As told to Archana Mohan
I love my life.
But I love my wife more and that’s why, when our sacred marital bond completed 40 years last year, my wife and I decided to part ways.
Don’t get me wrong.
There’s nothing bitter about our relationship. In fact, she’s been my biggest strength.
From the risky entrepreneurship route I chose after resigning from a government job to eventually building our dream home and raising two lovely daughters, she’s the woman who laughed and wept with me as we traversed the ebbs and flows of life.
My wife was barely 17, a painfully shy girl, doing a correspondence course, when she appeared before me with a wildly trembling tray of teacups in her hands. I wasn’t any better! Lanky and naive, I was a 20-year-old man-child who wasn’t mentally ready to take care of a goldfish let alone a wife! But that’s how things were in our rural community so neither of us had any objections when we were married off a couple of months later.
I landed a job in Kolkata and was excited to start this new chapter of my life with my bride. I thought it would be like the movies. It was, but of the horror variety! We bickered like kids for the silliest of tiffs, ignored each other for days, slammed doors, badmouthed the other to our respective parents and what not!
Two years into our marriage, my wife conceived. Suddenly, something changed between us. As I caressed her growing belly and felt the baby kick, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Here was an innocent life, a magical wonder of God who was completely dependent on us.
Overnight, our childish arguments disappeared. Once again I was feverish with excitement as the due date neared.
Alas, fate had other plans.
A day short of the eight month of pregnancy, my wife had a miscarriage. To say it completely broke us both is an understatement. The long hours of silence in the house were so traumatic that I started craving our blazing rows. Somehow, thanks to my business, I was able to pick myself up soon, but she wasn’t able to.
To ease her depression, I took her to a spiritual centre near our house. At first she went there only due to my coaxing but she soon began to enjoy it. Learning bhajans, shlokas, attending religious discourses, making prasad for devotees, my wife slowly became her old self as she discovered her new side. The following year, happiness finally came home as we were blessed with a daughter and another one three years later.
I couldn’t be more content.
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“Let’s buy a house in the countryside and enjoy our retirement,” I told my wife one morning as she brought me a cup of tea. My firm, now acquired by a big company, was doing well and both my daughters were well settled in their chosen fields of work. No, said my wife, her voice firm and stern. I began to rib her good-naturedly, thinking she was joking, but she silenced me with a raised hand.
Was this the girl who wouldn’t look at me directly when we first got married?
For the next two hours, my wife talked and I listened. She loved me immensely and had enjoyed every moment of her life with me and our daughters but it was now time for her to live for herself. She was contemplating becoming an ascetic to reach out to her inner self through spirituality and needed to train herself arduously for a couple of years to achieve her goal.
I was shocked beyond comprehension and felt the world collapsing around me. I’d always pictured her next to me as I entered my twilight years. I broke down like a child, my sobs uncontrollable throughout the night. I argued, pleaded, even begged her to reconsider, but she’d made up her mind.
Related reading: Divorce at 50
A few weeks later, an autorickshaw arrived at our front door. She kissed our daughters goodbye and got into the vehicle. She looked at me and for a second I caught a glimpse of the girl who had once agreed to be my partner for eternity, but it flickered away almost as abruptly. Take care, she said warmly and got into the vehicle.
I stood transfixed as she slowly inched away from me. On her face was an electrifying glow. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. For the first time I realised how much this meant to her. Peace and gratitude flooded my heart. She deserved to find her purpose in life.
I finally understood why she’d said no to the fancy countryside villa I wanted to buy.
She was already home.