Gauri’s Untold Story
Sanjeev was stunned by the registered letter that he had just received from the postman. It was dated October 22nd, 2007. It was a notice from a lawyer – it was a notice seeking divorce sent by Gauri’s lawyer.
It was the most auspicious day of the Durga Puja days – Maha Ashtami. The Bhardwaj household in the town of Jorhat, Assam was tense. The elder Mr. & Mrs. Bhardwaj could not bear the tension to go to the hospital and decided to spend the time at the Puja pandal near their house, with their friends. Their daughter in law was undergoing a caesarian operation for her pregnancy in the J.B. Hospital. Ashok, the father, was fidgeting around in front of the operation theatre. At about 11:10 AM, the light outside turned green and the doctor came out with a smile. “Congratulations you have been blessed with a beautiful daughter”, she said and continued, “Both mother and baby are fine!”
Ashok was ecstatic. He always wanted a daughter. He had tears rolling down his eyes as he ran out of the hospital to make a call to his parents. “Here comes Maa Durga to our house. We will name her Gauri – after all she is born on this auspicious day!”, declared the joyous grandfather. The conch was blown, as the grandmother bowed her head and prayed in front of the image of Goddess Durga in the pandal, and the ladies nearby praised the Mother with their Uruli.*
Gauri was true to her name – fair and beautiful. She was indeed the symbol of true purity. She grew up to be an ideal daughter – well mannered, extremely brilliant, loveable and kind. She had this magical quality about her and her family believed that her mere presence could remove obstacles. In the heart of hearts, they believed that she was indeed an incarnation of Maha Gauri.
Was this some kind of a prank? – Sanjeev wondered! But this is no time for jokes – then why all of a sudden …. Well, Gauri is not the one who was known for pranks.
As time passed, Gauri went to Delhi to pursue her studies. She topped her graduation class and went on to complete her PhD in literature. Her thesis, “The figure of the independent woman in Indian literature – Kalidasa to Premchand” was adjudged as the best in her batch in Jawaharlal Nehru University. The vices of the city could not touch the strong Gauri. She remained the beautiful, calm, white kurta and jeans clad, intelligent, small town girl. After her PhD. she came back to Jorhat to be a lecturer in a local college.
During her college days, Ashok used to always encourage Gauri to appear in the Civil Services examinations. Gauri had politely refused saying that she was not of that mettle – not in intelligence but the life after clearing the examinations never excited her. She always wanted to be surrounded by books and always wanted to spread knowledge. And she did pretty well for herself – she went to be the youngest Professor in the state. In no time, she became the HOD of the University and in those days, she met Sanjeev.
Sanjeev was a very senior corporate officer in one of the best telecom companies in Guwahati. He was visiting his sister, who happened to be a colleague of Gauri and it was love at first sight. The families had no problems in getting them married as well. In no time, they got married and Gauri moved to the capital city of Assam, leaving her career behind.
But how could she and why? I have never made her unhappy or done something against her will. Why would she do this to me? Why did she not tell me where I was wrong? And, at this stage in life? – Sanjeev had many unanswered questions in his mind.
Life went on. Sanjeev went on climbing the corporate ladder. Every five to seven years he changed his job and with that they had to move to a different city in India. They had a wonderful life – holidays to SE Asia, America, UK etc. They owned a couple of properties in some of the poshest localities in Delhi and Hyderabad. Two beautiful daughters – Sanjeev had named them Meera and Siya. Both the daughters did wonderfully well in academics and both went to Wharton University – after all Sanjeev wanted them to be successful in life. They returned from the US and got plum jobs in the best MNCs in Delhi and Bangalore respectively. As luck would have it, they both got married the same day – 15th of October, 2007.
