A madness called love

She stood before me in all her splendor and glory. Her frame was slender and she should have looked comely and vulnerable. But no! The red Sari covered the hour glass figure and gave her an aura of power. Her eyes were blood shot and burnt like embers of coal. Her dark hair had been let down like the wild hanging branches of a Banyan teee symbolizing her raw primordial power. It was the Goddess Durga herself looking at me from the mirror. Today was the end of Navratri and she had come down to destroy the evil Asura Mahisasura.

The Goddess was inside me. I could sense her power flowing through my veins. A fire burnt within my heart. Every man was an Asura and the Goddess came again and again every era to destroy them.  I looked around for my adversary. I could not find anyone. He would be here soon. Meantime the fury was welling within me and needed to be let out. I could see all his evil weapons scattered around. They would face the brunt of my fury for now. I would reduce them to rubble. I picked up the chair and flung it at the television. A strange sense of elation passed through me as the television screen shattered into pieces. I felt a complete sense of freedom. The fridge, the computer, the table, the sofa, the vases and urns – none of them could stand against my rage. My dance of destruction was halted suddenly by a new sensation – pain!

Intense pain shot through my hand. My hand was bleeding. The sight of blood sickened me. The Goddess was no longer with me. All the fire and the fury had suddenly evaporated in a jiffy. I felt scared. He was coming to kill me. No! I did not want to die. The blood was not stopping. I looked out of the window. Dark clouds were looming over the horizon. No sign of the sun could be seen. Something bad was going to happen today. Something very bad!

Suddenly the bell rang. A shiver ran down my spine. He had come! I ran up the stairs. I rushed into my bedroom. The bell continued to ring for the next ten minutes. Then the bell stopped. I could now hear thuds. He was breaking through the door. No! What should I do now?

I quickly bolted the door of the bed room and hid in a corner. I felt so scared. My hand was still bleeding. I could no longer control myself and burst into tears. I wept inconsolably. I wanted my mother. She had always been a comforting presence. How I wish she was with me now. I needed her so much. She would take my head into her lap and gently ruffle by hair. She would have made everything all right.

There was a sudden clap of thunder followed by a crashing sound. The front door had been breached. I could hear the sound of footsteps. He was coming. Soon I heard a knock at the door.

“Sandhya, are you there?” Are you all right? Please open the door.”

I cowered in fear. He was trying to lure me out. I knew what he was up to. I was the only one who stood between him and his true love. He wanted to sweep me aside like rubbish on the road. I would not fall for his tricks. But then that would only delay the inevitable.

Once again the thuds began. Now it was much closer. It was as if someone was pounding inside my head with a sledge hammer. I could hear some voices outside the door. He had come with henchmen. He was clearly taking no chances.

Then suddenly the door broke open. Three men stood there. Deepak entered while the others waited by the door. He was slowly walking towards me.

“Go away you monster. Don’t come near me. ”

But he kept coming. I picked up the vase that was kept on the corner table of the bed and flung it at him. It just missed his head.

“Sandhya, what has happened to you? Calm down. Don’t you recognize me? I am your husband Deepak”

He came near and put his hand on my shoulders. Our eyes met.

                                                       * * * * *

I was jubilant. My stand was vindicated. They all had said independent candidates had no chance in politics. I had proved them wrong. They had said one can't do anything in politics without money and muscle power. I had proved them wrong there as well. I had won by connecting to people of all strata on a personal level and convincing them that their welfare was of foremost importance to me. The man on the street is no drone to be manipulated at will with freebies, alcohol, posters, loudspeakers and media. He too is a human being with a head and a heart. When one approaches them with a clear head and a clean heart, they respond in numbers. They had turned up in such large numbers to vote for me that it was almost scary. I wonder if I will be able to live up to their expectations. Or would I become yet another footnote in the history of Indian politics?

