Chaitali could not tell how long she was awake, or why she had woken up. She checked the clock; it was showing 2:30 AM. As far as she could recall, no nightmare had woken her up. Generally she was a sound sleeper, and wouldn’t wake up at all, till just a few minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off. The thought of being woken up by an alarm did not appeal to her. Alarms can never replace a gentle human call for wakeup because there is feedback loop involved, she thought. A person waking up another person, unless she’s a sadist, will start with stifled whispers first, and if need be, change to nagging, louder calls.
A thought of alarm clock reminded her of the old Swiss clock her grandfather had bought from chor bazaar for the precious sum of 10 rupees. It must have been quite a pinch, then, she thought, wondering what will she get now for the same sum? A tea in a decent restaurant will be more expensive! But then, for all the pinch, her grandfather’s clock had been worth every single paisa, and more. It was an old style, mechanical clock, that needed winding, of course. And it had survived a full fifty odd years, through her school-days, even college days. She would keep it by her bedside, when she wanted to wake up early in the morning to study. After the first few days, when she was jolted to a wide awakening due to the monstrous, steely alarm of that Swiss clock, she had rarely heard it. She didn’t want to wake anyone else in the house, not even her mom, who would get up anyway to prepare a hot cup of Bournvita flavored milk for her. Her scholastic success meant more to her mother than it ever meant to her, then or now.
It was that terror of the jolt, and the fear of waking others in the house, that had stayed with her till this day, when there weren’t that many people in the house to wake up, except for V (or Vedant, but no one ever called him that), who was as sound a sleeper as any she had known. Besides, the alarms these days tried to mimic human waking up, with the frequency and pitch going up, ever so gradually.
She looked at V snoring besides her, his back turned towards her. His legs were cuddled up, and he was sleeping almost in the womb position. Men, she thought, never really come out of the womb. Then she scolded herself for generalizing. I should say most men, she reminded herself.
No alarm, she knew, would ever wake up V, not even the one in her grandfather’s clock. Where is it now, she wondered. She made a note to ask her mom about it, the next time she called her. The thought depressed her. Lately her mother was getting impossible to talk to. How long can she keep on blaming it on her mom’s menopause and excuse her, Chaitali wondered. But then, lately, lot of things depressed Chaitali. V’s dead sound sleep hardly made it to the list.
Now that she was awake, she didn’t know what to do. She was so not used to getting up at such god-forsaken hours, that she couldn’t just go back to sleep. She was thirsty too, and the bottle she kept on the small bedside unit was empty. V had this (annoying she noted) habit of finishing off the bottle on her side too. Since she woke up only early in the morning, it didn’t bother her much, but it bothered her that he never refilled his bottle. She knew it was no use talking to him about it (as about anything else), for he’d just point out that she never drank water in the middle of the night, so how did it matter if he just drank from that bottle too?
She got up and dragged herself to the kitchen. Besides the sink, she saw a plate with crumbs of bread and left-over ketchup. V’s late night hunger pangs, she sighed. Was it the early dinner that was the problem, she wondered. After all, early dinner is only a good idea if you’re going to sleep early, like she did. But he had never complained, just as he rarely complained about anything. She knew he hated routine, and yet, it was routine that she excelled in. Her life was an endless progression of routine.
She sighed again. Her life looked like that of some extremely dissatisfied heroin in V’s numerous unfinished stories. Yet V seemed oblivious to it. She thought she might have been better off as some character in his stories. She’d at least get more attention. But then it wasn’t the routine that bothered her. It was routine that made her successful. It was routine that had brought her the security in life she was looking for. What is security if not another routine, she wondered. What bothered her, was that V wasn’t bothered by it.
She walked into the living room, and switched on the light in the corner. The room was illuminated by a dull, orange light, owing to the colour of the lampshade. She felt content. It was a long time since she had enjoyed such a peaceful space for herself. Not that V would ever encroach on her space. But he needed so much of attention, that she never got the space, and that too had become another routine in her life.
As she slumped in the couch thinking if she should just switch on the television, she saw V’s old writing folder on the coffee table. It was open. V must have been sifting through his early writings, she thought — something he did quite often. Wasn’t that also a routine of sorts, she wondered. How come he loves that so much, when he hates the routine? She picked up the folder, and started browsing. V, she knew, wouldn’t mind a bit. In fact, he would be delighted.
leaving behind a trail
of crumpled leaves
Autumns are never pleasant
they’re the premonition
of cold, merciless winter
The nature is kind
for the winter
you left behind
is the final season
I fell for this? She wondered. This kitsch! She was no snob, and her exposure to literature, and especially poetry, was quite basic. But this? I’ve married a failed kitsch artist, she sighed!
Even V couldn’t have created a better failed heroine himself, she thought as she switched on the TV.