As a newly minted single mom with a five-year-old son to boot, you suddenly wake up to the bone crunching reality that the world has changed overnight.
Gone is the make believe cocoon of home and hearth, the carefully built facade, the haven of happiness that the world saw you closeted in. Gone is the very elevating tag of being someone’s wife, especially if that someone happens to be a hot shot lawyer, an intimidating criminal lawyer with a fearsome handle bar moustache and big booming voice to boot; a voice that sounded a cross between a lion’s roar and a vengeance filled hyena’s howl. A man standing insanely tall at six feet three inches and with a social standing. A forty year old swashbuckling hunk of a man who drove a car, a blazing red Merc no less, an envious beast that boasted of a massive sticker on the back window of his bespoke six door blazing red convertible that screamed out to the world in a superciliously crass display of alpha male braggadocio, ‘ADITYA: LORD OF THE JUNGLE’.
Gone too were the appendages attached to being wifey to such a Type A guy; the perks of the job so to say–a retinue of servants, a profusion of pranams and namastes and opening of doors and bowing of heads, back fully bent minute-long salutes. Gone too are the weekly visitations to the parlour, the mall, a new city or the latest gig in town, the endless and unlimited use of plastic (the one that opens pecuniary doors!), the entire paraphernalia that goes with being Mrs Aradhana Dhillon.
Now replace all this with cipher.
Yes, that’s what you’ve been reduced to.
A mere zero.
An apology of your earlier self.
A had been.
A woman who overnight became a past tense, a woman with a past; someone’s past, a woman with a past now coping with a hellish present and with no hope of a future, any future for that matter.
And so you wake up to realise that there is no bank to go to, no cards to swipe, and therefore no malls to shop at, no fancy restaurants to be taken to, no big screen movies to view, and certainly no holidays and vacations and resorts to head to.
The age of luxury has been stolen, snatched away from you by the very man who you loved and lived with for almost a decade, the very person who had on bended knees many moons ago proposed, pledged a plethora of promises, swooned you with honey dipped words including the trite but still heart warming ‘Aru, I love you to the moon and back.’ This, followed by a plea, a bare whisper, an utterance, in a voice most sensuous, sonorous and soothing to the soul, ‘Darling, will you marry me!’.
The morning after being relegated to the status of an ex, a single mother whose world has suddenly shrunk and been rudely torn asunder you realise that all that was a lie, a charade, a fake man’s carefully packaged machismo, that it was all just a beautiful wrapper but with no good stuff inside, a man that was all style but no substance; high on promise yet zero delivery.
The only thing he delivered and left behind was a five year old that is his exact replica_ the very same deep grey eyes and the sticky set brows and the unruly crop of curly jet black hair, the peach skin, the sanguine walk and that left indented smile that ensured the strongest of women went weak in the knees.
And the now this imp is your responsibility and yours alone and you realise how daunting a task that is when you realise that it is not Aditya Dhillon who has divorced his wife and has refused to give a single penny to his lawfully wedded wife but the world and its uncle too have divorced you, turned their backs on you. You see it in their eyes, the way they move away as if your shadow is enough to pollute their minds and bodies. And you see more shut doors and calls that go unanswered and messages that go unresponsive and smiles that turn into smirks and benevolence swap places with malevolence.
And then the stress increases manifold when you realise that sans money, sans any social security net, sans any emotional and mental support system you are nothing but a piece of fast dissipating human meat en route to decay and final death.
It’s week one of your divorcehood (if there is a word as such!), and you have survived just about enough. You lived through the day, made breakfast, lunch and dinner (fed Rehan his favourite mutton curry with rice), even slept for a few hours.
And still about managed to maintain the facade of a strong woman, a woman who walks with her head held high, a person who keeps her head, her heels, and her standards high.
But it is the nights that give you untold misery, leave you a neurotic; you, a ship wrecked battered soul howling and crying, desperately questing for the proverbial harbour of safety.
And then reality hits you, full frontal: YOU ARE IN THIS ALONE. OVER TIME BEING DIVORCED BECOMES EASY, STAYING DIVORCED IS THE ONE THAT’S MOST ONEROUS.
Now if that is a stress, you may ask what’s new about it? Haven’t women handled stress before? Aren’t women raised to handle stress all their lives? Are not women getting divorced every other day? And are they not being left saddled with a child or two and are they not handling such situations, ably or otherwise, marching forwards, heads held high? So, what is it that you stress about that’s different to the rest of the world?
Well, to that you reply that it’s not the stress that is your problem, it’s the coping mechanism that is the issue.
Earlier too, in the marriage years, the tortuous decade that swept by, you were handling a lot of stress, but then you had your safety valves, your coping mechanisms, your go to ‘soul sisters’ and ‘soul brothers’, your support system who would gladly lend you their ears and their precious times while you poured your heart out, your anguished badly bruised heart finding an outlet, drowning and dissipating all agony and sorrow in a welter spring of tears and wailings.
