I’ve just read this though-provoking post about the break-up of a marriage, written by the wife, where both spouses happen to be Indian-American.
As a feminist, I recognised many of my own issues and fears in what the writer was writing about (many stories about marriage feature these exact same tropes, so I think I am right to be worried…)
As a romantic, however, I note that the writer and her now ex-husband still do many things together, so I can’t help hoping that they would manage to work out their differences, find some lingering trace of a spark between them which might not-so-unexpectedly fan back into flame, and decisively get back together!
Hmm, after reflecting on it for a few more minutes these thoughts have occurred to me:
-I’m the kind of person who always hopes that broken marriages manage to get back together, unless there is a good reason not to, like if there was abuse or one of the parties has since remarried.
This is because I can’t help feeling for the parties involved, and their families. When you have invested so much into another human being, and into the prospect of building a life together, it must be so hard to watch it all fall apart and to have to walk away.
And then I’m sure that many times both ex-spouses, even though they might try not to think about it, will not be able to help replaying scenes from their marriage over and over again, wondering if there was anything that they could have done differently, any different angle or perspective from which they could have discerned any hope for their marriage.
I’ve just had an idea which I am mulling over somewhat; I don’t know whether it would be disrespectful to do this: basically to analyse stories of relationships and marriages gone wrong (possibly also some gone right) and try to work out “the map” of each marriage; which factors may have drawn each couple together to start with, which factors may have eventually not worked. As I say I don’t know whether it is immensely disrespectful. On one hand, these writers have put their marriages out there for public consumption. On the other hand, I don’t know how someone might feel if they were to stumble across my blog and realise that I had been using their marriage as a lesson for myself and other people.
So I guess I will think about it a little bit more, perhaps I need to ask for people’s permission…
In the meantime, I have mentally constructed a
sweet little love story regarding this particular pair of ex-spouses (out of respect I have changed their names, but now I don’t know whether the names I have chosen are culturally appropriate to their particular ethnic traditions within the bigger umbrella of “India”…)
Update, a day later: well this story started off “sweet”, and then progressively got more and more er, adult. You have been warned!
— Nidhra and Pradha Act 2 —
Nidhra grumbled a little to himself as he answered the call and braced himself for The Onslaught.
“Hello Mum.” A few pleasantries ensued, and then, inevitably:
“And how is your darling wife, my beautiful little Pradha?”
“That’s ex-wife, Mum, ex-wife!”
“What a sweet and lovely angel she is! So well brought up, so feminine and refined, such a dutiful and attentive daughter-in-law!”
By this time Nidhra was practically grinding his teeth. Their conversation always followed the same trajectory. Seriously, sometimes he suspected that his mother loved his ex-wife more than she loved him. She did not take much pains to hide the fact that she blamed him for the break-up.
“I miss my grandchildren Nidhra. If she was to get married again, I don’t think I would ever see them again. I’m surprised that no-one else has snatched her up already!”
“Mum, you see all three of them twice a week!”
“It is not the same Nidhra and you know it! I want you to find out if she is dating so I will know how to pray.”
“Mum, I can’t possibly ask her that!”
“My dear little Nidhra, don’t be so stubborn! I know how heartbroken you were when she left you. You have lost so much weight since then, and you have not even made any attempt to find someone else.”
At this he said nothing, as he could not argue with that.
“Just give it another chance Nidhra. I know your ego is hurt, but beautiful women like Pradha don’t come along every day. No relationship is perfect, so you have to make allowances for one another. You know, your father used to think that I was too ambitious and Westernised too, once!”
In the background Nidhra heard his father grunt in surprise and he smiled out of an affectionate love for both his parents. His mother was, and always had been the sweetest and most obliging woman to his father, and he knew his father adored her for it. The idea that anyone, least of all his father could ever have thought her “too ambitious” was so cutely preposterous that he almost burst out laughing tenderly, and then he realised that that had probably been his mother’s intent; she had probably been trying to make him laugh. He sighed to himself as he acknowledged that his mother did indeed love him deeply, she truly wanted the best for him, and to her it was clear that that “best” existed in the person of his ex-wife.
