Chaitali had forgotten the art of enjoying a day off. She could not remember the last time she had a day ahead of her like this: without any plans, or agenda. Barring occasional sick leaves, and year ending holidays for travel, she rarely took leaves. When she did, they were to tick off things from various ‘todo’ lists. As for weekends, they were always busier than the weekdays — what with planning out the coming week, shopping, and sundry things.
Seriously, when was the last I ever wondered how should I spend a day?
Even in the early days of their marriage, when V was doing a regular job … She smiled. V knew how to enjoy a day off. Maybe, he needed to learn how to enjoy a day on, if there were such a term. V should know. After all, he was the writer, proudly unpublished.
But did she really enjoy the days in the office? Did she enjoy work? Or was she just too busy to ask those questions?
I must stop this. I cannot afford to become another V
For a moment, she wanted to switch on the laptop, and review her todo lists, to see if she can take care of some of the long pending items on it. How to make your holiday more productive. I can write a book on it, she thought.
“Breakfast madam”, said V, breaking her reverie.
Typical V! She thought, remembering the early days of their marriage, when V used to prepare their breakfast on weekends and holidays.
The tray was laden with a double omelet, three crisp toasts, assorted fruit slices, steaming hot cup of tea, and a slice of fruit-cake — warmed up in the microwave, she noted, as her hand brushed it. Simple fare, and yet she knew the sincere effort he would have put in it, to choose, to prepare, to arrange.
“Thanks V”, she said. Then, noticing that he was not going to get another one, she asked, “What about you?”
“I ate at an Irani place with Rakesh”
“Oh. How is he?”
“He’s fine, I guess. Did not ask”
“So you guys just sat and talked about writing, eh?”
His expression changed a little, as if he remembered something said that was bugging him.
“Pretty much. Not that there is much that one can talk with him about writing”
“Come on V. Why are you always so disparaging about his writing. He doesn’t write that bad”
“Darling! He’s a great friend, and a best-selling author, but please, let’s not talk about his writing”
“And what about your writing, V?”
She almost regretted saying that. She didn’t want to pick up a fight, not today. Lately, though, her frustration with V’s dismissive attitude had started to get the better of her.
“It will have to wait till I write something”, he said, a bit evasively, she thought.
“So let me get it straight: you don’t want to talk about his writing because he has actually been writing, and getting published, and getting read. And you don’t want to talk about your writing, because you have not done any of it?”
“Yes”, he said, simply. “Because if one is to talk about good writing, none of those things matter”
“And you, who has written nothing, can sit on that judgement, apparently.
“Since when did writing become a prerequisite for judging other people’s writing?”
She knew it was wrong. But she could not put a finger on it — just where that gaping hole was, in the intricate defense he had built. She wanted to find that hole, and bring the scaffolding down, just to shake him out of his fantasy world. But she knew she did not have a heart for it. She kept silent as she put a piece of cake in her mouth.
“You know”, he said after a while, “it always baffled me how poor his reading is, for a writer.
“And since when did reading become a prerequisite for good writing?”
“You know what your problem is, V? You confuse your being well-read with understanding writing. I’m not saying you don’t. I am not qualified to say anything about that. But it’s not an automatic connection, you know. Reading is inherently a second-hand activity. So what if you are very well read. Why do you brag about it so much? It’s not like you’ve done any of that writing. You just freakin read it! Big deal”
I’m doing it all wrong. This vehemence. Why? I love him, still.
She looked at him. If he was hurt, and she knew he was, he wasn’t showing it. Instead his expression bordered on a stupid incomprehension, as if he wanted to feign ignorance, or worse, as if she were talking in a language that he did not understand.
Maybe, he needs it. Maybe, because I love him, I owe it to him.
“That’s a total tangent”, he said finally. “And wrong on so many counts, that I don’t know where to start”
“Then don’t”, she said, as she opened her laptop to check out her ‘todo’ lists.