Read #1 book on Hinduism and enhance your understanding of ancient Indian history.
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The Empty Cradle - Last Part

The Empty Cradle - Last Part

13 mins 574 13 mins 574

First of all, a warm hug and thank you to all those who took time to share their thoughts. I cherish each of your thoughts and comments and they always bring a smile on my face. Sadly, men like Rajiv do exist in our society. In fact, this piece is inspired by a true story. Here is bringing the last part to you!

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“And?” Rajiv asked with a casual shrug.

Shocked, Pragya looked at his smooth face and bland expression and wondered if he didn’t hear her the first time! But having said the truth, she felt calm and in control now. So drawing a deep breath, she spoke, “I wanted you to know this so that you can make an informed decision. If you want to divorce me, I would accept it and walk away.”

“Why would I want to divorce you?” His face was marred with confusion.

“Because…” she searched for words, “You have given me a beautiful house, a well-meaning family that I can call my own. And you are… you are special. While I have never done anything to be a match for you. It was just coincidence that I happen to work at your company and you chose me as your wife. And now, I don’t have anything to give you.”

“How can you even suggest such a thing? I have grown to love you in these three years of our marriage Pragya,” he said softly, his eyes boring into hers with urgent intensity, “I thought you do the same, don’t you?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted innocently and that pleased Rajiv immediately, “How do you know something like that?”

She cared about him. But love? Pragya honestly didn't know if she loved him or not. She didn't have enough experience to draw upon to know what the hell love was anyway.

“It is love when that person matters to you, or makes a difference in your life…”

“But, how can I matter to you?” she said in a whisper and if it were not for the ensuing silence of their bedroom, Rajiv would have not heard her, “You only remember my presence in the night. You need me when we hit the bed,” her voice sounded soft but determined, “You only love your work. You barely ever listen to me, let alone taking time out to spend an evening with me. So I think your definition of love is either screwed or wrong, because it doesn’t look like you love me at all.”

“Is that what’s bothering you?” he gave out a sad laugh, “Do you remember Pragya, just after two days of our marriage, di had wanted you to pick a place for honeymoon? I had already planned the whole trip. I had even booked the tickets for Maldives. I thought we will spend some days there, away from the family, get to know each other better. But what had you said? You said that it doesn’t matter to you. You said, you like spending time with the whole family and it was you who had insisted that we all go out together. So that’s what we did.”

“I said that because…”

“You have some nerve to turn the tables on me,” he cut short her explanation, “When have you ever taken an initiative and made love to me Pragya? Or showed any kind of interest in either me or our relationship?”

He expelled a long, ragged sigh, “You are always focused on yourself. Perhaps you have built your own world. You never have time to see what is happening around you, otherwise you would have noticed a lot of things without someone having to point them out to you.”

She shook her head in denial, “That’s not true.”

“Hear me out!” he scoffed, “You never liked spending time with me, never asked to take you shopping or buy you things. You always preferred going out with the ladies of the family. You always maintained a distance from me at home. How am I to know what you want, unless you tell me dammit? So I busied myself in work…”

He went on, his eyes searing her with contempt from head to foot, “If you think, that our bedroom is where I need you, then you are sadly mistaken Pragya. I swear I will not touch you, unless you want me to. I am sorry I assumed things the way they were and I am sorry for loving you.”

He reached the door and paused, “Your medical report does not make any difference to me. I had married you because I liked you and not because I wanted a child. But I feel, it’s you who is seeking a break from this marriage. I never realized our relationship had become so suffocating for you. Whatever you decide, I will not stop you.”

It had been a week since their first fight. Since then, he had hardly spoken to Pragya. Neither had she taken any initiative to try and mend things between them. The fear Rajiv had tried to keep at bay began sinking its teeth into him. The longer a rift goes on, the more hostile the feelings and attitudes becomes. But, if this was what she really wanted…

The ringing mobile brought him back to the present. It was his grandmother, calling to let him know that Pragya’s mother and sister had visited home and he needed to come as soon as possible.

The air was crackling with a dull intensity when Rajiv arrived and greeted everyone. Pragya was busy serving snacks and tea, totally oblivious to his presence. The environment was too gloomy for his liking and he wondered if Pragya had announced that she wanted a divorce.

“What is going on amma?” he touched Gayatri’s feet, “Did I miss anything?”

