The Transformation10 mins 542 10 mins 542
Priya brushed the coat meticulously, inspected it thoroughly to see if there were any specks of dust on it then being satisfied, put it on the back of the chair in the dining room. She then busied herself preparing her husband’s breakfast. She wiped a plate and placed it on the spotless tablecloth. As Ravi was putting on weight, she had stopped giving him porridge and convinced him that for the time being he had to be satisfied with a lighter breakfast. Then she picked out two slices of soft milk-white bread and placed them in the toaster. As she knew that butter would mean extra calories, she made a sandwich with tomato slices and looked on with satisfaction as Ravi munched away appreciatively, with a delicious crunching sound.
As her husband gulped down his coffee hurriedly, being already late for office, Priya straightened his tie, and then shoved a handkerchief into his pocket. He smiled at her and said, “What would I do without you?” He then pulled her to him and pressed his nose against hers and said softly as if he did not want anyone to hear, ”Sweet Heart, say the three magic words.” Priya’s face became suffused with a reddish tinge- she was blushing! Even after two years of marriage, Ravi could stir up her feelings to her embarrassment. She gave him a gentle push and turned away shyly. But her husband pulled her again against him and would not release her till she complied. In the end, she gave in and with a tender kiss he left.
Priya’s world was complete—she gave a sigh of contentment and turned to go to the bedroom from where she could hear the babbling sound made by her baby in the cot. It was such a wondrous sound, music to her ears. Her husband was so proud that the baby had his features and looked like him. She lifted him in her arms and kissed his chubby cheeks over and over again and the baby put his dimpled arms around her neck and gurgled in ecstasy. At that moment there was a knock at the door. Priya reluctantly put the baby down in his crib and rushed to open the door. It was the peon from the post office. He asked her to sign and when she had done so he gave her the telegram which had been sent for her husband. She was surprised that he should receive a telegram so she opened it hurriedly and went through the contents. She could not figure out at first why a telegram was sent because a message on the mobile phone was the most convenient way to communicate. It was from the General Hospital in Darjeeling. Then it occurred to her that perhaps they could not get through to her husband on the mobile phone and hence the telegram. It said that Ravi’s father had been admitted to the Cardiac Department and was in a critical condition. Ravi should be with his father as soon as possible. Priya made an urgent call to Ravi and intimated to him the sad news. Then hurriedly she packed his belongings. Her husband would have to go alone by the next flight, for it would not have been possible for Priya to get her baby’s paraphernalia together so fast. When Ravi was leaving, Priya clung on to him, her mind being full of misgivings. First of all, Ravi might get held up for a protracted span of time and Priya knew she could not do without him for a single moment. How was she going to spend every minute of the time ahead, perhaps for days and nights for all she knew! Then it was the monsoon season when driving down the hill slopes was very risky. There were innumerable instances of cars skidding and the passengers dying in the accident. But now, of course, Ravi’s Father was the priority and there was no option. Ravi left in a hurry but Priya would remember this parting a long time after, so poignant was the separation.
Every time the phone would ring she would pick it up with her heart beating at an accelerated rate. She would hope against hope that Ravi’s father would be out of the hospital and he would be on his way back home.
Finally, news did come but it was something she had not expected. Her Father-in-Law had expired and Ravi would be back after completing the last rites. He told her she did not have to attend the funeral as it would be difficult to manage all by herself with a small baby. The next message was from the same mobile phone. But it was not Ravi’s voice. Somebody from the other end was saying something which was not registering in her mind. Two or three times the message was repeated but Priya stood there as if lightning had struck her and she had been electrocuted. It was the baby howling at the top of his voice that brought Priya back from her stupor. The news slowly percolated into her awareness that Ravi had indeed met with an accident and had been admitted to a hospital with his face having been badly smashed and his teeth broken. Priya heard all this in a daze. Surely it was a bad nightmare---it could not be true! Police visited her the next day with all the gory details.
It had been raining heavily. The driver was reluctant to drive in the torrential rain but Ravi coaxed him to start, knowing it was not safe, as he was in a hurry to go home to his wife and child. Ravi’s car had to cross a very narrow ledge on the road. The car in front managed to negotiate the difficult bit, but as their car reached the place, the road gave way and the vehicle fell and somersaulted over and over again down the steep precipice. The passengers in the car were flung out. The driver had got pinned down against the Steering Wheel. As for Ravi, he had catapulted and landed on his face. All the passengers were critically injured. Luckily a police van was patrolling at that time so the injured could be speedily removed to the nearest hospital.
