REVATHI BHASKER

Drama Others

4  

REVATHI BHASKER

Drama Others

Living Together

Living Together

11 mins
304


Manisha’s phone had been ringing persistently. Alka was even tempted to answer it on Manisha’s behalf. Manisha, however, seemed indifferent and made no move to answer it. She pretended to be focused on the book that she was reading. Alka’s patience was nearing its limits. When even after the caller had tried to contact her more than four times, allowing the ring to go through its full minute, Alka could not control herself any longer.

“I am nobody to interfere in your business, but I am bothered by these incessant calls. See to it that this does not recur, or patch up with Nitin. These are the only two options I can see for now. Just another point, if I may remind you. You can continue to stay with me only till the end of this month, which is another fortnight from now. You will have to move out as I will be surrendering this flat.”

Manisha’s head spun. She was already bogged down with many issues from all fronts - every other day, Amma would call from home, pestering her to agree to get formally married; the absence of two efficient members of her team delaying the completion of their project; the dwindling bank balance which would be replenished only on successful project delivery and above all, the realisation that she was pregnant for over two months now.

She had been living with Nitin for more than a year and they realised that they could not see eye to eye on any issue during that period. During their courtship which had run for five years, it was all smooth sailing with each of them doting on the other. All their dating took place in foreign lands, as both were posted abroad. They would meet every weekend in his sister’s home in Chicago. His sister was married to her cousin and this suited both of them very well. His sister had been married quite recently and the foursome always packed their bags for weekend outings. Whenever they had long weekends, they would drive cross country and explore new getaways. It was very rare to find them home on holidays!

During week days, though they could not meet in person, their video calls lasted till late in the night, and more often than not, till early in the morning. They exchanged views on each and every topic and both of them felt that they knew each other thoroughly. Manisha’s assignment was nearing completion and Nitin had also reached the end of his contract. Both of them would leave the foreign shores to settle down at home. They were eagerly looking forward to return to their families.

Once home, both parents were happy to get them married, but Manish and Nitin wished otherwise. They chose a live-in relationship, which practice had become the done-thing in those days. They convinced their parents easily, who gave in because they did not wish to displease them.

Within a week of their arrival, a fully furnished flat in Andheri, which was equidistant from their homes in Bandra and Borivali was identified and Manisha and Nitin moved in to start their new life. Now that they were spending most of the time together, they were very sure that theirs would be a long-lasting partnership and that they were a made-for-each other couple.

For the first few days, the parents took turns in settling them down. All were happy and there was laughter and merriment all the time. The parents having their own businesses to attend to, left after about a fortnight. Trouble started brewing from then on. The years they spent in the US were “unattached” and they loved each moment they could cuddle together. Now, in their new home, each of them had distinct and different priorities. To add to all the confusion, Manisha headed a project with the team leads based in a different time zone, such that when Nitin yearned to be in bed, Manisha would be wide awake, attending to her job.

They rarely had time to share even a meal, except on weekends. On weekends, though, it was another story. After all the hard work and tensions of the previous night, Manisha would wake up only towards noon, whereas Nitin would have been up with the lark, gone for his physical fitness run and be at home waiting for his breakfast, which would never come. He would brew his coffee and make himself an omelette and wait for Manisha. In the beginning, he had made her cup of coffee too and took it to her bedside, hoping that she would be pleased. To his severe disappointment, it backfired! She did not appreciate the gesture, but on the contrary chided him for waking her up and also for making her coffee, which she rarely took in the mornings. From then, he looked after his needs alone.

Even when he had his bath and was ready for the day, there would be no signs of Manish leaving her bed. Once, when it was past noon, he walked into the room to see if she had woken up but was dismayed to see her glued to the phone for hours together. Swiggy was the habitual saviour for lunch. Manisha seemed to find no time for him. When she was not on the phone, she was deeply immersed in her job as she wished to climb the ladders as soon as possible. Housework was never her priority. Even though food came from outside, she would merely have her fill and leave everything on the table for Nitin to clear up, citing some urgent work. It was almost as if it was Nitin’s duty to load the washing machine and dry the clothes. Though they had employed a housemaid, both Manisha and the maid would always quarrel on some silly issue, resulting in the maid staying away from work. Nitin managed his office and home work with equal passion, and tolerated all the whims and fancies of Manisha, just so that he would not lose face with his parents. Anyone would scoff at him if he was unable to make a relationship work even after five years of courtship!

He soon got used to living under the same roof with Manisha, but with a totally different lifestyle. Months went by and as if to break this monotony, came the news that his sister and brother-in-law would be soon visiting them. When he spoke to Manisha about it, she was excited, but at the same time she was also worried that she would not be able to live her life the way she wanted and had got used to recently. She brooded over it for some time and when she briefly met Nitin at dinner time, she suggested that they should both shift to Borivali where Nitin’s parents lived, so that they could have a family reunion.

The idea appealed to him too, for he did not wish that anyone in his family should know what he had been putting up with. With both of them agreeing to agree as against agreeing to disagree, Nitin spoke to his parents the very next day about it. Manisha and Nitin had planned to use their earned leave too and so, Nitin had drawn up a short holiday plan in the nearby hills of Mahabaleshwar in a homestay amidst the strawberry gardens.