“Actually, I was just telling everyone about Pragya’s report. It is not fair to you that you can’t become a father because Pragya cannot borne a child.”

Rajiv looked around. Pragya had paled and stood there like a victim. She refused to meet anyone’s eyes either.

“It does not matter to me. Besides Pragya’s condition is treatable.”

“It has already been a year. We all know how she lost her past pregnancies too.”

“Like I said, it does not matter to me,” he gritted his teeth. What’s the problem with everyone, “If nothing else works out, we will go for adoption.”

“But that won’t be your blood now, will it?” Gayatri interrupted, “I know I am talking so callous about my own daughter, but I can’t let you suffer either Rajiv. You are like a son to me.”

“Why are you saying all this, Gayatri?” Shobha, the eldest in the family, who had been witnessing all this, finally spoke.

“I want Rajiv to marry my younger daughter Payal. If he marries her, then both sisters can stay comfortably together. And when Payal will give birth to Rajiv’s child, Pragya will also take care of the baby like her own.”

His fists curled up and Rajiv closed his eyes in frustration. All sorts of thoughts were filling his head. After a while, he walked towards Pragya and held her by her upper arms, “Is this your idea? Is that what you would want too?”

Pragya opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was too choked to form a word. Her mother replied instead, “No Rajiv. This is my idea. But I am sure both sisters will agree with this,” she urged to her daughter, “Tell him that this is the right thing to do Pragya.”

“This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard all day!” he pursed his lips in a thin line and looked around to find his younger brother Rahul standing next to Payal. He looked as dumbfounded as her, but kept quiet nonetheless. Will he not speak against this?

“Okay. I understand. Tell me amma,” he finally addressed directly to Gayatri, his voice shaking with barely suppressed anger, “What will you do if Payal is unable to give me kids too?”

“Rajiv!” she cried out, her distress apparent, “Why are you talking like this!”

