Night of the untold

In case you have been reading the story I started writing last year, here is the next installment.


Pranav looks at her, smiling subtly he says, “I quit my job to come to Kashmir with you. So maybe I am still yours.”

Namrata looked at him with disbelief and prompted, “Pranav?”

He met her eyes and affirmed, “I quit my job to take this trip.”

“You can’t be serious.”, she responded.

“Why not?”, he asked her.

“You cannot quit your job that simply.”, she proclaimed.

“From my experience Nam, keeping a job is a much more tedious task than getting rid of it.”, he quirked.

“Am I supposed to find this funny?”, she asked annoyed at how we wasn’t giving her any details.

“What you should or should not find funny is solely at your discretion.”, he answered testing her patience further.

Namrata could not take another circumvented response; she held his hand and reminded, “Pranav remember you wanted us to talk a while ago. I want you to cooperate. Tell me why you quit.”

“I quit because I wanted to come here.”, he replied.

“You could have applied for a leave.”, she suggested.

Pranav chuckled at her response and spoke, “You can really underestimate my brains Nam. Of course I could have asked for a few days off; that was the first thing that occurred to me. But here’s the thing, my calendar was blocked that week and it wouldn’t have been long till it was blocked for the next two weeks also. I was sick of sugarcoating my words with Nitin to get things done. I wasn’t sure of how I should approach the situation. But I was sure that I did not want you to travel to Kashmir alone. I sat for an hour considering the means and the words to open my schedule. And I realized that I did not care much about retaining my job any longer. So I wrote down a formal resignation and handed it to Nitin.”

“And Nitin accepted it?”, she asked him.

“No, it came as a huge shock to him.”, he told her.

“I don’t blame the man; I still cannot believe my ears.”, she exclaimed.

“I remained vehement that I cannot continue working any longer. I will serve the notice period and be out of here peacefully. He tried rooting out the motivation behind the abrupt decision. After quite a lot of persuasion and negotiations we agreed that I can take a break for the 10 days following the weekend, after which I begin my 6 week notice period.”, he informed her.

“After the break, your decision to leave is subject to revocation, right?”, she confirmed.

“Yeah, he believes that I may be able to clear whatever is it that is troubling me. But, if I decide to maintain my decision even then, he will not coerce me further and make it official.”, he asserted.

“So you haven’t quit in the literal sense of the word as yet. This can all be a charade in the end to avail a ten day vacation.”, she argued.

“It could be, however I have made the choice Namrata, I am quitting my job. You may believe it or not, it was your impulsive decision to take this trip that has led me here.”, he maintained.

“Pranav, what are you going to do?”, she quizzed.

“I have to think about that.”, he responded.

“Will you take another job?”, she questioned him.

” I hope not.”, he said.

“It’s difficult to digest that you haven’t thought out the biggest decision of your life. Where are the plans, the trajectories, the risk analysis, and the charts plotting the returns? The man I married was the man with the blueprint.”, she asked him bewildered.

He smiled at her and said, “I have none this time Namrata. Remember that episode from FRIENDS, where Rachel keeps on complaining about working as a waitress and Chandler suggests that unless she quits her waitress job she will never be able to muster the drive to pursue a career in fashion. I thought of that episode and as erratic as the advice seemed prima facie, it works for Rachel. I acted on that advice.”

“Pranav, FRIENDS was a show, written by people like you and me. They found the premise of a character following her passion promising. So they made it work, deliberately.”, she reasoned with him.

“I understand the deliberation there Namrata. But, if you think about it, it does make sense. In order to do what you yearn for, you cannot continue to be complacent. I cannot even recall why I started working in the first place but I know why I kept working. Because I got accustomed to a certain lifestyle, a certain sense of comfort that I was to scared to lose. But now I want to do something that satisfies me, something that I believe in. And I cannot do that with luxuries and the restraints of my job.”, he explained to her.

“What do you believe in Pranav?”, she asked him.

“This trip, to begin with.”, he replied.

“You mean us.”, she confirmed.

