Rajiv looked out of the window of his room, at the dark silhouette of the skyline swathed in torrential rain. His wife was on the reclining chair next to him. He held her hand, while she looked away from him. He sighed, still feeling hot around his ears. The euphoric feeling, which you get when your temper gets the better of you, was just beginning to ebb.
He tried to recall what had happened over the last few minutes, but it seemed his mind had selectively eliminated any memory of it. Either that or it had all happened so fast that his mind had failed to register it. The last memory had been of Sunita, his wife, screaming wild allegations at him.
It didn’t help the matters much that Rajiv had a particularly difficult day in office. Another client was added to his already burgeoning job profile. He was always chosen as a transitory custodian for all sundry cases which were abandoned by his colleagues. The catch was, the transitory period kept getting extended, and the responsibility kept increasing from mere supervisory to ensuring compliance, meeting deadlines and ?take proper care of your baby Rajiv...’ being mouthed by his boss.
Rajiv had never declined additional responsibility. He had a family to take care of and the humble apartment he sat in now was under mortgage. His whimper of a protest would never register on the ears of powers to be. But it didn’t take away from the fact that Rajiv kept simmering inside.
While he was always the do-gooder at the time of that annual corporate drama called appraisal, he was always a poor man manager or the turn-around time was always in need of improvement. None of the reasons were plausible and his gratuitous acts were always overlooked. Rajiv was never strong in pushing his case which was conveniently manipulated by his superiors, most of whom were his subordinates when they had started out.
Work was not the only bane of Rajiv’s life. His relation with his wife, Sunita, had soured considerably over the period of time. There were always some expectations which Rajiv was not meeting. He was tired of the constant bickering. Sometimes it was his late nights at work, sometimes it was his lack of perceptive skills to her feelings and sometimes it was some imaginary slight to her.
This argument too had ended, as usual, without any conclusion. They had just agreed to disagree. This was taking further toll on their relationship. There were no make-ups, just silence. They would sulk and pretend the other didn’t exist.
Rajiv tried to recall what had happened. He remembered that he had walked into the house, to be greeted with a pained look on Sunita’s face. This had raised his anxiety tremendously. He didn’t have the stomach for an argument now. The dinner was cold, but still warmer than the reception he’d received at home.
All of a sudden Rajiv’s life had looked really bleak. He had only two things in life, his work and his family. He had begun to passionately hate his job and workplace. As far as his family was concerned, his discontent with his wife sapped him off all his remaining energy. Only his daughter, who was fourteen now, gave him some happiness. A sensible girl, who excelled in academics and extra-curricular, Rajiv couldn’t have possibly asked for more.
Rajiv and Sunita had not spoken at all at the dinner table. When he’d had enough of the inhospitable environment, Rajiv had left his meal half way and retired to his bed room. This, Rajiv realised, was the reason for the start of the argument. It began with Sunita alleging that Rajiv didn’t even care anymore of all the hard work that went in preparing some of his favourite dishes. There was no gratitude, not in words, not even in actions. How could he treat her this way?
The argument had started from this and had taken its own course going over the usual things which had been discussed, debated and not concluded a numerous times before. The constant whining had driven Rajiv mad. It was like a cancerous growth, which just could not be controlled, and most likely it was at the terminal stage.
Rajiv recalled Sunita’s voice in different decibles, ranging from whimper to shrieks, but he failed to make any sense in what she was saying. Firstly, she was blabbering, and secondly Rajiv was distancing himself by the second. He was immersing himself more and more in self sympathy.
It was a viscous cycle. Rajiv’s suppressed anger at office got him in a foul mood at home, and his quarrels with Sunita took him in a worse mood to office. And Rajiv had no let out for this. It just piled up more and more, till the point that Rajiv had off-lately developed suicidal tendencies. He had started googling the least painful ways of commiting suicide.
What he needed was a balm for his wounded soul. Someone who would understand him, who would talk him out of his miseries, maybe even encourage him to stand up against his tormentors. Infact, he had found someone just like that.
She was his colleague from work, and exactly understood what Rajiv went through the entire day. She could see the mistreatment that was meted out to him and was sympathetic to him. She was always present to lend an ear and even offer advice, sensible ones that too. She even made Rajiv see humour in a number of things and allayed his insecurities. Most importantly, she was kind to Rajiv and he wanted to spend more and more time with her.
It was at this point that Rajiv was drawn from his thoughts to Sunita’s sudden wailing. She was enquiring about Radhika and why had he exchanged so many messages with her. Rajiv saw that Sunita was holding his mobile phone. He had apparently just received a message from Radhika, which Rajiv had not noticed, but Sunita had seen. Sunita had then gone through his message log and seen that there were a number of messages exchanged between Rajiv and Radhika, for about a month.
