She went into the shower and closed the door. She undressed herself completely and stood under the shower, in her own skin. She looked at her own body. She was just like everyone else unlike her own life that seemed so different. The warm water fell on her skin and she closed her eyes. She pressed them hard as if to escape reality. Tears started flowing down her cheeks. She wanted to scream out loud but she put her hand in her mouth, bit it hard and tried to suppress the scream that wanted to escape her lungs . It did not help. She folded her fingers and then hit it hard on her chest just where her heart was! It pained,but not enough. So she hit it again and again till the skin turned to a slight purple color due to the impact of the pressure. She embraced herself with both her hands and sat down in the bath tub filled with water. She tried slipping herself into the water and to never come up to the surface. As she went down the water, she could not breathe and within a few minutes, she frantically came up the water level. Her heart was pounding faster and she gasped for breath. She came up from the water and sat there motionless, replaying the thoughts that passed her mind like a whirlwind.
Rajiv was tough to love. In an arrange marriage love always takes a backseat and sometimes things move on with the lack of it as well. They had a rough start. Rajiv was about four years older to her , yet most of the time she was the one to show maturity at almost all phases of their married life. They say , women mature faster than men and it is always wise to settle down with a man who has a few more years of experience so that the understanding is balanced. But in her case, she had somehow always dated men younger than her and reasons were never known to her. She had not experienced anything of that sort. But marriage as they say is a responsibility and everyone wants to do it right! Just that no one knows what is to be right in it ! Hence , she had decided, when it came to settling down , she would just do what others with a stable life suggest . She chose the man with a decent job, highly educated and after few conversations found him to have even modern view points towards life. He was elder to her and hence, she thought at least now she can have a decent second half of her life. Little did she know that fate had something else planned for her.
Rajiv and his family agreed to the alliance. Everything went on as planned and the newly weds entered a new phase of life , excited in their own way to experience something that almost all wait for , some with anticipation, some with fear and some with anxiety ! Almost all wait to find a partner so that life does not always seem lonely, so that there is someone to share your failures along with successes, so that there is someone to shoulder the responsibilities that comes in life. Well life as we all know it happens when you are least prepared for it!
And that is what happened with Nilu and Rajiv. They had everything in place but the one thing that was missing was the chemistry between them! Sex was just a physical activity and post which both of them kind of avoided each other rather than having the feeling of belonging to each other ! They both tried hard to do everything but nothing seemed to help. Rajiv just could not find Nilu attractive enough to evoke any emotions within him. Yes she was a dutiful wife but as if lacked a lot of thing that Rajiv just could not figure out. Nilu found Rajiv to be someone without feelings of his own let alone handle her emotions. They both felt suffocated yet tried their best to honour the bond between them.
An unplanned pregnancy had made things all the more complicated and the premature birth of their son had as if unfolded a Pandora’s box for the young parents. Parenting does not come with a manual and every parent struggles to do their bit . Rajiv and Nilu had their difficult phase too. Nilu took a lot of time to recover from her caesarian operation and that is when she discovered the soft side of Rajiv when he took care of their baby along with her. This is the phase when they both actually started bonding. The pain and the difficulties made them come closer and actually feel for each other , a phase that was not exciting but a monotonous phase filled with a lot of tasks that needed their attention but also helped them bridge their distances, a phase that made them see each other beyond their physical existences. Rajiv had been protective of Nilu and attended to her post partum depression like a true friend while also taking care of the baby. Nilu who had never imagined that her husband will display such emotional support fell in love with her husband for the very first time. Slowly, the friction was easing out and Rajiv as if had been gradually felt hooked to Nilu and her simplicity. With each passing day, Nilu even with her stretch marks on her stomach seemed more beautiful to Rajiv ! He fell for her too. Life seemed to be filled with all blessings and there could not have been any area of complain for the love birds who had started to understand each other eventually. Each day even with its mundane chores seemed meaningful when they both spent time with each other.
