But I am getting nothing to my rescue. So I installed a CCTV camera at my house. Sounds shady? you might as well think I am such low a man. But still, I am doing this for my family. Ours was a love marriage. Three years of immense love and through a lot of trials and tribulations we made it to our marriage.
Over these years of working professional career as a software engineer; in a reputed IT firm and after we had our elder son Vihaan and younger daughter Vijeta I have realized in the name of so-called 'LOVE' we would only upload pictures on Instagram captioned "Love you always and forever" is where it halted.
Aparna seems so indifferent to me these days. She has turned very messy and irritating. Every day has the same old story of taunts and flaws focused....as if anger is just pouring out of her brims. Often I see her hairs drenched post showers till late evenings; if asked about it she says" working late so had a shower late". What is such a burden of household chores? Mom, dad, and two kids..that's all. Acting as if like old grannies she is serving 10-15 people at a time. She is of no good work these days. I find it tough to locate things nowadays. Sometimes, she even fails to iron a shirt properly. She stays online most of the time these days. If I enquire she replies "I go online and then forget to log out". How weird! So I doubt. All these behaviors have led me to such a decision. Yesterday, hiding from her eyes I successfully installed them in all rooms. Now I shall keep a watch at her from my office.
Early the next day, I left for work. Switched on my monitor and kept a few of the work papers on the desk.
Aparna is in the kitchen now after the morning breakfast she is washing the utensils. As soon as I excused myself from the papers I saw her in the bedroom, making the bed of every room to mention. Vihaan has left for school. Vijeta, My 2-year-old daughter is still asleep. Aparna put the milk to boil on the stove for Vijeta and took a chapati and some veggies and sat to eat. We had our breakfast long back. Aparna is having it now. She also took her mobile and went online. I changed my position on the chair. No sooner she put her first bite to the chapati Vijeeta woke up. She ran to her, caressed the little girl and took her to the washroom. washed her face and did all the morning routines and made her sit on the couch in front of the television. once she is feeding my daughter and in the next moment taking a bite on her chapati. Vijeta is watching the television, running around, making faces, and whatnot. Aparna is still showing online on her Instagram handle, but she has already kept the cellphone down and running behind this mischievous girl.
I am still looking at the papers kept in front of me and at times also keeping an eye on the monitor. One hour has passed and Vijeta has still not finished her food. Aparna now is collecting the tiny dresses of Vijeta from the floor, folding Vihaan's school uniform, and keeping aside my used office shirts. Now she is going towards the bathroom and keeping all the washable clothes to a bucket full of water and soap. A lot of them. Now again she is in the kitchen. Took out the chicken I brought last night from the refrigerator and some vegetables to go with it. She asked my mother to cut the vegetables. She has already prepared rice and kept aside Vijeta's baby food aside. She now took a muslin cloth hanged in one of the windows and started wiping the furniture. she is still showing online on his social media account. Once in a while, if by mistake her eyes roll over the phone she turns off the data. she is working now cooking and running from one room to the other. She has put vegetables to cook at one side on the stove and now slicing onions to put in a kadhai for the chicken. In the meanwhile, dad shouted from the other room, "Give me a cup of tea and something to go along with it." Aparna is preparing tea on one side and moving the spoon over the sliced onions on the other.
Aparna is again behind Vijeta running for fruits to be taken after which she went to the bathroom washed and hung all the clothes to dry. She is dripping water due to the clothes that she had just washed, but she did not go for a shower. Why is she working so hard? I thought. After the lunch preparations are done she has cleaned the kitchen, suddenly my mother walked in and said: "make some mashed potato and eggplant mix, I like it little spicy."
Aparna stood there silent for a while staring at her but said no word. I was becoming uneasy now. Aparna is not angry. I guess this anger used to pop up when every day this used to happen but now she has somehow turned used to it...or maybe numb! I am feeling helpless. Aparna is behind vijeta, running, scolding her, and when she refuses to take that bite even throwing a hand at her. She is looking so stressed. Mom walked in to scold her and took Vijeta away. The food is kept on the table just like that. Aparna took to a cd, a cup of tea when suddenly Vijeta started crying again. She put her to sleep. Aparna was just having a glass of water when Vihaan came running with his dirty shoes on to the main room. She got so irritated but went silent. She took him to the shower and Vijeta accompanied. To make them shower together was no less than fighting in a war zone.
On the other side, the potatoes and eggplant put to fry in the kitchen are almost ready. She now is wiping the floors with a scented cleaner. Occasionally keeping a watch in the kitchen for mashed potatoes and back to cleaning again. The kids have started fighting for the television remote throwing pillows wailing and hitting each other. The perfectly clean tv room and the sofa is yet again to its untidiness. I would have just stopped her from doing it any further if I had been there. How strange! if I had been at her place I would have shouted my lungs out at each one present and carried nothing further. But I guess it has turned her normal routine. Aparna is now cleaning the washrooms and it is already 2'o clock. Dad has already called out her name thrice for lunch to be served. Mom is watching the television still. Aparna already looks exhausted. She now headed towards the kitchen and started setting the lunch table with all items prepared. She served the rice and curry for dad and returned to the kitchen for the kid's food. When suddenly dad gave a call harshly “You served food already and no water?” She came running back to the hall with a glass of water. Dad could have also done this. Now I no longer feel good. “Do I do these works? “ my mind boggled. My stomach hurts now. Aparna is now feeding Vijeta and asked Vihaan to have his food on his own. He is irritated and does not eat. Aparna has somehow fed Vijeta and now turned to Vihaan’s plate. Vihaan is focused on the cartoon running on the television more than his food intake. Aparna feels helpless when the kids don’t take their food properly. She is not Irritated nor angry. How unnatural. She has not had anything yet herself. In between all these moms, dad started complaining “the onions in the chicken are burnt”, “the rice was supposed to be boiled for a while, it is hard. Your dad finds it hard to chew.” “the mashed potatoes were to be made spicy, not fire like”. “In the entire day we just have one or two meals peacefully won't you even let us have that with content?”. “you have no work throughout the day, watching tv and using the cellphone, that’s all. Even then such bizarre food to intake.”
