Just that Night – By Rimli Bhattacharya

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The laptop was open at that bedside table of mine. It was dead of night and I haven’t slept a wink. Normally by this time I would be fast asleep tired of my daily office work but today I kept surfing the mail box for Alex’s emails. Not that he wrote to me very often but to keep his memories alive I kept on digging the old emails of his. In the morning I had read an article on single women. That they are strong, that they are meant to be alone, that they can keep their poise and that they can keep men at bay, blah blah blah……. but that was certainly not the case with me. I was as good as single when I had been married to Chetan years back. And now this deadly obsession with Alex. Sigh!

Nah, I need to be strong. I can’t keep on cribbing for Alex. It’s over and I should come to terms with this break up. And I am the mother of fifteen year old Shanaya. It doesn’t suit me to wallow in self pity. Rather I should be strong enough to handle my issues by myself. Didn’t I handle the court case singly? My divorce with Chetan had not been easy. Chetan neither wanted to leave me, nor did he want to stay with me. But he would not give that divorce to me easily. Not for once did he care for our child Shanaya but still that man had occupied the prime years of my youth and had played with my emotions. Chetan and I had a love marriage. There was a huge age difference between both of us. I had landed with a job in this new city and was terribly petrified of the metro ways. Having been raised in a mofusil town I had always dreaded the city life.

I saw Alex’s email for the 81st time and shut down the laptop. I needed sleep. They say warm milk induces sleep but it was not the case with me. I was insomniac. I hadn’t even taken my daily dose of Clonazepum tablets which Dr Soni had been prescribing me since last twenty years.

“Someday you will surely get out of it. Depression is not permanent. And that day I will start reducing these dosages and finally you will be completely out of these medicines”, Dr Soni had been saying these lines and I had been listening to them.

Dr Soni knew about my liaison with Alex and post our break up, had doubly increased the dosages. The clock ticked three in the morning and I was wide awake with the side lamp still burning. It’s not that Alex and Chetan were the only men in my life but the relationships with them were stronger than with the other men I had had at various stages of my life.

“Dr Soni, I am not a kind of woman to go into relationships easily then why these painful episodes happen with me and I fall back in same pattern” , I had asked him during one of the counseling sessions.

“Ah! Mistakes do happen. You need not think of them forever. We all have our stories, the case is different with you as you are depressive. Just move on” , had been his replies whenever I had broken down to him.

Yet I knew each time I broke down, Dr Soni’s medications had to be altered and I had been put to multiple anti depressants and the dosage of Clonazepum had also been increased from time to time.

I looked at the picture of the fisherman and the boat; I had purchased that painting during one of my vacations in Goa with my daughter Shanaya.

“Mummy why don’t we buy things as other tourists do”, the wide eyed Shanaya had asked me eating the sugary candy floss. And I had gifted that painting to her.

Shanaya was a little girl of eight back then and had been ecstatic with her gift. I remember us sitting for a lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf and she showing that gift of hers to the other little girl who sat with her parents right opposite to us.

The ticking of the clock was unbearable and my thoughts drifted between Alex and Shanaya. Isn’t it a sin to think of a man who was married and I, mother to a teenage daughter thinking of that man who had completely robbed me off my happiness? I tried to focus on my daughter.  

That is what Dr Soni had been saying “Shanaya is your reason to live, forget Alex, delete his mails and block him from the social media sites.”

I had listened to his advice, had blocked Alex on Facebook and after three days had unblocked him to see what updates he had shared. I had browsed through his old photos, him smiling with his wife. His Christmas and photos of Thanksgiving. Photos of him hugging his wife and daughter during their trip to Paris.