“I mean you and your decision to come. I believed in it.”, he replied.

“What if this doesn’t work out like last time?”, she cross questioned.

“I did not try last time Namrata.”, he responded.

“And you’re confident that you will try this time?”, she inquired.

“I have no other options.”, he told her

Nmarata looked at the sky, she shut her eyes and after a brief consideration, she spoke, “Now that I see us making some progress, I have something to tell you.”

“Let me guess, that your Sherlock brain had long ago deduced that something’s wrong at work because I have not been getting any calls or mails.”, he said in an attempt to out wit her.

“Yes, of course I knew something’s fishy; also I have been seeing a shrink.”, she answered in a self assured tone.

Pranav could not understand if he heard the last bit correctly, so he asked, “What?”

“I have been going to a therapist for almost a year now.”, she replied.

“Wow, do we even know each other anymore.”, Pranav exclaimed.

“Going by this conversation, I think not.”, she chirped in.

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This is the 14th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

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Lessons

“Why did it have to rain today?”, quizzed Namrata.

“I wish I had an answer to that.”, replied Pranav as he flipped the pages of the menu,

“Why does it always rain at the wrong time?”, Namrata wondered.

“Maybe because rains have not stumbled upon the concept of time.”, Pranav told her cheekily.

“Why do my plans get soiled every time?”, she asked him.

“Excuse me, my plans?”, he remarked.

“Okay our plans, why do our plans get soiled every time?”, she corrected herself.

“Isn’t that a question that the Dark Lord should have asked the death eaters?”, added Pranav.

“Can we not do anything?”, she asked him.

“You, for one, can stop fidgeting.”, he suggested.

“Fidgeting, you call this fidgeting. This is a normal human reaction to a problem.”, she replied infuriated.

“Ah, how can I forget your penchant for ‘normal human reactions’.”, he said recalling her restlessness at the airport when their flight was delayed.

“Never miss a chance to take a dig at me, do you.”, she pointed out.

“Try my best not to.”, he affirmed.

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“Why haven’t we ordered already?”, she questioned trying to divert his attention from her.

“Because apparently you have better things to think about than food.”, he answered. Looking at the crimson in her cheeks building up, he decided not to test her fury any further and asked, “What do you want to have?”

“Momos”, she answered.

Shaking his head in denial, he told her, “I will choose to ignore that.”

Shaking her head back at him, she told him firmly, “Seriously, we cannot come to Leh and not eat momos. That is a crime.”

“You know I don’t like momos, unless they are fried and fried momos aren’t on the menu.”; he tried reasoning with her.

“My bad, I had forgotten about Punjabis and their penchant for fried food.”, she said playfully.

“Fine, we will order momos.”, he said before she could play another joke on his North Indian attributes.

“And?”, she asked him.

“Thukpa? I think we should try Thukpa; both of us can use some warmth.”, he replied.

She smiled at him and said, “Getting strong at your puns Pranav, but I am ‘not’ impressed.”

He smiled back at her and pointed out, “But, when have you been?”

“Never, really.”, she added.

“Let’s add crispy noodles and spring rolls to that.”, he suggested.

“How can I say no to that, ever?”, she remarked.

“Never, really.”, he added further.

 

She shifted her attention to the downpour again and said, “Imagine, had it not been raining we could have been in Booklover’s Retreat sipping onto a warm cup of latte and reading.”

With a hint of surprise in his eyes, he asked her, “Is that it Namrata? That is what you want to do in Leh, be in a book store that doubles up as a cafe. We could have gone to Cha Bar in Connaught Place instead, would’ve saved our parents a lot of money and us a lot of time.”

“Being in a book cafe in Leh counts as an important experience.”, she said in her defense.

