Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blank Pages

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 28; the 28th Edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The topic for this month is 'BLANK PAGES'.

Blank Pages! He stared down at them with the unaccustomed weight of a pen in his hands wondering desolately whether he had the words to get his life back. Geeta’s face appeared, obscuring the pages, with the icy far-away look that had made him feel an outcast far more than any words could have done. Remembering the way her face, posture and tone of voice had made him feel the last time he saw her, he despaired of any chance of reconciliation with her.
At that time all he had felt was anger at the betrayal of his beliefs and had felt that her departure from his life would make little impact on him. He had not been prepared for the feeling of vacuum in his heart or for the fact that he could find no savor in all the things that he had, till then, enjoyed. His pride would still have stood in the way of approaching her for reconciliation but last week’s incident had upset all his notions.
So, here he was staring down at these blank pages trying to find the words that would bring Geeta back to him. His calls had gone unattended; his SMSes ignored and emails probably deleted unseen. His only chance now was that a letter from him would get her attention.
 * * * * * *
He could still recollect his early days after his marriage to Geeta. She was not a raving beauty but her eyes were lovely and, when she smiled, her whole face lit up with irresistible charm. She smiled often those days and was so accommodating then that he still had difficulty in reconciling to the fact that she could have become so aloof to him in the five odd years of marriage.
On their honeymoon, he had presented her with a red salwar-kameez. Her eyes had looked at him with so much affection that his heart had turned over. Then she said softly, “This is a lovely present, Ajay! My favorite color is blue, however. Would it be possible to exchange this?”
“I love red, Geeta! Blue is such an insipid color. Please get used to wearing red”, he had said. Her eyes showed hurt for a moment. Then, she had smiled brilliantly and said, “Ok!”
Even though theirs had been an arranged marriage, Geeta seemed to have so much affection for him even in the initial days that she would do anything to please him. It was not as though she was financially dependent on him considering that she was a banker as he was and they worked at almost coeval positions.
In fact, looking back, he could hardly remember her wearing blue dresses in the five years of their married life. It was still surprising to him that such an accommodating person had turned so adamantine in a short span of five years.
* * * * * *
The initial days after marriage and the process of settling into a new routine are normally turbulent especially when it comes to a working couple. He had not found it very difficult, however. They had, somehow, settled in remarkably well very soon. Now, in retrospect, it seemed to him that it was Geeta’s soft-spoken and generous nature that ensured the achievement of the equilibrium with little acrimony. He did help her around the house but, now that he saw those days with more clarity, whenever there was something disputatious it had been Geeta who had given way with grace.
Food had, however, been a problem. Neither of them was too fond of eating out and, thus, Geeta had taken over the cooking but her idea of food was too chilli-laden for his bland tastes.
“God! You are expected to add chillies to the vegetables not vegetables to the chillies”
“I’m sorry, Ajay! At my home, we eat food as hot as this.”
“You are no longer at your parents’ place, Geeta! Please make something edible for me”
It took about three months before the food became palatable to him. Till then the dining table had been a battlefield from where Geeta had invariably retreated in tears. He had soothed away her hurt in the night but it was only after she had learned to cook blandly enough that the house had turned peaceful.
* * * * * *
Life had gone on with relatively little friction for the next five years. True, there had been disputes when Geeta put her office responsibilities above their commitments to his family. Initially she, at least, used to apologize and try to give her flimsy reasons for not being able to come to his cousin’s wedding or his nephew’s first birthday. Lately she had taken to listening to his righteous anger in meek silence but did not change her ways. That was the only fly in the ointment as far as his marital life was concerned.
The bombshell when it fell was totally unexpected. Geeta had got a coveted posting in UK from her bank and came home excited about it.
“You refused the posting, didn’t you?” said he, confidently.
“Why would I?”
“How can you shift to London when I am working in Mumbai?”
“You can find a job in London, can’t you?”
“I am doing very well in this bank now and can expect to reach the top. How can I jeopardize all that? You go over tomorrow and tell your office that you cannot take up this posting.”
Geeta was silent. He was sure that she would refuse the posting the next day. It had been a long tiring day for him and he went to sleep almost immediately after.
The next day he came back from his bank and found Geeta all packed up.
“Ajay! I am moving to my parent’s place right now. I have taken up my posting and will be leaving for London within a month.”
“What?? Geeta! What do you mean?”
“Listen, Ajay! I have not been happy in this marital life of ours for quite some time now. I am not sacrificing my career merely in order to live the sort of frustrating life that I have been leading till now.”
“What do you mean not happy? I have been helping you around the house, putting up with your entire obsession with your office and giving you a decent lifestyle. What do you think anyone else would do better than me?”
Geeta flared up. “Helping me around the house? Putting up with my obsession? Nothing that the two of us did around the house was our job with you, was it? It was mine and when you did something you were magnanimously helping me out. You never stopped to think about what makes me happy, either. You never bothered to ask me how I felt about the life we were leading or what sort of lifestyle I would have wanted to lead. Don’t talk to me about how good a husband you have been to me!”
“Ha! So if you think you can find someone better than me go right ahead.” he yelled.
Never had he seen Geeta look as she did then. She gave the impression of an aloof ice sculpture and her eyes looked at him with total disdain. In a voice cold as the wind from the Arctic she said, “I have left my contacts on the table. You may require them for legal purposes. Goodbye, Ajay!” Her voice and demeanor made the parting seem final and irrevocable.
