The Secret Chamber

The Secret Chamber

Tick Tock Tick Tock….the clock is ticking on the wall or under my ribcage? The pounding heart might just break the rigid barriers of its home and stray away. Its 3AM, an insane hour to be awake. But I need to keep the melatonin at bay. 

Arun tosses in the warm sheets. His face reflects of a marriage well done; the snoring falling and rising rhythmically, with his robust heaving chest. A sly smile appears beneath the proud bushy moustache; may be reminding him of the last night’s intense love making. Or is it the lingering taste of chole bhature that is the real cupid? Silly me! What love means to him is just a mundane duty for me. Why should I be even reading that serene face? I await the homecoming of my own love, Akshay.

 BROOMMMMM…The pavilion brings my armoured knight. A glimpse of love is worth every trial and tribulation. I wish he could swipe me off my feet like a prince charming. Alas! Though I’m a Rapunzeal, trapped in my knotty, lengthy affairs of dark dead reality; yet Disney is just a fairy tale and mine is a world of secretive tales.


“Nandi..Nandi?” Akshay has a way with calling my name. Nandini to the world, Nandi in his heart; I thrive on dual existences.

“Hey you dumbfounded! Open the window. I can’t hang on it for long. This soul doesn’t even have the luxury of bone breaking, if the fall has to happen.” Akshu to my heart, nothing to the world; squeezes himself into the room.

 Oh I mean the bedroom, of which the bed is a symbol of my physical union with Arun. Not a crease on it, how after some aggression too, I have maintained its dignity. This room stands tall guarding the fluidity of our love with its concrete walls. The walls are my comforters, when in exasperation I bang myself on the bricks, not a single harm is inflicted; totally impervious to the leaks of secrets within. The walls hold our picture perfect marriage. Arun gives out a bold snore agreeing in unison with my unfaithful musings. 

“Are you going to reciprocate to my flow or just long fondly at his stagnancy?” Akshu’s impatience is a habit of bygone days. He just knows how to set that flutter in my heart even after years of separation. We are the remnants of separation.

“What is it that took you so long? Time is just a metaphysical entity to you. But it is a way of contrasting lives I live; before your knock and after the goodbye.” His Nandi complains like a regular irking wife. Wife? His wife? I’m not my Akshu’s wife. Still he holds me like he has known every curve, every mole that has sprout itself on the body. I melt in his sturdy arms; a ritual of years but never a boredom of moment.

Suddenly, the sheets rustle. Arun has thrown away the shawl maybe he too is feeling the rising heat between us. 

With his arms flung skyward, Akshu recites out aloud to soothe my soul, bereft of life:

“The happiness would take my breath away,

No thought could match that ectasy,

No song encompass it, no other worlds.

If I should think of love, I’d think of you.”

Listening to Shakespeare, sung in your glory is freedom. Crumpled, ironed, loose, bound, crushed, stomped, caged or chained- it still is freedom to be caught in the arms of your loved one. Bringing his arms back in an arc, Akshu tightens the bondage. His cheek with the stubble brushes way the wetness of my haggard face.

“I hate tears, Nandi.” His mellifluous voice tears my heart at the seams which I keep sewing like a professional seamstress. I earn a living like this. I yearn for a living like this; in his arms locked without a key.

The most confounding of passion enveloped in a kiss is planted on my creased forehead. The lines of worry melt in the moist affection. The wide open window gaps at me in astonishment. I rush to shut it up but not without a firm warning of, ‘It’s you who let him in. You need to feel sorry, not me.’ 

“None. Absolutely none, has the right to envy my fortune of having you back even after a loss.” Impeccable is what I want this hour to be.

Akshu kneels on the mat beside me. My shimmering body rests on a blanket of ebony hair. The eager bosom heaves and falls in anticipation. My lips, slightly apart, are trembling as they form a sly smile.

The only light in the small room comes from the crescent moon that has shaken off the cloud behind which it was hidden and now hangs low in the sky. Our eyes are locked as he holds my naked foot in his palm. His thumb moves up and down the delicate arch. The silver anklet benefits from the warmth of his lips. He progresses up the slender legs and his generosity blesses them equally. 