Dr Soni had come in my life since the time my marriage with Chetan was in rocky waters. It was not like this when we dated. At least I thought so. My parents had always disliked Chetan mainly because he was over aged, secondly he was a grumpy person who always preferred solitude and was a drunkard and thirdly his family kept no contact with him. We dated for a brief period and got married in a rush as if we were in deep need of each other and the marriage turned otherwise. Chetan chose solitude and his drinks over me and I was left alone to maintain the house as if it was my sole duty to look after the daily chores and satiate this man’s sexual needs in the night. Shanaya was born exactly a year post my marriage, the same year I had a major nervous breakdown and had to rush to Dr Soni. No, Chetan never bothered to find a psychiatrist for me. It was me who got the doctor’s reference through the general physician practicing in the neighborhood during that time. Chetan had left me to die along with the baby Shanaya.

“It’s not post-partum depression, there is something more to it” Dr Soni had insisted and since then there had been several sessions of mine with him.

He counseled me while my toddler Shanaya played, making happy gurgling sounds each time I wept to the doctor. Chetan had never bothered to know how I managed, had handed me some money at the beginning of each month to sustain the family needs. He was satisfied as long as food was served in front of him, he had his share of friends with whom he went out, his conferences and on certain days he would simply black out from the excessive drinks he had consumed.

I tried to sleep but, no,  tonight it is different, I knew it. I fished that Clonazepum and tossed it in my palm and finally decided to gulp all the twenty pills together. May be with this all my miseries will end. My parents will inform Shanaya at her boarding school about my demise; she will come to conduct my last rites. My ailing parents will grieve that their daughter is gone. And that bastard Alex, I will write a suicide note blaming him and let the cops arrest him for his adultery. Justice will be served post my death. Suddenly I was in a state of euphoria. With such a brilliant plot I was sure the newspaper will cover my death and some bollywood producer will make a movie of mine. But Shanaya, she will be orphaned. Her father had deserted her and I cannot do the same. Dr Soni’s words echoed. I often wondered Dr Soni must be the best man in the world as he understood me very well. I laughed now why not? He is a psychiatrist and he has been trained in this profession to handle such depressive characters like me. To him I am just another patient as had been the others whom I had observed waiting patiently for their turns outside his air conditioned cabin.

I married Chetan to run away from the perils of a megacity. Chetan often told that he will relocate to Europe and like a fool I had trusted him. Nothing of that sort happened. He had been my boss at my office where I worked and I had to quit post marriage as it was a mandate by the company that the couple cannot work together in the same place. I was so elated with my marriage that I had not even bothered to ask for a transfer but seeing my other colleague leave post her marriage thought that resigning will be the best idea. Little did I realize all two cases are not similar. Chetan was not at all pleased of the fact that now he had to take care of an unemployed wife and a baby that I had to start hunting for jobs and grab one with much lesser pay to keep him happy. Once Chetan had overheard me complaining to my parents over telephone of my unhappy married life and had disconnected the telephone line for the next two months. I had almost turned insane till I found Alex. Alex was the only friend Chetan had those days and I often wondered how such a somber man like Chetan can have a jovial friend like Alex. I recalled Chetan’s boasting on how good Alex was at photography and insisted that we invite Alex and his newlywed wife for dinner. That dinner had been the turning point and the next ten years of my life had been with Alex till he deserted me post my divorce fearing I will pile on him and ask him to marry me.

I pushed myself out of the bed and entered the kitchen. For a moment I thought of lighting the gas and setting the entire house on fire but instead fixed a cup of strong coffee and settled in the balcony. I had forgotten to pick the dried clothes this evening and now that it has started to drizzle my dried up clothes will be wet once again. Nothing was right tonight. I lifted my legs and settled them on the little teapoy. The moon was not to be seen tonight. Is it Amavasya? May be who cares.

The first time Alex took my photograph was when I was in the kitchen preparing Goan fish curry for dinner. Alex hailed from Goa and it was in his honor I was preparing that dish. No he didn’t want to photograph me, as he said he wanted to photograph the lobster but found my Indian beauty too tempting to resist and clicked my photo instead of those marinated lobsters. It was a Sunday, Chetan was with his drink in the other room when Alex had kissed me on my lips and had taken me in his arms. I had shrugged it off. I had quickly run to the bedroom to fix cereal for Shanaya when I caught Alex sipping scotch with Chetan but with eyes fixed on me.