Pradha was genuinely different from his mother. She genuinely was ambitious. It was not that he thought that she was too ambitious; in fact he prided himself on being the kind of husband who supported all her endeavours and took pride in her achievements as if they were his own.
It’s just that in the day to day running of their life together, time had been such a valuable resource… and then the kids, and there just did not seem to be the space for both of them to throw themselves into their dreams…and he could tell that she was getting frustrated, but he was also being worn down by work, and his own career had only really started to take off, and he hoped that she could be patient…but instead she had started to see in him the ogre that she had always been scared of marrying…and he had not known how to reach out to her, how to calm down his own pride for the sake of assuaging her own…so he had chosen exactly the wrong strategy, throwing himself into work more than ever, leaving even less time for him to pull his own weight around the house…and then before he knew it, she had gone. And now all that met him at home were dreams and memories – and the eager urgings of his ever hopeful mother.
Nidhra waited for his “beautiful” wife to come out and tried to stifle a sigh of resentment. All he had heard all week was “beautiful Pradha this”, and “beautiful Pradha that”. It seemed as if his mother (and father too – and even his siblings, who up to that point had been unfailingly loyal to him) had created a campaign to reunite him with his wife – or rather ex-wife. He was almost at the point of resenting her, and her beauty (“both inside and out!” as his mother never failed to remind him – his much younger sisters had now teasingly taken this up as a catchphrase, unfailing incurring his “glare of death”, which would simply make them softly dissolve into shared giggles between themselves.)
And yet, when she did finally come out, with a child on one arm and two on the other, his jaw dropped and he almost felt like sending the kids back inside so he could take her home for the weekend instead.
She was breathtaking. It was almost as if he had never seen her before, and he could not believe that he had been the idiot who had let this woman walk out of his life.
Her black hair literally bounced up and down, perfectly framing her shoulders. On her face she wore a light coat of barely there foundation which only emphasised her natural beauty; expertly threaded eyebrows accentuated her intelligent eyes, and mascara made her long eyelashes stand out; a coat of matt nut-brown lipstick made her lips look lusher and fuller than ever. Her salwar kameez of cream with gold topstitching brought out the colouring of her skin which glistened and glowed in the sun, caramel just now; from experience he knew that if she stayed out in the sun all day, its hue would turn from caramel to dark liquid honey. “Well your skin colour reminds me of peanut butter ice-cream, if we’re sticking to food-related analogies”, she had retorted, when he first shared his own analogy with her. Perhaps they had both been hungry that day!
Oh, how he loved both caramel and dark liquid honey, especially when drizzled liberally and sensuously over peanut butter icecream! He could eagerly lap them up all night…and all day – and he often had; how he missed their sweet, sweet taste – but he was trying not to think about that.
He stared at her for – who knows how long? Surely it could not have been up to a minute – surely?! – while Pradha diplomatically pretended not to notice the intensity of his attention.
“You look great”, Nidhra finally mumbled at his even-more-gorgeous-than-usual co-parent.
“Thank you.” He stared at her, surprised. Was that – could it be that his ultra-confident wife – sorry, ex-wife – was actually blushing?! He had not seen her blush like that since…and with a flash his mind was back – but no, he was not going to allow himself to think about that now, not here, not in front of her. When he was alone, later – it was not that he “allowed” himself even then, but his memories invariably overpowered him, and he had come to accept that this was his life. Perhaps this is why he had not been able to move on. Or perhaps it was that…or could it be…?
“I appreciate you saying that.”
Her voice brought him back to the moment. And there was no doubt about it, there was definitely a faint reddening around her cheeks.
