In her office cubicle, sitting in front of a swanky iMac, she was designing the user interface for some app. She used ‘sketch’, the industry’s dark horse of a software. She had to proofread the intro page as well. The writer had an awful sense of grammar, thus increasing her workload. The language English came naturally to her. She had done a B.A in English Literature from a reputed Delhi University college. Graphic designing was more of a hobby.
Working in the advertising industry was fun. The work culture in India was changing, adhering to western sensibilities. The professional environment of the country was undergoing a complete revamp. As a result, the work culture in her organization was terrific. Multicultural staff, regular office parties, a welcoming environment and fluid timings made the job worthwhile. It was an ideal place to work. The sort where everyone wishes to work someday, but only a few lucky ones make it.
All of it, however, goes to the dogs, if your mind isn’t at the right place – just like hers wasn’t. She seemed distracted and had been so a lot, lately. Nevertheless, she was great at compartmentalizing. Her attitude was as professional as ever, and thus, no one around could get a whiff of her predicament. Her personal life was going through a phase. It was difficult to hold on. Something was wrong but she couldn’t put a finger on it.
Maybe Pranjal didn’t look at her the same way like before!
She was a well-read person. She knew that the ‘honeymoon phase’ could only last so long. They had stretched theirs to its extent and then some. It had been as long as their conscience and ego had allowed, but was on the verge of waning.
It wasn’t just the honeymoon phase though. It was something different. Something much more…sinister?
Living together was a decision she took without much thought. He had coerced her, a lot, and she just went through with it. The initial year passed like a pleasant breeze. She convinced herself that it was the correct decision. He was the perfect partner. He was kind, caring, funny, and also gave her the personal space she needed. He cooked for her, helped with the household chores, never slept without kissing her goodnight, and never raised his voice. He was a bit headstrong, but that was fine with her. His smile brightened her day. She always slept after he did; looking at his face. It gave her a strange inner peace. It was the truest of loves for her: The kind you only read in cheesy novels. She was happy.
And then, time happened. The scenarios were the same but felt different.
The kindness in his eyes started seeming like excessive softness and cowardice.
The caring side turned into the possessiveness.
The daily kisses seemed like a mechanical chore.
And the home cooked food became tasteless.
She was unsure whether it was him who was changing or was it her growing out of the relationship. Maybe it all was just getting too mundane for her.
The humorous Pranjal, now seemed as if mocking her all the time. Perhaps his way of talking had changed, or maybe she had just stopped finding him funny. The headstrong persona of his became the reason for daily ego clashes and petty rhubarbs. Both had a self-respect and their own opinions. Soon, it all led to their first big fight.
They were walking to the parking spot after having lunch in a nice Connaught Place restaurant. They were talking about random stuff when he said something about her mother in jest. She did not take it well, and so, out of habit, stopped talking. He kept on speaking for a while before realizing that she was quiet. He tried to ask her, but she didn’t speak at all. She was hurt. It was an innocent remark according to him. It might’ve been the issue of bad timing, but the damage had been done.
He tried to explain his point and cracked some more jokes to cover up his desperate attempt. When nothing worked, he profusely apologized. He did all of it for a few more minutes, and then, like most men do – got irritated. No sooner did they reach their car than they started arguing loudly. It reached to the point where they were literally shouting at each other; although in hushed voices. The soft-spoken Pranjal was furious today, gritting his teeth. A little boy and girl came rushing, asking for money. They were beggars. The boy started touching Pranjal’s feet and then his own forehead. The girl kept on repeating that they hadn’t eaten since morning and needed money. Passers-by looked at them and smiled. Pranjal could sense the judgment in their eyes. Vehicles rushed all around, honking. The summer sun was at its full force. It was chaotic.
What happened next was unexpected for both of them.
She couldn’t take it for long and panicked. Right there and then, in full public view, she slapped him across his face. Everything changed at that very moment. The children laughed at the grown man who had just been slapped by the ‘madamji’ and ran away. She realized in a millisecond that she had done something terrible.
He didn’t say anything. He just looked at her with a blank expression: an expression she wasn’t familiar with. Her eyes lowered and she kept staring at the ground.
It was a turning point.