Everyone was excited and when Didi and Jija arrived, it was joy and cheer all around. Manisha’s parents were also invited to join the holiday party and together, it was full masti and fun. After Mahabaleshwar, there was very little time in Mumbai as Didi had to visit her in-laws too.

After they left, it was back again to square one. Occasionally when either set of parents visited them, Manisha and Nitin led a normal or near normal life, with the parents ready to cook and keep home for them. It was at that time, that Manisha’s unit got relocated to Pune and she had to join the Pune office if she wished to continue her job. It was also a promotional assignment, and it would be next to impossible to expect that Manisha would let the opportunity slip. One evening Nitin and Manisha decided to sit down and decide the future course of action.

As was expected, Manisha was in no mood to leave or change her job. She expected that Nitin would tow the line and search for a job in Pune and join her there. For the first time, Nitin spoke out his mind. He expressed his greatest disappointment that Manisha was bothered only about her career and did not care for either Nitin or their home. Though he did not wish to put it in so many words, the truth was that “this arrangement would NOT work”. He would muster the courage sooner or later and confide in his parents that all was not well with both of them and that separation would be the only solution.

On that note they ended their discussion and decided to continue after a week when Manisha would be home for the weekend after her stay in Pune. As a makeshift arrangement, she was to stay with her long-time friend Alka in Pune. The originally planned week’s stay got extended and she had to be in Pune for nearly a month. She had been bugged by the absence of her team mates which delayed her project considerably. 

As soon as she came to stay with Alka, it so happened that Alka’s husband, Punit called to say that he was coming home after six months in the Merchant Navy. Obviously Alka was looking forward to his arrival. As she had a two bed room apartment, she said that Manisha could continue to stay with her even when Punit came, but that she would have to seek alternate accommodation as her agreement with the landlord was ending that month and she had to vacate the flat.

The absence from “home”, which, but for Nitin would have been only a “house”, the separation from a loved one and the realisation that she was pregnant, had all been working on her. She recollected the happy times both families spent together when Didi and Jija were with them. As she was on leave, she observed at close quarters how her in-laws as well as her own parents cared for each other despite having lived together for nearly fifty years. Both husbands cared for their wives and both wives lovingly looked after their husbands’ needs. Never was there an occasion when they felt lazy or too tired. The desire to keep each other happy was totally mutual. Occasionally she even got to see their eyes twinkle with mischievous love too!  It was not that they did not have any difference of opinion, but one of them would always give in as they had a golden rule that whatever be any misunderstanding, it should not last more than fifteen minutes.

Didi and Jija, belonged to the present generation and were busy with their own jobs, but yet, would never let their work interfere with family relationships or family time.  Even while working from home in emergencies on their holidays, they stuck to their family time. Though Didi was married for more than six years, she had conceived very recently. The fact came to light only when she had gone to visit her in-laws. Once the news became known to the family, she became the centre of attraction and was being pampered by everyone. Her travel back to the US was ruled out and the two sets of grandparents took upon themselves the duty of looking after her till the baby would be born and planned to extend their term further than that.

While she was musing thus, waiting for the cab to take her to office, Amma called. Wilting under the pressure of work, she had not given her the weekly updates and Ma was upset. She had shared the news of her testing positive in the pregnancy test, but had not breathed a word of it to Nitin. Now she regretted it. All of a sudden, she felt that her career meant nothing now. She had proved her worth and what she was capable of and was quite happy with it. Now she yearned to get back to Nitin and his home, wanting to be cuddled and cared for. She repented that she had thought only of herself and in the past year of their living together, she had hardly made him a cup of coffee! 

The cab driver honked to say that he had arrived. Manisha took a deep breath. She had come to a decision and would not change it for anything or anybody. She picked up her phone and called her office in Mumbai first to say that she was quitting. She then called the Pune office that she would be using the car to go to the airport. She packed up her suitcase, locked the flat and kept the keys in a secretive place and left. Once in the cab, she spoke to a surprised Alka that she had decided to go back to Mumbai and raise her family. God willing, she could always find herself a job even later, but now she felt that family was her prime responsibility.

At Pune airport, she was lucky to get a ticket for Mumbai on a flight which was to leave within the next hour. With a happy heart, she almost sang her way through the security check! She debated within herself if she should inform Nitin or not and finally decided to spring a surprise on him. It was a Saturday and he would be home around 3 p.m. She would be home well before that. She planned to make Khichdi – a comfort food, which was also as good as an instant preparation. She reserved her display of culinary talents for the night, when she would have more time to plan and procure groceries.

Manisha reached home around 2 p.m., and collecting the keys from the neighbour, opened the flat. It was neat no doubt, but somehow seemed to lack life. She pushed the flowers she had bought on the way into a large vase and set it on the table to lend some colour. She changed her clothes and kept the khichdi to cook. She also chopped some cucumber and tomatoes for a salad and roasted a few pappads.

As the clock was striking 3, she heard the key turn in the lock. She hid behind the door to have a glimpse of her “dear hubby” when he entered. Nitin was in for a pleasant surprise when he saw the flowers in the vase and felt two arms around his midriff. They first had lunch together and after a very long time, spent quality time in each other’s company.

Nitin was overjoyed to know that he would soon be a “Papa”. He could not believe his ears when she told him that she had quit her job. Both of them now agreed that “Living Together” was enough and that they would now start “Living For Each Other”. They called up their parents to fix up a date for their formal wedding and a new beginning. 


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