The road was dimly lit and it was the torrential rains that told Madhav that he was alive. It was only moments back that he had come crashing down the slippery slope of St James’s compound road. The potholes were familiar, so were the flickering streetlights and yet Madhav lost control of his bike and crashed onto the nearby electric post. Medical examinations revealed that he had severe trauma to his head, a fractured skull that took several months to heal. Beneath the restless body that Madhav was hoping to recuperate was his solitary thought that kept bumping in and out like a terrible daydream – Esha, he would mutter at times. It was his mother’s choice to grieve for him that she would spend hours at his bedside, praying fervently that he would make a quick recovery.
“To find another place,
You can just escape
Trust me as I say,
I am torn aside, you see.
Seasons may change,
The cavern of your memories
And yet bear with me,
Beautiful, yet ecstatic child of mine”
It was months back that a bright looking Madhav stood – gleaming with his guitar and sang one his finest compositions. It wasn’t the typical sold out crowd in cafés and pubs that he was accustomed to playing, but this time had had dedicated himself to playing guitar to mentally challenged children at the Happy Care foundation in the city. It was at this local NGO that they first met, it was Esha who took him by surprise with her session on Mental health. While the entire world seemed chaotic here was a woman, presumably in her late twenties, looking serene and spewing intelligence. Not that Madhav was too particular on mental health, but it was their numerous sessions that followed that made Madhav diligently gaze at her, they debated endlessly on topics that seemed taboo to most people around, for most of the time they were supporting each other’s argument - often spicing up their conversations with a culmination of thoughts that kept generating out of nowhere. Everything from legalizing homosexuality to modern age pseudo feminism formed their point of discussion; it was the magnitude of their similar views that drew them closer. What followed was endless hours of conversations, seemingly at ease with their admiration for being open and neo liberal. Madhav was a musician, a blatant revolutionary at heart that he always wanted to stick to his dream of playing independent music. The local music scene wasn’t bright either although there were occasional events where he could play with his band and sing out his compositions. So was Esha – a post graduate in Social Sciences, years of working in a prestigious IT company had drained her that she took up a full time job of teaching the impoverished students in local NGOs.
It didn’t take them long to hit the road together, and occasional weekend trips to beach and cafes followed. Madhav who was an avid rider as well owned a gleaming RX-135 motorbike, a gutsy Esha behind him tightly clutching to his abdomen as he raced past many a miles. It was on one such night that they kissed, in the local bus stop where they had stopped to take shelter from the rain. And as they made their advances, it was Esha who choked and looked disturbed for a second before pushing him away and said “Wait there is something which I thought you should know, Its Nathan”.
Nathan was Esha’s husband; they were married for long that it had turned just another ceremonial life. Madhav hadn’t asked about her marital status nor did Esha speak doubting if it would anyway hamper his desire in dating her. After all she was 2 yrs elder to him and the possibility of dating someone younger was equally thrilling. Nathan was quite busy with his business trips too that she didn’t have him around to throw her tantrums at. It wasn’t a loveless marriage, yet Esha found peace in her newly found soul mate. And for Madhav, Esha looked perfect that she even resembled the erotic deities from the Vedas, he had turned a hapless romantic yet again, it had been several years since he last dated and he had fallen flat for this sapiosexual cosmopolitan woman. There weren’t any further inhibitions and no more consent was required. “Sex isn’t a promise” she quoted the famous lines from the local movie Mayanadhi as they made out in her home. Yes - there was no feasible outcome to this relationship and yet it was the immense possibility of being emotionally and physically naked with someone that made them explore every bit of it. Cigarettes after sex was a routine and Madhav had just lit one up as his alarm went off throwing him into his senses.
He woke up and stared into the mirror, his hair had turned grey, and Smitha was sleeping next to him. Smitha was his wife and they had been married for over three years. He wasn’t just dreaming – Madhav knew it. Inside the table was his diary that formed the crux of his writings and he occasionally scribbled his thoughts. From an aspiring musician Madhav had turned into a bread winner that he took job in an MNC as a content writer, his meagre monthly salary ensured that his marriage stayed strong. The once free bird was now confined to his cubicle and was working his arse off into extra hours so that his weekends could be stress free. What remained off Esha had become a distant memory and yet he recollected her one liners, “There is a price for everything and you would soon realize it” Madhav then wondered what that meant, although he now knew for sure as he scribbled those lines in his diary. Smitha hugged him from behind, she wasn’t sure what those lines meant either and she didn’t care as long as it didn’t have the implications of a suicide note. She was content as a homemaker and didn’t have any further confusion to add on to it. They say you should leave your past behind, but what if you grew stronger from it – Madhav wondered. Esha was a perpetual thought. The twinkle in her eyes, the freshness in her breath, the smell that lingered in her body, each had a tale to tell and yet Madhav had one question – Where are you Esha! And Why did you?
