Friday, April 4, 2014

THE WOMAN IN THE TRAIN – PART 2

THE WOMAN IN THE TRAIN – PART 2
WE WENT FOR DINNER

The Saturday came; I and my wife went over to her place for dinner. She welcomed us with a warm smile and led us in to the living room. As we sat down she switched off the television and settled down on the sofa facing us.

She said “I am so glad you could make it. It is rarely I have guests. You see I am not much of a socialite. Shall I get you some fresh lime or orange juice to drink?”

“Don’t bother”, I said “a glass of water will do for me.” My wife settled for fresh lime juice. A lady in her fifties brought the glass of water and two glasses of fresh lime juice.

“Oh, she is my house maid and stays here. You know she has been with me for the last ten years and is practically a member of the family.”

“You are the marketing head in your company, how come you say that you are not much of a socialite, I guess your job would require you to be one?” I asked.

“I don’t mix my professional and personal life. It is very rare I call people home. Somehow I felt comfortable talking to you and realised that we do share similar views on a number of things. Moreover you appeared as someone who has the capacity to accept and understand other’s opinions. Now when I see both of you sitting here in front of me completely at ease with each other I feel happy.”

The apartment was fairly large with three bedrooms and very tastefully done up, but what caught my attention was the large bookshelf in the living room stacked with books and as I got up to have a look at them, she said “That’s my wealth.” Her interests varied from classical literature and art to philosophy and religion. Similar interests! I thought.

“My wife doesn’t speak much and I may do it a bit too much and that I guess balances it out. She is a good listener though and sometimes keeps me in check when required. It has worked out fine.” I said.

She laughed “That’s lovely, a perfect relationship, it doesn’t happen much nowadays. How long have you been married?”

“Thirty seven years” I said.

“Oh, that’s only two years less than my age.”

And that’s how I guessed her age. She was thirty nine but did appear a bit younger though there were streaks of greying hair on her head which  only served to enhance her personality; a mature and confident woman.

“Your son, you said is studying in Bangalore. How old is he?”

“He is fourteen years old and is in tenth standard. You see I have been in Chennai only for the last one year. Earlier I was in Bangalore. When I moved I let him continue his studies there especially as the next three years will be very important to him. He stays there with my parents now and I go there at least twice a month to be with him.”

“It must be really tough staying away when he is in the crucial years of his schooling?”

“Yes it is, but there is no option. I have confidence in his ability to cope up as that is how I have brought him up. Ultimately he will choose what he wants to be, I can only be a counsellor. Anyway he gets along fine with my parents and they dote on him.”

“It must have been really difficult being a single parent. From what you have told me you separated from your husband when your son was only two years old. How did you manage?”

“It was not really that bad for I had my parents who were a great support. Anyway it was much better than continue in a loveless marriage. You see I was married off early when I was twenty three years old. It was an arranged marriage and my ex-husband’s family was known to my parents. He was four years older than me and had settled down in a good job. I had just completed my graduation in engineering and secured a placement with one of the top multinational companies during the campus recruitment. I had always been good in studies.”

“What went wrong?” I asked.

“Initially it was ok. Like me he was also the only child of his parents. My son was born two years later when I was twenty five and to cut the story short we divorced when I was twenty seven. So you see it adds up. It’s been twelve years now. I have sat down many times to put together the pieces and try to understand what had happened. A marriage works out only when each partner is able to understand the emotional and physical needs of the other. This was lacking in our marriage and escalated after the birth of the child. I have been brought up to believe that for any relationship to thrive there has to be a sharing of responsibilities. This never happened. It was always me who had to take care of things. After a time this becomes frustrating when you are ordered around. We were always on a different plane mentally. Once in a while we had our arguments but the disconnect was evident. It only increased as time passed on. The last argument did it. He wanted me to leave my job spend full time looking after the house and his parents. It was not as if I was not taking care of them. He never wanted to acknowledge the fact that I was also a single child of my parents and had my own responsibilities. I was not ready to surrender my economic independence. His parents were never really helpful. It was once again the same old belief that the wife is the property of the husband. I knew that this could never work out, so I decided that parting ways was the best option, after all I knew that I could take care of my self, my son and my parents.”

I was quite for sometime and then asked “How bitter was the parting?”

“Initially yes, I went back to my parents place with my son. The divorce came through a year later and I officially got custody of my son. I should acknowledge that this was fast because there was not much of an opposition from his end. He was not really prepared to take on the responsibility of a parent. To be frank at the end of it all I felt a huge burden lifted of my mind. My parents have always been supportive though initially they were a bit disturbed at the turn of events.”

