THE WOMAN IN THE PARK
My name is Nisha.
I am a woman – 35 years old – I am happily married to a wonderful man – and – I have two children – a boy (9 years old) – and a girl (6 years old) – a perfect family.
A few days ago – my husband relocated abroad – to take up a lucrative job offer – and – I decided to stay back in Pune for the sake of my children’s education.
As per my routine – early in the morning – after putting my children in the school bus at 7 AM – I went to the park for my morning walk.
After half an hour of brisk walking – I sat on a bench to meditate – when – I saw a woman walking towards me.
Her face was familiar – she lived in our building – and – every morning – I saw her walking in the park too.
But – as it is in urban society – with her – it was a “hail-fellow well-met” type of superficial acquaintanceship – rather than a close friendship.
“May I sit down…?” she asked me, “I want to talk to you…”
“Of course – please sit…” I said – taken aback – wondering what she wanted to talk to me.
I shifted a bit – to make enough place for her on the bench.
“I heard that your husband has relocated abroad…?” she asked me – and she named the country where my husband has gone.
“Yes…” I said, “he went last week…”
“And you…? When are you going to join him over there…?” she asked me.
“I am going to stay here in Pune…” I said to her.
“Oh – but why…?” she asked me.
“For children’s education…” I said to her.
“Your children can go to school over there…” she said to me.
“We felt that it would be best if our children were educated over here…” I said to her, “my children study in the best school in Pune…”
“But there are good schools over there…” she said, “you can even put your children in an international school…”
I wondered how the woman knew so much about that place.
The woman seemed to have read my mind – she gave me a canny smile before speaking.
“I know what you are thinking – how do I know so much about that place – well – my husband worked there for 15 years…” she said to me.
“Oh…” I said to her, “so – you have lived there…?”
“No – I made the same mistake that you are making now…” she said to me.
“Mistake…?” I asked her.
“Yes – just like you – I stayed back in Pune for my children’s education – and my husband lived there alone – we had a long-distance relationship for 15 years…” she said to me.
“Oh…” I said – wondering why she was telling me all this.
“I must have been around your age when my husband went abroad – and – just like you – I had two school-going children – a boy and a girl – of roughly the same ages as your children…” she said to me.
“That’s good…” I said – maybe she was telling me all this because she saw a bit of her younger self in me.
The woman looked at me – into my eyes – and spoke.
“When you are young and married – it is not wise to let your husband live separately – all alone – in a foreign land…” she said to me.
I felt a bit peeved at her insinuation.
“My husband is a virtuous man – I am sure he won’t have an affair…” I said to her.
“I am not talking about that – I am talking about something else…” she said.
“Something else…?” I asked her – curious.
“Your husband may learn to live alone…” she said to me.
“Learn to live alone…?” I said – a bit bemused – wondering what she was trying to tell me.
“If you let your husband stay alone – he may learn to live with himself – and after some time – he may start preferring to live with himself – like it happened to my husband…” she said.
“Isn’t that a good thing…?” I asked her.
“It depends. If you are loner – a person who doesn’t need the company of people – it is okay – but if you are an emotionally needy person – like me – it will become difficult for you – later in life – when your children go away – and – you are left alone with your husband – and – he doesn’t “need” you…” she said.
“I really don’t understand…” I said to her.
She pointed to a man walking in the park.
“That is my husband…” she said, “he prefers to walk alone – even at home – he likes his solitude – living alone for so many years had made him independent – he doesn’t need me – but – I need him…” she said.
“He must be giving you everything – looking after your needs…” I said to her.
“I am not talking about material needs – I am talking about emotional needs. As I told you – I am an emotionally needy person. First – we were living happily together – my husband, me and our two children – those days – we were a nice close-knit happy family – and my emotional needs were fully satisfied – then – when my husband went abroad – my children satisfied my emotional needs – but now – my children have flown away from the “nest” – pursuing their own careers abroad – and though my husband has retired and we are physically living together – emotionally – I am all alone and I feel lonely – since my husband has learnt to live with himself and doesn’t need me – in fact – sometimes I feel that he doesn’t want me around…” she said – with a wistful look.
I looked at her – I didn’t know what to say.
“I am sorry for telling you all this…” the woman said to me, “but I felt that you are making the same mistake that I made many years ago. Of course – in your case – the long-distance relationship may work perfectly. I wish you all the best. You just forget whatever I told you – please consider it as the gibberish of an old woman…” she said to me.
Then – the woman gave me a warm smile – she got up from the bench – and – she walked away.
I pulled out my smartphone – I called my husband – and I told him that I had decided to join him over there – the children could study in the international school over there – and – we would all live together as a family.
He was delighted.
“What made you suddenly change your mind…?” my husband asked me.
“I don’t want you to learn to live with yourself…” I said to him – in a loving voice.______
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