He could not believe that she was worried about not being in a book cafe right now and she was defending herself on this. He then said, “There are a number of other cafe experiences that Leh has to offer. Right at this time, we could have been scoring some chocolate momos and sipping onto jungli chai in Bon Apetit as the day changed its colors, we could have been in Gesmos gorging onto Yak Cheese Pizzas because you do not get Yak Cheese any place else in this country, we could have been in the Apple Garden Restaurant and eat amidst an apple orchard because it is not everyday that we get to be in an orchard, we could have been in Old Leh walking our way to Lala’s Cafe where coffee and cake comes with a history lesson, we could have been in the German Bakery and eating possibly the most delectable apple crumble. So you see, it is not always experiences with books that are the ones to look out for.”

Namata could not comprehend if he was trying to lift her spirits up or subdue them further by apprising her of the many things that they could have been doing presently. She woefully added, “And now I feel worse, for missing out on everything that this place has to offer and dining in the hotel because it had to rain on this vacation.”

“Dining in the hotel does not take away from the fact that we are still in Leh which is perched at an altitude of 11,000 feet; the restaurant we are sitting in offers a fairly good view of marvel that this place is and if you could just relax and open your eyes to what are we surrounded with, this might come across as an experience to you.”, he tried explaining to her.

Namrata did not argue further, rather she was smiling. He asked her, “Why are you smiling now?”

“I was wondering that I have always been this impatient -which evidently is quite irksome to you-then how is it that you fell in love with me, at all?”, she quizzed him.

“You weren’t this impatient.”, he answered not sure of himself.

“Dates back to my childhood, I believe, impatience is thy second name.”, she told him funnily.

“Haha, I don’t know about impatience but it isn’t every day that you are this good on self assessment.”, he joked.

“Tell me Pranav, did my restlessness not bother you then?”, she questioned him seriously.

“I always managed to talk you out of it or redeem for a cancelled plan.”, he answered.

“How?”, she asked.

“Do you remember your convocation?”, he asked her.

“Ah, you missed it.”, she recalled.

“It was a long day at work, I could not bail out early. I missed the convocation and also the grad dinner date I had promised you.” he explained.

“I was infuriated.”, she exclaimed.

“You weren’t taking my call., he reminded her.

“Call? I had resolved to not look in your direction again.” she told him.

Pranav added, “So at around midnight, I came to your friend’s apartment with a cold pizza, a britannia cake and a bottle of coke to make good on the grad dinner promise and to make you reconsider your decision of never looking at me again.”

“The minute you started talking, my rage began to dispel and we ultimately ended up having a date in the parking lot.”, she confessed to him.

“That was a good date.”, he remarked.

“That was an amazing date. Come to think of it, we made a cute couple back then.”, she admitted wistfully.

“Come to think of it, ‘our love back then’ sounds so ancient.” he admitted with a sense of hurt in his voice.

“Sometimes the answers lie in ancient tales.”, she said purposefully.

“What are you talking about?”, he inquired.

“Maybe, we should talk.”, she suggested.

“Talk about what?”, he asked further.

“Everything that’s going on with us.”, she answered.

“You think that will help in dispelling our rage?”, he inquired.

“If not, relationship reconciliation talks in Leh sounds like an experience in itself.”, she responded chuckling.


This is the 12th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.


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Karaoke and Kinesis

Chand si mehbooba ho meri kab

Aisa maine socha tha

Hann tum bilkul waisi ho

Jaise maine socha tha

He sang to me as I scooted inside the gates of The Grand Dragon, Leh. His lips inching closer to my helmet clad face, his breath lingering on  my neck, his grasp slightly firm on my waist and his voice solemn, more solemn than with any other song that he had sang earlier. His eyes sincere as they met mine and his embrace reeked affection as he held me in his arms and shrieked gaily, “Yayyyy, we made it alive.” And then he withdrew, and then he was at the reception and then inside their room tossing his shoes in the air and then he slept. And she simply looked on, replaying the moment, the last song in her head.

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Many many moons ago, Pranav had perched himself on the balcony of their honeymoon suite and sang for me this song. He had taken me in his arms and said, “I know this is not Kashmir but I promise that a day will come when you will have your dream. Perched atop a hill, I will nestle you closer and sing to you this song.”I had laughed then, arguing that my dream is not a five minute sequence from a Yash Raj movie. He had countered me, “If not yours, then this is mine, both a dream and a promise to you.”

