Chapter 5: Across the Breakwater

When Bha ji had given me this bad news, about the death of Bhushan’s wife, I was overwhelmed by a sudden emotional stress. His wife, Krishna was really a great person. During my second visit, I had been invited three times to their house, along with Bha ji and his family.

Apart from consoling over the phone, nothing I could do about it. I kept thinking about Bhushan, his home life without his wife and his future! And for a long time, I had been thinking about his only daughter, Nikki. For her, a home can’t be the same again, without a mother. No doubt, Bhushan loves her so much, yet, she will be yearning for motherly affection and warmth.

No one can fill the blankness of their innermost world.
Life and home!
How deeply these two words are interrelated! If there is a home, there is life. And if there is life, there is home. Actually, without home, there is no home life.
Like body and soul, these two words can’t be free and independent of each other. Isolated from each other, they are likely to lose their meanings.
‘What a strange phenomenon the home is!’ Bhushan went on thinking.

In order to live, a man badly needs a home. In fact, life is incomplete without it. He felt as if his home had been reduced just to four walls only. Merely a house, no longer a home! An innocent sigh escaped from his lips.

There are such homes that attract inhabitants from outside. After work, people long to return home. And for those who merely live in houses, situation can be just the reverse of it.

Time brings about many changes. It flows constantly like a river. And the life on its banks keeps changing like seasonal crops. Some of us are on one bank of this river called time, while others are across, on the other bank. Time waits for no one. It keeps elapsing unnoticed.

Bhushan had reared a dream of rehabilitation with the presence of Renu, the home that had devastated by his wife Krishna’s death. But now, this dream seemed to be shattering.

After finishing the kitchen chores, Renu, instead of coming into the lounge, sat in a chair in the balcony. Sitting near the aquarium, Bhushan felt as if Renu deliberately wanted to sit away from him. It seemed to him as though Renu and he were two parallel lines that could never and at no point meet. By chance, his attention was attracted towards the gold fish.

Initially, this tank had several fish. But then only three golden ones were left alive. After a short while, two of them died and only this one survived. Bhuahan had named it ‘Soan Pari’ means golden elf.
Whenever he woke up in the morning, he felt tempted to see Soan Pari. He felt like observing how it moved about, whether it was sleeping or awake. But in no time, he lost interest in it, because day by day, Soan Pari followed the same routine. Bhushan fed it and after taking the feed, it went around the aquarium. Sometimes, it appeared well-off and at other times, it seemed as if it were to breathe its last.

There was a difference of twenty years, between the ages of Bhushan and Renu, and the former was fully conscious of it. He knew that it was like a gap of one generation. It was not a matter of physical relationship; a person’s lifestyle, temperament, modes of life has also their importance.

When Renu had nothing to do, she would often sit near the window and look outside or at Soan Pari. The circle of her social interaction was very limited or she had deliberately kept it so. Otherwise also, she was a sort of woman of reticent nature.

Bhushan noticed that Renu had been gazing outside for a long time. He thought that she might be trying to look for the ebb and flow of life, in the crowed of people moving on the roads. But soon, when he observed from close quarters, he noticed that Renu was looking outside but seeing nothing, lost in some other world. She was just staring in the space, as though her open eyes were sightless.

Since Nikki had gone to university, Renu had appeared more depressed. Even though Nikki was the daughter of her elder sister, Renu has always considered her to be her own, a friend like daughter; a companion to express inner emotions.  

Whenever, Bhushan thought honestly, he felt that he was responsible for ruining Renu’s life. Compelled by his sisters, he remarried. His sisters had persuaded Renu’s parents for the sake of Nikki’s future. Bhushan was also in the know of the fact that Renu was in love with Ashok. At length, giving way to everybody’s pressure, he had agreed to marry Renu, his younger sister-in-law, thinking himself to be guiltless in a way.

When in a society, countries like India, a daughter’s marriage becomes a financial burden the parents seldom heed their daughter’s choice, if they can marry her off without any cost. Compromises regarding daughter’s marriages were common, and are still there in some rural communities. It is what had happened with Renu. Who would to care to know what she wanted? No one ever cared for her emotions and choice. At that time, protests and anger had raised their heads inside her. Her sentiments had blazed in flames. Her thoughts had raged in storms. Her aspirations had wailed causing commotions in her mind. But now, all this had become a tale of her past--------regrets of the bygone times which sometimes, pursue the present.

Many a times, Bhushan felt that Renu and him, though residing under the same roof, were living apart, lonesome in their own respective worlds. He felt that their bedroom was partitioned with an invisible wall and occasionally, he saw images of Ashok’s existence beyond this wall.

Whenever they felt a craving in their bodies or a heat in blood, sooner their hands advanced for physical contact, Renu would at once put off the light. On Renu’s doing so, Bhushan felt as if Renu had hung a curtain between their bodies. Bhushan,s thought of losing himself in the beautiful body of Renu, would change its course. His hands advanced for physical contact would retreat, and he would sink in sadness. He felt as though Renu were trying to seek Ashok, within from his body in darkness.

