Conjugal Vignette

Dr. Sarojini Sahu

    Within the last one and half years there must have been at least more than two hundred phone calls for Mr Choudhury. Every time Mrs Choudhury would express her apologies for troubling us. She maintained the formality of asking about my children’s well being and about my visits to my parents’ place. Thereby a relation was established with her for a long time. Moreover, Mr Choudhury was also treated to a cup of tea or coffee while waiting for the phone calls from his wife. Perhaps to mitigate our irritation he used to bring some chocolates or toffees for the children. Samiran kept the conversation with Mr. Choudhury to the minimum. I only sat and chatted with Mr. Choudhury out of courtesy. I was able to imagine his wife by listening to his conversations. But perhaps that imaginary person had no resemblance with the real Mrs Choudhury.

    As I had never seen her before I could never make out that she was Mrs. Choudhury and that too as she was in a distressed state. Even though I never asked her, she must have seen the amazement and the questioning look on my face, and she introduced herself: “I am Mrs Choudhury”. After that she nervously looked behind her and said: “He must be following me”. Before I could understand and say anything she said: “Please tell me, what I should do”.

    “About what?” I asked; even though I knew a bit about the possible answers. During these few months there was a gossip about her husband. Even I had to come to know about an affair between her husband and Mrs Gomej. Maybe she wanted to ask: “All these things happened and yet you never mentioned it to me even though I called you so many times over the phone?”

    I had decided to tell her that it is better think twice before commenting on anyone’s character.

    I looked at her face. I felt as if my mother was sitting in front of me and asking “Can you tell me, my dear daughter? Will your father really be able to leave her?”

    Mrs. Chowdhury showed me both her hands and said “Can you see how he has hit me?” The skin had been cut by the glass from the broken bangles and some places had stains of blood. “See, he was pressing my neck to kill me” she showed me her neck. There were marks of fingers on top of the necklace mangalsutra. Earlier this morning he brought cold water from the fridge and poured it into my ears”. As she was describing her physical agony she was trembling with fear like a scared deer. She was getting up in between and looking around and checking if Mr. Chowdhury was coming there. She said, “He has no decency; who knows, he may come here and create trouble.”

    “He will not come here. You be rest assured” I consoled her. I ordered my maid to get some water and a cup of tea for her and told her, “In the meantime Mr Choudhury and my husband Samiran have had a big fight in the office. Their relation is so bitter that even in the club they had thrown glasses at each other over an argument. So don’t worry. Mr Choudhury will not come to our place.”

    After she was a bit comforted she said- “What should I do? He is saying that he will divorce me and marry her. Our daughter is twenty-two years old. Instead of thinking of getting her married he is thinking about his own marriage. He is not giving a single penny to the household. I heard that he was riding around with Mrs Gomej in his car; he has even gifted her a saree worth sixteen hundred rupees; and Mrs Das saw them both in a jewellery shop. And you know what is most pathetic of all? The other day he took me to hotel ‘The Dream Bar’, just to placate me. But really the love is not there anymore. You know what happened? You know what the hotel boy asked me? Mr. Chowdhury had gone out for a few minutes. The hotel boy came up to me and asked me about my relationship with him. I enquired why he was asking me that question. I told him that I was his wife. He replied that another lady came regularly with him. Does that mean he has two wives?”

    “I immediately asked him about this when he came back. After that he created so much trouble in the hotel. He almost thrashed that boy.”
    “Tell me the truth, haven’t you seen them together?”She continued after a pause.

    I did not know how to answer this direct question from her. I said, “See, I have not seen anything, I have only heard about it.”

    “You are trying to cover up”, she smiled and said. “Many incidents have happened in the office. Your husband did not tell you anything?”

    “My husband belongs to another section. He has not seen anything. The real truth is no one has seen anything. We have just heard. However, my husband had seen them once going out in the car together. Everyone knows about the photos he took during the picnic. Everyone talks about their disappearance during the moonlit night picnic.”

    She started crying when she heard these things from me. I was repenting like a criminal. I hated myself for it. I should not have said them. But the fact was she confronted me and I could not help myself. It would have been better to avoid by resorting to a little lie.

    It was fifteen days when she had come to this place and then she came to my house and narrated her own sad story and took out all information from me. When she landed at the place there was a lot of gossip going on about her husband. But who dared to inform her about her husband?

    As if she could read my mind, she wiped her tears and said, “He says that the womenfolk here are really bad. They are instigating me. But I could imagine that something like this must have happened here.”

    When he came home during the holidays as soon as he kept the baggage on the floor he started talking to his daughter praising the woman, “Mama, that aunty is really nice. She has good looks as well as a very good nature. She has sent this orange cake for you. You cannot forget the taste of her Chilli chicken and Gobi kebab” And he used to tell me, “She has saved my life. But for her, I would have lost my life during that heart attack.” “My dear, please write a letter to Aunty” he would ask our daughter. He even forced our daughter to write a letter. When he stayed with us for a month, I got hold of a letter from that woman. She had written a love letter missing him. As if the whole department was going to collapse without Mr. Choudhury. As soon as he got the letter he left even though our son’s final examinations were coming up. What magic she has! What has she got in her flesh that I have not got?

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Dr. Sarojini Sahu - Born in 1956, Dr Sarojini Sahoo has an MA and PhD degrees in Oriya Literature, and a Bachelor of Law, from Utkal University. She now teaches at a Degree college in Belpahar, Jharsuguda, of Orissa. A distinguished bilingual South Asian feminist writer, and an associate editor of a feature oriented English journal Indian AGE, she has been conferred with the Orissa Sahitya Academy Award, 1993, the Jhankar Award, 1992, the Bhubaneswar Book Fair Award and the Prajatantra Award.
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