It was the month of March, almost three years back. The pandemic had not yet created havoc in the otherwise placid life of the people. My dear friend called me up one morning while I was having my breakfast. She was utterly disappointed with her prosaic life and desperate for a much-needed break. We were on two minds, whether to go to beaches or mountains.
The next day, while I was surfing through the internet, a pop-up became visible on the mobile screen. It was about a homestay in Kerala. The homestay was not what drew my attention but rather the destination. I decided upon going to the backwaters instead of hills or beaches. The tranquil panoramic view of the Kumarakom district felt the most befitting place to anchor for a short trip of four days. Soon, I called up my friend and we decided to book the flight to Cochin. In a fortnight we planned our trip. Soon, we packed our bags and were headed for the airport.
We were sitting on the flight. And I prefer to read over talking during such journeys. I had hardly opened the first page of Reader's Digest when my friend nudged me.
"The child behind my back is continuously kicking the back of my seat," told my friend as she raised her eyebrows, feeling quite irritated.
I advised her to report the child's parents. She acted verbatim. The result was that the kid threw himself up and started shouting at the top of his voice. Unable to bear the noise, we recommended that the child be allowed to do whatever he wanted.
After the fiasco in the flight, we somehow reached our resort. We had booked a cottage for ourselves nearby the backwaters of Vembanad lake. The ethereal view soothed our wretched souls after the troublesome experience. The sparkling lake, the sun playing with the water before it retired for the day, was a delight to a nature lover's eyes(it's me). A moment to behold forever.
We were sitting at a table before the waterbody when my friend came up with an unexpected question. My wanderer's soul received a temporary shock.
"Why do you think men marry?
"Maybe for a life partner," I replied her, as I shifted my gaze from the drowning sun to her face. The approaching darkness accorded a sort of gravity to her plight.
"Oh really?" she said, totally unsatisfied with my answer.
Blindfolded, I didn't know how to react. I kept staring at her, expecting some more to come from her end. And the same happened.
"You know, when I was dating my husband, I was the most beautiful woman on this earth. Even my reproaches were melodies to his ears. He would call me umpteenth times just to hear my voice and would proclaim promises of undying love for me," her voice gradually sinking as she kept talking.
"So, that's great. You should be happy about it," I retorted.
"What is there to be happy about? Now, after being married for five years my voice seems like a magpie to him. The songs on his mobile are more enticing to his ears. One day, as my phone's battery, was down, I took his mobile to call my mother. And you know what I saw?
"What?" I asked her. Entirely hooked to her conversation by then, I forgot about the setting sun and the sparkling lake. Even their play seemed like a clash of swords to me.
"He has a friends' group on Whatsapp. Only males. They share all kinds of awful jokes and most of them are about wives. And my husband steals the show every day,"
"Oh! Don't worry. They keep doing this every time," I said, trying to pacify her.
The pakodas on the plate turned cold. I desperately wanted to have them. But I didn't. I thought this might infuriate my friend even more.
Her question was obvious and I felt she was absolutely right. The grass always seems greener on the other side. The very person rides over the moon and planets before marriage and the girl becomes his muse. But as soon as the honeymoon gets over, the very girl resembles a sour grape.
The next day, we went for a ride on the shikara. There was drizzling rain, dripping against the outer periphery of the boat's rooftop. I was thoroughly engrossed in capturing this work of nature when I heard a voice coming from my friend's direction.
I had accidentally come across her private conversation with her husband.
".....but I miss you so much,"
"Marriage is like
the setting sun and
the rising moon,
a tricky riddle
and unsolicited boon;
if you can dare solve
do let me know soon..."
By Nandini Sengupta