It was his idea that we sing songs to keep ourselves engaged in the journey and so w had. He had sung a lot of old romantic songs, particularly Mukesh‘s because he was such an oldie with music. No tadak bhadak, just raw emotions and melody. I was enjoying the choices he was making with the songs. Because they were beautiful songs and beautiful songs are meant to be relished with every lyric. But never during those four hours, had an emotion stirred in my heart because at the end of the day, they were mere words strung together for recreation. Until he sung the last one and a box in the back of my mind flipped open, the memory resurfaced and a riddle took siege on me. Was it simply a song or was it a message that he was hoping to deliver in the guise of a song?

When they were getting to know each other better, Pranav would often remark what a nightmare must it be to born with my brain. The kind of brain that is always looking out for symbols. Every time I would over analyse a fact, a gesture an occurrence, he would chastise me saying that not everything is a code for you to decrypt, some things can be taken at face value. But I would make a mental assertion that maybe it is a code after all, a jigsaw puzzle to be brought to order. How ironic is it, that today he had played on what he once deemed nightmarish to earn a second lease on our marriage. That after all, I had left no doors for him to reach to me but through a code. Talk about friction, someone.

What if it was only was a song, an innocent song that was being read into excessively. Among the many things that we have both forgotten over time, the promise could have been one. When we had begun on the path of estrangement, he would tell me in the middle of arguments that my knack of reading between lines has deluded me into misjudging his actions and him; that it is this that will cost us our relationship. Come to think of it now, if it is that, what comes as natural as a reflex to me, then it is his words that hold veracity in the end. And this night has been nothing short of being a futile exercise in the hope of holding onto a relationship that I have rendered dysfunctional.

When did my life come to sound like Clouds in my Coffee? Deep poetic words ought to be liked on pages not begin to parallel your life. If only, I could stop thinking of this song, that would ease the muddling in my head. Once I had read on Quora, that the trick to stop singing a song was to think of how it ends. But before I can reach the end, I get stuck on,

Iss duniya mein kaun tha aisa

Jaisa maine socha tha

Haan tum bilkul waisi ho

Jaisa maine socha tha

 


This is the 11th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ Challenge. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

 

Going Places

There was a point in the morning, as they drove past the Achabal, when she heaved at the sight of the magnificent gardens before her. It was the kind of sight that you take a picture of and post it on your Instagram with the caption, ‘Spring is right outside the (car) window!’. She wanted to turn and nudge Pranav and say, ‘See, see, this is what I wanted to come to Kashmir for, to sit and let nature surprise me’ but passed.

They were driving uphill on a steep road, a road that arched every turn, and arches that blindside as you turned into them. This was the kind of drive that gives  Pranav the goosebumps and accelerates his heart beat. From the corner of her eyes, Namrata could see his subdued gasps and his fist tightening against the handle on the door every time they took a blind turn. She had an instinct to reach out to him so that he could tighten his hold on her palm and talk to him to ward off his attention from the road. But she passed on that instinct.

As much as Namrata enjoyed the drive, she was confused as to where they were headed. This could not be Gulmarg because Gulmarg meant green meadows, snow and a chill in the weather and all she could see ahead of her were green meadows but no snow and no chill. This could not be Pahalgam because Pahalgam should mean people and all she could see ahead for company was a dense tree cover. She wanted to ask him, where were they going to but she passed on that instinct.

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She is sitting edged against a tree, her legs laid straight, her feet washing off in the spring, her eyes set on the sunset, her camera lying idle on her side. It is the kind of sunset that you photograph and caption on Instagram, ‘Sunsets show us that endings can be beautiful too’. But her mind is too befuddled to focus the lens on the sunset with clarity. She thinks that if Pranav and she are approaching their end, then this trip marks the beautiful climax to their story. So, after all endings can be beautiful too. But if they are ending she does not want to end with spite, which is ironic because it is the spite that has consumed them. She laughs a mental wry laugh on the trail of her thoughts. They are in Daksum, she has walked far from the bungalow they are putting up in, she has an instinct to make him sit next to her and talk to him so that she can restore clarity in her brain. She wants to cry first and then she wants to talk and before anything else she wants to apologize to him for yesterday and for other days when she is just being a bitch to him.She will pass on this instinct as well and simply sit here and cry.

