She sat alone on her favorite light blue couch wondering what to do. Earlier, whenever she used to sit here, George would be doing his work at the study table. His presence gave her a secure feeling even if they did not talk much. Today, as she sat on that very couch, she felt lonely for the first time in her life. She brooded and sighed after streams of tears had moistened her soft cheeks. Her long hair piled atop her head into a bun, her trim silhouette made a tragic figure against the backdrop of the gloomy atmosphere.
It was a year since George had passed away. The sudden demise of her young bespectacled husband seemed to rock her very soul. She had never known until now that she had felt so very much for a person she had not really loved. A popular professor at the University, George had cared for Anita as any loving husband would. Those delightful evening strolls amidst the cool breeze, those enlightening discussions on literary figures, it all had been so nice. Anita and George merged blissfully with their common tastes and dislikes. It all made life less of a challenge and more of a harmonious journey.
However, Anita’s love was once the tall, curly haired Ajith who she had met in college, back in India. They used to be happy then – bunking classes, having tea in the canteen and the long unending telephone conversations. They almost got caught once when Anita’s brother lunged unexpectedly at the telephone receiver one day only to hear a male voice at the other end. It had enraged Anita a lot and a huge furore was raised in the conservative Indian Protestant home. Mercifully, she had escaped that day as guests had come home and the matter was pushed under the carpet.
Reading the Bible every morning and evening, Anita clung onto the words of the Bible for comfort.
“Let not your heart be troubled: Ye believe in God…”
Of course, she did believe in God but she seemed to have lost faith in herself.
Her heart bled and cried for her stranger husband and remained empty for a love once known and felt.
‘Why was it so?’ she was baffled.
‘Lord! Give me a solution,’ she pleaded desperately and as if in response to her plea a three year old doll ran towards her crying, “Mummy. Mummy.”
It was her darling daughter, Marie who she adored and treasured greatly. Marie came to her mother and sat down comfortably on her lap. Almost immediately, Anita’s woes and worries vanished and she spontaneously smothered her child with huge hugs and kisses. Her baby girl was a joy to Anita. She even felt that if life was worth living then, it was because of her baby girl. Marie reminded her so much of George. She had his eyes and that same dimpled smile! Her thoughts of George made her happy and she wondered, ‘Was her heart deceiving her?’
‘What about those exciting adventurous encounters with Ajith in India? Ice creams and groundnuts on the beach? Those mushy sentiments that they professed for each other, the love and the tears? Were those just dreams? It couldn’t be’ Anita wondered.
She was a rich woman now. George had left her plenty of money. She was a young pretty widow with a little girl to take care of. In spite of it, life in Canada was proving to be very miserable. The financial security that George had left behind was more than sufficient for her baby and herself. Yet, after George’s death India seemed to beckon Anita. George had never been serious about going to India. He had always felt that a foreign country gave more scope for development of intellect with its facilities and the benefits. In fact, he had even told Anita one day,
“Oh! C’mon Anita! Why don’t you understand? What is left in India? Here, you are well off and happy. You have no problems, do you?”
“True,” Anita had said, “but something seems to be missing in our lives. Everything is so very perfect so much so that I feel more like a robot.”
“What do you mean? We are happy, aren’t we?” fumed George.
“Of course George!” Anita replied, patting George’s shoulder. “I am happy with you but we have a baby now and I want her to know something about her roots. And, just telling her will not do. She must grow up there in her native land like we did. Whatever we are today in terms of our ideals and beliefs is because we grew up in India George.”
Anita had seemed right so George had preferred not to argue with her.
‘But, what will she understand? How many people want to get here but just can’t? How difficult it was to get here,’ he thought ‘and she wants to give it all up for ideals, roots and what not.’
After that heated discussion, both George and Anita never spoke about this topic again. That was the end of Anita’s desire to get back to India.
Now, George was no longer there and the urge to go back to India was intense so, Anita settled matters, gathered her child and goods and headed straight for India. Her parents received her at the airport. It felt so good to walk on Indian soil! George’s mother had passed away some years back and his father much before that so Anita stayed with her parents for sometime. Later, after having surfed successfully for a job, Anita moved in to a new apartment much against the wishes of her parents.
It was here that Ajth began calling on her, wishing to renew his old association with Anita in spite of her ‘betrayal’ as he referred to her marriage to George. Anita did feel apprehensive in Ajith’s presence initially but later, got used to his unexpected visits. She got to know from him that he had married after Anita had left for Canada but was divorced now.
It was more than a year since George had died and Anita was at a crossroad, because she had genuine caring and loving feelings for her dead husband but Ajith was distracting her. Many a night she turned and tossed in bed as she remembered her husband and also recollected Ajith’s latest visit.
‘Should I spend the rest of my life in my past or begin a new life?’ she asked herself many a time.
‘What is it that gives me peace and contentment, sweet memories of my marital life or a long lost love life with a friend?’
It could have been an easy decision as George was already dead. But, what Anita wanted was self-satisfaction, not a compromise.
Things carried on with Anita going to work, visiting her parents and of course getting to see Ajith every other day. Not that she wanted it. But, he seemed to want it.
Ajith visited her one day and asked her how she was.
“Fine,” Anita had replied and then, lapsed into an embarrassing silence for want of words.
“What’s happened to you now-a-days?” Ajith demanded of her. “You don’t talk much. Say something!”
“Err.. How is your ex wife?”
“Couldn’t you get a better topic?” Ajith asked angrily.
“Why? What is wrong in talking about your wife?”
“So, how is she?”
“Okay, now you tell me. Why don’t YOU marry again?”
“What?” Anita was startled.
“Yeah. I am there for you anyway” Ajith grinned.
Anita was at a loss for words. She gave a weak smile.
“Yes. Anita. After all, we have known each other for a very long time, longer than you knew your husband.”
Anita was shocked to say the least. She had begun to have ideas earlier but this attitude of Ajith disgusted her. He sounded as if he was doing her a favor.
“I don’t have to marry anyone. I am contented the way I am” Anita replied.
“Ha! Ha!” Ajith laughed loudly. “Don’t tell me that Anita. You need a man. This is India, not Canada. Without a man, you cannot do a thing. And, I am willing to marry you even though you are a widow now not to mention that kid of yours. Of course, you are still attractive too!”
Ajith’s narrow minded behavior silenced Anita. But, now, she was no longer in conflict. She knew what she had to do. She would go back to her parents and take care of them just as they did when she was young. And, even though destiny had forced her to marry someone she did not know, even though she had married to keep her ailing father happy years ago, she knew that destiny had done right. She had so much to look forward to in life – her parents, her daughter, her new job and no, not Ajith!