And then, the penny dropped: he knew this woman well enough to know the way she thought; she had dressed up that way especially for him! She had taken extra care of her appearance because she had wanted him to notice – and of course his starving soul had noticed. Now she had been completely subtle about it all; like he could always trust his wife to be, but her hair was definitely fuller, glossier than normal. Now she definitely put a lot of effort into her hair at all times, so to get it looking even better than normal was quite a feat, even for her. How he missed that hair! He remembered how he used to love running his hands through it, how soft it had been between his fingers…Once again he dragged himself back to the present. The subtle sandalwood undertones of that scent that she knew he loved on her lingered gently in the air between them. Her outfit was quietly, unobtrusively expensive, new, he thought, flattering. But the absolute clincher was her shoes. Seriously?! Who wears open toed, stiletto sandals, of glittering gold, flashing freshly and prettily painted toes, purely for the purpose of handing the kids over to the ex-husband for the weekend?! Unless of course she was actually going on a date! Of course, that was it, that was the only thing that made sense! But then he thought about it and dismissed it. No, she really liked to take her time when getting ready for a date, and she would never have fixed a date for the night when he was coming to get the kids; sometimes the traffic was terrible and he would be a couple of hours late in getting there. No, that whole…appearance…act was purely for his benefit, no-one else’s! A tiny spark of hope surged in his heart.
And yet he felt as if he had to make sure.
“My Mum…wants to know…whether you are dating again?” Now he was the one almost blushing at the gauche words that had tumbled out of his lips.
Pradha ostentatiously threw back her beautiful head of hair and gave him a pointedly inquisitive look.
“…And I’m kinda curious too!”
Pradha looked him full in the face and then slowly, sadly looked away.
And that was when Nidhra finally made up his indecisive male mind. This beautiful goddess was his woman. They had mutually pledged an oath to one another in front of hundreds of people. He was going to get her back, he was going to restore their family, he was going to run his hands through that beautiful, fragrant hair once again – actually more than once; many many many times – and this time he was never going to let her go.
With the kids safely buckled up in the car, he turned to give his ex-wife his customary embrace. They had loved to exchange hugs throughout their relationship, and this was the one, sad reminder of what they had once shared.
He pulled her gently into his arms. Oh wow, how could he have forgotten in the space of just one week how soft and warm her limbs were?! And now that scent fully assailed his nostrils, and he allowed himself to breathe deeply before gently placing a kiss on her forehead.
“Goodbye Pradha, have a lovely weekend.” (“But not too lovely”, he thought to himself a little jealously.)
But what was this? His treacherous lips of their own accord seemed to be brushing down over her face, her cheeks, ever lower, lower, lower, until they found her neck and buried themselves there; words seemed to be coming out of his mouth without any conscious effort.
“Oh Pradha, my beautiful, beautiful….(he mentally grasped around a little)..angel,” [“Thanks Mum, for putting the words in my mouth!”] “I want you back, I want us back. Please please be mine once again…”
And then he remembered that he had an audience of three eagerly watching children, who were still too young to grasp what it meant that “Mummy and Daddy have split up”. He knew that this scene could only be confusing to them, and furthermore, he was firmly of the belief that any passionate scenes between Mummy and Daddy should be strictly private, happening behind closed doors, firmly out of the sight and hearing of inquisitive little eyes and ears.
So without looking back to see her response, he walked to the driving seat of his car, opened the door, got in and closed the door, revved the engine, and drove away.
Back inside her now closed front door, Pradha leaned her frame against the door, and let out a big sigh. She slipped down and released her feet from the shoes – wow, how much they ached, from a mere ten minutes wear! Clearly she was sadly out of practice. The shoes had definitely been worth it though, even at their inflated price-tag. And then finally, after wriggling each foot first one way then the other to restore blood flow, she finally let herself smile. Well she had received her answer!