Before she could do that she hears Pranav say, “Show me how have the pictures come.” He sits down next to her and reaches out for the camera.

She tells him, “I haven’t taken any today.”

He asks her, “Why is that?”

She replies, “Because there are other things I want to do first.”

He asks her, “What would those things be?”

She says, “I am sorry for over reacting last night. I am sorry for having misled your parents. I am sorry for worsening our situation. I am sorry for being the judgmental bitch on most days.”

Taken by a surprise, he replies, “I am sorry for putting you in the difficult spot with them”

“It’s not your fault, I had voluntarily sought a relationship with them and made them believe that it was all love between the two of us. I feel so relieved to finally talk to you about this.”, she answers him.

“If I only I could have walked up to you earlier, you would have been relieved just in time to capture the sunset. You know what, I miss being your knight in the shining armor.”, he remarks.

“Haha, were you, ever?”, she asks him with a raised eyebrow.

“But you still are. You know what else have I been relieved about, you coming for the trip with me. I would have been clueless how to go about this vacation without you.”, she then confesses solemnly.

“I miss planning things for you.”, he utters longingly.

“Do you, really?”, she inquires.

“Yeah, more than you can imagine. I miss doing things with you. I miss coming home to take you on a surprise long drive. I miss doing the lamps with you on Diwali. I miss listening to you talk about the book you are reading or the TV show you are watching. I miss coming back home in the morning and bringing coffee for you in the bed to make it up to you. I miss going for a movie every Sunday morning.Why did we stop going for the movies together?”, he questions her.

“Because you missed out on three consecutive Sundays and on the fourth one when you told me that Before Midnight sounds cliche to you, I took the liberty of going alone. Somewhere, in between the movie I resolved I will never ask you to come along and you never told me that you wanted to.”, she responds.

“I miss being able to sit next to you and talk. I miss how we could bare our souls to each other without having to worry about our words being lost in transit.”, he expresses in a dispirited voice.

“I miss drinking with you. I miss how you monitored the number of glasses I take and how you  would scold me the next morning on my indiscretions with it.”, she reminisces.

“God, you drink like a sixteen year old.”, he teases her.

“God, I can see the reproachful maternal instincts resurface in you.”, she retorts.

“I don’t know about the rest of the things, but this, we can do again.”, he told her producing a bottle of Old Monk from his bag., he announces to her.

“Rum”, she moaned in a glum tone, “Who brings rum for this exotic a vacation.”

“You better be quiet, you don’t have the stomach for whiskey and functional taste buds to appreciate wine. Besides this rhymes with your name, Rum for Nam.”, he playfully remarks.

“Haha, I miss when you had wits functional enough to make a laughable joke.”, she says taking a jeer at him.

“Fine, if you don’t enjoy my sense of humor, then I will not impose my company on you. I will find another spot for myself.”, he mumbles moodily.

“Now who is throwing a tantrum like a sixteen year old. Take the glasses out you idiot, it is only this much of your whim and wit that I can take without alcohol. Also don’t act like you haven’t brought glasses with the rum. Your planning would have made space even for two packets of chips, roasted peanuts and bars of Toblerone.”, she tells him authoritatively.

“Ms Know it All.”, he calls out to her.

With an expression that resembles a pouting five year old Namrata sticks out her tongue to him and so does he. They laugh and she pours Rum in two glasses.

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Holding on to his glass, he tells her, “I miss being a kid with you Nam.”

She meets his eyes, smiles an effusive smile that she had long put behind her and says, “I miss you calling me Nam, with love.”


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Fault Lines

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“Why did you have to sound so cheerful on the phone?”, Pranav asked Namrata as she shut the laptop after having talked to his parents over Skype.

