The Tribune - Spectrum


, September 15, 2002

Life Ties

Waiting for the phone to ring…
Taru Bahl

TO Bhanu, married at 19, a mother at 20 and divorced at 22, it seemed as if an entire life had gone by. She could no longer connect with people her age and felt much older. Neither was she comfortable with the family's overdose of concern nor could she indulge in empty-headed socialising.

She immersed herself in the family business and coerced her father into giving her additional responsibility. Work gave her the high that comes after accomplishing a task well. It wasn’t easy because their group of companies had always been headed by menfolk. Bhanu earned a place for herself on the board of directors and gradually her opinion was sought on all major company decisions. The years flew by and it was only when her son went overseas to study did she feel the void in her life.

How two decades had flown by she had no idea. She was beginning to find her home-town suffocating. There didn’t seem much scope for her to grow. The monotony of the routine was beginning to stifle her. Also, where the business was concerned, she was finding it difficult to identify with the growth plans her father and brothers had embarked upon. Being far more versatile and open than them, she could see they were not progressive enough. Her frequent overseas travel had ensured that she was constantly exposed to new ideas and concepts. This kept her creative clock actively ticking. A stage came when she decided to break free and start life afresh. She moved town and felt wonderful about her new-found freedom. There was no family to breathe down her neck and tell her what to do. No more endless birthdays, anniversaries and weddings to attend. No more conforming to what others felt would be right and therefore acceptable. She could structure her day the way she wanted to. A new town, a new set of people and a new lifestyle awaited her.


She moved to Delhi and quickly got sucked into the social whirlwind of a city known for its shallow culture. She had ignored her own emotional and physical needs through out her youthful years. In trying to come to terms with a broken marriage and a bruised ego, she had let work turn into therapy. And now when she was in her mid-40s, the emptiness inside hurt. She had not cultivated friendships or maintained anything more than superficial ties. Not wanting to get caught up in the family rigmarole, she focused on cultivating a hectic social life. Parties, club- hopping, shopping binges, card kitties and openings of fancy stores filled her day. The phone rang incessantly. Since she was a fairly moneyed single woman who loved entertaining, she had an open house where people trooped in all through the day and night. She had enough money to justify a non-working status but she still set up an export house. It gave her the pretext to undertake international travel and meet people, all things she loved doing. She already had a network and orders just poured in. She hired professionals to run the show and monitored it via remote control. She had slogged long and hard enough and could now, without feeling guilty, play hard too.

The initial euphoria was heady. It was as if she was making up for lost time. Being thrown into a circle where there was a huge premium on looks and status she found her time being taken up with things she had so far completely ignored. Working out in gyms for acquiring the perfect hour-glass figure, keeping pace with fickle fashions and maintaining a home which could cater to the standards of her upper-crust friends was more than a full-time job. As social commitments increased and she began to get sucked into vicious politicking, she started experiencing insecurity and loneliness. Though she had long since learnt to deal with these feelings, this time round there was panic associated with the fear of rejection. Desperately, she tried holding on to her looks and an expanding circle of friends.

The phone and mobile became her lifelines. They rang incessantly. There was a thrill associated with juggling different calls, keeping different callers on hold, making one listen to the other, discussing one friend with the other and repeating snatches of conversation – they made her feel important. She often cribbed about the hectic pace where sleep was always deficient, yet she loved the thought of being so busy and caught up. The cycle was so wound up that there was no time or inclination to think how meaningful it was or for that matter how necessary to her existence and well-being. Her day began and ended with the phone. Even while driving and travelling, she was talking on the mobile or sending SMS messages.

It took a health problem to turn the apple cart. Confined to bed after a series of surgical interventions and a long list of restrictions on movement, diet, stress and lifestyle she realised that no one was really interested in her well-being. Once the mandatory lip service dried up, visits were reduced to a trickle. Soon she was out of circulation. She tried reactivating her social life though doctors had asked her to slow down and found that people were disinterested in someone who was of little use to them.

She was no longer in a position to splurge money on lavish parties. Being on the wrong side of 40 meant declining physical beauty too. Expecting a shallow social set to strike a rapport on a mental, spiritual or emotional plane was being unreasonable.

Waiting for the phone to ring was maddening. She tried getting back to active working life, took to learning golf, becoming a part of a book reading club but the hurts were still fresh and none of these things had the capacity to hold her interest. But she was hopeful. She had to come to terms with her situation and prepare herself for the next decade of her life, when loneliness and isolation would be further exacerbated. She needed to cultivate some interests, get involved in at least one community welfare activity and work towards forming genuine friendships and get back to the security of the family umbrella which alone had the supreme power to give unconditional acceptance.

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