At the overall state level, the electorate had given no clear mandate. It was a hung assembly and both the dominant parties were seeking support of independents. Representatives from both parties had reached out to me. A berth in the ministry was assured for me either ways. Ideally I would not have liked to play ball with these corrupt political parties. But there is so much more one can do as a minister than as independent legislator. Whichever party I chose, I am sure the government would be corrupt. But I will not let any of that taint my ministry. I would do my job with all honesty for the good of the people of the state. After all, even one clean minister is a step in the right direction. This is just a beginning. As they say Rome was not built in a day. I would set an example for others to emulate. Maybe more independents like me will fight and win and join governments and run clean ministries. The country’s power structure had been devolving from national parties to regional parties. The power will next devolve to the provinces and then power will flow down to individuals. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of decentralized administration will be eventually be realized through the natural process of evolution albeit 75 to 80 years too late. For all I know, one day a clean independent candidate may even become the country's prime minister.

I am sure within my lifetime I will see the country being run by a group of clean individuals of independent mind with the sole objective of restoring this nation to its past glory. This was a small step for me but it would be a giant leap for the nation’s politics. I felt so glad to be part of this revolution. But all that in good time! Now it was celebration time. I had to share the news with my wife Sandhya. She would be so happy for me. Without her support all this would not have been possible. If it had been anyone else, she would have divorced me the moment I announced my decision to quit my cushy corporate job and enter the swamp of politics. But not her. She had stood behind me like a rock. She was one positive force amongst all the naysayers in my family and friends circle. So this victory was as much hers as it is mine.

Strangely her mobile phone as well as our home land line were unreachable. I had tried close to twenty times in the past two hours. I was getting worried. What was up with her? I decided to postpone the celebration with my supporters and head straight for home.

When I rang the bell, no one opened the door. The door was not locked from outside. So she was probably inside. Then why was she not opening the door? Had something happened to her? I could no longer contain my anxiety. I called a couple of neighbors for help and we broke open the door. The spectacle that greeted me! The whole house was in a mess. Most of the household items were broken. Glass pieces were scattered all over the place. Had some political thugs been ransacking my house? What had they done to my poor Sandhya?

I ran up the stairs to our bedroom. The door was bolted from inside. I called out to her.

“Sandhya, are you there?” Are you all right? Please open the door.”

There was no response. I was now really scared. Again with the help of the neighbors, I broke open the bed room door. Sandhya sat in a corner near the bed her head bowed down. Her clothes were in disarray and her dark hair hung loosely over her hunched form. I walked up to her.

Hearing my footsteps, she lifted up her head. Fear and hatred clouded her pretty oval shaped face. She had been crying. Marks of dried up tears and redness could be seen all over the her lovely face. Seeing me, she jumped to her feet, grabbed the nearby vase and flung it at me.

“Go away you monster. Don’t come near me.”

As the vase missed me, my eyes fell on her hand. It was bleeding badly. What had she done to herself? I ran up to her and held her by firmly by her slender shoulders.

“Sandhya, what has happened to you? Calm down. Don’t you recognize me? I am your husband Deepak”

Her innocent doe eyes connected with mine. Her eyes were bloodshot and cold. But as our eyes met, I could sense some calmness returning to her eyes and her expression softening slightly.

                                                             * * * * *
I looked into his steady brown eyes. I could see nothing but unconditional love in them. His broad forehead was knotted in concern. I looked at his small turned up nose and the chin jutting out. I remembered how I used to tease him that they made him look like a character right out of a cartoon book. This was the man I loved more than my life. I found his strong hands gripping my shoulders reassuring.

How could I even imagine that he would hurt me! I flung my arms around him and held him tightly and began to cry again. This time the tears were soothing. He gently patted the back of my head as I held on to him firmly. What had come over me the last two hours? I recognized this feeling. It was the same feeling that had afflicted me more than ten years back. My eyes fell on a photo that lay on the bed. It was the photo that had triggered that old madness again. My mind drifted down the memory track.

