The following is an extract from I Am Ahmedabad, a collection of short stories
Ashwin and Ratna were both married for close to eight years. Though their kids were young, they were just old enough to allow the parents a bit more time than a few years ago.
36 year-old Ashwin was a self-employed person, with interest in IT-related consumer white goods. A masters degree holder, he was actually one of Ahmedabad’s biggest franchisee partner of a global IT giant. And yet, his dream was to have an IT firm of his own. With his education, go-getting attitude and a very impressive 6-feet tall, athlete’s personality, Ashwin seemed to making the right inroads into all the places that mattered – financial institutions, dealers market and big corporate clients looking for more economical solutions for their IT requirements.
31 year-old Ratna, on the other hand, was just a simple commerce graduate. But it never really bothered the ever-smiling girl with a fair skin and flowing waist-length hair. She was more than happy with her husband – and the family life – and never really showed much interest in pursuing a career outside home. Her dream was to be one of the most successful ‘home managers’ of her times. A dream that she had more or less managed to achieve.
That day, Ratna had dozed off while watching the TV when suddenly the doorbell rang.
3:30 PM. Since her son was not expected to be back from his school till 5:00 PM, she knew that it would be Ashwin to make full use of the time.
After getting up from the sofa, she immediately rushed towards the mirror and brought into order her hair and Sari. It had always been like that for both of them. Even after so many years.
She went to the door and opened with a naughty smile. Ashwin, with a laptop carrier hanging from his shoulder, had an even bigger smile. He tried to immediately hug Ratna, but she stopped him before he could even move. The expression on Ratna’s face was a mix of a stern headmistress and an embarrassed lover.
Even though it was a society of independent bungalows beyond the 200-ft Sardar Patel Ring Road, with little or no visual access to other people’s doors because of the trees lining the inner streets, Ashwin and Ratna were always careful of expressing anything at the door.
So, after the usual ritual of being restrained at the entrance, the two entered the house and slowly closed the door behind them. But that was going to be the only slow act of the late afternoon.
Ashwin immediately got hold of Ratna’s hands and folded them behind her with the ease of a big wrestler. Not that Ratna did not try to get her hands free. But not only was Ashwin more powerful but also that Ratna’s heart was more into what Ashwin was going to do next.
Gripping with his left hand both of Ratna’s hand by her wrists, behind her, Ashwin raised his hand and got hold of Ratna’s hand and at one instant both pulled her head behind and pushed her body on to him. As Ratna gave him a look of pain, Ashwin looked back with a wicked smile, both in his eyes and on his lips. When was good-looking evil ever easy to overlook that Ratna could have fought any longer? And, while still in pain, she smiled back at Ashwin. For Ashwin, this was a tiger taming his mate with sheer force. Oh so intoxicating!
An hour later:
Ratna was preparing tea in the kitchen for Ashwin, while he talked to someone on his phone and worked furiously on the laptop in the living room. Even from the distance, Ratna could feel that every passing moment, Ashwin’s tone was getting more agitated. Ratna quickly poured tea in two cups, took some namkeen in a plate and rushed towards Ashwin, who in the meantime was almost shouting at the other person. Ratna put the tray on the table and sat beside Ashwin. She took Ashwin’s right hand between her palms and patted it, almost like a mother trying to calm an agitated child.
Alas! The child was not going to get calm that evening. One of his deals had gone bad and it held the possibility of hurting the chances of his having his own IT Company.
Ashwin got up, apologised to Ratna, took his laptop and rushed out of home for work, again. He did not even wait to have tea that Ratna had prepared.
As Ratna got back in front of TV after closing the door behind Ashwin, she sat down thinking how much she did not want the modern day life of busy professionals. She was happy for her life and pitied the millions of people who spend their lives running between one client and the other. Ashwin too agreed with her philosophy. He used to think that for someone who never gave too much to formal college education, Ratna was always surprisingly learned. Or maybe it was because she was so learned that she did not give too much to college education. Ashwin, however, had dreams to run for. And dreams that made him run; day in day out. But for beautiful stolen moments like this afternoon’s, he might have gone crazy.
But he loved his pursuit; inspite of the effect it was having on his health and emotions. And she loved her peace; inspite of the fact that she never got much respect from the ‘educated and on-their-feet’ women of her bungalow scheme in Bopal. But Ratna was never the one who would fall for the mad race of the entire human race to become a clone of one another.
Anyway, as she put on some music on radio and went to the glass window with the cup of tea in her hand, the droplets on the glass couldn’t help but remember their first meeting on a rainy day in Bopal.
It was two years ago. Their children were both in the same school, in Bopal itself. Aditya was elder than Riya by one year and was in Class 1 while Riya was in Senior KG.
One day, it had suddenly started raining very heavily. And as everyone living in Bopal knows, the season that should be the most romantic one is generally the most torturous one for those living beyond the ring road. Streets get clogged, electricity often becomes erratic and life generally comes at a standstill during a heavy downpour.
Ratna was alone at home those days and she had got very worried about Riya. Since the area around her bungalows had got completely flooded, driving her car to the school did not seem a good idea. But it looked dangerous to even walk through that knee-deep water. Especially the idea of bringing Riya through it. While the school authorities had informed her of taking care of the children in the school till the rain lasted, Ratna looked unsure of things after that. Especially since the rain did not seem to be in any mood to stop that day.
Just then she got a call on her mobile phone. The number was not stored but it of course was of Ashwin.
“I’ve brought along two children. Do you think you can have a look and tell me if they are ours”, Ratna clearly remembered the words from Ashwin that had made her fall for good.
But what she had found even sweeter was the sight of Ashwin standing in the verandah of her bungalow with Aditya in one arm and Riya in the other. All the three were smiling and seemed high on life. While Aditya and Riya were giggling while doing pushing-each-other fight while being in Ashwin’s arms, Ashwin himself was smiling like a radiant Sun amidst the downpour.
It was one of the those Kodak moments that shaped Ratna’s following life.
It was the day that had brought them really close. It was after that day that Ashwin could gather further courage and Ratna could further lower her guard. Life was never the same for them after that. They learned to make maximum use of the moments available to them in today’s present life.
Still sipping tea and looking out of the window, Ratna took a deep breath as she lived back those moments. Just then, she saw Aditya and Riya coming towards her home along with Kavita – her very good friend and Ashwin’s wife.