The Tribune - Spectrum


, June 23, 2002

Life Ties

When simplicity appeals and calms
Taru Bahl

SHAKTI was a son of the soil. Tough, rugged and brutally honest, his unpretentious ways could be lost on people whom he met for the first time. Often, it led to misunderstandings and a wrong perception of him. He was, however, bright and got through the IPS, where he earned a reputation for being a fearless and principled officer. His brashness was now slightly toned down, though he threw a surprise at his friends and family when he suddenly announced his marriage to his batchmate, Bhavna.

It was obvious that it was a mismatch. Shakti was from a rural background while Bhavna’s father was in the foreign service. He was used to living a functional, hassle- free life, whereas Bhavna believed in all the trappings of good living. In spite of the personality difference, there was something that had brought them together. He was fascinated with her elegance, sophistication and the ease with which she conducted herself socially. She liked the way he made her feel cared for and protected. Shakti treated her like a baby and indulged her every whim. The fact that he was physically big and strong further strengthened the notion that he was the best man for her.


The chinks began appearing sooner than Shakti’s friends could have bargained for. Both had chosen to fall in love with a notion they felt was love. This was fine till they were courting each other but post marriage they realised how different they were from each other and their reasons for marrying each other were all wrong. He had somewhere hoped that she would complement his rustic demeanor and provide the perfect foil to his unsophisticated ways. Together, by combining their intellectual, physical and social charms they would achieve milestones in their personal and professional lives. Also, the fact that they were in the same profession would ensure that they would be perfectly tuned to lead a harmonious life.

It was not very long before reality got the better of perception and they found they were constantly at daggers drawn. Nothing either of them said or did found approval with the other. Shakti felt that behind Bhavna’s suave and polished veneer was an extremely uncompromising self-willed person who refused to look at any point of view but her own. It hurt him to see how his parents and the extended family tried their best to win her over but she adamantly remained on the periphery, silently mocking and looking down upon them. Her professional aspirations were nurtured at the cost of their relationship. While he was no male chauvinist, he felt that her behaviour ought to be more wife-like. Different upbringing and values made it impossible for them to have that level playing field where some sort of a dialogue could be carried out.

Bhavna, on her part, began resenting the fact that Shakti was not toeing her line. He had begun to socialise on his own. She was unable to exert any influence on him and it heightened her insecurity. Though Shakti too was not happy at the way they were drifting apart, he tried to cope by shutting himself from her and letting himself go. Over indulgence in food and drink ruined his physique. His mental responses became sluggish as late nights took a heavy toll on his work and image. He had turned into a social embarrassment.

The chasm widened and, finally, she called it quits. It was not easy for Shakti because in his family this was the first divorce. Yet, in spite of the bitterness, his family stood by him and helped him recover from the trauma. Along with the separation came the feeling that he had failed to keep his marriage and that he did not have it in him to keep a woman happy. In the years that followed, he got sidelined to an insignificant department while contemporaries, including Bhavna, landed plum positions. Lethargy and disinterest ate into his vibrant and energetic persona. When he heard she had remarried and accepted a posting to Washington, he stopped blaming himself for the tragedy of their marriage.

Till this point, he had been turning down his parents’ pleas of remarriage. But after Bhavna went abroad, he agreed. Veena came from a simple family of landowners. She too had gone through a bad marriage. Her ex-husband had political ambitions and besides being abusive was also a womaniser. It had been easy to return to her maternal home with her two-year-old daughter. Shakti’s mother had liked Veena and though she was a good 10 years younger than Shakti, she knew this was the girl who could warm his hearth and heart. Veena, on her part, had no demands. Without even so much as looking up at him, she had nodded her concurrence. She decided to let the daughter remain with her parents, not wanting to burden her second husband with the responsibility. However, the two families trashed this suggestion and insisted that the little one be a part of their home.

Gradually, Shakti’s life began taking a unique shape. He found Veena’s presence comforting. Gone were the late nights at the clubs and the pubs. He just did not feel like hanging out with his cronies. He only wanted to come home and eat a simple meal with his wife and daughter. He loved undertaking excursions to the market to buy vegetables, flowers and rations and then helping with the sorting, peeling and storing. Making pickles and jams was an intimate exercise and he found all these so-called monotonous and boring things soothing. Veena had made him a family man and he could not imagine any other way of living. For someone like him, who had thought that intellectual wave length was important for a relationship to stand the test of time, having a spouse who could mirror his thoughts, dreams and desires, helping him to take them from mere fantasies to fruition was a learning lesson. Twenty years ago had he met Veena he would never have thought that all this was possible by entering into a partnership with someone as simple and untutored as Veena. But today, as he stood and delved reflectively into the past, he could see that she had, with her quiet, unassuming ways, managed to take charge of his life. She was now expecting his child and though he knew it was rather late in the day to start a family, he felt like a young starry-eyed man looking forward to a new innings. He had always thought that the world was his oyster and that like Hercules he could take on the universe on the sheer merit of strength, intellect and calibre. But he realised how soon he had lost steam when love had come briefly into his life.

It was only Veena who had restored that confidence and proved to him that it is not necessary for two people to be like each other, with similar tastes, IQ levels and matching attitudes to be happy in love. One could grow together with one’s own separateness and yet use the power of love to create a comfortable partnership that can grow over a lifetime. For him, the most visible change had been a return to his natural sophistication and elegance as he stepped into his forties, a refined and sensitive man with perfect social graces.

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