Namrata hated running in the sun. Not that, she did not hate running otherwise but having to run blocks when the sun is in it’s full glory was torment. Being in Delhi in October, running any time past seven made for torment. But what were her options when she had woken up to every inch of her head hammering. It took one glance with half open eyes at the Ballentine’s bottle, the emptied packets of chips and a white envelope on the table to recollect that she was four glasses down before she passed out on the couch. Passed out while watching Anywhere but Here and wondering if she should take a leap and be anywhere but here. Sadly, unlike Susan Sarandon she neither had a daughter to run away with nor did she mother an ambition of making it big in any given city.
The alcohol was not about the scarcity of choices in her hand but about the envelope on the table, the envelope that had been delivered that afternoon, the envelope that contained her and Pranav’s fifth anniversary gift from their parents. Two tickets to Srinagar and a tentative ten day get away in the Kashmir Valley. A get away that she had longed for, to be their honeymoon but civilian killings and consequent protests that caused unrest in the Kashmir Valley from May to September had thwarted her plans of being hitched, being in love and being in Kashmir all at the same time. She had resolved then, that they’d be in Kashmir for their fifth anniversary, hence the gift. However, as things are, a week before the fifth anniversary, she is hitched, she may be in Kashmir the next week but she is most definitely not in love.
Love is not what dwells between two individuals who live under the same roof but avoid each other under that roof, between individuals who forego sleeping together because there was a sanctity to that and their love that they dare not recall, between individuals who are together for two hours in the morning before they head out for work and occasionally two hours if they are home after work at the same time, individuals who are juggling between living separately or trying their hands at marital counselling before estrangement. She does not know what that is called but she knows that it is not called love. However their parents don’t know that, they have no hint that they are slow dancing in a burning room. There is a difference between living with what is and spelling it to another human being, let alone their parents. And now that she thinks of their jubilant faces on having sent a meaningful present for the two of them, she begins to feel even more nauseous about breaking the news of the discord. But that is a conversation for another day, right now Pranav will be waiting for her, wanting an explanation to the tickets and voicing his plan of action on the same.
As Namrata steps inside the house, she is faced with Pranav sitting cross legged on the couch, eying her with caution. Pranav is dismal at how sick she looks and considers taking her inside to make her lie in the bed for a while. But that was another time when he could reach out to her, now the best he can do is to make his words reach her and he was assessing what should he talk about first- her indiscretions with alcohol last night or not having told him about the tickets as soon as they reached her.
“I think we should talk to them about this, about us.”, he tells her emphasising on the last two words.
“You can do that, while I go to Kashmir.”, she says abruptly trying to camouflage her uncertainty. Uncertainty on her wanting to go the trip or over escaping giving an acceptance to the idea that they have truly grown apart.
Surprised at her hasty announcement, he says, ” I see, you have decided already. Mind if I ask, why do you want to go, at all?”
As she takes a huge swig of water from the bottle, she positions herself against the kitchen counter and says, “Because that envelope contains non refundable business class tickets, house boat booking and hotel booking receipts that cannot be cancelled. Because I have always wanted to go to Kashmir. Because I was thinking last night that a break would ease my head and clear my perspective.”
“But, I can’t send you alone.”, he tells her.
“You are not sending me, I am going on my own and that has nothing to do with you. It is a choice that I have made.”
“This is Kashmir that we are talking about, stop being so headstrong for a minute.”
“For heaven sake Pranav, this is not 2010 and the Kashmir of civilian unrest. People are not going to fire bullets at me on arrival. It is a tourist destination and like thousands of other tourists it will be a means of relaxation for me.”
With his palms against his face, he cannot even fathom how unreasonable can she be at times, how easily can she close herself against someone’s point of view. Disgruntled he utters, “If you are going, then I will have to go too.”
“But you can’t, this is a ten day trip and you cannot bail out of work unexpectedly for ten days straight.”
“I will see what I can do about that.”, he tells her and walks into the study closing the door behind him.
“Being hitched, being in love and being in Kashmir, what a dream that was.”, she thinks to herself.