Taking a U-TURN
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Nandita flings her phone on the bed and sits on the rocking chair, taking deep breaths; she controls her tears. She feels anxious, restless and upset with her husband’s reaction over the phone.
‘Why can’t Vikas ever understand me?’ She moans. ‘Even after twenty-six years of marriage, things just seem to be getting worse. The misunderstandings are never-ending. He’s just never happy!’ Her eyes wander across the yellow wall in their bedroom, looking at the framed family photographs hung meticulously. The wall is full of the memories of their time spent together. ‘I don’t want to see you right now.’
Nandita digs through her side table drawer and finds her diary, notes, receipts, coins, lipbalm, night cream but nothing offers relief. Her thoughts are going haywire comparing her past and present, creating a needle in a haystack. ‘Ufff! I want it all to stop, but the recollections are relentless.’ These memories are the way she wished her life had been.
‘Maybe it would have been better if we had children?’ Nandita wonders to herself and gets up off the rocking chair. ‘We have tried so many times; it just never happens. The doctor visits, the check-ups, the medications. God, how much pain and sorrow we have gone through for so many years. In the end, I wanted to adopt a child. But by then, Vikas was giving up.’
Nandita stands in front of the mirror in her dressing room, looking at her tired self. It has been a hard day at work. She unties her blue chiffon saree, slipping off her heels, wriggling her toes. She scrutinises the wrinkles on her face as she cleans her stale make-up with cotton and coconut oil. She then pulls back her cheeks with her fingers and looks closely into the mirror. ‘Maybe it’s the young fire that’s missing? Who knows? Not like I can go back in time,’ she shrugs her shoulders and changes into a comfy nightgown. She can feel her stomach rumble. ‘I better get something to eat before my sugars drop.’
‘Maybe we should just get a divorce?’ She wonders as she reheats her dinner in the microwave. ‘At least I would be a free woman. Shut up, Nandita. What am I thinking? Vikas is your college sweetheart. I can’t imagine my life without him. I’m just so upset with him, that’s all.’ Nandita lets out a long sigh and finishes off her dinner by herself in their two-bedroom apartment. The house is empty as the maid is on leave until the next day, and her husband is coming late from work, as usual.
After dinner, Nandita sits down in front of her laptop to reply to some unread emails. ‘I can’t do this right now,’ she sighs and instead pours herself a glass of red wine and sits down on the rocking chair in her bedroom, staring at the yellow wall full of memories. ‘I had a list of the things I wanted to say to you in my head. I still have the list in my head, it is similar, but instead, it is the list of things I wish I had said.’
Nandita’s thoughts are interrupted by the incoming messages on her phone from her friend, texting to check up on her. She replies quickly, wishing she could maintain her train of thoughts.
Nandita goes back to her list and thinks of the things she wishes she had said. ‘Maybe if I write it down, I would feel lighter.’ Nandita takes a seat at her study table and stares at a blank sheet of paper. She takes a deep breath and begins to write.
I wish I had said: I’m not ok and I need you with me, instead of I’m fine!
I wish I had said: I’m lonely and I need you here with me. Instead, you can go ahead with your meeting and come late.
I wish I had said: I miss you. Instead of you are never here. Your work is always your priority.
I wish I had said: Let’s talk about it. Instead of, never mind.
I wish I had said: Hold me close and hug me tight. Instead of leave me alone and then pushing you away.
Nandita looks at her phone to check the time. She sips her wine and asks Alexa for some of her favourite songs. As the music plays softly in the background, she goes back to her thoughts and writes.
I wish I had said: Can we sit together after dinner and chat about our day. Instead of I need to get this organised for tomorrow. It’s a working day.
I wish I had said: Thank you for all your help, instead of criticising the way you did it.
I wish I had said: I’m looking forward to the weekend together, instead of spending most of my time in front of the television or on my laptop.
I wish I had said: I love you more than ever, instead of just thinking it to myself.
I wish I had said: Wait! You can’t go to work without hugging me instead of allowing you to walk out of the house without that reminder of my love.
I wish I had said: I’ll wait for you to come home and then we can eat dinner together. Instead of I’ve already eaten. Your dinner is on the table.
‘Gosh!’ There are so many things I wish I had said. But am I too late?’ Nandita thought to herself and took the last sip of wine.
‘Is our marriage going to stay like this forever, full of anger? Are we going to grow old like this, full of resentment? Is this what all couples go through? Is this happening because we don’t have children? Why can’t I ever show him what lies deep in my heart?’
‘I’m sorry, Vikas, I want you to know that. But I’ll put it on the list of the things I wish I had said. I wish I had tried harder to make us a happier couple,’ she says to herself.
I wish I had said: How are you? Instead of not asking at all and getting dinner out of the way.
I wish I had said: I really want to have children, we could always have adopted a child, or maybe we could have talked about other ways we could embrace children in our lives. Instead of feeling guilty about not completing our family and simply agreeing because, at that time, I thought it was the best decision. But I don’t want to live my life in regret.
Nandita closes her eyes as her mind wanders in the past, thinking about their times spent together. She recalls her friends and how they envied her when they saw her walk hand in hand with Vikas. ‘He’s so handsome. You’re so lucky!’ they’d say. Nandita smiles to herself. ‘I shall find a way to make my relationship better. I must. For both of us. For our happy future together.’
Her thoughts took her back in time to the day Vikas got down on one knee and proposed. Months later, they tied the knot, followed by a splendid reception and then their romantic honeymoon in France. Then, exciting yearly trips and holidays to Australia, Thailand, China, Europe and many other amazing places in the world. ‘And here I am today, feeling lifeless and dull. Why?’
‘Alexa, stop!’ Nandita says.
The music playing in the background stops as she rests her tired self on her pure white pillow. She closes her eyes, giving them some rest, and the paper she is writing on rests on her chest.
The following morning, Nandita wakes up at her usual time and follows her routine of morning Yoga. She feels lighter than before after writing down her thoughts. It suddenly strikes her that she can’t find that paper anywhere. As she takes a shower, Nandita wonders where it could have gone. After getting dressed, she finds Vikas in the kitchen making himself a cup of coffee.
‘Good morning Nandu,’ he smiles.
‘So, what's the plan?’ Vikas asks.
‘Nothing much. It’s Saturday. I think I’m going to just relax,’ Nandita replies, pouring herself a cup of coffee. ‘Did you have anything in mind?’
‘Ummm,’ Vikas sighs. ‘Let’s go out for lunch today. We can leave around noon.’
‘Wow! Sounds like a date,’ Nandita flirts.
‘It’s been a while, don’t you think,’ he replies, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her close. ‘And after that, we have an appointment at the adoption agency,’ he whispers in her ear.
‘Really?’ Nandita says, unable to catch her breath. ‘But…’
‘But nothing, Darling. I read your wishlist, and I promise you there are going to be happier days ahead for both of us. I think we have gotten a bit lost on our romantic journey. But we can catch up. After all, you are my own dear sweet college sweetheart, right.’