An Experiment in Living

It was not a romance of a conventional relationship between a man and a woman. It was not an arranged marriage either. It was not love at first sight or blind date that established an understanding. It just happened.

Sara was an only child. She was bright and an intellectual who loved her job teaching in a college. Her interest was literature and she was good at inspiring her students to fall in love with the written word, writers and characters who lived in the imagination. The years flew by and her status as a single woman was soon being spoken off in her family circles as being stranded on a shelf…very Victoriana indeed. In fact, many started using the term spinster along with her name Sara Menon. Her dedication to her parents and their welfare was total.

“If I were a son, people would say with pride that I was there for my aging parents. But because I am a daughter, everyone thinks that my parents have not fulfilled their duty and got me married. They say that Daddy is clinging to me for selfish reasons”.

“So why have you not got married,” asked Rajeev. “Are they dependant on your salary?”

Sara chuckled, “…..far from it. They are supporting me. My Mum inherited money, my Dad earned a great deal and continues to receive a handsome pension after retirement as a top official from the Central Government. Actually, I simply haven’t found anybody who is in sync with me….that is all!”

Rajeev looked deep into his cup of latte as if it contained the secrets to the universe. Sara and he were sitting in a restaurant, sharing coffee and croissants. They had met at a workshop arranged by the university to introduce the staff to a new software that helped them track their lectures, students’ progress and their grades. Rajeev was the techie who had come in with his team of instructors to break in the lecturers and professors into the new system. Rajeev had been impressed with the quick grasp of Sara and her positive and hands on approach to new technology.

They began to meet regularly on Saturday afternoons, to share coffee and a chat before going off to do their own stuff. After a couple of meetings Sara asked Rajeev, “ So…do you have kids, are you married…oops..wrong order of sentences…need to edit that…are you married, do you have kids”, she asked with a grin.

Rajeev beamed back and said, “No kids, no wife”. He took a deep breath and murmured, “But….my life is a cliché. I have two sisters to be married off. My mother is no more…she died in an accident”.

“I am sorry to hear this…what about your Dad?” Sara enquired.

“He has been in a wheelchair since the accident. He depends on me for all his morning chores. I take him into the bathroom and give him his shave, bath etc.. He has so much pain in his body that he will not allow anybody else to handle him physically. That is why I have my own business and work from home. I rarely go out as my kid sisters are still studying. We have an elderly lady staying with us who cooks and acts as a housekeeper. Another girl comes in for the cleaning and washing up jobs”.

“And…” Sara started.

Rajeev broke in, “I have not met a modern woman who will take on all these burdens. So marriage is out. It is going to be another 7 to ten years before Kanchana and Kavitha find their own moorings”.

“Hmmmm….and what kind of life do you want for them”, Sara asked.

“A happy, contented, fulfilling life. Kanchana has been a topper and is in IIT in Mumbai. She is taking her GRE exams and will surely go off to do her MS in the US”, he said and looked into his latte.

“What does Kavitha do?” Sara asked.

“She is in medical college and it is going to be three more years to her MBBS….then another three to four, maybe even five for her to take a PG qualification or speciality. Then where her life will take her is in the laps of the Gods”, he murmured. “Saturday is the only day I get to myself. The girls take turns to care for my father and I get to go out”.

“Now I understand our Saturday rendezvous” said Sara as she looked at Rajeev. “I hope you don’t mind my asking…do you ever resent being tied up with others interests ahead of your own?”

“Not now! Initially I used to be morose and angry at my situation. However, over the years…five plus to be exact…I have accepted the fact that I consciously made this choice. I have grown used to the routine and I know no other. So, it is okay, I guess!”

A few Saturdays later Rajeev said, “Can I come and meet your parents?”

“Why not? But I must warn you that my mother has Dementia. She is diabetic and cannot remember much” said Sara.

Rajeev met Mr Menon and they clicked immediately. They shared a passion for world affairs and political discussions and they had a lot to talk about. The Saturday afternoon coffee session was often held in Sara’s home. Some days Rajeev met her after work if one of his sisters was home. A year went by and Mr Menon opened up to Rajeev about his wish to see Sara married. Rajeev said that he would be honoured to have her as ahis wife but his role as a husband had to be on Saturdays only. Sara thought about it and with her own commitment to her parents, she agreed.

The wedding was a quiet one. Their married life too was a no frills, no drama relationship. Rajeev came on Saturdays to Sara’s home and she went with him on Sundays to his home. She went to work from there on Monday mornings and went back to her parents that evening. They both showered affection and attention on each other in the forty odd hours that they spent together.

The sands in the hour glass flowed freely. Sadly, her father suddenly passed away in his sleep after a heart attack. Her mother was all but lost to the world with the dementia ruling her mind and body. This restricted Sara’s movements even more until one day her mother just walked out into the road escaping the firm grip of her caregiver and was hit by a car. Her end came two days later.

Sara was free but was soon catapulted into a different role in her academic world. She began to be recognized as a brilliant speaker. She was called to interview luminaries in the literary world. From there it was a short hop to hobnobbing with political luminaries who had ghost written biographies and memoirs. Then she was cast on as an anchor on the small screen and her travels all across the country and world took off.

Meanwhile Rajeev’s father passed away. His sisters found their own moorings and sailed across to seas to USA and Australia and Rajeev found time on his hands. Everybody in their family and friends circle were now convinced that this couple would be able to set up a life together after all these years of living separate lives in their own establishments. Rajeev accompanied Sara on some of her trips abroad.

parisOn their trip to Paris, they sat down to discuss their lives and how it was going to shape up now that both were alone without other responsibilities. Sara sat across the table on the pavement in the city of love. She had an espresso in front of her while Rajeev was trying out a café noir. “Where is our life going, Sara”, Rajeev asked.

“I have been thinking about this Rajeev….it is not simple. I have grown used to being on my own for the most part. I enjoy the brief time that we spend together immensely….but….”

“I don’t think we can sustain it….”, said Rajeev regretfully, stopping to catch his breath.

“24×7”, Sara completed the thought with a firm voice that brooked no further discussion.

It was business, love and marriage for them as usual.

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About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest is acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays.
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4 Responses to An Experiment in Living

  1. rummuser says:

    A great short story. I had already commented on it earlier,

    Like

  2. Eswar says:

    Such a lovely story Padmum! Breaking stereotypes in such a matter-of-fact way! But tell me, will they be willing care-givers, something they do whole heartedly for their parents, to each other if the need arises? With this marriage of/ and sometimes not even on- weekends, will an extramarital affair really be “extra”?
    And as i write this comment i think- what makes a relationship work are the big and small pleasures and intentions conceded happily, to creating the “us” and “ours”, and the appreciation of it by the other.
    Haven’t been here for a while. I think I’ll stay….

    Like

    • padmum says:

      Where do you think I get my stories? There are so many caregivers who have given up on their own personal lives… Quite a few single women and a couple of men living in SSC facility in Perungalathur…left alone after parents are gone.

      Marriage itself is now… At least in upper middle class families… A matter of choice… Not happening at all.
      Thanks for your validation… Will write more

      Like

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