She had sailed out of his house, carried forth on a great wave of anger, vowing to herself never to return. But clearly she was not very good at keeping vows. In the cold light of day, her vow had proved to be no match for her loneliness. She realised that she wanted a man back in her life. But not just any man, of course. Obviously he had to be better than her ex-husband, to make it worth her while. But if he was to be better than Nidhra, then he would have to be…taller than Nidhra – actually, no wait, there was such a thing as being too tall. More handsome than Nidhra? She almost laughed out loud at how implausible that idea was. Hmm, more attentive than Nidhra? She remembered how earnestly his hazelnut eyes would stare at her, just as he had stared at her today. More intelligent than Nidhra? She remembered some of the discussions and arguments that they had shared, and how overjoyed she had been to have found someone who enjoyed not only discussing with her profound issues of “life, love, the universe and everything”, as people used to say, but also sharing inane little jokes. And so she found herself repeatedly recounting all his attributes to herself, randomly remembering some of their quirky interactions, and laughing to herself to remember them, and soon she found that she was dreaming not of a man that could be better than him, but rather of Nidhra himself. She remembered their early relationship, the endless laughter that they had shared, the hugs, his strong, strong arms.
She was obviously far too sophisticated to admit to anyone, least of all herself that she particularly enjoyed the feeling of his strong arms wrapped around her. But she could not deny that today she had almost cried when he had removed those same arms from her body.
She remembered more too, of course, far more intimate details, but she tried not to let her mind stray there. By now he might belong to someone else, and he might no longer be hers to think of in that way…
And then when her friends were fed up of her sighing about “getting a good man”, one of them finally said to her, bluntly – “Why would you spend so much effort trying to find a merely good guy, when you have thrown away a truly great one?!”
“Don’t you realise that the issues are going to be exactly the same no matter whom you marry? Man, it is only loyalty to you that stops me from finding and adding Nidhra on Facebook!”
At this Pradha looked sternly and sharply at her friend, whom she knew to be happily married. Thankfully a smile played around Sania’s lips, indicating that she was joking. And yet Pradha knew that Sania’s joking words still contained a kernel of truth. Perhaps none of Pradha’s friends knew just how tender and generous Nidhra was capable of being. However, there was no denying how physically attractive he was, and everyone certainly noticed that!
Nidhra stood comfortably over 6 feet tall in his bare feet. A full head of long, thick, slightly unruly, curly black/brown hair grew to his shoulders, framing his strong face. His skin, a few shades lighter than her own, was still an attractive nutty brown. His warm and friendly eyes danced endlessly with merriment, his full lips parted to reveal dazzling white teeth, to emit an absolutely irresistible laugh that echoed from deep within his belly. When she first met him he had been wearing a loose black pajama suit topstitched in gold, and she had stared and stared and stared.
The second time she had met him he had been wearing a shirt which had fitted his frame a little more tightly, and she wondered how she had missed those biceps first time around – on seeing them this time, she had almost fainted.
But the truth was that he truly did not appreciate how handsome he was; it was as if he genuinely could not notice the hordes of women who could not stop staring at him. And yet it soon became clear that he would not have cared even if he did notice. He quickly developed eyes only for her. How desperately flattering it was that this [ UTTERLY IRRESISTIBLE ] man treated her as if she was the only beautiful woman on earth! And yet, it had now been two long years since she had walked away from him. She itched to find out if anything had changed, if his eyes had now learned to see other women.
So today, she had set out to find out once and for all. Was he involved with anyone else? Were those arms now in the habit of wrapping themselves around any other woman? And yes, she had pulled out all the stops regarding her appearance. She had wanted him to see her not just as “his ex-wife”, whom he may have stopped truly seeing except through a lens of bitterness, but rather as an exquisite, irresistibly delicious concoction of femininity. And clearly there was no question that that had worked. And then he had asked, with his characteristic straightforwardness, whether she was dating someone else. And then he had actually kissed her. Not this time that gentle brotherly kiss that he gave her every week, but this time a kiss that had rather hinted at the ocean of yearning within him; a kiss that had also triggered an undeniable hunger within her too.
So she had received her answer. Her almost unbearably handsome ex-husband was hers to win back – and she was going to win him back.
To possibly be continued…watch this space?!