“You are playing with fire, this is not going to work, the chap is married” Dr Soni had warned me and I had shrugged off this cautionary note as well.

No that was not completely true. I myself had genuinely tried to move away from Alex but by that time it was too strong a bond we had shared that it was difficult for me to resist. We had several outings together, ate in restaurants, danced in ball rooms and it was like finding a new lease of life. My dosages of anti depressants reduced though each time I made a trip to Dr Soni’s chamber I could not meet his eye. I lied to him that I had parted off with Alex and have found a solace in my work and Shanaya and that shortly I will be filing for divorce with Chetan. He looked genuinely happy as my trips to his chamber had reduced and gave me words of courage so that I could deal with the grueling procedure of divorce and custody rights.

I kept the coffee mug on the teapoy and broke down again.

I remembered how often I had asked Alex about the future of our relationship. I had turned a blind eye when his wife got pregnant and he assuring me that it was to appease his parents and his wife. There were times we fought and unlike Chetan he apologized for his behaviour to me. I was a fool, I was a fool. I dealt with my divorce with Chetan and had sent Shanaya to a boarding at Shimla as I was young and had no help. And Alex started drifting away from me. His talks focused on his daily life, his wife and his daughter.

“Can you leave your wife for my sake Alex?” I had once questioned him and he had said it was out of question as his wife was a heart patient and was dependant on him. I wanted to tell him that I was a patient of depression which was much deadlier than any other physical ailment but couldn’t.

And then came the rude shock when Alex’s wife broke the news to me that they were moving to Delhi soon as Alex had cracked a very good photography assignment with a German multinational.

“Why did I have to hear it from your wife? Why did you hide all these things from me?” I had demanded.

In my mind I was tearing Alex’s shirt, pulling his hair, crying my heart out when he said that it had to happen one day and that I should have understood it.

Post his departure to Delhi he had sent me emails but there was no mention of our personal relationship except for the pleasantries and me replying him each time like a dutiful secretary. My lies were again exposed to Dr Soni with fresh doses of sleeping pills and anti depressants and warnings not to tread that path. It was moving like this until this evening came Alex’s final email bidding me a goodbye and his announcement of departure to Sri Lanka with his family. I wanted to crush the coffee mug, I wanted to destroy the laptop, I wanted to deactivate my Facebook profile, and I wanted to finish myself, finish Alex rather. My hatred towards Chetan was not as much as I now hated Alex. Chetan had kept no contact with me and I never regretted it and now Alex. It was like the whole world was revolting against me. My thoughts drifted from Chetan to Alex, Shanaya, Dr Soni when I drifted off to sleep.

It was five in the morning when the sound of Azaan from the nearby mosque woke me up. It was for the first time in twenty years I knelt down and prayed. I don’t know till what time I must have sat like that when my cell phone started ringing. I was in no rush to answer the phone. The calls kept coming when I reached out for my phone. It was from Alex. I let go off Alex’s call as I knew he had no business but to inform me of his trip to Sri Lanka. I opened my Laptop and deleted all of Alex’s email. I emptied the trash bin even. I did not keep a trace of Alex the same way I had cleared Chetan off my mind. My relationships, my pasts I decided to let go of everything and start afresh.

I never tried to hear about Alex. I didn’t want anything from him. A few months later I heard through the town’s rumor that some woman had come in search of Alex claiming to be pregnant by him. Another naïve soul trying to capture a macho photographer.


 

About the author:

Rimli Bhattacharya is a gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, and also holds an MBA in supply chain management. Her essay on mental illness in the anthology “Book of Light”  published by  Speaking Tiger Publications caught much attention in literary circles. Her writings have appeared in several magazines. She is also a trained classical dancer (Kathak & Odisi forms).

 

 

 

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