 * * * * * *
He had still not got over Geeta’s betrayal. Three months had gone by and she had been in London for the last two of them. He has thought that she would come over to him for reconciliation but she had not bothered to even inform him of her departure. Sometimes it seemed to him that she had merely been putting on an act of affection when they were still a couple. At other times, he blamed her career ambitions for getting in the way of their marital life.
What he could never understand was why she was so angry about the life that they had lead. He had never forced anything on her and she could always have done what she wanted. He had never refused to do anything that she had asked him to do though, of course, he did grumble about it as who did not? It seemed to him like she had unreasonably accused him and justified her act of putting her career above their relationship by blaming him without reason. He missed her badly, nevertheless, and was sometimes sorely tempted to call her up but his pride would not let him do so.
* * * * * *
It was a busy day at office and his boss called him in just when he was planning to call it a day.
“Listen, Ajay! You will have to stay back tonight. Remember that project loan we are processing? Apparently the client is in a hurry and our management wants it processed expeditiously. You have to make a presentation for me by tomorrow so that I can have it cleared for taking up with the credit committee.”
He was irritated. It was close to 8 PM and his boss was practically ordering him to stay without sleep that night without even the courtesy of making it a request. He swallowed his resentment, collected the details and went back to his cabin.
It was 4 AM by the time he was done with the job. He saw little reason to go back home since he would have to be back by 9 AM to hand over the fruits of his work to his boss.
While explaining the details of the presentation to his boss, he could not help yawning repeatedly.
“Sleepy so early in the morning, Ajay?” said his boss, censoriously.
“Had to stay at office all night to finish this presentation”
“That is your job, Ajay!” said his boss dismissively and returned to the work at hand.
Ajay was furious. First he had been asked to do something out of the way, sacrificing his sleep, without even the courtesy of an apology. Now that he had done it his boss was taking it totally for granted. No wonder this man was the least-liked boss in the entire bank.
For no reason his mind went back to Geeta, then. Suddenly, the reason why Geeta left him hit him like a douche of icy cold water.
* * * * * *
How could he have been so self-centered? So insensitive? So domineering? He had never thought of himself as a bad person but, suddenly, it seemed to him that he had been positively evil in his treatment of Geeta. He had always thought that he loved Geeta but, now, it seemed to him that he had not even known the meaning of love.
Geeta had loved him or, at least, tried to ensure that they lead a life of love. She had tried to make him happy at the cost of sacrificing her own likes. He, on the other hand, had not never ever bothered to even learn what she liked nor had he given any importance to the likes and dislikes that she had voluntarily expressed. Worse still, he had taken her sacrifices for granted without even a cursory acknowledgement. In effect, what he disliked in his boss was exactly what he had done to Geeta. Now, it seemed to him a wonder that she had stayed with him for as long as five years.
It was neither what he sought her to do nor what he did not do that was the problem for Geeta. He realized that now. It was his attitude. When first he had presented her the red salwar and she had expressed a preference for blue he could have said, “I love seeing you in red, Geeta! Will you please wear it for my sake” and she would have happily done so. Instead he had laid down the rule. She had been hurt but still generous enough to fall in with his wishes for all their time together and it had not even struck him as necessary to tell her how much he appreciated that.
He cringed when he thought of their initial battles about food. Why had it never struck him that if he felt difficulty eating hot food, Geeta would have equal difficulty in eating bland food? After all, your tastes are determined by what you have been brought up on and changing them would be as difficult for her as for him. Instead, he had imposed his tastes on her, derided her when she was changing over her style of cooking and had grudgingly acknowledged the change-over. Never once had he even thought about how much affection she must have had for him to put up with all that and, still, change her tastes to suit.
It seemed to him that Geeta had asked little of him but an acknowledgement of the fact that she was doing things to please him because she wanted him to be happy and not because she felt bound to do so. By refusing to even give her that acknowledgement he had made her feel like a servant instead of his wife. Now he could realize that Geeta must have felt that there was no use in discussing her career with him since he had never once bothered to consider her point of view.
She had been an essentially non-aggressive person and, subconsciously, he had equated that with weakness. Had she been truly weak she would have continued to compromise with him and lead a loveless life till the end of their days together. When she showed how strong she was by deciding to leave him, he had lashed out in surprised anger and, probably, lost her for ever.
* * * * * *
Geeta had been like a flower ready to give freely of her fragrance and he had chosen to try to crush the flower to get the fragrance. He smiled wryly. The time for poetic fancies was when Geeta had still not lost hope of a loving relationship with him. They seemed out of place now that she had frozen her emotions against him. So frozen had she become that for one week now all his attempts at communicating with her had fallen on deaf ears.
A wave of guilt rushed through him. If he had caused Geeta to become less willing to love, less willing to be generous with the people around her and frozen in her emotions; if he had indeed crushed all the fragrance out of her then that was a sin far worse than the five years of, what he now acknowledged as, misery that he had caused her to live through. It seemed more important to him, now, to apologize for his unpardonable behavior than to even try to get her back in his life.
He bent towards the blank pages – as blank as his desolate life – and started to write.
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33 comments:

  1. Amazing narration. So no humor this time? But you have done this fabulously well. Beautifully woven story. Best Luck.

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    1. Thanks DS! Yes, was trying to see if I could write without humour.

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  2. Nicely done, CS. But I feel maybe Geeta's transition was too sudden. Her decision seemed too sudden . Possibly the hero was too self centered to notice her but the reader could have been given some clue that this was coming. You have tried it, I can see. But could have come out better and smoother. I had to go and re-read to find you have attempted it.

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    1. Hi TF! The problem was that the tale was becoming too long for a blog post! It was a five year married life and I tried to let the sample incidents allow the reader to assume a repetition of many such incidents over those 5 years. Had I felt free to write about 5-6k words, I'd have written about the increasing distance over the 5 years in more detail. I did recognise the problem that you are outlining.

      The intention here was to show that Geeta probably would not have taken the plunge but for being faced with the option of stunting her career for the sake of continuing her marriage with a person, who seemed only to care for what he got out of her and had no idea of giving back anything.

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  3. Very nicely written post. Ego clashes is the major problem in working couple and you have narrated very well. I wish if you could have elaborated the agony of Geeta a little more. But overall an awesome attempt.

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    1. Hi Ruchita! I had written it only from Ajay's point of view if you see. So, the tale had to restrict itself to how Ajay saw his life and how he viewed Geeta's feelings at various points in the story.

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  4. interesting read! the minor problems in a marital life that takes a major shape has been penned down nicely! But yes, Geeta's change was a bit too sudden. but over all, a nice post!

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    1. Thanks Apala for coming by! Looks like everyone misses out on the fact that it was a shock for Ajay when it came because he was not actually seeing the problem coming over the 5 year period. And the entire tale is written based on what he understood of his life. So, yes, if it appeared sudden to you it is because it appeared sudden and shocking to him:)

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  5. Hi Suresh

    Nice attempt. Some men especially in arranged marriages tend to take everything for granted.

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    1. Quite right Jaish! An attempt is all this was:)

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  6. Now i understand why you were surprised to see my post on marital adjustments,the timing IS uncanny.As regards your post-coming from a gentleman- hats off to you..how successfully you have peeped into a woman's mind!I am glad you directed me towards it.

