She looked down at the kitchen floor. The vessel had fallen down from the kitchen cabinet. And the entire contents had spilled out creating a big mess. Great, she thought. Just as she had completed her household chores, one more had crept up. Her gaze then shifted towards the culprit behind the spill. He looked at her with eyes which conveyed guilt and naughtiness at the time. Only kids can pull off such an expression without looking fake, she thought. He then spoke up. “Sorry”. She softened up and told him to get out of there and watch some TV. She then silently began cleaning up.
A few years ago, Supriya would have unleashed hell if the same had happened to her. She used to be a girl with a fiery temper. She always used to be the one who used to back answer her teacher. She used to be the first to get the punishment if the teachers found the class to be behaving in an unruly manner. She used to get into fights with boys over trivial issues. Her friends had a nickname for her. “Atom Bomb” she was called. As time went by, it became AB (Generation Y hai bhai. Everything is shortened. Not just clothes.). Actually, the boys called her AB not just considering her temper, but also her looks. She looked good or as the romeos used to say, ekdum pathaaka. Every rose day in college, there used to be a bet on whether anyone would have the guts (and football sized balls) to give her the red rose. If that bet was won, there was another bet. This was on whether the chap would get a 1000 decibel strong scolding or a sound beating.
In her third year, AB met a guy. He was an aloof boy with radical ideas. While others in her class (including her) were busy pursuing CA or CS or getting ready for the CAT, this chap was busy doing extra curricular work with the juniors. He was academically strong (88 % in SSC. Hence the nickname “Crazy 88”. When Kill Bill released a few years later, his friends jokingly told him to take royalty from Tarantino.). Hence lack of intelligence was not the reason for his choice. He had totally different fundas. “College life is for living, not slogging. I have my full life in front of me. No tension.” This was his funda. Also different was his total disinterest in Supriya in a romantic way. While Supriya never craved attention, she was used to it. This boy’s aloofness infuriated her. Maybe this was one of the main reasons why she fell for him.
Rose day came again. The last rose day of her college life. The bets were on again. However this time, kahaani mein twist aa gaya. Supriya gave Crazy 88 the rose. He was shocked. Her entire class was shocked. He just kept staring at her, rose in hand. Slowly he walked off without uttering a word. AB the fiery one, she started sobbing. Maybe for the first time in ages. After what seemed like eternity (actually 15 minutes), she heard the voice of Crazy telling her to open her eyes. She saw him kneeling down in front of her, a bouquet of red roses in hand. She started crying again. He got a little confused. Looking at his confusion, AB’s heart melted even more. She hugged him. Everyone seeing this scene straight out of a twisted Mills and Boons started clapping. Crazy and AB. A couple which could not be odder. It seemed perfect.
Convincing the parents took some effort. Crazy’s lack of complementary degrees (“CA, CS ya MBA to karma chaahiye. Sirf BCom se ghanta kuchch hoga” were her father’s words.) made it difficult. It took all of AB’s negotiating abilities (screaming so hard that the windows almost cracked, crying so much that she got dehydrated, not eating food for a couple of days, etc.) to soften them up. Then came the clincher. It seemed Crazy and AB could not wait for marriage to express their love, well, fully. When the news of the pregnancy reached her parents’ ears, all remaining resistance was broken. AB and Crazy got married even before graduation. AB could not be happier. Crazy started getting doubts.
The marriage and the baby changed Crazy overnight. From the chilled out, happy go lucky person that AB loved, he became responsible and burnt out Not So Crazy. He started hunting for a job. His lack of, you guessed it, complementary degrees meant that he got a low paying job, that too through connections. This wounded his ego. As the years went by and Crazy kept seeing his friends drawing more salary than him, the wound festered. He became reclusive and prone to angry fits. He started blaming his wife and the kid for his misfortune. The early marriage and Chintu were the reason for him taking the job so early, he said once during one of the many quarrels with Supriya. He was hurt inside. And he was hurting his marriage as well.
As Crazy was slogging himself to death and wallowing in self pity, Supriya was concentrating on her studies. The birth of Chintu had stalled her CA preps. However after 2 years, she restarted her studies and through hard work (compounded with house work, as they could not afford a servant) became a CA. She got a nice job in a bank as a risk analyst in the SME sector (as they called it in her bank, SPRG risk analyst). The pay was good, almost equal to what Crazy was earning. She thought that the doubling of the house income would cheer up Crazy. On the contrary, it led to the biggest quarrel. Crazy became, well, crazy. He hollered, “7 years I slog my butt off while you sit in the house. You get to be around Chintu while he barely recognizes me. And now, you get this job and become my equal!!” The male ego was at its ugliest.
Six months had passed since that day. Husband and wife were barely on talking terms. Eight years of a troubled marriage had taken a toll on her. The phataaka had lost her zing. As she went on her haunches cleaning the mess, she wondered whether her marriage had been a serious mistake. Whether the 8 minutes of impulsiveness had led to eight years of nightmares? She contemplated divorce for the first time. Just then, Chintu called out to her. “Aai, come here. The building is on fire.” Supriya went towards her son and her gaze fell on the TV. It was showing the Taj burning. She wondered how this could happen. Then a Breaking News flashed. The terrorist had also struck at the CST. This news hit her hard like a punch. Crazy takes the train till CST, she told herself. She panicked. She tried calling on his mobile. The mobile was unreachable, the operator said. Tears started rolling down her eyes. She then saw the helplines numbers flashing on the TV. She dialed one of them. After what seemed like an eternity, she got a response.
“Hello. May I help you?”
“Yes. My husband normally takes the train till CST. He has not reached home yet.”
“Ohh, I understand. Please tell whether he has any identification with him.”
“Yes. He carries his PAN card and driving license with him always.”
“Any identification marks?”
“A scar on his left cheek.”
“Cra…. sorry, Pendse. Shriram Pendse.”
Note: This was long overdue. And yes, the stories based on 26/11 have not ended.
To read some of my other attempts at short stories, please click here