03. Family anyway | Unconditional

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

She slept off her jetlag. I got dressed and went to the office.  When I got back home in the evening, Juhi was still in bed. “It’s your first international trip, isn’t it?” I joked, waking her up. “Mmmhmmm?” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes and trying to wake herself. “I got dinner. Will need to…

She slept off her jetlag. I got dressed and went to the office.  When I got back home in the evening, Juhi was still in bed.

“It’s your first international trip, isn’t it?” I joked, waking her up.

“Mmmhmmm?” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes and trying to wake herself.

“I got dinner. Will need to go grocery shopping tomorrow.” I said.

Reluctantly, she allowed herself to be pushed into the shower. I went to the kitchen and unpacked the food I had brought back. There was a nice little Indian restaurant run by an old couple that had emigrated here a long time ago. When I didn’t feel like cooking or eating other cuisines, I usually ordered from here. The couple did not have children of their own and they addressed me as ‘beta’ (son) and sometimes gave me a little extra or something else they had made and thought I might like.

“The water was warm.” She said flatly, after her shower. “What season is it supposed to be out here?”

“Summer’s just starting.” I said. “The very end of ‘spring’.”

She looked around and saw that I had air conditioning in the apartment. “Good for those then.”

“What now?” She asked after we had finished our dinner. “You are going to bed, and I would be awake all night like a vampire?”

“No,” I said, “You come back to bed and sleep. You will wake up in the morning with your body time reset. Actually, if you hadn’t slept all morning you would have adjusted faster.”

Long ago, a colleague had taught me a vital trick of adjusting as rapidly as possible to a new time zone. But, Juhi had been so sleepy that I decided to let her sleep it off. She didn’t have anywhere else to be.

The next morning, she was watching me get dressed for work.

“You know, you look a lot nicer in formals.” She teased me.

“You have never seen me in formals, have you?” I asked. I could not recall that she ever had.

She shook her head and propped herself up on her elbows. She wore a long cotton shirt and nothing underneath. She looked so… I wanted to call in sick and stay home. Pulling my breath in, I controlled myself. There was a lot of time for that.

“Okay, I have to rush now.” I said, bending down to give her a kiss. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“I think I can manage.” She winked.

Juhi surprised me in the evening with a home-cooked meal. She had found the local stores and done some shopping. The girl never stopped surprising me.

“You know,” She began when we were washing up after dinner. “I think it would be best if we moved to another house. And got rid of some of your old boxes.”

“Where have you been digging?” I laughed giving her a friendly bump on her hips.

“Memories. Old memories.” She said, sombrely. “You have to really actually move on.”

I knew what she meant. “Shweta, you mean.” I said. “I have moved on. Quite a while ago.”

“Then don’t keep memories of her.” She shook her head.

“Those really are memories of mine as well.” I pointed out. “But in my heart, in my mind, I have moved on. You know me, I don’t dwell on those things.”

Before I had moved to Australia, Shweta had been my everything. I had met her at a bar when some of my friends and me had gate-crashed someone else’s party. We had wanted to get a few free drinks and maybe pick-up some girls for the night. She was a silent demure one who had sat in a corner, uninterested in the happenings around her.

“Hi?” I had approached her tentatively.

“Hello!” She had replied, half-bored.

Somehow, we had started talking. It started as friendship. Then we started to hang out together in the evenings. Then we had found we shared the similar interests and passions. We had strong dislikes about the same things. Eventually, we decided it was love. One evening when I got back from work, I found Shweta had moved into my rooms – it wasn’t an apartment then.

She introduced me to her father. Her mother had passed on a few years before. We got married quite soon after that. It was a short, but a whirlwind of a romance before we got married. Four, five years into our life together, things started to fall apart. Neither of us could pin down a reason why we were going through such a bad phase. We ascribed it to being “just a phase”, tried counselling, got friends and family to look at it and provide an outsider’s perspective. But nothing seemed to actually help. Strange and silly things turned into long and ugly fights. Finally, we decided we would end things as amicably as we could.

That is when I had decided to take the job and move to Australia. For some reason, I had kept back a few memories from those days with Shweta and brought them with me to Australia.

“You kept some of your memories too!” I accused Juhi testily, returning to the present.

She looked at me and did not say anything.

Though a few years younger than me, she had been married for longer. She had had a happy marriage and had three lovely children. They were an exception in my otherwise troubled chaos of relatives. Someone’s evil eye eventually caught up with them. About four years ago, her husband had taken their children to the movies, while Juhi worked late. On the way back, they were stopped at a traffic light when an errant water-tanker ploughed through the intersection. The happy family had been helplessly crushed. Juhi had been devasted by the loss. I empathized with her, but the support I could provide her with from so far away was insignificant and useless. I wished I could fly over and be with her, but circumstances dictated otherwise. She healed, slowly.

About the author:

Sujay Sarma is an IT industry veteran, about 43 years of age. He has spent 25 years in the IT industry and has done it all, and seen it all. Now, his passion is writing [blogs, stories, novels] and music. He has his own YouTube channel called "Sujay Sarma's Musical Adventures" where he posts his covers and originals, and a Podcast named "Interesting People Interesting Stories".