Written by Nandini Sethi
Just like I did every morning, I got out of bed at 5:00 AM, on the dot, and made my way to the kitchen. In my 20 years of marriage and living in this house, I had memorized every step so well that even with unopened eyes, I knew where to go.
My routine could be considered monotonous to some, but I enjoyed it – piping hot tea at 5:15, getting started on tiffins and breakfast, and then waking everyone else in the house. At 7:30, I walked into our shared bedroom, and lovingly woke my husband from his slumber. I smiled at him and set his cup of morning tea on his bedside, hoping to get at least a smile or a thank you, but like every other morning, I only got a grunt followed by a snore.
Not expecting anything more, I headed to the kitchen to make sure our house help had arrived on time and everyone’s favourite breakfast was on the table. Once everyone – my husband and two children – were ready and left the house, I stood at the door, waving till they were no longer in my line of vision. Standing by the door, I heaved a sigh of relief, but not for a second too long – I had to get started on my afternoon schedule.
Most evenings I spent waiting by the window, for my husband, so I could serve him my newest recipe and hear his feedback. Although I didn’t get more than a ‘it’s good’ or ‘it’s bad’, I looked forward to watching him devour his plate and go for seconds. It made me feel like my strenuous routine was worth it.
After dinner, we went on our nightly walks where we would bump into other couples and exchange formalities no one wanted to hear. But for some reason tonight, one particular conversation went on for longer than expected.
“Oh! How have you two been doing?” I asked the Sharma’s, watching them walk hand-in-hand towards us.
“So good! What about you guys? Aisha, aren’t you uncomfortable in your saree? Have you tried these tights? They are so, so comfortable!” Mrs. Sharma asked me.
I made it a point to avoid this woman every time I saw her, just to prevent irrelevant conversations such as this. I looked at my husband who had plastered on a polite smile on his face, but his eyes were looking elsewhere, clearly giving away that he was not listening to a word of what we were saying.
“Oh Mrs. Sharma, no I have not tried them! I just don’t think I am the kind of person who could walk around this neighbourhood wearing a pair of jeans!” We both dove into a bout of fake laughter.
When we got home that night, I brought a cup of warm milk to him, because I know it helps him sleep. I wasn’t expecting any response, but when he said, “hey, listen,” I don’t know why my heart skipped a beat. But instead of following up with a ‘goodnight’ or ‘I love you too’, all I got in return was ‘don’t forget my spoon and biscuit.’
After I turned off the lights and heard the first round of snores sound, my thoughts began running wild, keeping me up till later than usual. Mrs. Sharma’s taunting voice echoed in my ears, and I shook my head vigorously to block out that conversation. I made myself a cup of warm milk too, and decided amongst several other things, to go to sleep.
The next morning, I was greeted by a new sight, finally, for the first time in 20 years. Bringing his early morning tea to his bedside, instead of being greeted by the customary grunt, I received a squeal.
“Is something the matter, honey?” I put emphasis on the word, making it sound sickly sweet.
“What are you doing?” He asked, speaking at a decibel way higher than required.
“What do you mean?” I retorted.
He eyed my bottom wear and asked, “What do you think you are doing?”
I looked at the dark-washed pair of denims that had been stored away at the back of my cupboard for all these years, on me for the first time. “They fit well, no?” I replied.
He looked at me, a little confused and also a little disgusted. “I thought you weren’t comfortable with wearing jeans around the neighbourhood?”
I laughed a little, “In hindsight, I was mistaken. I am more than comfortable wearing jeans around our neighbourhood, I just realized that it was you who wasn’t.”
“What are you on about early in the morning?” He put down his tea, “now don’t be ridiculous and put out the breakfast on the table.”
“Actually, I forgot to make breakfast today! I have decided to give myself a break, hope you will be able to manage yourself.”
“Where is all this coming from?” He asked angrily.
“Nowhere! I just realized I have been doing the same thing for over 20 years now, and if I want to switch things up and wear jeans, what’s the harm?” I gave it back to him.
“Is this because of Mrs. Sharma yesterday?” He asked, rubbing his face.
I laughed again. “No, in fact it is because of you. For 20 years I have been wearing rose-tinted glasses, so I never saw the red warning signs. But I see them today. You don’t love me. You never did You only need me. But you know what? I don’t need you.”
“So, you are going to walk out of this house because you suddenly had an epiphany? You won’t be able to survive a day out there by yourself!” He was screaming now.
“I probably won’t. But who knows? Maybe I will find something new to do, someone new, who will appreciate all that I do for them.”
I saw the look in his eye: he didn’t want to understand where I was coming from, and that’s why he didn’t. But for the first time in two decades, I knew my worth.
I got up from the bed, pulled my jeans a bit higher, and walked out the door. Only to stop mid-step, turn around dramatically and say, “Oh, and before I forget! Your biscuits are over.”