We had been married for nine years at that time.
Inevitably, there were those little things that had crept in. Small lies. Hidden phone calls. Furtive mails. Messages. Social media had not really come into play then.
There were other small but important things that happened, things that we could have hidden from each other but we didn’t. Like that woman I consorted with when in Mumbai. Like that person from Bangalore she decided to have dinner with.
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We told each other because we loved each other. It was a little bit easier post the telling. The lies disappeared and instead they became the stated truths. Even if the telling happened months later.
I had to go over to Gurgaon for a year. Work. She decided to stay back and attend to her work in Kolkata. Things went swimmingly well. We conversed over Yahoo Messenger Chats. Like I also did with some other faceless people on some boring evenings, between Tendulkar and Prannoy Roy. She told me of our daughter who messed up her painting. Of my mother who disapproved of the way my wife cleaned the kitchen worktop and annoyingly did it all over again. Of her sister coming over to stay for a few weeks. Some really simple stuff. But the kind which a couple would discuss at work or at home.
Then the conversations started getting infrequent.
On my part because of the enormous pressure that I was facing at work and she because, well, I don’t know really. Maybe because of her work. Maybe because of the people at home. Whatever!
Then one day, she messaged me that she needed to speak to me. I had installed Yahoo on my desktop and as her message popped up on my screen, the ‘plop’ sound reverberated in my office. I looked at it. I had work at hand. So, I held back attending to the message for later.
It was late afternoon and windy outside. I could see the leaves swaying. I decided to answer the message.
“Listen, I wanted to tell you something,” she answered after a few minutes.
“What?” I had the tone of a gruff, disinterested husband.
“I have been in touch with Tony,” she answered. I took a deep breath. I knew who Tony was. An ex-boyfriend. From a decade ago. Much before our marriage. A person who had quietly adhered to his parental wishes after a few years of togetherness with her. She had told me all about him. I had listened to her tales, but without much interest or involvement. But it was different now.
Suddenly, I was very interested.
“He wants to meet again,” she typed. I knew that would come. Even I have done that. Written to old girlfriends. But here was my wife being somewhat keen about meeting up her ex-boyfriend.
I asked her, “So, okay, how do you want to meet up?”
She immediately answered, “Are you okay with this?”
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It was decision time. If I wrote I was okay, a fight could break out. If I didn’t, I may be depriving her of a much needed reprieve from family duties and the monotonous routine that she was facing day in and day out. My hands quivered over the keys.
Finally, I wrote, “Promise me you won’t make it serious enough to have second thoughts about our marriage?”
“No.” That was her succinct answer.
“Okay, go.” I don’t know if I was happy for her or myself or for both of us. It was uncharted territory. We had no precedents. It opened up possibilities that excited me and yet those red flags were waving in the background.
We don’t use Yahoo Messenger anymore. It is usually a simple call.