“So how do you look at what is ahead of you? Your son will in a matter of years become independent and chart out his own life and your parents are getting on in years.” I asked her.

“I am awake to that reality. One thing I am very definite about is that I shall not come in the way of my son enjoying his own space and charting out his life. Too many parents have come in the way of their children to the extent of strangulating them in their growth as individuals. I have seen this happening from close quarters, I am sure you know what I mean. As for my parents I will always be there to take care of them till their end. I have the strength and the resources to do that.”

“But don’t you feel lonely at times?”

“Sometimes yes, but that has happened over the last one year ever since I started staying away from my son. But these are only fleeting moments. I have found happiness being with myself, my books and music. I also do a bit of writing. It is not that I am a loner. I do have friends, some close ones with whom I enjoy talking and sharing my thoughts. They have been very helpful especially in stressful moments. But ultimately I like being with myself and with myself.”

“I am happy for you.” I said and looked at my wife who had been silent all the while. Her silence was not one of subjugation but one which had risen from an understanding and acceptance of what makes a relationship work. It is a different world now and it was a different world then and both have their merits and drawbacks.

After finishing our dinner and we were about to leave I said “It is been nice talking to you and let me tell you that you have friends here also and you are welcome to our house anytime you want. You can have dinner, talk if you want to or just sit there giving us company and listen to music.”


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Marriage is a peculiar institution. On one hand, it requires mutual understanding, adjustments and compromises. However, on the other hand is the fact that man (includes woman too) is basically selfish. This is putting the marital relationship under increasing strain, especially due to the fact that the world is becoming more and more materialistic and people more and more self-centered. It is possible that the institution of marriage may gradually undergo fundamental changes. I may strike a "revolutionary" note if I say that marriage may not be necessary if the basic things that one looks for from marriage are made available as paid services!

- Kishor Kulkarni

Ram said...

I tried hard to look at the significance of 'relationships'. Didn't get it in this episode. One of the factors attributable to the 'break' in relationship, perhaps, was 'ego'.
KK's proposal is 'dangerous', to say the least, particularly in these days of 'changing' values. Maybe if you continue the conversations, more insight into 'relationships could be found.

GS Subramanian said...

Ram, The significance in relationships is subtle and deliberately underplayed. These are about real people I know, though the settings and conversations are fictional. Each one has a unique way of defining relationships, ultimately what matters is whether you have been comfortable. If not comfortable we move away, that is how everything with life is about.

GS Subramanian said...

Kerala Varma said on FB: "I was not ready to surrender my economic independence... I knew that I could take care of my self, my son and my parents... It's much better than continue in a loveless marriage...I have found happiness being with myself, my books and music. I also do a bit of writing."
Perfect. Your imaginary friend has found the right mix for a life of self-worth, self-confidence and freedom.

Deepak Chatterjee said...

A good one. 'Need' is the biggest problem in relationships. Which is why I write about 'need'less love. :)

Varsha Nagpal said...

I personally believe that in your story you have incorporated some exaggerations in the characteristics of the people. "Her silence was not one of subjugation but one which had risen from an understanding and acceptance of what makes a relationship work. It is a different world now and it was a different world then and both have their merits and drawbacks." I personally feel that there is enough loneliness even between couples who are together. In the yester years the woman was not often allowed the discretion to feel free and speak openly about their own thoughts, they accepted it as their code of conduct. The girls today do not kow tow to the demands and pressures that their husbands subject them to. The women today want understanding, respect and a free voice.The young lady sought separation very quickly in life because she did not want her freedom curtailed. The story is very interesting, very real and shows us the priorities of people today as also the lack of the need for adjustment to sustain a marriage simply for the reason to remain married.

Induchoodan said...

Subbu, It is very interesting to examine the extent of the influence of western cultural ethos in our society during the last fifty years. When we were young, the accepted norm was that the best groomed girls were the ones who did not have any individuality of their own. They were supposed to be like putty that could be molded into any shape by by the in-laws. The focus was on the family, not on the individual. With the western influence, development of individuality has become the aim right from the adolescence. The new generation boys and girls are very clear about what they want in life and are not ready to compromise for anything less. This augurs well for the growth of the society. But at the same time this will also result in the clash of egos. We will see more number of dysfunctional families in future. It may take some time before some sort of equilibrium between the genders get established.