IT WAS QUITE UNSETTLING when Nandini found the note stuck on the large and overwhelmingly brightly lit mirror of the spotless bathroom. The first thing she thought of when she saw Jayant’s sticky note, weirdly enough, was not about the context of the words on that sad little piece of paper, but the location that had been chosen. Being a bride fresh from the honeymoon suite not fifteen days ago, Nandini found it a tad unromantic that her geeky ‘Americanized’ husband – who hated being called ‘hubby’ - would leave a message for her on a partially foggy mirror.
Nevertheless – there it was. Scribbled on a yellow dog eared piece of paper were the three words Nandini had never expected to read the first thing on any day…
‘we gotta talk!’
Being what seemed like a million miles away from her cozy little bedroom in one of Bangalore’s thousands of sleepy neighborhoods with sleepier streets intersecting amid them, Nandini was still coming to terms with the ways of ‘You Yes of Yeah’. She knew Jayant well enough by now to realize it was definitely something important since nothing else could explain the presence of the much adored exclamation mark in it. Many a time she had noticed him making quick notes while speaking on the phone and almost every time, an important string of words would end with the same distinct symbol that brought her grandfather’s tilaka* to mind.
But then there was something scarier about this three word puzzle. Once the waves of sleep had started vanishing from her eyes, she started seeing lines of worry appear on her forehead. A flood of random thoughts popped up as she frowned and started making instant connections.
‘What does he mean ‘talk’? We always talk! Don’t we? I mean, how much more can a couple only 15 days old really talk? And what does he mean ‘we’? Why can’t he say something more meaningful like ‘I need to talk to you’ or something with the word ‘honey’ in it. I thought these Americanized fellows loved calling their wives that. Humph. What big stories I had heard about these people being oh so romantic and what not. And here it is – some stupid note with a message that doesn’t even make sense. And why doesn’t he use those smiley things? I thought these people were addicted to adding emotion to everything they write. At least that way I can know if it was a good thing or not!’
In her head, she had put her grandfather’s tilaka next to each of those statements. Despite her obvious attempt at over simplifying the case as just being the first of thousands of notes she might find in her marriage, she couldn’t help feel a little scared.
Just a little.
And so, to avoid spending the day with speculations longer than her mother’s list of complaints about the price of vegetables, she decided to give him a call.
She spent an hour trying to get hold of him but all she got was his answering machine that seemed to know about the note. There was something in that recorded voice … ‘…you’ve reached Jayant….you know what to do…’ that only amplified the distress in her already worried mind.
‘Do I?’ she pondered as she showered and made piping hot cucumber dosa for breakfast. ‘Do I really know what to do? What if I don’t?’ she continued as the sun rose to the zenith and started his usual descend. She kept toying with the note everywhere she went creating sporadic cobwebs of assumptions and educated guesses. ‘What if I am not the kind of girl he wanted? What if he is unhappy with me? Lord! How bad should I be if he is leaving meaningless and threatening notes in just two weeks? What if he has a wife already! And he wants to talk me into getting her to live with us! Impossible! Where on Earth do men find the courage to do things like this? I will pack my bags and leave if it comes to that. God forbid if he has kids with her…oh…I just want him to be happy…’ Her eyes welled up a little at this thought since her simple upbringing had not involved putting static messages on lifeless mirrors. It had always been about words – seen, spoken, heard. But apparently that was a life she was now no longer part of. This was an alien land with a communication culture that she was having difficulties recognizing, let alone adapting.
Jayant was a simple guy. There was nothing pretentious or self-obsessive about him. Despite having completed his Masters in the states, he still ate only strict South Indian vegetarian food at home and was still crazy about K.L.Saigal’s classics. His Sundays were always filled with ‘diya jalao’ and ‘jab dil hi toot gaya’ that had now started becoming a part of Nandini’s life as well. As much as she didn’t think much of Mr. Saigal or his nasal journey of music, she was beginning to feel glad that Jayant understood the subtleties of the unspoken word. He knew what ‘dil ka tootna’ meant else how could one appreciate that song anyway? Ah…the ideal platform for a solid marriage, she had concluded.
But this note had somehow created a faint yet quite prominent dent on that platform. Being new and inexperienced in the matters of the scribbled word, she was feeling a little shortchanged at this new culture Jayant was trying to introduce. And what a debut! Three simple seeming words but with consequences no mortal mind can accurately fathom.
And so, without a choice or a sign of getting hold of a busy husband, she spent the day pouting. It was probably a little after 6PM, when her pouting stopped and something bigger replaced it – fear.
‘Did you get my note?’ asked Jayant as he removed his tie and started unbuttoning his shirt.
‘Hmm…’ murmured Nandini as she folded his trousers, unsure of what to expect next.
‘Alright,’ said Jayant in a decisive tone and approached a visibly anxious Nandini.
‘I want you to sit down. OK?’ and then she did.
‘Now…I know it can be a touchy issue. And…God knows I have tried to ignore it for a while now…’
His words were starting to pierce her soft exterior. There was something about to surface that Nandini would probably scream at – but from within.
‘…and I want you to know how much this will mean to me…to us…are you with me?’
‘It’s just that…’ and he got up to face the window ‘…I work really hard all day. And I am so exhausted at the end of it. I think its reasonable to ask for some comfort after that, right?’
Nandini nodded again, unsure.
‘…And I know…you must be embarrassed about it but listen, you don’t have to be. It’s a pretty standard thing these days. You’ll be fine in a matter of weeks and ….Jeez…God knows I’ve had to work my words to talk to you about it. And so…’
Saying this he pulled out a brochure from his briefcase and handed it to his pale looking wife.
‘…George knows this really great place and he says it’s a sure thing. We just need to make sure you are OK with this though. It will take a few weeks, he says, but its gonna work. So…what do you think?’
And there it was – written in bright red colors against a white and vanilla background attached to the fading image of a sleeping woman - ‘WILLINGTON’S SLEEP CLINIC – your one stop spot to drive away snoring problems’.
© Copyright 2008. All right reserved.
* Religious mark on the forehead primarily worn by Hindus / Brahmins