The Crossover

Mrs.Bhatia heard the raised voices when she was locking the door to leave for her evening walk, there they go again she thought.

Inside Shanti and Raj were arguing. ‘Raj, I had informed you that I will be late, atleast you could have started the dinner or could have ordered from some restaurant.’ ‘You know, don’t you I don’t like housework or outside food, I have brought Aryan from his daycare; do not expect more than this’ he yelled back. ‘Alright then let me quit my job and I will be happy as a housewife’ she retorted. ‘And who will pay for the duplex’ he said and went out after banging the door. They had recently purchased a duplex apartment. While Raj wanted a modest 2 bedroom flat it was Shanti who had insisted on a bigger duplex and ever since that had been their bone of contention. Aryan their three year old was cowering in a corner crying silently, he was hungry but the tears were more out of fear. In the end Shanti prepared a quick pulao and fed him. She was working as an Accountant in a not so big firm which meant she had to look at some other functions too apart from accounting. Her colleague who looked at PR and client handling was away on vacation which meant she had to look after his responsibilities too. Offices in the GULF were often like that, multipurpose use of employees, she thought and cringed. Her maid who came on weekends, a Sri Lankan lady was away on vacation. Atleast she would vacuum, clean the bathroom etc, now it was like a tightrope walk for her. And Raj just refused to help.

The next day too the workload was a lot but she worked through lunch hour so that she could reach home early. On the drive home she planned the menu for the night. As usual as soon as she came home, Raj left for the gym and she started preparations for the dinner. As soon as this dal is cooked, I will vacuum , the carpet has become dirty. That was the thought she had before slipping into oblivion.

Raj returned some minutes later to find a wailing Aryan, charred dal and Shanti on the floor. He held Aryan by one hand and tried to revive Shanti by sprinkling water on her. It took some time to revive her. But this incident made her a changed person. Though Raj insisted on taking her to a doctor, she refused. She became a very silent person refusing to speak to anybody doing her work with a ferociousness, her only objective being to finish her job. Conversation became void in their home.

Raj was unable to tap through the shell that Shanti had built around herself and he turned to their family friend Dr. Mala. She came to visit them and though she tried to speak to Shanti but couldn’t. ‘Something is bothering her Raj’, Dr. Mala said ‘either you consult a psychiatrist or better you invite some family member here who could reach out to her.’ Raj thought of inviting his in-laws over but was met with a vehement No from Shanti.
At the same time his mother was facing some problem with her granddaughter. The problem wasn’t much –just generation gap but Raj thought it a good enough excuse to invite his mother.
Maaji when she arrived got a shock on seeing Shanti. The normally cheerful, bubbly woman had become gaunt and as silent as a ghost. And all her attempts to converse fell on deaf ears.
‘Today’s generation does not have any regard for elders. See Tania for example she wore such a tight dress , when I asked her to go and change, she retorted by asking me- what should I wear, a 9 yards sari?, tell me is this the way to talk to elders,’ she remarked one day to her daughter in law. “maybe the way you told her was wrong. You could have said something like- the dress is lovely but don’t you think it’s a bit too tight and she would have complied’ replied Shanti. Aha thought Maaji some headway. So what I have to do is to tell her my problems and slowly she might tell hers.
And so it went until slowly Shanti unburdened her grief on Maaji. One day Raj returned from gym to find his wife away and his mother waiting.’I have sent Shanti and Aryan to her friends’ she said, ‘ I had to speak to you, alone’. “What about, Maa” ‘ I feel ashamed that I have raised my son as a hypocrite. No, don’t interrupt and just listen for once. You chose Shanti to be your wife. Though Initially I was against the idea of a love marriage I agreed for your sake and also because she is so nice. She works, she keeps your house and you; what do you do. She is a human, she needs some rest too. Alright you don’t like housework but you could look after Aryan, you can take her out for dinner sometimes. You hate cooking but can’t you help with the laundry or the cleaning. Does it hurt your male ego to do such simple tasks.You take care of your body by eating well and going to the gym regularly but do you care for her needs. Have you ever asked her if she has had her meal, have you ever got a gift for her. I feel I have failed as a mother.’ Raj became thoughtful. In all his adult life, no one had spoken like this to him and this monologue had indeed been a shocker. ‘And do you know why she didn’t want her parents to come because she did not want her parents to see you in a bad light. You have behaved so wrongly with her still she wanted your honor’. Now this was indeed an eye opener for him

A month later maaji left for India, a happy woman. The situation had taken a turn for the better. Raj had changed, he had started helping is wife in the small tasks around home, even took her out sometimes. Maaji had told Shanti to be a little more assertive and she was reverting to her former cheerful self. And me, she thought I too have learnt a lot. This present generation is not that bad. They do care for us oldies, and they do uphold family honor as we used to do in our times. And yes I have to surprise Tania with my computing skills which Shanti taught me, she thought happily. And I have to chat with Mrs Bhatia and Shanti regularly. Life is not that bad she thought.


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