When Priya finally arrived, Ravi was still unconscious and he was covered with bandages all over. He looked like a veritable Egyptian mummy. The Doctors at the Hospital advised Priya to go back to Kolkata as they said the Hospital did not encourage babies to be brought to the patients and Priya had no one to keep her baby. After spending two weeks of unadulterated anguish, news reached her that Ravi was on his way to recovery. But it would take three more months for him to be well enough to leave the hospital.
Priya feverishly kept on counting the days, hours and even minutes for her husband’s arrival. The hands of the clock did not seem to move. She polished up every bit of brass, brushed the sofas, and dusted the rooms over and over again in preparation for his coming. Everything had to be right for him. She even rehearsed his home-coming in her mind a thousand times. At last, the hour arrived. She just could not wait. The doorbell rang. She flung open the door for him. And lo and behold----there he was coming up the stairs with his arms outstretched, his face beaming, to wrap her up in his arms, after so many days of longing and pining! Priya had rushed out with her arms outstretched too, her face radiant with subdued expectation. But on seeing him she retracted involuntarily and her face clouded with suppressed disappointment. She uttered an exclamation of disbelief under her breath. Seeing her reaction, Ravi’s smile froze on his face. He just stood stock-still with his arms still lifted in an expression of profound love. The words in his mouth dried up in abject hopelessness –he had not fathomed the dire consequences of what had transpired.
Stupefied, he just looked on dumb-founded. Priya was aghast. In front of her stood not her husband but some other individual who did not look at all like Ravi. How could she run into his arms! She felt a cold shudder run through her body. Though there was no mistaking that it was indeed Ravi’s voice but she had not exchanged her marriage vows with the man facing her. She covered her face with both her hands and burst into tears. For Ravi it was too much to endure-he could never bear to see her crying. He rushed to her side and enveloped her in his arms but Priya tried to push him away in silent rejection. It was impossible for her to accept the overtures of affection from a person who did not have the appearance of the man she had married. Hurt to the core of his heart, Ravi withdrew in utter agony and humiliation. His heart reverberated with the sound of her sobbing. Gently he tried to reason out with Priya that there had been no option left for him than to go in for a facial transplant as his face had been mangled to such an extent that he had become disfigured beyond recognition. After all, she had married him for “ better or for worse,” She should accept him as he was.
The relationship between Ravi and Priya was not the same after that. She accepted him as a duty-bound wife but gone was the spontaneous cordiality, gone were the subtle vibrations flowing between them of which only both of them were aware. She no longer entwined him in her arms or mischievously ruffled up his hair. All the fun they had was no more there. In the past often she would take a big bite off his paratha before he could put it into his mouth and they enjoyed the joke and had a good laugh, or else before he could lie down, she would occupy the entire bed and Ravi would be forced to squeeze himself in the little space left for him. This used to be a little game between them which they enjoyed and pushed each other in a mock struggle. Now everything had become very formal. She cooked his meals and saw to it that he was comfortable but that was about all. He on the other had started to keep himself aloof, being constantly rebuffed. Priya did not allow him to touch her as she felt repugnant at any expressions of love made by anyone other than the man she had married and that man did not have this appearance. Terrible depression and despondency made Ravi reticent and reserved. But towards Priya, he was a considerate and caring husband. He always saw to her comfort and looked after all her needs. Besides, he understood her sentiments and her present difficulty in accepting him.
Priya watched him and appreciated the fact that he respected her sentiments. She admired his patience and forbearance. He was a Pillar of Strength shielding and protecting her. His concern for her made him extremely likable.
Priya was surprised that gradually she was falling in love with this man. She felt an irresistible attraction for him which she was too embarrassed now to admit. On the other hand, Ravi kept his distance and it had become very difficult to venture into his solitary cell.
It so happened that on the 7th of November both Priya and Ravi were in the house. Ravi was tinkering with the television and Priya was cleaning Baby’s feeding bottles when all of a sudden the baby fell off from the bed. He started crying loudly and both the parents rushed panicking. Both were at the baby’s side trying to comfort him and both went through the same anxiety, felt the same pain on the child’s mishap. Then they realized the strength of the bond that existed between them, a bond which had been tied by God himself, and sealed by their love. As Ravi handed over the baby to Priya, their eyes met and Priya saw into the same eyes which she had looked into at the time of their marriage and emotion of deep love stirred in her.