You remember the times when Aditya would come home pitch drunk, and stumble up to you, grab you by the throat and force you to the wall and proceed to tear apart your saree and brutally thrust his manhood on you, his hands, rough and beastly, biting and digging deep into your skin, his mouth jammed into yours, feral teeth biting your lips. You remember the nights being left alone thus, after he had coolly walked away, a crazed sex maniac with the soul of a devil. You recall the times you were a lumpen piece of lava, bereft and scarred, your brutalised self, stumped and stamped on the cold damp floor. You a heap of trash lying in a pool of your own fast coagulating blood, the air around feeling deeply and disgustingly nauseating and violated, you slumping, crashing out and then waking up God knows how many hours later, feeling less human than ever before; a crumpled sodden lump of reddish mass, your dignity or whatever was left of it staring at you as if it were a ghost, a frightful apparition, a creature from some forbidding land.
You also remember the umpteen occasions when he threw dinner plates at you, hit you with slippers, hurled the vilest invectives, called you and your mother a slut and smashed that man mountain of a fist at you, your jaws cracking, the sound of teeth jerking off from their sockets sending your slender five feet frame tumbling onto the bed, your hands and legs shaking crazily as if you’re in the throes of a deathly seizure.
But then, long, long after he would have left, after you would have cried and howled, after the rain of tears would be expended and you would have regained consciousness, you would gather yourself, pick yourself from the floor, slump onto the sofa, and work the phone.
You would call up Indra, your bestie, the skinny ponytailed girl who you knew and who knows you from the time the two of you were four year olds, the one who stayed your soul mate all through the passage of time, the one from whom there are no secrets to hide, no shame and no names not to be disclosed. And so you would call and rant and pour your heart out. And then when she got married and moved to Canada and it became difficult to call her on a whim and fancy, you still had Nidhi or Bindu or Diya or Urmi, all dear friends, all your support systems from college years.
Good souls all, well meaning people you could call up at any hour of the day or night and pour your heart out to, seek solace in and drown in the comforting warmth of soothing words, much needed empathy every time hubby dear was in the mood to indulge himself, to throw a tantrum or two, to smash your face or belt you or break a tooth or two, a couple of bones smashed to pulp as a grand parting gesture.
But then that was all before the divorce.
The coping mechanisms all changed post decoupling.
For days and weeks on end you felt a hollow within you. As if you were an empty pit, a barren piece of brackish earth, its vitals scooped out, your heart no longer alive and beating, you nothing but a melange of fast decaying sickly rattling bones.
So, how do you cope with this new mess your life has morphed into?
Earlier, when depression hit rock bottom, and when you had exhausted yourself seeking out friends and working the phones, you simply fell into bed and stayed there.
You let time pass by, curled up in foetal position, a baby in inertia mode, sleeping unmindful whether it was day or night.
And when all that didn’t work, you drank. Drank like a fish, at times straight from the bottle, on the rocks!
And so your room, for that’s where you were confined to, resembled a garbage dump.
Empty gin, vodka, whiskey and beer bottles lay scattered all over the floor, on the bed, the table, in the balcony et al. And keeping them company were cigarette cases, all emptied out, stubs at every nook and corner, the room an utterly noxious pot pourri of intensely repulsive smells, a house of extreme debauchery that would make a den of vice look like a pious place of worship.
But now things were different.
Post your divorce, and with no 24/7 ‘go to friends’ to go to, you still suffered from the same malaise, from the same trauma, the same insecurities except that they had magnified several times over.
And what do you do when the earlier coping mechanisms weren’t really effective?
Well, you go back to what could have been your first love, someone you had separated from eons ago, something you had wanted to do all your life. Someone who you now needed as if it were your lifeboat, you a shipwrecked sailor stranded on high seas and all at sea.
And that something was: WRITING.
So, suitably excited, you sit up.
And ponder_ ‘what do you write on’?
And as usual when no instant answers are forthcoming, you turn towards your life saver_ Google Baba.
You stab some keys and out pops: ‘Writing Prompts For Beginners’.
Interest suitably aroused, you tab further.
The screen fills up with no less than a dozen odd suggestions.
The first one stares at you.
Write in the second person in 450-500 words about a dinner gone horribly wrong.
Excited, you straighten up, pull a chair and plonk yourself at your ‘desk’, which is your kitchen platform and, while keeping an eye on the vegetable pulao that’s simmering on the burner (something you’re preparing ‘coz that’s what kiddie loves best), you begin.
You stab the keys but your fingers don’t move. Your mind doesn’t follow your dictates. Your brain’s suffered a seizure, went comatose.
You stare at the blank screen. The white screen stares back at you.
God knows for how long this staring match continues…two stupid people, one non-living and the other near to non-living, both resolute in their endeavour to not budge an inch.
And then, you give up; blink, and move away from the screen, away from your laptop.
You turn off the gas, and walk into the balcony. You then you call your besties, one after the other.
And then all you find are busy numbers, or excruciatingly annoying call diverts, switched off notifications et al.