“Rahul and Payal love each other, but perhaps you don’t bother about that either,” he said softly and without throwing a glance towards Pragya, he walked away.

~~~

As soon as Rajiv had left, Pragya ran all the way up to her bedroom. She vent out her frustration by slamming the door shut. There was anguish and hurt, all bottled up inside her. Thankfully, no one followed her. She needed to be alone now so she could get a grip on her own rioting emotions. She was a bit stunned when Rajiv had become so angry and had stood up for her when no one else had.

She sat back on the couch and closed her eyes. Her mind drifted to a week ago, when she had shared the red file with her husband. They had had their first argument after marriage that night. Was Rajiv right in her judgment about her? Had she really been so caught up in herself to notice him at all? She had even failed to notice the affair between their siblings too. Thoughts of Payal brought a smile on her lips. Rahul was a good natured and kind person and she was sure Payal would be very happy with him.

But what about her? Where does she go from here?

She had never shared her reserves about physical intimacy with him. Truth was, even now, she felt a wee bit nervous whenever Rajiv would come closer to her.

And now he had stopped taking any initiative.

Should she drop her inhibitions and open up to him? Would he as much as even listen to her? He never did, in the past. At least that’s what she believed.

She couldn't get the picture of Rajiv's anguished expression out of her mind. Her heart had started to ache for her husband. She hadn't realized until tonight how much she had actually missed him in the past one week, but now that she was aware, she vowed to put the wrongs to right.

She went downstairs at dinner time. Her mother had already left. She noticed that Rahul was missing too. Everyone else was nonchalant, as though the evening had not happened at all. Pragya was thankful for not having to draw a conversation with anyone. She toyed with the food on her plate, unable to muster up an appetite.

At night, she was still clearing the table, when she noticed Rajiv coming back. He looked weary and dispirited, as though the world he inhabited was not a good place. Their eyes met for a brief second. He made an apologetic gesture before walking away to their bedroom.

Her heart took an agitated leap and catapulted around her chest. Rajiv was going up the stairs, his footfalls sounded slow, heavy and tired. It was almost midnight. She realized that she was still nervous. What was she afraid of, for heaven's sake?

There was nothing wrong with a wife showing her husband she was willing, interested, wanting him. Even if he was too tired, the promise was extended for when he did feel like it. Just take one step at a time, she instructed herself, and don't dwell on what you are doing or what he'll do.

After quickly wrapping up everything, she hurried back without making a sound. She suddenly had a mission. The room appeared as tidy as she had left it. Although, Rajiv’s coat and tie were folded neatly and lying on one end of their bed and his laptop was placed on the couch. Rajiv was in the bathroom, freshening up. Realizing that there was not going to be any running away from it, Pragya gave in to last minute panic and sat on one end of the bed.

What was she going to do!

When Rajiv stepped out of the bathroom, there was a soft light glowing which didn’t alert him of any difference in their normal routine. Pragya usually used to sleep by this time. He unbuttoned his shirt and discarded it on the couch and at that instance he noticed his wife, sitting upright on the bed. Suddenly awareness snapped through him, sharpening his eyes. His chin jerked up slightly. Then he stepped back and went outside to the balcony. If Pragya wanted to talk, she would have to cross the threshold herself.

He had not given her time earlier, now he found himself more than willing to wait for her.

After what seemed like an eternity to Rajiv, the door opened, and he heard a soft voice from behind him, “Rajiv ji?”

He turned and stared at her, tension beating from him and striking her with a force that squeezed her heart, “I'm sorry for... for not being what you want,” she blurted in deep anguish of spirit.

“Excuse me?”

“You were the first man in my life in any intimate sense. Amma always taught me that it was sluttish to be forward in bed. She taught me that demanding things from husband would only lead to fights and endless arguments. After I got married to you, I followed her words to the heart. I didn’t know how else I was expected to behave.”

Rajiv stayed rooted to his spot, silently urging her to continue, “It is true that I had not been very participative during our …” she hesitated a bit, “during our wedding night. But you have to believe me, I was not ready. And add to it the fact that I was very nervous. Hell, I still feel nervous when you come close to me.”

“I am sorry,” Rajiv conceded at last, “I know am at fault. I should have waited until you were ready. Truth is, all that was as new for me as it was for you Pragya,” he expelled a breath he didn’t know he was holding until then. It felt strangely good to say those words, “But you are all I have ever wanted. You have everything I would wish for in a life partner, so never think any less of yourself. Besides, I don’t agree with your mother. I think we should have more fights and arguments.”

She smiled, “I am willing to give our marriage a chance if you like.”

“Alright,” he said and turned towards the pool. When he felt that Pragya was still standing, he spoke, “Go to bed Pragya. It is already past midnight.”

“Won’t you join me?” She asked, hopefully.

“No. I am not sleepy.”

Pragya decided she had had quite enough of her own awkwardness, and although it took every bit of determination inside her, she flung herself to him, hugging him from behind.

Shocked, Rajiv turned around. His eyes searched hers. Pragya instantly felt warm in his company and it somehow made her boldness easier. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him, “I am not sleepy either.”

It felt wonderful to hold him so close, so intimately. He grunted in reaction but didn’t say anything. She understood that he was giving her a chance to back out.

“What are you thinking Pragya?”

“I am wondering what couples do when they are not sleepy.” She relaxed against him and closed her eyes. The sound of his heartbeat mingled with his soft laughter.

He smiled at her and then reached over to brush the back of his hand against the side of her face. She leaned into his caress. Her face was tucked under his chin. He nudged her chin up, then lowered his head to hers. He kissed her forehead first, the bridge of her nose next, and then teased her mouth open by gently tugging on her lower lip. His mouth settled over her parted lips.

“I can think of a lot of stuff,” he said in between their kisses.

She blushed. He laughed. Then he pulled her into his arms and let her hide her face against his chest. "It's a little late to become embarrassed, isn't it?”

She wasn't embarrassed. His chest rumbled with amusement. She didn't mind that he was laughing at her. Something wonderful in the world was happening to her and she wasn't going to let anything ruin it. A warm glow surrounded her, making her feel both blissful and sleepy.

His one hand stroked her back, “Are you cold?”

"No."

"Your hands are shaking."

He reached over and cupped the back of her neck with his hand. He could feel the tension and began to massage the knots away. She closed her eyes and let out a sigh of pleasure.

"Shall we go to bed?" he asked, when he noticed her letting out a yawn.

She didn’t answer and instead leant more on him.

He lifted her into his arms and felt contended when she snuggled up against his shoulder. Rajiv carried her back to their room, put her in bed, and covered her with a duvet.

He waited several minutes before he realized she'd fallen asleep. His fingers threaded through her hair and he shifted positions just a little so he could kiss the top of her head.

“I love you Pragya," he whispered.

He didn't expect an answer and didn't get one. He pulled the covers up, wrapped his arms around his wife, and closed his eyes.


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