oblivion.
“Hey, what’s up? Had a long day it seems,” she smiled. “Look who refused to go to bed without giving Papa a goodnight kiss!”
I looked at both of them and the smile that enlightened my face must have been seraphic that it forced Radhika to give me a tight hug. “Come on in,” she said.
I wasn’t getting an iota of sleep and it was already 2:00.
“Thank God it’s Friday, or this insomnia would have screwed me,” I thought aloud, as I smoked cigarette after cigarette in the balcony.
Suddenly in the darkness of the night and my meandering heart, I felt a familiar, soothing touch on my shoulder, when I looked back, Radhika smiled at me. But she had pain in her eyes.
“You aren’t sleeping?” I asked.
“No…I got up to feed her, and realised you weren’t there on the bed,” she reverted.
“Yeah, wasn’t getting any sleep, so thought would come here and catch some fresh air,” I said.
“But this isn’t fresh air,” she smirked.
“Whatever…” I smiled. “Is she sleeping?”
“Yeah” I could read in her expression that she had more to convey, but an unfamiliar inhibition was preventing her from doing so.
“What?” I asked.
“Ummm…nothing! Why do you ask?” she returned.
“Because I can sense. Tell me, c’mon,” I insisted.
She looked down and started without making contact with my eyes, “you don’t love me anymore, isn’t it?”
“What? Are you crazy?” I wasn’t expecting this one.
“No…I am not. Actually I am not the person I used to be…and…and I know I look and behave differently. Knowing you, I am sure you can never be in love with this new ‘me’. Ummm…ummm…otherwise why would you go to the lakeside without informing me?” she still wasn’t making eye contact.
“Radhika…how?” I was surprised, a little embarrassed and also slightly infuriated to know that she spied on me.
“Oh no…I wasn’t trying to spy on you. And you know I don’t have the time for that, I just happen to see the parking coupon in your shirt pocket….” she reverted with hesitation. “Life isn’t same for me too, although I enjoy each second with Aahana, but it’s physically exhausting…with the entire hormonal anomaly…weight issue…I don’t know. But I am sorry if I have hurt you.”
Tears rolled down her dewy eyes, and I burnt in repentance.
“Radhika…No…please” I hugged her tight.
“No really Aniket…I know I have become more temperamental. But you know me…don’t you? I wasn’t the expressive one amongst the two of us ever…so why didn’t you convey when I made you feel suffocated. I have always been the childish, pampered wife…now suddenly the world wants me to grow up…even you…even you want me to mature forthwith and handle everything with élan. I can’t, don’t you know me? I just can’t…I want you to be by my side and cuddle me…I want you to pamper me like you always did…but look at you! You left me and went to the lake side… a place that has seen our sweetest moments together…” she was weeping like a child and I could clearly see Radhika…my Radhika.
Nothing had changed except my perception. I hugged her tight, “sorry Radhika…I will never go to the lakeside without you again,” my face enlightened with a smile as I pronounced. Then we went hand in hand to the bedroom, Aahana was wide awake and she smiled at us.
We looked at each other and silently praised ourselves for creating that little wonder girl.
N.B. Image courtesy google images
N.B. This story is a work of fiction