He leans into me. I feel his warm breath on my face. Slowly I close my eyes and his mouth claims mine. His chest gently bears me down.  His knees pave the way. Fingers entwine and I gracefully arch up.

Passion and tenderness play hide-and-seek. We make love for separation and unknown to Arun, we make love for togetherness. A tear rolls down my eye and madly in love he kisses the wet guilty cheek.

As we lie on our backs, side by side, distant from reality close to imagination. Not a word passes between us until I turn and whisper in his ears.

“Never again.”

I feel his thumping heart under my palm. 

“Never again. Never again will I leave you for now I’m not a slave of life.” He says same words but we have different intentions; different paths- mine towards the marital bed; his to heaven.

Just then up in the sky, a cloud veils the staring moon, and the bedroom plunges into darkness.

“I have given you all my love to you. I can now survive a lifetime,” I manage few words. “Nothing else matters.”

His hand tries to pull mine but I move away at arm’s length.

“No Akshu! This is the end!” my eyes dart away but the good out of me continues to speak.

“At sunrise, I will be again someone’s wife but this time forever.” With this I unhinge myself from his pleading arms. But love doesn’t shun its pleasure of deep and reassuring touches, the heavenly celebrations of physical intimacy. With an oath of such an indulgence for one last time, I dive into oceans of chastity, this time ruling from top. 

A loud gratifying groan escapes my lips and the forbidden one wakes up incognito to sound of my orgasmic pleasures.

“Again an epileptic convulsion!” Arun banishes the comforts of ignorance and rushes to cuddle me. I am feeling utterly undignified with this outpour. As Arun clasps me in an embrace, Akshu’s voice reverberates in my guilty confines. “Take it easy baby,” is all he says. I’m a graveyard of secrets; living, hearing and reciprocating to two men at a time. One obvious of other; while the other oblivion to the dead one’s presence.

“Hey Bhagwaan! I forgot to administer you the pill last night. Or did I forget to recite the Hanuman chalisa?” Arun’s guilt is massive and engulfing me like a giant wave. Holding on to boulders of hope, I can only mutter a, “Relax Arun.”

 My rendezvous with Akshu that happen at these wee hours, by the medical science are termed as convulsions while for the godmen these are ghastly encounters. I believe the latter. Akshu’s soul lives in mine and I exist beside Arun. 

Arun paces frantically, muttering and cursing himself. “Baba had said this won’t happen again. I shouldn’t have bargained on the fees.” By calling this a ghostly affair, Arun is casting aspersions on our love. I have not only cheated him but been the wind on his open wound.

In a trice, his anger and suspicion give way to shame and guilt as the impending pools of reflections in my eyes shed the watery obligations. I weep inconsolably.

“No Nandini. No. Don’t lose hope I will sail you through this.” Though Arun ‘s words are comforting they offer me no respite.

“Tell him he is the storm in our lives.” Akshu storms out from my mental confines.

“I love you more than I care to live. Just can’t see you suffering like this.” Love burns the moth even though the flames are reckless. Arun hovers over me for warmth yet he can’t come close.   

“Again make clear to him Nandi he is the cause of suffering.” This voice however logical it may seem is not real. Rightly the doctors say it’s a disease; a disease crippling my morality.

“ Tomorrow, we leave this house. It is possessed.” Arun speaks, being decisive and possessive simultaneously.

“Nandi tell him you are not going anywhere. He may leave if he wishes to.” Again I wish Akshu’s arrogance was real but now I can’t take the dual ringing in my ears; one real and the other perpetually wanting to be real. The grudge between two stark opposite realities of my life are leaving no room for my own voice.

“Stop it! I say just stop!” not to any one in specific, my anger and frustration are as directionless as my current state. 

The moonlit sky will soon see the vibrant solar rays cutting through the misty veil. Shades of grey will shun their ambiguity to make way for ochre, amber, orange and blue. I too must shun my secrets to make way for a transparent relationship with Arun. I must acquaint him to my past and accept him in my present. I have 45minutes before 5am and the house will start bustling with chores. The children must feel our love and just not watch the play.  

