“ So, you have come back. I thought…”
“ I have come only to go back. In a few minutes.”
“ What !”
“ I have come to take a few things.”
“ Now what is this? What are you doing?”
“ Nothing. Only taking a few days off.”
“ What ! But why?”
Ria simply smiled. She went into her room. He followed her. “ What is all this? You suddenly disappeared yesterday, and today…”
“ What has happened to you, Sudeep? Disappeared, what do you mean? I rang you up. Informed you. What else do you want?”
“ But what is all this? Where were you yesterday? Where are you going now? And why?” Sudeep was visibly agitated and upset.
“ Sudeep, why all these questions? Take it easy.”
“ Ria, you don’t come home, and when you come, it’s to go back. What’s all this? That is preposterous. I would like to know where you are going, for how many days, and what for? Shouldn’t I?”
“ Why should you like to know all that? And home! What home! This is no home. Do you call it a home?”
“ Okay. Whatever you may call it. But we live together here. We have lived together for more than a year now. And suddenly…”
“ Cut it. Just because we live together, we lose our freedom? You are not my husband, you know it. Then don’t talk like a husband. Don’t show your claims. It is only for that that we didn’t marry. It’s a relationship of convenience only. We found it better. Isn’t it? So why this sudden love for rights and duties?”
Sudeep grew sad. He loved Ria. He had always found her responsive and responsible. He thought she loved him too. What could be more precious than love? Their relationship, he thought, was based on mutual love and understanding. He couldn’t, therefore, appreciate this sudden shift in the arguments. He reflected and said, “ No, that won’t work. Every relationship entails some duties and rights, even if they are minimal. Freedom can never be absolute. Friendship. Live-in-relationship. Whatever. It becomes an institution. And every institution has its own norms.”
“Norms, my foot! It was only to be free from these norms that I didn’t opt to marry. Anyhow, I don’t have time to discuss all these things. Some other time. And if you are very curious to know where I am going… Well, he is an Australian. He came to our office yesterday, on some business. I was really impressed by his grand vision for the future. He is a wonderful man. A great wanderer too. An explorer in the real sense. He got interested in me. He thought I had a distinct personality. Well, he invited me to his room. He is staying in The Taj. I went. That’s all. He is here for five days. I think I shall be with him these five days. Is that Okay?”
“ No, that’s not okay with me. While I was tossing here all night in the bed alone, thinking of you, longing for you, that brute Australian was riding on you all night. What was so special about him that derailed you so instantly.”
“ Don’t talk rubbish, Sudeep. No, that Australian is no brute. He is very quiet and respectful, even in bed. You are enough of a brute for me. And you know, I like you for that. But this one is only for a change, for a small change, for rejuvenation, for the new odor, for this new experience, for reviving that sex-appeal…”
“ Behaving like a slut, aren’t you?” Sudeep said, disgusted.
“ No,” shouted Ria. “ A slut does it for money. I am doing it for fun, because I like it, because I enjoy it. Is that enough?”
“ No,” said Sudeep, grinding his teeth, “ you can’t take me for granted then. You come and go at will, that can’t happen with me. Either you are with me or you are not with me. Do you understand?”
“ No, I don’t understand you at all. This is against the basic tenets of our relationship. But that we shall discuss when I come back.”
“ Are you sure you are coming back? Who knows? If that bloody Australian, I suppose he is quite wealthy, offers to take you to Australia, or on some island-holiday, maybe…”
“ Yes, maybe. Are you jealous?”
“ Oh come on. Anybody would be. We are all humans.”
“Yes, we are all humans. And human beings have their frailties.”
“ But human beings have their loyalties too.”
“ Forget about this loyalty business. A very deceptive word. It kills all your initiative, dynamism and progress.”
And Ria left, without even saying a bye.
Sudeep grew sad. What are we doing? he asked himself. What new are we creating? We thought we were rebels. Against the traditions built up by our parents and grandparents. We thought they were fools, unenlightened people, thoughtless people. Are we thoughtful? In what way? What is our thought? Momentary pleasure. Money and sex—the centrifugal forces of our drive. We must drink every night, get lost in the bodies, and think that we are great human beings. Human beings without responsibility. All our rebellion lies in being irresponsible. Enjoy! What the hell! We even don’t know the meaning of ‘ joy’. Ria thinks that by being with that Australian she would have joy and get rejuvenated. My God! How could she even think of it—deserting me without any rhyme or reason? What kind of bonding do we create? What kind of relationship do we have?
Sudeep thought of the girl his parents had wanted him to marry. When they went out for a coffee, he recollected and smiled, she was so nervous she couldn’t even sip her coffee properly. So beautiful! And when he touched her fingers, she withdrew immediately, and wanted to run out. He laughed. How could he marry her? he had thought. He had rejected her because he wanted a ‘modern’ girl. Not a traditional ‘chui-mui’. What a contrast! But that girl wouldn’t leave him for money, change or better opportunities. She would understand the meaning of loyalty in relationship. Every relationship is based on faith and loyalty. If you don’t have them in your relationship, your bond stands on sandy foundations. You always want somebody you can rely on. Life is a tricky thing. There should be someone who will wipe your tears, you should be sure of that. Ultimately it is your spiritual strength, your inner worth, that sustains any relationship.
A knock at the door.
It was Ria. Sad and crestfallen.
She came and sat near Sudeep. “ I am sorry. I am sorry if I have hurt you.”
Sudeep was putting a few things in his backpack.
“ Sudeep, I said sorry.”
“ Why should you be sorry? No need. Who am I?”
“ Just because…”
Sudeep cut her short. “ No need to discuss all that. It stinks. I don’t know why you are back so soon. Nor do I want to know. It is your life. And it is your problem.”
Ria sat silent for a while. “ But why are you packing up? Going somewhere?”
“ Yeah. These few hours have been terribly meaningful for me. I got a chance to look within. You know what—we, you and I and other young people like us, live superficial and shallow lives. I thought about us, got a chance. And then thought of someone. If this is not a home, then I shall go and make a home. Howsoever bad a home maybe, it would be better than this drifting… Our generation, this ‘here and now’ generation, I have realized, is just drifting. It is directionless. We couldn’t create anything better than what our parents gave us. We failed to give a new direction to our lives. Until we are able to do that, we should not drift as nameless individuals, like a rudderless ship. Rebellion is alright, but it should give a credible shape and meaning to the new order. So sad, but true. We are obsessed with sex and money, and we seek momentary gratification. Live only for the moment. Of course, we have coined certain slogans, high-sounding and laudatory… Self-deception and self-justification, nothing else. In fact, our obsession with freedom is just humbug, all hallucination.
“ No, this is no rebellion. This is only moral depravity and social irresponsibility. And I opt out of it.”
Sudeep said bye to Ria and walked out.