I was then fifteen years of age. That day school had closed early. I had come home and let myself in. Mother usually used to be away at work and I carried a spare key. On entering I had heard strange moans emanating from the bedroom. Unsuspectingly, I had gone and knocked the door. At first the door had not opened. After persistent knocking finally the door was opened. My mother stood in front of me shamefaced; her clothes in a disheveled state. The bed sheets were crumpled. The window lay open. There was the scent of some strange male perfume. My father did not use perfumes.

Before I could confront my mother, my father had entered the scene. He had also returned early from office. Like me, he had also probably surmised what had happened seeing the state of affairs. It seemed as if suddenly he had come under demonic possession. He took the cricket bat lying in the hall and began to beat my mother. To death. Right in front of my eyes! My whole world had collapsed in the past half an hour. Even now the very thought of the day gives me shudders. I wish I could forget it.

My father was taken away to jail. The experience had totally crushed me and had snatched away my sense of reality. I had to be confined to a lunatic asylum for six months. Slowly reason had returned and over the next five years, the loving care of my uncle and aunt had returned me to normalcy. Then Deepak had entered my life. It had seemed as if all the traumatic experience of my childhood was just a passing nightmare and I would live happily ever after. Till today! The photo of my husband in the embrace of another woman that had come by courier had brought to fore the fears that my whole life would collapse like a pack of cards. All over again! That had triggered a panic attack.

But now my mind was calm. But I wondered how I would explain things to Deepak. I had not told him about my traumatic experiences and my phase of insanity. I had wanted to tell him before marriage. But my uncle and aunt had dissuaded me as they did not want me to lose out on so good a match. I had yielded to their reasoning and let the skeletons lie buried in the old cupboards of my past. After I knew Deepak better, I realized what a noble soul he was and that he would have easily accepted me with my past. But it had felt deceitful to be telling him so many months after marriage. I did not want to lose his trust. So I had continued to let status quo continue.

Now all secrets were out. His secret lay on the bed. Mine was there in open sight for everyone to see and all over me. Our relationship as we had known it till now had been damaged beyond repair. It remained to be seen where things would head from here.

                                                          * * * * *

As she released her grip on me, I turned around and noticed a photo lying on the bed. I picked it up. It was a picture of me with Anu. How did it get here? No wonder Sandhya was in such a state. I would say she had overreacted by normal standards. But then she was not normal. I knew about her delicate state of mind.

During one of my campaigns I had been visiting a colony where reformed prisoners were living. I had been indeed surprised to find a photo of Sandya from her younger days in the rooms of a wizened old man.

“Who is that in the picture?”

“That is my little daughter, Sandy”, he had replied with a mournful expression on his face.

I was puzzled. “Really? The girl in is the picture is now my wife. She has never told me about you.”

Then the old man had told the old story of the events of ten years back and the effect it had had on Sandhya.

“I so much want to see my Sandy. But I fear if I come in front of her, I might trigger those painful memories. I have felt so guilty about indulging in such a mindless act of brutal violence that has scarred my daughter for life. Now my daughter had recovered and is leading a happy life with you. I don’t even want to take the slightest risk of anything going wrong. I am so glad to have met you. You seem to be a nice man. Please take good care of my little Sandy.”

I had initially been a bit disappointed that Sandhya had not confided in me. How could she have keep the biggest secret of her life from me? But after a few days pondering, understanding had dawned on me. I had realized how difficult it must be for her even to recollect those experiences far from recounting them to someone. I had continued to stay in touch with my father-in-law. I had even arranged for him to see her from distance. From that day, she seemed to me like a delicate porcelain crockery to be handled with care. I took care to ensure I told her nothing that might even have the slightest negative effect on her mind. That was one of the reasons I had not told her anything about Anu.

Yes. I had kept the matter of Anu completely in the dark from her. Anu was a vivacious young woman who worked closely with one of the local NGOs. She had been highly impressed with my ideals and had been totally besotted with me. Even I was not completely oblivious to her natural charms and found myself attracted to her. Whereas my feelings for Anu were just a passing infatuation, my love for Sandhya was more deep rooted. So there was no way I would do anything that would hurt Sandhya. So I had gently explained things to Anu and tried to make her see sense. She had understood where I was coming from but there is a limit to reason in the matters of the heart. So she had continued to follow me around with moony eyes.

