The end of a wordless argument

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I wrote the first part of this story a while ago. Ram and Kausi are having problems in their marriage, which sends Ram in a strangely introspective spiral. This final part is from Ram’s POV, and starts off with a disturbing memory.

I had been flipping channels, finally giving in to Scarlett Johansson’s charms in Match point, when the little one had crept in, her fingers furiously digging her nose.

“You know, amma* is going to leave the house. She said it to the phone”

I remember wrestling with the kick-to-the-crotch missive my daughter delivered and the urge to stop her from making pipes out of her booger. She could be a manipulative puppy dog sometimes, but that was not it. Her cherubic face had a shadow of almost nonchalance. It might as well have been Morse code to her.

The facts, meanwhile, have been adding up like numbers on that building in Union Square. The household has’t exactly been cackling with familial warmth. The kids are either the only ones talking or the only issue being talked about. And now, Kausi has plans to flee. Great!

Kausi slams her notebook down, her lips pursed tight—which actually means she nailed the killer conclusion for her piece—and gets ready to sleep. You had to live with Kausi to learn these quirks, and how they could throw you off-kilter sometimes. She would be in the midst of a nerve-wrecking tirade about something I did, and the next moment, laughing about some slip-of-the-tongue she had while tearing me the new one. You had to keep up with her train of thought. More like a missile, really.

What could she possibly be missing in her life? Her writing career has never been better. Her dance students were going international. Our kids have her looks, and our brains. I’d like to think that must be making at least half of Cabbagetown envious. It has to be something else. Could it be that I don’t spend enough time with her, and express the hell out of myself, like all those fluff pieces keep spouting? No, It couldn’t be that simple. Who leaves the house for that? What do those hacks know about my marriage? Didn’t they also peddle the “women are more spiritually evolved than men” crap?

Wait! What am I thinking? Talking has never cut it for me, and I am already double-down. I need to dazzle her, sweep her off her feet, and stop thinking in clichés. Jewelry is out. Of all the stereotypes about women, Kausi had to defy the one most amenable to gifts. She has way too many sarees⁑, for my contribution to count. So, it comes down to the thing I hate the most—a vacation. Why do people feel the insufferable need to travel? Well, I guess I could take her to Florida. Yeah right! She’ll probably amp up the alimony and use it to have me killed—once she stuffs her 401K with it—if I took her from Atlanta to Florida. It’ll have to be international; European maybe. Some pretentious sounding place like Venice or Greece.

I could push the tender meeting to next week. The kids could stay at the Raghavans’, their creepy teenage son notwithstanding. Kausi’s students could wait a week to become the next Mallika Sarabhai. Wow! I’ve really outdone myself this time. A weeklong trip in Venice is at least quality time raised to ten. I can’t wait to see Kausi’s almond eyes split wider open with joy, when I surprise her with the tickets tomorrow.

Unless time isn’t the mother lode of my mess. What if it’s one of those global problems, gnawing away at the marriage, going hitherto unnoticed. What if she’s gone past the point of no return? And, just like that, I feel my marriage closing shut on me again, this time, pushing my ten thousand dollar vacation wedge mercilessly out of the way. Kausi stirs beside me; she has never looked more peaceful. Her peace added to my turmoil. She probably found an answer—an answer this peaceful can’t be good news. How am I going to live without her? Who is going to stop me from stepping out in a maroon shirt and grey pants?

But, whatever happens I am keeping the cuter child; she can handle the teenager.

The little one woke me up from my sleep—patchy at best—by doing the trampoline on my belly. The scene before my eyes shoots my morning crankiness in the eye—

Kausi is busy packing. Her stuff. The kids’ stuff. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would she leave without talking? I don’t hit her. I didn’t cheat on her. Heck! I don’t even smoke. I am a loving father. That’s it—

“Where do you think you are going?”

“I am taking the kids to Raghavans’ place. We can talk after that.”

“No! I want to talk right now. You can’t just leave me. Why are you doing this to me? What about the kids? I am not signing any papers.”