A couple of instant reverts too…well meaning missives like will call you…will revert in a while…sorry darling…am headed to the airport…anything urgent…hope all is well…
Your mind goes kaput.
You give the prompt a second dekho.
Now, what on earth is a second person.
You always thought your husband, the virile and dashingly handsome Aditya was the first and last person in your life. But now, with him gone, so cruelly yanked out of your life, who the fuck is the second person, you wonder.
Is that Rehan, your heartbeat, the raison de’ etre of your existence? The very purpose of your life?
But wait, how would Rehan right about a family dinner gone wrong?
I mean the only dinners he would ever remember vividly, and if that really qualifies as one, are the ones, infrequent though, of he being served maggi noodles or helping himself to honey flavoured muesli at breakfast while his father Aditya sat opposite him on the table, the latter either eating or screaming over the phone, hurling the choicest of abuses to one or the other of his hapless employees, or shouting at and abusing Rehan’s mother (yours truly, that is!), or throwing a plate or two at the walls or her face or whatever direction his unhinged hands flew towards.
And so, at your wit’s end, and with no light at the end of the tunnel, you once more hit the keys.
You type: ‘Life, Pain, Love, Loss- Writing Prompt’?
And then hit the Enter key.
The first one catches your eye.
WRITE AS IF THERE IS NO TOMORROW…for further details…click ‘for more’.
Intrigued, you click ’for more’.
You’re greeted with two lines:
Set a timer for 10 minutes.
Stream of Consciousness_ Write without thinking, just let your fingers move…write…write…write.
And so you follow the bidding.
You enter your study.
Plonk yourself on your favourite chair.
Set the timer.
I am Aradhana. People who know me call me Aru. But that’s very few. I am a woman…a discard. A has been who was someone’s everything but now is everyone’s nothing.
A person with no can could, shall, should, may, might, would, and certainly no will. Do I have a will? Well, I am person with no will. I can’t will myself. I have lost all will. And why is that so? Well that’s because I foolishly hitched my wagon to a fallen star. A man who I wrongly thought of as the brightest star in the entire celestial universe. A man I thought would be my happiness, who would love me to the moon and back and who I would love back to the moon and back. Well, about the moon I ain’t so sure but he certainly did a moonlight flit.
Do I cry over it? Well, why cry over spilt milk? What’s the point, you see?
Let me tell you I ain’t such a depressive soul. I ain’t a person to wallop in misery. I ain’t someone who would be perennially low, desolate, pensive, sad and gloomy and all the other depressive adjectives that I can think of. Nope. I had a life, man. I was born a bundle of joy. I remember my mother telling me that when I came out laughing…make that squealing or whatever it is that newly borns produce from their vocal cords.
I was an irrepressibly naughty, ever bubbly, ever laughing, effervescent kid, one who always smiled and laughed and cracked silly jokes and generally spread cheer all around. All those who knew me or were even in passing acquainted with me, all who had known me for even the fleetest of moments, all scream in unison: ‘Aradhana, you define LIFE.
And then Aditya happened. Yes, people like him don’t just come. THEY HAPPEN. They happen to change the course, the very trajectory of your life for ever. And then they go, as stormily, as maniacally as they come…and then you are left to gather yourself…you, a mere drag, a rag tag piece of pure shit…a cruel reminder of the massive 300 miles per hour hurricane that came unannounced, and in a mere blip, blew apart your very existence.
And this is what I am today. The sorry remnant of Hurricane Aditya, a happening that was a happenstance but remained the greatest non happening of my sordid existence that defines me today”.
Oops. The alarm goes off. Time’s up.
You exhale, your hands are shaking.
But, your mind’s a lot lighter. You eye the digital page…your outpourings. And you see a lot of errors…spelling mistakes…punctuation errors…run on sentences.
Quite a few don’t add up. They don’t make sense.
But still you’re are eerily happy.
Hey, this is no holds barred stream of consciousness, you reassure yourself.
And then you sense it: a deep, soul elevating feeling of fulfilment, a blinding satisfaction grips you, envelops you all over. You bask in its infinitesimal warmth.
You sit back, close your eyes and breathe in this new experience.
It’s liberating. You feel lighter, a tonne freer, as if a massive load has been lifted off your shoulders. No longer shackled, no longer under subjugation, no longer weighed down by a million expectations, no longer tied to the suffocating yoke of Adityahood, you feel womanhood embrace you.
You are a free bird. Free to fly the open skies. The world is waiting. There are skies, newer and brighter and distant, you need to fly to.
You just need to flap your wings.
And that’s when you know it’s going to be all a right.
That writing is your saviour. Your soul sister. Your high beam torch, your sharp edged beacon of hope, that florescent light that will illuminate your path, help hack your way through the dense jungle of life.
That there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
And then, hopefully, one day, some day, you would grow strong enough to write about love once again.
This time minus the bitterness.
You would write one day a story of a couple, college sweethearts who walked down the altar and lived happily after.’
You believe in miracles, don’t you?
Miracles happen, don’t they?
Otherwise, why would they be called so?
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