“I can’t be a daughter, a wife, a daughter-in-law or a mother all my life. I need some space. I need some peace. I need some time for myself.”
In the evening as I entered the gate of our apartment complex, the watchman informed that the keys are with Suma madam of flat number 503.
I slowly climbed up the stairs and reached the lift. The lift which was otherwise overflowing with all kinds of people was completely empty today. Usually it is filled with children, men and women from the various flats, the elderly, the full-time or part-time maids, pets and so on. An emptiness that was slowly creeping in. Once on the fifth floor I rang the bell of flat number 503. Suma came out with the keys. As I turned towards my flat, she offered to have some coffee with her. I refused citing a headache and told her that I wanted to take a nap.
I slowly opened the door of the flat I had been living in for the past twelve years.
The quiet television screen, the neatly done up room, the well-placed cushions on the couch, the sparkling clean center table, the dining table with just that vase with money plant. Everything looked strange. The family picture on the wall in the dining area looked like it was laughing at my loneliness. It felt like they were all shouting, “This is the peace, the space, the time that you were yearning for…right??? Now enjoy it.”
I kept my handbag on the center table and threw myself on the relaxing chair. I thought the rocking chair might get me some sleep. I was wrong. I picked up myself bit by bit and went into the bed room. For some reason, the neatly folded blankets and beautifully spread bedspread made me irritated. I pulled open the window curtain. It was dark outside but the moon was shining brightly which brought in some soothing moonlight. A few seconds later, I felt uneasy. I went in and took a shower. I called out, “Priya, get me my towel. I forgot to pick it up.” There was no answer in return. Then I saw the towels neatly stacked in the bathroom itself.
I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of piping hot filter kaappi (coffee). I went and sat beside the window overlooking the beach. Today is a full-moon day. People have thronged to the beach with friends and families. The beach is crowded on weekends. Especially Fridays. Working couples pour in thousands to spend some peaceful time together on the beach. I never understood the need for a couple to come to the beach for finding time for each other. I always wondered why do they need such a crowded place to sit together. Isn’t the house much better? Manish had always wanted us to go on long walks on the beach on weekends. I had always and always refused saying I had lots of work unlike him.
Hours passed as I sat there and then suddenly I looked at the watch. It was 8.42 p.m. I was already late. I had to give Appa his medicines half an hour before he took his dinner. I almost got up from the chair when I realized the void around me. I anyway stood up and went into the kitchen. On the gas burner Amma had left my favourite Sundakkai Vatha Kuzhambu (turkey berry gravy), rice, parippu (Dal) and three appalams (Papadum) in a plastic container. I filled my plate and went and sat on the dining table. I took my first bite and struggled to finish it. Tears were rolling down my cheeks non-stop. No. I wasn’t crying. I can’t cry. I am strong. This was my decision. This is what I had always wanted. I always knew that I was my closest friend. And I wanted to spend some time with myself. Isn’t it?
Four days passed like four generations. The void was killing me every single second.
Manish had sent Amma and Appa to his sister’s place in Pollachi. Our daughter Priya had been on a four-day long school excursion to Coorg. Manish had planned it out well. He stayed at the office guest house in the same city closer to his office for the four days.
He reached back with the girls in the afternoon and hurriedly went out again. Two hours later he returned with Amma and Appa. In the evening when I reached the door of the house and heard Yesudas’s Shri Krishna Sharanam fusion with Michael Jackson, I smiled to myself. Amma opened the door with her smiling face as always. Appa was lying on the relaxing chair trying to concentrate on Shri Krishna Sharanam. Priya was lying on the floor with the cushions all around her. Her books were overflowing on the center table. After drinking the glass of Chukku Vellam (dry ginger water) that Amma had brought for me I rushed into the bedroom. Manish was taking a shower. I eagerly waited outside. As soon as he got out I hugged him tightly from behind. I didn’t want to let go of him but he pushed me aside. I knew he was hurt. Deeply hurt. I said I was sorry. His annoyance was genuine. I quickly crossed my arms, touched my ears and started doing the hundred and one squats that I generally do in front of Lord Vinayaka on Wednesdays. This is exactly how we would make up with each other during the initial years of our married life. Manish stopped me and pulled me closer. He said,
“Shalini, I hope you understood what I wanted to convey. It is easy to demand for peace, space or time. But it takes a lot of maturity to understand what exactly is our meaning of peace, space or time. I always knew that your love for everyone is genuine. You cared for everyone, but what you needed was some ‘me’ time and some ‘us’ time. But not at the cost of this ‘we’ time. Isn’t it?”
I nodded in agreement with eyes filled with tears. He kissed my forehead and as we got out of the room a cushion thrown by Appa at Priya came flying and hit us. This chaos is where I found my peace and my space.
One thing I clearly understood that day: my closest friend is my family.
Nobody else was a hindrance for me, but my own self. I never prioritized myself and thus the unnecessary outburst.
“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”
― Deepak Chopra
This post is part of the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program where the aim is to post at least once a day based on the prompts that they have provided. Today’s prompt is, A friend in need : Finish this sentence: “My closest friend is…”