Aparna is on the verge of tears. Her ears are visibly red now but she still utters no word. She is now feeding the kids in anger and even slapping Vihaan once or twice for not sitting in a proper manner. After everyone is done, she takes everything to the kitchen and puts aside the utensils into the washbasin. She now walked towards the balcony, watered the little plants, and went for a shower. “My god, she just came out in ten minutes?”. Aparna sat to have her lunch, it was already 3:45 pm. She opened to her Facebook and scrolling down seeing a few old pictures. She is still having her lunch when dad came in to hand over Vijeta to her. He wants to sleep. Vijeta isn’t letting her have her food in peace but somehow she gulped it down. She looks so tired but she cannot rest for a while Vijeta isn’t sleeping so. She slept around 5 or so. Vihaan by now is at his peak energy running around the use which ultimately came to a halt when he broke the large flower vase kept at the entrance door. Aparna cleaned those glass pieces from the floor and went to bed. At around 5.30 pm dad asked for tea. Mom started to shout “why are you sleeping so late, the bride of the house isn’t supposed to be sleeping at such odd evening hours. It brings bad luck to the house”. Aparna gets up, she is having trouble figuring out the floor underneath her feet. But she gains her momentum and served tea to dad. She prepared some noodles and kept some for me.
She made Vihaan sit to do his homework and is looking outside the window. I guess she is waiting for me to come. I wrapped up my office work and now heading towards home.
Today somehow I am unable to face my wife. But Aparna has been doing this for the last 10 years. Without any complaints. If I start calculating what she does for me I might as well not even stand equivalent to her efforts. The next day and the day after has the same routine for her. At times, singing rhymes to Vijeta while at work or even hiding behind the door to see her smile for a while. Once in a while, if an old school friend or a college mate calls that’s all she talks about the entire day. What else does she have in for her in a day to look forward to? Even I haven’t asked her what she feels or wants besides discussing home groceries and how Vihaan is doing at school.
After staring at the monitor for a week like that I had achieved nothing except guilt overtaking my thoughts so far. Such a caring, only child to her family, too pampered and too scared. She would wake up at 10 am and come visit me at the riverside every evening. She used to deck herself up so beautifully like all her beauty was gifted to her by the great gods only for me to fall for her over and over again. She has such lustrous hair, till her hips. She would do all the home remedies to keep them shiny and smooth. And those manes when touched my face when we would meet at the riverside, would smell like fresh flowers dipped in scented water. Ah! Such was my Aparna.
…and now. In between my family and my needs she has nothing for her in it. No wishes, no demands. As I was pondering over such lost smiling days my colleague Abhizar walked into my cabin. I turned to him and asked,“ Hey buddy, doesn’t your wife Sultana work in an MNC too. Who does the household chores, who looks after your kids??” To which he replied,” she does way beyond her abilities friend. We have to housemaids. One looks after the kid and the other does the cleaning part. My son is studying in a premium institute and I have also put him to home tuitions.” In between this talk, I asked with shock ” and how much do you pay them?” Abhizar took a long breath and said,” oh man! Don’t even go there. Each of the maids charges 2000 rupees per month, tutor for 1000 rupees, Two-days a week. You don’t even have those expenses to your list. Your wife does it all single-handedly. I and wife even go for weekend outings after we have worked ourselves out to the extends of limits the whole weekend in our respective offices. That is another cost add-in of say 3000 per week. We need to relax too, don’t we?
My wife works inside out when the housemaid arrives thanking her for all she does, Gifting, and sweets to give her on festivals and some extra amount for her family members on special occasions. She looks over every bit of it.”
Listening to all these from a friend I felt so helpless and unworthy. One who works at his place in lieu of money is thanked for the little bits and here I stand with a lady who has given up on all her wishes and desires for me to come to a happy peaceful home without any monetary benefits is taken so granted? Have I ever thanked her all these years even for once?
Now I help Aparna in our household chores, putting the clothes to the laundry, wiping the furniture on weekends. I even said her once, “you used to keep yourself so beautifully earlier, a tint of lipstick and blush to go with it. Why don’t you do it anymore?” and she would reply saying,” I had someone to stare at me earlier, do I have him now?” I said to her “tell me what things do u need I shall bring it for you.”
She looked at me with suspicion and smiled.
I started focusing on the little things I could do for her meant so much to her and eased her part too. I now see her walk by the mirror stop for a while there and capture her own smiling back in a lonely room. And believe me when I see it coming my chest doubles up with a little pride in being worthy of her. She had that blush on her face naturally which no branded makeup kit could bring. She takes care of herself, has her food on time.
Why did I install the cameras in the first place I don’t even remember by now? Whatever was making up in my mind had already long lost back only to find back my Aparna beautifully graceful standing in front of me with a lot more respect and love carried in her eyes for me. Even if I had found out something fishy about her all this while, wouldn’t I be equally blamed for it?
Later that evening I sat with her and told them about the cameras. She asked shockingly, “What did you get out of it?” and I replied, “I found you. Not just as my wife and mother to my kids but as my Aparna. Thank you, Appu for all that you do for us”.
She had tears in her eyes and said: “thank you Ashutosh, there are so many Aparna's in every household who give away herself not to even get thanks from her man or the people in and around her but like you, even if late the realization is all it takes to love to bloom all over again.”