It was raining outside; not raining, just drizzling. While conversing, they felt their bodies to be steaming hot, as if they were slightly feverish with high temperature. It was like rising of a strange wave, producing tides. Soon the hand of Renu advanced towards the bed switch, the room was enveloped in darkness. The existence of visible articles in the room eliminated. Bhushan’s hand stopped short while advancing to switch the light on again. Why? He didn’t know! He disliked darkness, around him as well as inside him.
That night very seriously, Bhushan had been thinking about Renu. He knew fully well, that Ashok still loves her. Perhaps that is why he had given Renu the freedom of correspondence and phone calls. By this liberty, Bhushan had risen in Renu’s estimation.

One day, Renu threw out all the artificial plants and creepers, and replaced with real ones. In the grandeur of these plants, she was feeling a strange sort of delight. A sense of beauty and colours of natural environment had been created among concrete and plastic milieu. For a long time, sitting among these plants, she cherished a sense of gratification.

The following day, Bhushan, while sitting near the plants was struck by a question------Why should Renu has done it?
Having seen plants so placed in some house or having got tired of life within this confinement?
He would think that existence governed by a routine or habit was no life. It can be boring and changeless, as every night were a repetition of the previous evening and in the same way, every morning a repetition of the previous night.

When a person gets used to living in prison, the urge for a free life in him or her, starts fading out. After all, life is to be ravished and cherished, to love and to be loved, by establishing a bond of kinship with society. If Renu had not called him for the breakfast, God knows how long he would have remained lost in such reflections.

After the breakfast, he dropped wearily on to a chair close to the aquarium. The Soan Pari had gone about swimming from side to side, bottom to top, and then again, top to bottom. The round and black eyes of Soan Pari seemed to stare at him. For some time, he felt as if the fish yearned to get out of this limited circle and spread into the vastness of the open waters. The next moment, he felt as though it was happy and secure enough, in this aquarium only.

Bhushan had heartfelt compassion for Renu and wanted to see her happy, in every respect. He was always anxious, lest she should fall into depression. If he ever talked of consulting a doctor, Renu would retort, “What’s wrong with me? Am I not a normal person? I am happy and have nothing like depression. Why do you worry on my account, just for nothing?”

After Nikki had left for university, Bhushan had started trying to peep into Renu’s mind. Renu’s keeping suppressed and oppressed, was becoming unbearable for him, because his own happiness was also linked with that of her. He was quite sincere and honest about it. They were only a pair of creatures in this flat. For a long time now, the walls of this flat had not heard words, quivering with love and roars of laughter. If ever, some voice travelled into these walls, it was that of the television.

Occasionally, Bhushan thought of changing the environment. On some pretext or the other, he touched the subject of going on a holiday. To start with, Renu showed no interest. If at all, she went on a holiday; and on return, to Bhushan, she would appear more depressed and upset. He would try to probe what privation or deficiency made Renu unhappy, why she seemed quiet and depressed? This is the age to be cheerful, to enjoy life, to realize one’s urges, and to deck and don. But, she is hardly fond of wearing jewellery, make up or fashionable garments. There must be, in this house, some sort of void ness which cannot be filled; or something, seems to have extinguished inside her. He would keep debating in his mind, lying in the bed.

It happened many a times that Bhushan wanted to watch some documentary, and Renu desired to see some sort of light entertainment. In such a situation, they would sit in different rooms, watching different channels. An internal bond between them would seem snapped. Bhushan was forbidden to consume fried and richly salted or spiced dishes, but on the contrary, Renu had no such restriction. Thus, dinning on the same table, they could not relish the same food. Many such small or you may call big things, had ceased to be common between them.

Many a times, Bhushan thought that it was necessary for a woman to be a mother. Without motherhood, a woman’s life is incomplete. If Renu, he argued with himself, had an issue from her own womb, her life would have been different and happier, of course more gratified. But whenever he hinted at it, Renu replied, “What do you mean by my issue? Nikki too, is my daughter. I alone, am her mother. Why should I go about consulting doctors?”

The sun beams were adding to the sheen of the clean and polished leaves of the rubber plant. Looking towards the balcony, Bhushan noticed that Renu was sitting in the chair gazing outside. Then his attention was diverted towards the aquarium. The Soan Pari was swimming about in its usual routine. It held his attention for quite a long time. For a moment, he looked towards Renu and then, towards Soan Pari. “What’s this life? Aimless and meaningless!” he thought in himself.

For a short while, he kept standing in the lounge, lost in himself and self-centred, seeming caught in some problem. He felt that he had been carrying some burden, on his mind for a long time and now, it was becoming unbearable for him and beyond. He wanted to arrive at some decision without any delay. He had resolved to throw away that burden, somehow or the other, for the sake of his own peace of mind and of course for the betterment of Renu as well.

After sometime, he reoccupied his place and felt like setting the Soan Pari free. But, will it be able to bear the brunt of waves of the open water? It has been accustomed to living in this limited space. The chain of his thoughts continued. Possibly, it may feel frightened to start with. But then, going across the breakwater, it will adapt itself to the tides of waters and expend its entire energy to live and enjoy life, not just to maintain existence.

He had not much knowledge about the fish, yet he felt as if he had discovered the solution of his problem. Very fondly, he called Renu to himself. She came and sat closely, smilingly. For an instant, he looked into her eyes and then, his sight travelled across the lounge occupied with domestic articles. Renu was anxious to hear the words, to be uttered from his lips. But all the words, he had gathered with courage, suddenly slipped away from the fist of his thoughts. What had resolved upon, he could not say.  Now, he was feeling as if he, himself, had been caught in the breakwater of the ocean of life.