“Madhav, this is excellent, this was what I had been looking for” it was reassuring to hear those words from Shankar, his mentor turned friend who had good enough contacts within the publishing industry that Madav looked hopeful to. It was necessary that Smitha took up a job too and Shankar was generous enough to arrange one for her. Yet there were deadlines to be met and Madhav was struggling to be ambitious and hopeful at the same time. He hadn’t touched his guitar in a while, his busy schedule has kept him off it and yet there was a larger plan he had in mind to free himself from the nemesis of his work struggles. He had to devote time to himself, he was an artist and that had its implications.
“Come on what if time wasn’t relative, what if we were stuck with where we were, what if our reality was indeed a controlled hallucination, what if we ended as strangers years down the line” she chuckled, Madhav was scribbling yet again, the romance had lasted less than six months and it was a glorious mess to have left him that way. “Alright this society sucks, they wouldn’t accept anything outside their cultural norms, isn’t culture supposed to evolve, see what happened while the government tried to allow women into Sabarimala!!!” She was being theatrical as she tried hard to cover up her confusions, “Alright this is all fine, we can handle this relationship! This is never an emotional mess, of course I have heard similar stories of some of my friends, who are we to judge anyway, why would we either!!! Live and Let Die, wasn’t that the Guns and Roses song anyway!!!!”
Madhav was particular that they celebrated the striking down of Section 497- yes Adultery was no longer a crime. And they did indeed celebrate it in style until they both passed out after drinking too much. “We should live as stories you know” that was a vague one-liner she said before she passed out.
All those confidence and the exuberant approach that Esha had, and all of a sudden she had given up on him. Not that being possessive is a man’s game, but Madhav knew it was unavoidable and relationships were complex. It wasn’t easy for Madhav to admit as such that he wasn’t getting his required attention, and Esha had to double check on Nathan to ensure all was good between them. It wasn’t something she could publicize about to anyone given her barrage of confusions, and at one point she stopped picking calls from Madhav. Her marriage had turned tumultuous and the enduring thoughts of a divorce finally caught upon her. Madhav wasn’t sure what had happened, he waited for a few days until the fateful night he drove up to her house. Esha opened the door, and they kissed before she told him she was done with it. “You should go, Now!!!” Madhav wasn’t really expecting it and he needed more explanation, “Of course you were being opportunistic and stupid, you don’t have to glorify this either, there isn’t anything great about it” Madhav wasn’t convinced, “Esha we would talk this out” He couldn’t complete his words before she shouted out “I have my priorities, hope you understand what that means”. The door was banged shut and Madhav walked out dejected and teary. Esha knew it was a lie worthy of saving their lives, keeping their statures intact and making sure that their future off springs were spared from the stigma of their sins. She cried the night out, even silently as Nathan slept soundly. There were some tough decisions ahead and she had to align herself for it. As for Madhav it was a night he passed out after his head injury- only to wake up several weeks later, even months to finally walk out of his bed.
Madhav was returning home from work that he stopped by the local supermarket to buy some household items. There wasn’t anything special about that night except that the breeze was cool. As he hurled up his jacket and walked into the grocery section, there was that innate feeling that churned up his insides as he first fell for her. There was Esha, and as he stood beside her still not turning his face towards and letting her know, he dawned upon her scent – what was once indeed magical. She finally stared at him and yet as time looked frozen, they quietly made their way out of the super market with their gestures. And as they hit the road again, Madhav smiled, Esha was clutching on to his abdomen like it was the last day of her life. The conversations were less and no lengthy explanations were needed. It was the familiar beach road that they took and they exchanged pleasantries under the stars, the waves seemingly washing the misfortunes of their otherwise normal lives. And as they rode back, Madhav knew that the feeling was mutual and they both had come to terms with the realities of living in distant cities. There was Nathan waiting patiently beside his car, puffing the last ounce of his burnt cigarette as Madhav dropped Esha. He had one last look at Nathan, and waved at them. Nathan acknowledged it and perhaps nodded his head, it was a gesture befitting of being complacent at the complexities involved in what it meant to have dated the same woman. Madhav had finally made truce with his wounded past and smiled as he rode back home.
At home, he frantically searched for his diary; it was the last mile he had to take before he could hit the road to freedom again. All those years of scribbling and hard work were to finally bear fruit. The climax was evident, there weren’t any more questions as Madhav rung up Shankar to tell him that his story has been completed, he had decided to sell his soul and if his stars were to smile again, Shankar would introduce him to any of the publishing giants and get his work released. Smitha hugged him from behind and he jumped onto the bed realizing that this was a woman he had sparingly loved over the years and he should from now on.