As I nod to myself, “Are you okay Nandini?” Arun’s concern breaks my reverie,“ I know you must be exhausted by this whole process. Shall we go on a road trip to Ladakh? You always wanted to visit the monasteries there. Or wait, shall we call your parents and sisters over; you enjoy their company more than anything else in this world. Or we..” he continues my bucket list. How selfless is this man! How could I never fall in absolute love with him?

I put on the lights and the darkness fades away. Hare Krishna, bless me with the strength to come clean in front of the man who loves me more than himself. 

Arun covers his face as the sudden brightness startles him. I slowly take his hands in mine and try to steady myself in his flickering eyes. Gradually our pupils meet.

“Arun, today I will share with you a blast from my past that still erodes MY…. sorry, in fact OUR present. Arun I married you not out of choice but compulsion. I was involved with a guy called Akshay from my college.” I look for some movement of the eyeball. But no disturbance, absoluteness still. Whatever it is, I have to continue.

“We loved each other immensely. Marriage was on cards but life reckless. A day prior to the auspicious day, I lost Akshu to a bike accident. Accidently, then you walked into my life and I married you immediately in hopes of recovering from my grief.” A tear rolls down his cheeks wandering throw the blemishes finally collapsing on our intertwined fingers. But no blinking, total blank. 

Irrespective of his reactions, I continue, “You indeed came as an oasis in my deserted life but my folly I could never quench myself from it. This house which you purchased on my urging was Akshu’s abode where he stayed as a paying guest. I wanted to touch every object touched by him. I wanted to occupy the corner from where he called and spoke to me indefinitely. I wanted to breathe in the room where I would be first called his bride. HIS BRIDE!” the last two words escaped my desires with strong affirmation. Arun for the first time shuts his lids tight, unleashes his hands from mine and walks towards the partially covered window. His back taut and hands crossed behind, he is staring at the strangely stippled sky.

“Every night I hear Akshu’s voice calling out to me to be one with me. The convulsions are results of illusioned physical intimacy between us. But now I want to start fresh, enjoy the fresh fragrance of your old love. All if you wish to forgive; accept me. Say something Arun, your silence is killing me.” I plead to the taut back, still rigid and withdrawn.  He is may be angry; angry for sleeping over grave matters. Angry over being fooled by a chaste scandal-only Arun’s beating four chambers can tell. I stare at the walls helplessly. 

Akshu has made a room for himself within the walls of this chamber. How encompassing is this space of three, until now it never caused claustrophobic anxiety to any. From this moment, the dynamics may change; there may be new walls, more space. The procrastination crumbles me and sobs make way to wails. 

The crossed hands are now parallel to each other. Arun opens the curtains allowing the parade of soft rays to enlighten the room. 

Here I find the courage to leap into another dirty tumbler of secrets kept brewing over years.

“Suja is not our daughter.” I can only manage so much at this hour. Now I can’t even face the wall.

What is he thinking? Why is he not responding? Suja’s enthusiastic ‘papa’ cries must be filling up his already welled up soul. Her firm grip while jumping down the stairs must have held him badly. The hospital sleepless nights when she was suffering from pneumonia, must be fatiguing his bones now.

“Yes. Yes, she is ours!” Akshu’s voice again lifts up its ugly head.

“No. Not at all. She is not yours. She is all ours- Arun’s and mine. He is her father, her guiding angel and the real parent. You are nobody. Just an imagination of fantasy; just a wandering soul who will now no more find a body.” I yell, screech like a wounded myna trying to protect my nest, my eggs. The voice is deafening but I have to shut it once for all.

Arun finally turns to look at me. 

“I’m stung and wounded. I’m lost. Currently, I’m at loss of my thinking abilities and responding skills. I need time to face all of this. Till then the show must go on.” That’s all from my man of few words. Its 5am and he leaves for Suja’s badminton couching. I’m relieved that the family is not at stake. Yet, I wait for my verdict.

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