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I am so incredibly disappointed at the turn Junoon - and particularly Meera's characterization - has taken that I decided to rewrite a bit of it... So, here it is...
That night, I stuck around in their home much longer than I usually did.
After the fight with her lover earlier that day, the husband had taken off. I had been in a quandary as to who to follow, him or her, and had ultimately decided to stay with her when I had picked up on the tension between her and her lover and knew that there was likely an impending showdown.
And sure enough, there was...
As soon as they were alone, I heard her start with Akash, her lover.
I should say her ex-lover, but it seems somehow disrespectful to the man who had after all spent seven years loving her.
She too, evidently, felt torn. And her soliloquy to Akash about her husband proved exactly how torn she felt, although I doubt that she intended for it to turn out the way it did.
"You are sensible and educated, Akash. You should know better than him. All he knows is to be impulsive and aggressive. That's his brand of hooliganism. He thinks he is doing it to benefit the villagers and to hell with whoever stands in his way. Once, some man beat his wife and he put the man in a sack and brought him here. Another time, when someone disrespected father, he took it upon himself to break the man's arms and legs. He thinks he can mete out justice in whatever way he wishes. There is a village council here and there's also the police. But none of those things faze him. This is why I am telling you, don't get into a fight with him!"
I was surprised at how well she summed up her husband. She was, if anything, astoundingly accurate. I had wondered at times whether some of her husband's 'social welfare' deeds had blinded her to his faults. It appeared it hadn't. She seemed entirely in possession of her logical faculties, perfectly capable of citing his weaknesses without issue.
It should have come across as a vilification. It should have sounded like the civilized detest of rural barbarism and lawlessness that it was meant to be.
Except it didn't.
Her tone was all wrong. Her eyes were all wrong. Her passion was too strong...
It was evident that I wasn't the only one who thought so when I heard Akash yell at her to stop... to stop spouting her husband's heroics.
She was taken aback... genuinely so, I could see.
I imagined that a man could sense a woman's concern for another man much stronger than he could sense it if it were directed at himself.
I flitted around nervously as I heard him ask her if she was in love with her husband.
For a moment, she was so stricken that she could not form words. When he asked again, his voice rising, she shook her head. He didn't believe her.
I believed her. Love was too strong a word... Too weak a word... Too different a word...
But for men, they were all the same. Love or something eight degrees lighter or stronger were all solidly pegged and pummeled into the same hole.
Although, having said that, even I couldn't deny that whatever she felt for her husband was starting to eat into what she felt for her lover.
I watched Akash leave with a sort of melancholy. Broken hearts were broken hearts regardless of whether it belonged to a man that I was invested in or a man that I only had a passing interest in...
Once Akash left, I stayed with her in the house for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.
Watching her, I wondered at the vicissitude of the human complexity known as emotions. They had so very many shades... not all of them pretty... The way she thought of her lover of seven years was so very different from the way she thought of her husband of a few weeks. Even if 'love' as she knew it was not part of the equation, her thoughts on the bond of 'marriage' were strong.
It was a revelation to both her and me that for her worldly upbringing, some seed of a deep-rooted traditionalism was hidden inside her.
Husband trumped Lover.
Even without Love.
I refuse to believe that she could stay in this relationship, only putting her faith in the sanctity of marriage, if there wasn't something else keeping her here.
I wanted to know what it was.
So did she, I knew, although I didn't get the feeling that she was eager to find out anytime soon.
The remorse over Akash was too strong right now to consider the finicky and erratic sensibility of her own emotions.
Thus she sat there, in a corner in that room, long into the night.
She was so still that at times I flew around right by her to break her out of her trance.
If she was annoyed by my whizzing, she didn't show it.
Close to midnight, he finally came home.
Even before I noticed, I saw her ears perk up.
She didn't move though.
She waited until he came in and then I saw her look up to the sound of the door opening.
He walked in and closed the door behind him.
I sensed the exact moment when he gave up the pretense of not searching for her and looked around and found her sitting in the corner.
When their gazes met, it was there again... that thing that I knew would spark and fry my whole being if I found myself caught in between...
They held it for a few moments before she lowered her eyes.
I thought she merely couldn't tolerate the intensity of his gaze, but then I saw what drew her attention.
His knuckles were bloody.
He followed her gaze down, only then seeming to take notice of the state of his hand.
He looked back up at her before turning to walk out the door to wash his hands under the tap outside.
When he came back in, she was waiting by the dresser for him. She held a long strip of white cloth in her hand.
When she approached him with it, I thought he would resist. But he surprised me when he let her take his hand to wrap the cloth around the knuckles that I could see were scraped raw, the blood starting to dot it once again.
As she focused on wrapping his hand, he kept his gaze everywhere else in the room except her...
Except for one moment, that is...
Just a fleeting tenth of a second when his eyes came back to rake over her in confusion...
Confusion and something that seemed perilously close to...
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