The Case of a Man and a Woman

by Anupama Krishnakumar

Meera and Siddharth are reeling from the sting of their first fight. They stare at their mobile phones, aching for the other’s call. And then a call arrives… Anupama Viswanathan tells the story.

‘Don’t play that guitar again,’ she screamed only to realize a moment later that there was after all no sound at all, except for the low whoosh of the gentle evening breeze; not even the strum of a guitar. But she had heard it just a little ago and his voice – she had heard that too. His intoxicating voice singing her favourite song, his intoxicating voice that had held the audience in trance for many years now, his intoxicating voice that made her go dizzy with love. There was no trace of that voice too.

Then why did she imagine it? She stared at her mobile phone that had not buzzed even once since morning. How much she waited to see the words, ‘Sid calling’! Or at least ‘One message received’. She stood in the balcony with a cup of coffee in her hand, the coffee getting colder by the minute. But she didn’t seem to mind; didn’t seem to really realize that the coffee was growing cold. She hated it when coffee went cold; she liked it steaming hot, just off the stove. Yet, today, it didn’t bother her; it didn’t matter to her. What ran in her mind was just this: why did she imagine she heard him play the guitar and sing to her?

She flopped into the bamboo swing that was swaying very, very gently, egged on by the breeze, and stared into the distance. Siddharth, the eminent guitarist and playback singer and she – Meera, his faithful friend, lovable lover, and wistful wife, just as he called her, had had a big fight in the morning – what would have otherwise been a peaceful and romantic Sunday morning. And if there was ever a book of firsts that she would maintain – this would go in as the first fight post marriage. What a nightmare of a beginning it had been to the day – Siddharth had yelled and walked out of the house not even looking at her face once – perhaps if he had, he would have reconsidered his decision; surely the tears that were streaming down her cheeks would have melted his heart or so she believed – that much of pity was still left in him.

Meera thought of the days when she and Siddharth were so blissfully in love. Then she had imagined a beautiful life ahead and was so desperate to tie the knot – like those fairy tale stories where she saw nothing short of a ‘happily ever after’ life post their marriage. And, that wasn’t many months back. Now, well, here she was, finding herself wandering around like a lost child, in the huge spaces of her mind.

What was it that had changed? After all, didn’t she always think both she and Siddharth were here to break the rotten beliefs that accompanied marriage? The silly man woman differences that people spoke about with an unwanted vivacity? Philosophy irritated her to no end and today she sat thinking just about life – philosophy became the much wanted agony aunt.
Meera’s mind wandered. She suddenly wanted to be close to her mother – lie down on her lap and she wanted her father’s bear hug, which every time that she had been wrapped in, had made her feel the most secure in the entire world. And as the thoughts trickled down like little drops of rain on a glass window, fear and agony gripped her throat. She felt like she had just swallowed a glass splinter which had rammed inside her throat, ready to choke her mercilessly to death.

Slowly, the reckless mind began replaying the happenings of the morning.
‘Let’s drive down to Lonavla today,’ Meera had said, as she had drawn the pale green and yellow striped curtains apart to let the morning sun filter into the room.
Hearing no response from her better half, she had jumped on the half-asleep Siddharth and sprinkled some water from the jug on the side table, on his face. ‘Won’t you listen?’ she had giggled.
Cold annoyance – that’s what she had met with in return, followed by an enraged conversation that had left Meera bursting into tears and Siddharth storming out of the house.

Siddharth sat looking at the setting sun. He found the sun’s orange blissfully soothing – calming his agitated mind.
The disturbing conversation from the morning played on before his eyes for the nth time that day.
‘Meera, don’t you know how to behave?’
‘What..I mean… I was just fooling around!’
‘Precisely. You think you can do whatever you wish and get away with it.’
‘Now, come on, Siddharth… I…’
‘Now, there you go. All you women… you always start something and get away with tears.’
‘Stop it, Siddharth. You men are so efficient in blowing up things. You are all fine before marriage… and once you have had a taste of it, you are bored…’
‘What shit! What do you expect me to say? That you early morning nagging and your silly act of throwing water on my face should be awarded hugs and kisses?’
‘Oh… so you are already tired of me? That hugs and kisses have now become privileges to be awarded? I should have known.’
‘Known what?’
‘That you are no different from another man. You don’t know what it is to love a woman.’
‘And what are you..? All but a nagging, selfish, self-absorbed woman.’
‘Just get lost, you god-damn idiot! Just get lost.’
‘Shit. I realise why people say women are a bloody pain.’
He had muttered those lines, stormed into the washroom, brushed, bathed, changed and walked out.

Meera sat and watched two little kittens playing around in the garden. She smiled unconsciously. They were cute. And the sight suddenly calmed her down.
She reflected on what had happened earlier that day – for the first time from the point of view of what she had done and not from the point of view of how Siddharth would have reacted during another time.
Perhaps she was just having fun throwing water – nothing wrong with that, she felt, the problem was with the way she had reacted. She could have probably been more patient in handling his question – ‘don’t you know how to behave?’
And then maybe, things wouldn’t have been as bad. She looked longingly at the framed photograph that was lying near the bed. Honeymoon picture. They were beaming.

Siddharth looked at his phone – he had changed it to silent mode and slipped into his back pocket in the morning and forgotten about it. He pulled it out. He looked at the wallpaper and smiled. Honeymoon picture. They were beaming.
There were five missed calls – none from Meera. In one passing second, he felt the stupidity claw at his heart. He needn’t have over reacted, needn’t have prolonged that conversation. Unnecessary words needn’t have tumbled out. All of it dawned on him this quiet moment as the birds chirped their ways back to their nests.
He dialled her number.

Meera walked up to the terrace to get some air. Her phone rang. ‘Sid Calling…’
Just as she turned, trembling, she saw him – sitting there, right in the terrace.
He looked up at her from where he sat. She walked up to him and sat next to him.
Birds dotted the darkening sky and the moon began to rise. Silence filled the space between them.
‘You were here, all day?’ she finally asked.
‘Did you eat?’
‘No, did you?’
Silence again.
‘You couldn’t even call once..’her voice trailed off.
‘I know I shouldn’t have talked that way..’,’but..’
Suddenly, she jumped over and sealed his lips with hers.
The ‘ry’ never escaped his lips.
Up in the sky, the moon beamed.

Anupama Krishnakumar loves Physics and English and sort of managed to get degrees in both – studying Engineering and then Journalism. Yet, as she discovered a few years ago, it is the written word that delights her soul and so here she is, doing what she loves to do – spinning tales for her small audience and for her little son, singing lullabies to her little daughter, bringing together a lovely team of creative people and spearheading Spark. She loves books, music, notebooks and colour pens and truly admires simplicity in anything! Tomatoes send her into a delightful tizzy, be it in soup or rasam or ketchup or atop a pizza!

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