“How else did you want me to sound like?”, she questioned back.

“Namrata, those were my parents you were talking to, why would you paint a false picture in their heads about us. In few days we have to tell them that maybe we don’t see a future together.”, he stated to her.

“In case you haven’t noticed, we are on a trip together for our fifth anniversary that they have partly sponsored. How disappointed would they be had I not sounded thrilled.”, she explained to him.

“The problem with you is that every time you talk to them, you filter out the disappointing bits, the sadness that has crept into our lives. In a way, you have worsened it for both of us, because when the time comes, they would question the disparity between what you have led them to believe and what reality is.”, he told her.

“How convenient is it for you to pin the blame on me every time. They are your parents, if trouble is brewing between us, you should be the one talking to them about it. But for that, you will have to make time for talking to them, at all. The sole reason that you have parents to talk to or count upon is because I have sustained a relationship with them for the past five years.”, she retorted back.

“Here we go again, 101 on how great Namrata is. Did I ever ask you to be in touch with them or implicitly expect you to do so or impose it on you. No, it was your own choice to build that relationship. They are my parents, they know me, they know that I would never commit to something which I cannot hold up to in the lung run. They have made peace with the limited touch I have sustained with them.”, he countered her.

“You ‘think’ that they have made peace with it. This is your side of the story. But have you tried learning their side of the story. No, because for that you will have to sit down and have a conversation with them, like an adult.”, she responded.

“Look who is so high on the significance of communicating, somebody who decided to take a 10 day trip to Kashmir so as to avoid the possibility of facing her parents and apprising them with the reality of her marriage. I may not come across as an adult to you but at least I am not an escapist.”, he hurled back at her.

“I have told you earlier, the only reason that I decided to come to Kashmir was that I needed a break, I needed a chance to ease my head and because I have always wanted to come here.“, she reasoned with him.

“Ease your head, my foot. I saw how relaxed you were on the airport when the flight was delayed, I saw how eased you were when you did nothing that entire day but sulk till you fell asleep.”,  he retaliated.

“You were itching to rub it into my face, right, itching to voice your disapproval over my impatience and anger. But why did you hold it in for so long, why put up a facade of courtesy with the food and books on the airport and the flowers this morning. “, she answered feeling gutted.

“Does all of this look like a facade to you? I have bent tens of schedules to make it to this trip with you,  so that you do not have to do this solo.”, he replied in a tone of agitation.

“I did not demand that out of you. Just like being kind to your parents was my choice, this was yours. I have longed for to be here and I would have managed well on my own.”, she snapped at him.

“You must have longed to be here however you have no idea how to go about this vacation, you have no plans, no idea to define what was it that you had desired to come to Kashmir for. Had I not been here, your trip would have been come to Srinagar and chill in the hotel, go to Pahalgam and chill in the hotel, go to any fucking place and chill in the hotel. But anything that I do for you is inconsequential, anything that I bring to the table is worthless because Namrata can manage everything alone.”, he told her, voicing his frustration.

“I don’t know about everything but this element of unrest in our lives, this hostility, I could not have managed on my own. Thank you Pranav, thank you so much for introducing spite in my life and for managing to infiltrate this vacation with bitterness as well. Here’s to a delightful vacation.”, she said drawing the argument to a close.

Pranav picked up his cross body bag from the dresser and walked out the door.

“Where are you going now? Have my words left no choice for you but to abandon me?”, she called out to him.

“You know what the problem is Nam, the problem is that you count every action of mine as an attack towards you. But sometimes, I do things for my own satisfaction and not to mete out pain on you.”, he replied with a tone of exasperation.

She sinks deeper into the couch and sighs, “The problem is how petty have you come to think of me!”.

Pranav was seated in the balcony of tea lounge. His sketch book laid out on the table, the page bare, the pencils placed diagonally on top and his vision directed to the lake. He had decided to sketch again, to sketch the Dal and that evening all he wanted was to tell Nam about it and listen to her say, “That is amazing Pranav” and watch excitement (if only, a small fraction of the former self) for him resurface in her eyes.