The kids look like they saw a unicorn grow fangs. I don’t care.

Kausi gives me a bewildered glance, her first this morning, while dragging the luggage out—“Papers? What papers? Why are your eyes so red? Look I don’t want to—

“You know what! Fine! You want to talk; let’s talk. I am glad you finally discovered you could piece words together. But, you can regale me on the way to the airport. I was sick of not being able to spend time with you; sick of complaining to my friends about you; sick of waiting for your ‘aha!’ moment. So, I booked us a trip to Venice. And, no, you don’t have a choice. I am prepared to kidnap you if it comes to that.” Her eyes shift guiltily towards the kids, but she’s quick enough to resume the bone-piercing look at me—like only a dancer can.

Is it my turn to speak? I venture, nonetheless.

“But, the kid told me-that’s the reason why-Oh! I get it now-I don’t know what to-should I pack my-what time did you say was the flight?”

The kids don’t look away as Kausi envelopes me in a kiss so raucous that I taste blood in my mouth.

I am so glad my tickets are refundable.

( * : Mother; ⁑ : Indian garment)


A wordless argument (Part 1)

Dinner at the Iyers’ house was suffocatingly silent that night. The innocent rhythm of the grandfather clock and the mischievous clink of silverware attempted in vain, to initiate a conversation. Having finished laying out the food, Kausalya did her little stretching regimen before she got back to working on her article on south asian dance forms. Ram got down to business on the dinner table, enjoying his meal in silence, cursorily flipping through stuff on his iPad. It wasn’t until only a few dregs of the paruppusili, which he thought was divine, remained, did he sense that something was amiss. He glanced towards kausi, wanting to kiss her for her gastronomic prowess and, more importantly,  how hot she looked in her glasses, but right then she looked as if she would shred to pieces, anything hindering her flow of thought. So, he got back to his gizmo, trying to nebulate the anticlimactic moment.

“Manushan….doesn’t even bother to initiate a conversation. I am done trying to engage him in one”, Kausi silently lamented as she corrected ‘who’ to ‘whom’ on her manuscript.  It had been over an hour but she couldn’t come up with the perfect conclusion for her piece. With the firm resolve not to ask Ram for any guidance whatsoever, she traipsed  to clear away the dishes and make preparations for the kids’ lunch the next day. Meanwhile, she turned on the mini TV in the kitchen to catch up on some bharatnatyam dance rehearsals of her students making their stage debut the coming week.

Ram found himself strangely uneasy that night. Perusing through the building designs for the final tender felt increasingly like trying to drive on a freeway looking into a straw. “Had the food not been so goddamn good, I wouldn’t ve have stuffed myself to the head with it! All I need is a brisk walk and the contract is mine” he felt disgusted by his own lame pep talk as he put on his sneakers, then annoyed that Kausi didn’t perform the key wifely duty of asking the hubby to zip it the one time it could’ve done him some good. He was about to leave when, “Oh look! It’s the rain now, that has passed the final verdict that a man cannot exercise his right to a brisk walk without a prior memo.”

Utterly disappointed, he slumped down on the couch and began thinking about what was really hankering on him amidst all the decoys. He knew that a 10 year old marriage ought not be the brilliant red it once was, but his was hurtling towards gray at an accelerating pace. It seemed like she had lost out on any reserve of interest she had in the relationship. She seemed cold and weary, qualities that were hitherto unattributable to her. Her seemingly infinite capacity to jabber, mentally exhausting though it was, kept the relationship from friction thus far. Her sudden switch-over to laconic ways left a large conversation vacuum, he had no idea how to fill. He had never been good at expressing himself, lest in colors and geometric shapes. He figured that years of marriage and two kids hence, he shouldn’t have to worry about expressions, but Kausi’s strange demeanor of late made him rethink his notions.

“Is she cross at me or plainly bored with the monotony of her life? How do I confront her? She’s sure to dismiss it if it was indeed something disturbing.”

And then, as if in a flash he recalled what his kids had mentioned in passing once, but that couldn’t have been true, could it?