Life seemed to be on track until the sudden paralysis attack that Rajiv suffered and he lost his complete mobility. A star employee, a brilliant mind , a sports freak , Rajiv suddenly became depended on a wheel chair and it was Nilu’s fate to handle this tragic turn of life. Doctors could only say that Rajiv had an hyperactive mind and took immense stress to be successful in his corporate career. He was one of the youngest to be included in the board of directors. Sometimes when one chases life very hard, life runs out faster from them. Rajiv was now the victim of his over ambitious and workaholic bent of mind!
It was Nilu’s turn now. Fragile she might look, but she faced this situation with all her might. Being a man, Rajiv felt belittled that he turned bitter day by day. More than his pain, he suffered seeing Nilu slowly reducing her spirit to the grind of raising a kid and taking care of her ailing husband. The in- laws helped a lot but a family sometimes needs just its members to feel bonded and grow strong . That was lacking majorly in their small world.
Fifteen years had passed by now. Their Son Avi, was now studying in a different city and Rajiv with all his bitterness had been alive only because of Nilu’s dedication. In the moments of deep darkness , he had urged Nilu to let him go, but Nilu had always held him back. With progress in time, Rajiv’s medication had been costlier and it was becoming difficult to handle the expenses. Nilu had become a robot where she hustled between two jobs for money and also took care of Rajiv.
Nilu stood up from the bath tub and wrapped the bath robe around her . She had to take care of so many things now. She remembered the last night that she spent with Rajiv. Well one becomes a patient when you take care of a patient and so was Nilu for many years now. A highly sensitive and emotional woman had become completely empty within. Lack of a normal life had taken a toll and she was only functioning mechanically. But yesterday, Rajiv was different. He wanted her and his eyes said everything. After a long gap , she felt her heart beat a skip. She lay her head on his chest, held him tightly imagining Rajiv to hold her back as well. She kissed him on his lips passionately and Rajiv kissed her back with tears flowing from his eyes. He had been a bully to Nilu hoping that she would give up but she would not budge and kept tending to his needs with care. However, yesterday Rajiv said everything through his eyes which he could not say with words to Nilu. His agony, his helplessness, his body that had caged him beyond description was conveyed in his gaze towards Nilu. And Nilu understood it all without a single word exchanged. She had held on his hand and pressed it hard on her chest as a sign of acknowledgement.
Today morning she had woken up early. She wore the saree, a gorgeous lavender saree with golden Zari border ,that Rajiv had gifted her the first time they had gone shopping together after marriage! She looked exquisite with her make up on and Rajiv looked at her as if he was seeing his bride on his wedding night. She went into the kitchen and prepared Rajiv’s special Kheer with Khoya in it. She had crushed the tiny pill and mixed it too. The house was filled with a lovely aroma. She had prepared an elaborate lunch and Rajiv ate every morsel on his plate with a smile and a hint of satisfaction on his face. At last he took his dessert, and smiled at Nilu. Nilu had never seen that kind of expression on Rajiv’s face ! There was pain, trauma, fear, relief mixed with happiness and it was elusive. He demanded a tight hug from Nilu. And then without any delay he ate it all. Nilu stood there frozen, seeing him eat it . Her body did not move even if she wished to. She saw it all , infront of her. Rajiv closed his eyes and rested his head on the back of the chair. A tear escaped the corner of the eye. At last he was successful in his endeavor from getting what he wanted from Nilu. A final release from all shackles that held back his spirit. Nilu felt a part of her own body leave her and disappear in thin air. It was difficult to breathe for her at that moment. She felt Rajiv was lucky to at least get what he wanted. A long, eerie silence soon filled the room !
Nilu , came out of the bathroom ! Then she stood in front of the mirror looking at herself. She could as if see a faint image of Rajiv smiling at her. She stood there wondering how to handle the immediate situation and face life now . She had to survive no matter what, not for herself but for just Avi, her son now!