I wish I hadn’t taken off from work today.
I wish I hadn’t decided to clean my attic today.
I wish I hadn’t found my old photo album today.
As my fingers touched the dusty red cover of the treasure of old memories, my heart skipped a beat. The sound of past echoed in my head, and my legs started trembling. I pulled the chair lying next to the old bicycle, and without even shedding its dust, I threw myself on it with my hands clutching my past that was screaming to bail out of these pages.
It had been twenty-two long years since I had buried my relationship with Rohan in these boxes. I had always avoided opening this box on some or the other pretext, but today, it just appeared out of nowhere, as if it was waiting for my attention.
At first, I decided to let those memories remain locked in the album, but my heart replied in dissonance. How I had managed to refrain from checking him on numerous social media apps, but a glimpse of this album prodded me to take a glance at his picture.
As I opened the album, his smiling face and green eyes gazed through my soul. My racing heart wanted to have more of him. I kept flipping through the pictures one by one – cuddling each other, teasing each other, singing and laughing with our band. Weren’t those the best days of my life? It was the time when I felt alive without any care for the world. We were deeply in love with each other, and that was all that mattered to me. It’s astonishing how one person can become your entire world- the focus of your life.
As those memories began to occupy my mind-space, I felt a strange feeling of numbness taking over my senses. I quickly put the album away, locked the attic, and hurled back to my room.
My mind had started a dialog already. I was going back and forth between my past and present. Would my life be different if I were with Rohan? Was my present not good enough? Was I really unhappy in my marriage? Would Rohan have been a better life partner? I found myself struggling in the cage of infinite questions that my mind was trapping me in.
The next few days were restless. I felt irritated at the slightest disorder or provocation.
“Ma, are you feeling fine? You seem anxious these days. Should I book an appointment with Dr. Mittal?” enquired worried Riya.
“No sweetie. It’s just some official issue. I am doing good. Don’t worry about me,” I smiled at her.
Riya, my seventeen-year-old daughter, was the youngest of my two children. Ayaan, my son, was two years elder to her.
“Are Dad and Ayaan back from the ground?” I quickly asked Riya, in an attempt to divert her focus from me.
“Not yet. It’s Sunday, Ma. They won’t come without having their favorite burrito and quesadilla at Sector-28 market,” replied Riya, rolling her eyes with sarcasm and jealousy.
“Let me make some quesadillas for you for lunch. Hope that would cheer my sweetheart,” I said to excite her, to which she gladly assented with a broad smile and a vigorous nod.
I hastened towards the kitchen to check if I had all the ingredients needed for quesadillas. I started chopping the vegetables, and was suddenly taken to the time when I went out with Rohan on his bike to eat momos. Burgers, patties and momos were the only exotic fast food available in our times. Rohan and I would often sneak out from the hostel late at night, to pacify our craving, both for the food as well as for each other.
The melodious tinkling of the wind chime brought me back from my reverie. The subtle way in which wind connected one to the nature through a soft, pleasing tone of the chime was akin to a beautiful dream transforming into reality. Aakash, my husband, had a fascination for wind chimes and plants. Each of our balcony was green as a mini rainforest. Aakash would often gift grown and nurtured rare plants from our collection (with a list of instructions for care) to our friends.
Aakash was the simplest, no-hassle man I had ever met in my life. He was blessed to find beauty in the simplest things ranging from plants, windchimes, nature walks or playing cricket with Aayan to simply watching TV with me, or assuming the role of a chef on weekends or singing with Riya.
Aakash didn’t have high ambitions in his life, and was a happy-go-lucky and content man. I had seldom seen him angry with anyone, or upset with life in general. That was one quality of his that I had not only admired, but also secretly wished I had.
My relationship with Aakash had been a smooth, congenial and affectionate one. He was a very supportive and non-interfering person. He hadn’t always been available for children because of his official travels, but he would try to make up for the same as and when he could. I didn’t actually miss his presence but was always concerned about his well-being and whereabouts when he was traveling. He would ensure that we communicate regularly when he was not in the city.
Aakash was the only person who had lent me his shoulder to lean on and a listening ear to my incessant cries of pain when I found out that Rohan had been cheating on me.
Aakash had gifted me a beautiful tiny wind chime on my birthday to be hung inside my hostel room. It was an exquisite piece of art and I was enamored with its tune. In a fit of excitement, I rushed to Maya’s room, and I was about to knock at the door when I heard Rohan’s voice from inside. I froze as I heard the sound of their giggles, kisses, and finally their moaning.
Aakash noticed the stream of tears and quietly pulled me towards my room. I was in a state of shock, to say the least. I felt as if someone had trampled over my castle of dreams, and I was an empty shell with nothing to hold on. Rohan refuted the allegation of deceiving me by saying that he had the same relationship with Maya as he had with me – a relationship with benefits, or a casual relationship with perks of exploring our needs without any strings attached (the word ‘situationship’ being uncommon those days)!
I was dumbfounded. I found no merit in arguing with a guy who considered my relationship, my love, my commitment as tradeable. It appeared that I was the one in a state of limerence.
All I had now was a void that kept swallowing me for days and weeks. If Aakash had not been there, I would not have found the courage to look for meaning in life, and move on. He kept saying, “You are much more capable and resilient than you consider yourself to be. Do not waste your life for an untrustworthy person.” His words and presence in my life gave me the strength to find myself again.
When Aakash proposed me after two years, I couldn’t find any reason to say ‘No’, except that I didn’t love him. But love had lost its glory and meaning for me. I was not even sure if I was capable of loving anyone in my life ever again. Aakash had been my confidante then, and he remained so over the years.
A journey down the memory lane, as I chopped vegetables in the kitchen, answered a lot of my earlier questions.
Would my life be different if I were with Rohan?
Yes, my life would have been a living hell with Rohan as he was either a womanizer or a monogamist. I would have never had a stable relationship with him.
Was my present not good enough?
My present was better than what even I’d planned for myself twenty-two years ago! I reminded myself that Universe always has better plans for us, and we must trust that our present is the best gift endowed to us.
Was I really unhappy in my marriage?
No! I was never unhappy in my marriage. I think I never understood the true meaning of love. Love doesn’t necessarily mean a flamboyant life. Love means being there for each other at all times, giving each other space and support to grow, trusting each other, and understanding each other’s silence. I couldn’t identify my love for Aakash but it was always there.
Would Rohan have been a better life partner?
Comparing Aakash to Rohan would be sheer imbecile and injudicious. Aakash was that gleaming ray of hope that was always present in my life, a silent prayer that God had blessed me with.
I was glad to have taken off from work that day.
I was glad that I decided to clean my attic that day.
I was glad that I found my old photo album that day.
I ran back to the attic with a box of matchsticks, took out the photo album and did what I should’ve done years ago. I had finally set myself free from the self-locked cage of my past with a new found love for my life partner.
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