Sanjeev rushed to their bedroom, where he saw Gauri sitting and gazing outside through the window. A small black suitcase was lying on the bed. She was ready to go. “ Is this some kind of a joke, Gauri?”, he demanded. “I mean this is absolutely rubbish. What have I done to deserve this? What is it that you not have? What have I not provided for? What is that you had asked for and I have not given? And now – after all these years of marriage? I mean look, I have booked our tickets for a trip to the Bahamas. I thought we would now enjoy our lives – now that the girls are married off. What will the world say? Our friends will mock at us. Who gave you the right to do this to me? Have I not loved you enough?” – he rattled like a small boy whose toy was snatched.
Gauri looked at him and smiled. “Sit down Sanjeev”, she said calmly. “What do you mean? How can I sit down with this news?”, he shouted. “Remember the beautiful Sewali flowers that I would pick up in the autumn mornings from our small garden in Guwahati?”, she asked. “What is wrong with you? Have you lost it? You are reminded of flowers after sending me a divorce notice?”, Sanjeev was unable to control his temper now. “No! Tell me, do you remember?”, she was persistent. He denied remembering, as expected. “Sanjeev, I used to love those flowers and that garden. I had planted that tree myself. I don’t know if the current owners still have that or maybe that tree has been cut down by now!” , she uttered in a quaint voice.
“Meera and Siya – were never mine, Sanjeev. They were yours.”, she said. He did not know what to say. Had she gone insane – he wondered. “What do you mean by that? They are our daughters.” , he yelled. “I had named them Uma and Priya. I never liked their names you know – the names do not augur a happy life. After all, both Meera and Siya had tragic lives. You know I had tried to tell you as well. You just brushed aside that suggestion. I also wanted them to learn music and dance but you never allowed. You always wanted them to prepare for their MBAs. I never wanted to leave my job Sanjeev – but I had to. I was forced to. I never liked your champagne and wine parties, Sanjeev and I had refused many times as well. But then you would never listen. I never liked it when I had to leave our home and Guwahati and move to Hyderabad. This bungalow is beautiful Sanjeev, don’t get me wrong. But it’s too big for me – it’s too stony here in this city. The foreign trips I used to always look forward to them.”, she went on. Sanjeev sat down in disbelief and smiled at the thought at least there was something that he had done right in the form of vacations.
“Except that, I thought you will take us to Greece and not to the places that we visited. You know I was always fascinated by their culture and architecture etc – its so much like ours. Did you know that? Well I know you loved the casinos in UK. But then it’s OK. You and the girls loved Vegas and Singapore. I was happy for you all. Don’t get me wrong, Sanjeev. You are a wonderful person – an ideal husband. You have provided for me – something that I never wanted but you still did … and I am grateful to you. “
“You laughed and you rocked the world. And I am proud to be a part of your laughter and success. You talked and I was happy to listen. You beamed and I was happy to be brightened up by your presence. But somehow that brightness singed me from within. And trust me, I tried to tell you – not once, but many times. Maybe we are just not meant for each other,” she sighed as she ended her harangue.
Sanjeev did not know how to react. It was as if he was struck by lightning. Their entire life was summed up in these five minutes. He pleaded for one chance to rectify, but she refused. She was determined. “So what now? What will you do? Where will you go?”, he asked in a sense of resignation. He knew he had no chance. Gauri never spoke earlier and now she never will listen.
“I have a job of a school teacher that I begin from day after at Jorhat. Our house is still there. Do visit when you get time. And yes, I have explained myself to the girls. They are rushing back tomorrow, and before they come, I must leave. I have a flight to catch to Assam. Don’t worry I will be fine. Take your medicines on time and stop those cigarettes”, she held his hand as she said these words. She kissed him and said, ”Remember, whenever you need me, I will be there for you – its just that I want to breathe now!”. She walked out of the door clad in her white and golden saree and the small suitcase.
“Let me be, was all I wanted. Be what I am, no matter how I am.” ―
Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird
Reetoopan Kaushik, Flat K-707, Prateek Laurel, Sector 120, Noida – 201301