In one of the celebrations organized by the NGO, we had got too drunk and a journalist had caught us in an intimate pose. It had been nothing but a couple of minutes of weakness but the photo told a different story.

The journalist had got in touch with me the next day.
He had walked to my office insolently and flashed the photo. “Well, Mr. Reformer, I have something that may be of interest to you.”

I had flushed when I saw the photo. I knew the implications. “What do you want?”

“That is what I like about you, Mr. Reformer. I really appreciate how you get straight to the point. Well, what does a blackmailer want? Money! What else?”

“How much?”

“I am really enjoying this conversation. Give me a fifty million and you can have the negatives and all existing prints. What say? Deal?”

“I don’t have the money.”

“No problem. I can arrange for you to have the money. I have contacts in the ruling party. All you have to do is to join them and they will pay me my fee.”

“But that would mean going against my principles. It would be destroying all that I have sought to build the past two years.”

“Well, Mr. Idealist, do you have a choice?”

“Maybe, I do, Mr. Smart Ass Journalist! Maybe instead of dealing in cash, we can do barter. I might have something that may be of interest to you.”

He was caught off guard by my sudden shift to a more nonchalant tone. ”What do you mean, Deepak?”

The moment the journalist had flashed the photo I had realized where this was all heading. My mind had immediately worked out a plan and I had secretly started the video recorder on my cell phone. I now played him the recording.

“Do you know what will happen if I send this video to the Press Council of India? Photo for video! Deal?”

I thought I had won the hand. But he had had the last laugh. He had scored a hit on me where it pained the most. Even if I managed to convince Sandhya with my explanations, things would never remain the same after this. I wondered where things would head from here.

                                                       * * * * *

They both looked at each other. Their eyes spoke to each other. The unspoken language of love! But so much had happened the last two hours. Everything was not going to be resolved just like that. It was time for words and explanations. Neither knew where to begin.
“Well. Err. It is not what you think,” he began.

“I am sorry. I wanted to tell you,” she interrupted

“This journalist tried to blackmail me.” He tried to begin again.

Again he was interrupted. “I don’t know what came over me. My father…”

This was clearly going nowhere. They had so much to say to each other but the right words just would not come.

“Well, if you wanted new items for the house, you could have told me. I would have bought them for you. Don’t you think you have made a rather strong statement by breaking up all the old items”, he said.

“Did you find only that girl with flat nose and crooked lips to be your mistress? If you had told me, I would have found a better mistress for you.”

They both fell laughing into each other’s arms. Soon the laughter was replaced by tears. But they were tears of relief. Nothing like laughter and tears to wash away all negativity! It had stooped raining. The clouds had cleared. The day looked bright again and the city had been washed clean by the rains.

He quickly got out an anti-septic and bandage for her hand. Today was a day for celebrations. For all the explanations, there was another place, another time. After all they still had an eternity together. Out of the dead foliage of the old relationship had sprung the saplings of a new relationship that would in time grow much stronger.

Comments

  1. Wonderful story.
    Almost I could see it all happening in front of my eyes visually. Perfect words. Can make up for a very good short movie.

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  2. A long one but written well!

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    1. Thanks Uppal. Fiction does require a certain minimum length which is rather long for a blog.

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  3. Nice one Karthik. The girl sure sounds completely off though.. Bad tidings for the future.

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    1. Thanks Asha. Indeed. Luckily the storyteller stops at this point and gets away.

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  4. Nice one LKa. Keeps a reader thoroughly gripped till the end. At first I thought it was going to be a psychothriller type of story.... give us more in this genre too

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    1. Thanks a lot, Deepa. Yeah, psycho thrillers. Bit difficult to write as details need to be worked out meticulously.

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