Continued from Dawn: The Charioteer (VIII)
Chetan was livid..!!
Though I could see his point, I didn’t want him to ruin what was developing between him and the girl. I had to distract him before he ended up saying something damaging. I banged one of the panes of the open window on the other side of the room and a shower of glass pieces poured tinkling on the tiled floor. They were both startled at this inexplicable, spontaneous explosion. They stared at the damage then at each other. I knew I had succeeded in breaking a sticky moment when he shrugged his shoulders dismissively, righted his chair and sat down again.
“You owe me an explanation and an apology”, he declared peevishly.
“Yes I owe you an apology”, she said. There was a very faint hint of contriteness in her voice- more imagined than felt. “I am sorry I intruded on your privacy. Perhaps I shouldn’t have read it. Yet I am glad I did.”
I’m telling you, I really liked this girl. Imagine someone being too dumb to be scared…! She was too perfect for words!!
“And why is that?” he asked with ill-concealed grumpiness.
“Reading your diary gave me a lot of food for thought. Until I read it, I thought my bad relationship with my father was somehow my fault. I blamed myself for not having made a bigger effort to reconcile things with him. I was even annoyed with myself for being so intractable and adamant. I had convinced myself that it was wrong of me not to have given in to his demands enough. I had seriously begun to feel guilty.
“As I read your diary, I acquired a shift in perspective. When I saw exactly the same drama enacted in your life, I got a chance to observe it objectively from the ringside. It is not easy to be fair to yourself when you are embroiled neck deep in a script. It is only when you see someone else playing an identical part that you realize how absolutely skewered your perceptions were, and how dangerously one-sided your opinions.
“I saw that your love for your wife was as deep as mine was for my father. There is nothing you wouldn’t do to make her happy. You were indulgent and generous to a fault. Like me, you aren’t the kind to let someone walk all over you. To let her do it was the only way you knew of showing what she meant to you, to grant her this unique exception. You thought she would know that to allow her this exception was a measure of your love for her. You made exactly the same mistake that I made- with the same consequences.
“She got drunk with the power she held over you, and she lost her head. I saw the way she took your love for granted and began treating you, first casually and then callously. It was as if you didn’t deserve any consideration, care or concern. Her absolute disregard to your wishes, whether the issue was major or minor, showed her complete oblivion to your feelings. Yet, she expected you to cater to her wishes- expressed or implied. She forced you to give up playing squash, which you loved since you were thirteen years old. She vetted your friend circle throwing tantrums to make you cut people off for no reason at all. Her interference in your professional relationships was a source of major embarrassments to you, I know that.
“It was like she stood guard over each breath you took. This control would have been slightly less terrible if she had been doing it out of a feeling of possessiveness, even jealousy. Unfortunately, those were not her reasons. Her reason was to wield power over you. She did it, God forgive her, because it amused her. In a way, I feel so sorry for her and my father; not because they lost, but because they lost for such a shallow reason.”
Her voice had grown introspective and sad. She kept looking at him, trying to bore holes into his lowered head with her eyes. When she spoke again after a few minutes, I was surprised to note that her voice had changed. Something seemed to have stirred itself awake within her. She sat up, her shoulders coming up squarer, her spine stiffening up. The dismayed annoyance in her voice tried desperately to drown out the underlying emotion of concerned outrage- and failed.
“Yet, you put up with her. The more she treated you like a slave, the more you gave in. What were you waiting for? You’ve written in your diary that after a while could see that there was a deep hunger in her to try and control you utterly. You have even written that you were willing to give her what she wanted until someday that hunger would be appeased and she would say she has had enough. I am not sorry I read your diary because I want to ask you something. Why on earth did you tolerate that kind of behavior from her? Did you convince yourself that this was her way of showing love??! Oh you silly fool…!”
With each sentence, her outrage grew. By the time she uttered the last sentence, she was hopping mad. I wonder if she realized that she was behaving like a tigress whose cub had been attacked. I was very amused to notice that Chetan looked abashed at her anger. That neither of them questioned her right to scold him like that- a perfect stranger- pleased me no end. I looked keenly at Chetan trying to decipher how he felt at the way she casually assumed ownership of him. She was too mad to notice it, but I saw an indulgent smile struggling not to break out on his lips, his effort to keep it at bay. Solemnly, and with a straight face, he looked at her with mute surrender. His eyes danced with barely disguised merriment.
“I asked you a question, didn’t I…?” she hissed between clenched teeth.
“I put up with her for the same reason you put up with your dad’s unreasonable dominion. Like you, I too thought my ex would realize someday that I loved her. I hoped that she would know that my reason for giving her absolute freedom was not because I wasn’t man enough to assert myself but because I wanted her to be happy. She, on the other hand, assumed I was a meek wimp. The more I gave in, the more she lost respect for me. The more I took care to honor her wishes the more she felt she had the right to trample on mine. She began to think she had the right to tie me to a pole with my love and flog me whenever she felt like it- only and only because she could. She never thought I would protest. She was drugged by the intoxication of a feeling of her power over me. Isn’t that exactly what your father did to you…?”
“Yes”, she whispered. The miffed tigress effects were conspicuous by their absence.
To be Continued…