(Names changed to protect identities)
Both designers, we fell in love in college. Two years into dating we kick-started our design firm. She created content, I did the graphic design. We were excited, driven and had the skill set to know that we would succeed, it was just a matter of time. At night my tiny one bedroom was our love nest, and during the day our workstation. When we landed our 40th client we moved out of our apartment and into a rented premises. That day I proposed to her, she said yes. We celebrated with a bottle of champagne. At office we were a team of 5 and growing.
Both Ashna and I are strong headed, so sparks flew, but we suppressed our egos for the company’s good. And both of us worked our asses off!
A normal working day was about 13-14 hours long. But we couldn’t complain. Our company was in the seventh year, our marriage in the fourth year and work poured in from all quarters. We were refusing clients every week.
We wanted to expand our team so that we could take in more work, but we couldn’t find the right skill set and synergy; this wasn’t Mumbai or Bangalore. And then Ashna started complaining, of fatigue, sleep deprivation, joint pains. I didn’t get it. We were already short-handed. Isn’t there a time and place for everything? I wanted to tell her that we really couldn’t afford it right now. Besides, I was taking the clients’ fire. I was not happy. She was even less happy, both with herself and me!
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The more she pushed herself, the more irritable she became, and the more errors her final copies had. We had to invest in a proofreader, an expense we could have easily avoided. We carried work stress to our bedroom and bedroom stress to our work! She accused me of not understanding. I accused her of blaming me. We got into a bad cycle, with no respite from each other.
Once we got the diagnosis I understood that she had a rare condition which does not allow the mind and body any rest. So even if she lay down and closed her eyes, her body wouldn’t go into the automatic rest and repair mode like ours do. Her mind and body would keep working and hence the exhaustion and with it severe irritability.
But while we had a logical explanation, it did not solve our practical issues. We had deadlines, heaped work, flaring tempers and resignations! Ashna moved to Mumbai, for none of the doctors in my city had the wherewithal to deal with her condition. I stayed back; I didn’t have the luxury to shut shop and help her in her worst time. Though she understood that, ultimately I wasn’t there for her when she needed me most.
Once she got the medication and understood her new lifestyle, she moved back. We tried to get back to normal, but it wasn’t easy. The resentment remained, that I hadn’t understood before it was formally diagnosed. I should have known that something minor wouldn’t have deterred her. We couldn’t work things out.
It was her idea to live separately. I moved out and into a friend’s place. And that is when it all started falling into place.
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It was a vacuum that we both felt, acutely. We had become each other’s habit over these years, I’d take in the milk, she’d make the morning cuppa, we’d discuss newspaper headlines over tea. Breakfast discussion would kick-start our work hours. Blocks during work hours would be cracked over hot soup at 3 a.m. in bed, an intimate session would be interrupted by a sudden brainwave on how to clinch a new client. Hours of stress of bending over a computer screen would be released through foot rubs or shoulder massages. The list seemed endless.
Missing out on the little and big comforts that two people living together bring to each other was no longer trivial. Those 28 days of living apart made us realise that life is beautiful and big in the trivia only. Besides, it was no fun having your breakfast alone, the food just wouldn’t taste the same! And entering an empty apartment was like stabbing yourself afresh every evening.
The separation made the hitherto ‘big’ resentment seem rather stupid and inconvenient!
Sometimes time apart is the best gift one can give a marriage. Since that day six years ago, the farthest we have reached is the main door.
(As told to Raksha Bharadia)