Rajiv remembered that a spasm of fear had come over him. He had definitely hidden Radhika from his wife. Though there was nothing between them, but for somebody perpetually on an emotional overdrive like Sunita, this was too much to take. Rajiv had never intended to cheat on Sunita. But Radhika had become important. While he could not tell his wife about Radhika, Rajiv didn’t want to let go off Radhika either. She was merely a sounding board, a recycle bin, which ideally Sunita should have been. He had kept this hidden from Sunita because, realistically, understanding terms like sounding board and recycle bin were beyond her.
Rajiv recalled the sheepish look on his face, like that of a child who is caught cheating in an exam. This was a mistake. He should have responded to her with a little more toughness. He tried to explain to Sunita, but she was beyond explanations now. The allegations and the language had turned particularly nasty. Rajiv was concerned about his daughter in the next room. He didn’t want her to see this.
He had tried to quieten her down by putting his hand on her mouth, but she responded by nearly biting it off and scratching his face. He realised they were standing on the bed now and were wrestling like teenage brothers. He just wanted to explain, but she wouldn’t listen.
Rajiv had had enough. He finally found his own voice, and when you find your voice which has been suppressed for ages, there are two things that happen. First, it comes out very loud, and second you do not know how to control the modulation because that’s something you have never done.
For a minute, Rajiv recalled, even Sunita was taken aback. But she was a master, and came right back into the game. What ensued was a verbal volley, so nasty, it wouldn’t even transpire between opposing soldiers on a battle field.
After a while, Rajiv remembered that they had stopped, not because they had reached a conclusion or even decided to discuss the issued more amicably. They had just run out of breath. The last thing Rajiv remembered was Sunita screaming so loud it could probably be heard all the way to the groundfloor from their eighth floor apartment.
Sunita’s blood curdling scream was the last thing Rajiv remembered, as he now sat holding her hand looking out of the window. Some time had passed and they were quiet for a while. Rajiv would still make an effort to make up, like he was doing now; he was still holding her hand. Sunita on the other hand just sat on the reclining chair, looking away.
?I’m sorry’, said Rajiv, not entirely convinced that he should be apologising. Sunita didn’t reply.
Rajiv could not go on like this. He didn’t want to sleep on a fight. He was still very fond of Sunita, even though his feelings were subjective now. He thought she was listening and began explaining what place Radhika held in his life. He, and so he thought, was making a very compelling argument. Sunita didn’t reply as he continued rambling.
Rajiv’s got increasingly irritated at this cold treatment by Sunita. He again began screaming, blaming her of an inflated ego. He got down on his knees, and with a bowed head and folded hands implored her to speak. Such drama was totally out of sync with his no nonsense attitude. She finally said something. In a very low and mortified voice, all she said was ?Dad’.
Wait. It was not her.
Rajiv looked up towards the entrance of his room, and standing there in the doorway, silhouetted against the sparse light of the hallway was his daughter. In the faint night light Rajiv could see that she looked really scared. Rajiv could not blame her. She had seen fights between her parents in the past, but this was on a different level today. She was trembling, and tears were streaking down her cheeks. Rajiv began to get up to comfort her, but she dashed from the room.
Rajiv left his wife’s hand and started towards her. But before he could reach the doorway, he stopped dead in his tracks. Had he imagined it? Why had Sunita’s hand fallen down with a dull thud?
He turned around to look at Sunita and gasped in horror. Sunita was no more sitting on the reclining chair. She was lying sprawled on the floor next to the reclining chair, with a pool of blood collected near her head. Next to her was lying a blood stained cricket bat. Sunita was dead.
Rajiv nearly blacked out at the sight of Sunita lying in a heap on the floor. His knees buckled under the weight of his body as he awkwardly fell down. Suddenly, with a flash, the last few minutes which had gone blank from his mind, came in a flood of vivid pictures.
As Sunita had continued to scream profanities, Rajiv’s self respect reached its lowest point. He had fallen from grace in his own eyes. How miserably he had failed in life, be it work, relations or marriage. He realised what the cancerous growth was now. It was the realisation that he was an utter failure in defending his rights, a door mat. And today he had reached the tipping point, or rather he had tipped over.
The last picture that came to his mind was of him totally failing to control his wife and wildly swinging the bat and cracking Sunita’s skull. It was so drastic and so out of character that his mind had automatically deleted the image.
With a shock Rajiv recollected that he had been sitting holding a bat, not Sunita’s hand, and had been offering explanations to her dead body.
Rajiv’s mind was numb. He sat leaning against the side of the bed staring at nothing in particular. Even his daughter’s frightened face failed to elicit any response. Maybe, he thought, he had finally lost his marbles. The only thing he heard was a faint music coming in from the living room that his daughter had been listening to a while back.
?.....When the Music’s over....Turn off the lights, turn off the light, turn off the light....?