He recalled a story called ‘The Adventure‘ in his class 11 English Textbook, in which a man Gangadharpant is knocked into a reality where India and Pakistan remain undivided. On perusal of history, he comes to know that the alternate course of events is triggered because the Marathas defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat. The defeat helped Marathas strengthen their hold on India, following which the Britishers were forced to suspend their plans to colonize the country and were reduced to the position of trade allies. The story introduced the concept that there can be many manifestations of reality. Because we witness a certain reality, we cannot rule out the possibility of other parallel realities that exist at the same time.

Pranav began analyzing the chance of a present where they were both still in love, far withdrawn from the discord that had come to define their relationship. The riddle was to identify their Third Battle of Panipat, the point of inflection, after which their marriage transformed into a disaster.

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Read the previous chapters here:

  1. Anniversary and Kashmir; maybe, maybe not
  2. Between boarding, books and bickering
  3. Contrast
  4. Daybreak and doubts
  5. Envy

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Forced Nomadism

Daily Prompt: There’s No Place Like Home.
If you had the opportunity to live a nomadic life, traveling from place to place, would you do it? Do you need a home base? What makes a place “home” to you?

Seven years ago, when Tamanna and Samar took the nuptial vows, their families could not stop swooning, “Bilkul Ram-Seeta ki jodi hai.” (It’s a match like that of Lord Ram and Seeta). Back then she did not even have a hazy idea that it was a premonition of an exile like that of Ram and Seeta , the only difference being, their’s was a 14 year-long exile while her will last for life (at least till Samar retires from army).

At 24, working as a financial analyst in American Express she believed that she has a sovereign control over her life, a belief which was completely shaken when her parents first proposed the idea of marriage. Her relentless protests could not prolong the affair for more than a year because what the Indian society completely condemns is the idea of a woman who prioritizes her ambition over marriage. She had no apprehensions to an arranged marriage, because apart from two college affairs she had never been in love and waiting for true love seemed odd and would have caused her parents disdain beyond any measure. Through a family friend, she was introduced to Major Samar Khanna who was roughly 30 around that time, who met her criteria of an ideal guy (handsome, brave, witty and open-minded) and her family’s as well (hailing from a family with a repute and financial backing).

Six months after their marriage, he was stationed to Dalhousie. Over the past six months she had subtly dropped hints for him that she had no intent of uprooting her life in Delhi and moving on with him, for two reasons. Hers was too lucrative a job to let go off immediately and she liked stability. She knew she was being selfish, but if she could leave her family for this marriage, mold her choices to match his, for the smallest of things like choosing  a side of bed, then she thought she had earned this act of whim. But when the doomsday arrived, there was not a single person who tried not to reason with her; tell her that it was an act of escapism and that she has no right to forego her marital responsibilities. Reluctantly, she moved on to Dalhousie. After a year it was Mhow, then Ambala and then it was Chandimandir.

When she had newly assumed the role of a homemaker, she found thrill in trying out new cuisines, socializing and adorning her abode. But after a while, engaging in these activities seemed a pointless exercise, because the realization struck that there will be always another house, new set of helpers, new set of friends and newer environs. Samar always had his hands full and he could not tend to her petty problems. Whether it was her hatred for travel or the inconvenience of packing and unpacking or her contempt for the (un)voluntary altruism she had to commit to, to help him move up in ranks, he simply had a single answer, “This is what you chose for yourself by marrying me.”

Sometimes, when she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees a vagabond; leading a life with a ‘shelf life’.  Her deep discontent made her decide that she does not want to have children.

“We are always on the go, moving in these alien terrains, unaware of what life has in store for us. And with children, there are pertinent issues like education and health/hygiene.” she explained to Samar, one night in bed and though unwilling at first, he agreed.

But she is sure, that with her biological clock ticking and his grudges reflecting with a newer clarity each day, she knows that will have to give up on this resolution as well, like each one that she had taken for her life.

They say, that there is no place better than home, but ironically she cannot even enlist one place as home.