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    1. Thanks Indu! Coming from a bachelor, too:):)

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  7. Nice story. However Geeta's dilemma, anger etc. should have been expressed more explicitly. And that a simple act by boss opens Ajay's eyes also little dramatic - but I know such things happen in real life. When one is reflecting, such mundane events too open a door and new perspective.

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    1. Hi Aativas! Difficult to express Geeta's dilemma and anger explicitly when you are talking about how Ajay sees the issue and not as a third party explaining the situation - in the latter case you could shift to Geeta's feelings.

      Normally when you are suppressing your own guilt by justifying your actions, it is an incident that suddenly breaks through your justifications to the guilt.

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  8. CS I have a feeling that you hurried at the end.you really wanted to end this post didnt you.
    But The narration is awesome as ever ..

    """Geeta had been like a flower ready to give freely of her fragrance and he had chosen to try to ...""" ..This line could have been written better !! just my personal take.

    But again you have narrated the things to get the picturesqueness to its awesomeness

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    1. Thanks rahul! yes, the end is shorter than I wanted because blogposts which are too long do not seem to get read:)

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  9. Good read CS. the torment, the realizations and the mindset of Ajay was narrated very well. I felt that a little more background into Geeta's mind too would have made the plot ever more strong.
    but apart from that, its fine :)
    great take on this kind of fiction! a total gloom and doom one i must say :)

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    1. Hi Kirti! Thanks. The dilemma here is that if I explore Geeta's mind too well, then Ajay's realization comes as a damp squib. Wanted to put it as part of the realization but the post got too long for comfort.

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  10. I like the narration.. it had power in words.. Subtlety, and pace.. maybe it was rushed through near the end like Kirti says, but not a whole lot.. You focused on the protagonist and his repentance, rather than Geeta, which was what the story was.. Excellently done, in my opinion. Humor may be your forte, but you handled non-humor very easily too.

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    1. Hi Leo! Looks like u got exactly what I was trying to do...see the situation wholly from the pov of the male protagonist. So maybe I do manage to communicate exactly what I wanted to communicate to at least one person:):) Thanks for coming by and commenting.

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  11. you are a brilliant storyteller! amazing narration!! loved the way you analyzed their relation rationally and subtly put across your point of view. the last line was killer; too good!

    now you go trekking. once you come back, you will have few pending reads :). have fun!!

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    1. Thanks, Debs! And, yes, for once maybe I will be looking forward to the end of the trek:)

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  12. Hope the blank, desolate pages turn into messengers of his penitence and bring back Geeta!

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    1. Hi USP! If that happens, hope his penitence lasts:)

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  13. A deeply moving story...involving and poignant :-)

    I am glad Ajay realizes his fault in the end. The state of selfishness can stem from so many things...

    Arghh...a stupid human-ego messed up two loving lives...! How he stupidly turned over- possesive n vicious!*shaking my head in disgust*

    Enjoyed the neat narration,Suresh.

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    1. Thanks! As someone rightly said '..it is not a tragedy that love went but that it went in such small ways"

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  14. I usually am unable to read such long blogs...you kept me glued...nice story indeed...I like your funny side more though...

    Every relationship has these same basics. I can relate to my relationship with my friends in the same line...

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  15. This post supports the stance people sometimes take against arranged marriages. I feel, it is most definitely important for people to know the individual who they are probably going to share the rest of their life with.

    I know the plot was simple but I liked the examples you brought forth especially the boss treating him like a mop (him relating it with his personal life) and finally doing something for Her by apologizing to her. Writing would be therapeutic for him as well. But eventually how he goes from expecting a reply to not, goes to show his honest attempt at apologizing to his wife; doing something entirely for her.

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    1. Hi Richi! Thanks for the comments and more especially for catching on to that transition from intending to get his wife back to just apologising. As usual, I hv the one person who gets the point that I was aiming at communicating! Had a lot of criticism abt not hving elaborated Geeta's agony - but, for me, it is a success that so many people hv accepted the fact that she must hv suffered without my spending litres of glycerine on it:)

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  16. Awesome write Suresh, second time I am at your blog and I certainly have a great number of lovely reads thanks!! Probably being married, the situation of accepting the red chudi and fighting over career, seems SO plausible! ;)

    Cheers!!! do stop by my blog, Kappu

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    1. Hi Kappu! Thanks..just back today from my trek..shall get to your blog once I settle in.

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