The Seduction

He looked at her with a mild wave of irritation washing over him. She was it again, biting her nails as she chatted on the phone with someone, her hair unkempt and pulled back into a pony tail with a big red ribbon (a ribbon for God’s sake, who wore ribbons in their hair in this age), with her frumpy track suit and her t-shirt that was two sizes too big for her with her high pitched shrill giggle interjecting her talk every now and then. He cringed inwardly as he remembered how in the days of their courtship, he had found the giggle alluring, sexy even and for the umpteenth time he wished that the trappings of matrimony hadn’t turned out to be such a damp squib. He sighed knowing that her phone conversation would take a long time and that there would be no quiet till she had finished saying and hearing all.


She was gesturing to him, he could see that out of the corner of his eyes, but there was no way, he was going to give her his full attention, not now, please, not now. “Excuse me for a minute”, he heard her say and then the all too familiar sound of “Sanjuu” rang around the room. “What is it?” he asked her with barely concealed irritation, as she pointed to something bubbling and hissing on the cooker…”Turn it off, it is done…the soup for tonight’s dinner” , she pointed to a cauldron on the cooker and as she did so, the bracelets around her wrists jingled delicately. Smiling at his bemused face, she went back to her conversation, updating whoever it was at the other end, about the recipe she had used and how she had nearly burnt her food. He muttered to himself as he made his way over to the kitchenette to do the needful, and as he passed her on his way, the lingering aroma of ginger and garlic and coriander wafted towards him…for one crazy minute, he wanted to rush to her dressing table, grab the ornate perfume bottle of “Moonshine” that he had gifted her three years ago and spray her with it – just spray her madly, irrationally and forcefully till she stepped out of the dusty, mouldy garbs of domesticity that had claimed her. The temptation passed as soon as it came and he went back to his writing.


He didn’t notice her getting off the phone and making his way to his desk, for the next thing he knew was that she was standing right behind him wiping her hands on her hips and peering over his shoulder. “Is this a new poem?”, she asked as she surveyed the sheaf of plain lined papers with his flowing, cursive handwriting stacked neatly at the far side of his side.  “It is a sonnet actually”, he hoped this would be quick, it gave him no pleasure to explain the intricacies of his work to her, he knew she didn’t listen beyond the first couple of sentences anyway. “Always too technical for me, I hardly understand a word of all those things ”, she would grin helplessly at parties when someone asked her what he was currently working on. At such times, he felt, she almost apologized more for him, than she did for herself.


Once she had eased her way out of discussions of his work, she was free to mingle with the crowd, to swap recipes and to giggle about some seemingly trite thing till it was time to go home. 


The explanation that it was a sonnet that he was writing seemed to satisfy her and without asking any further questions, she moved away, humming to herself.  She dutifully reported the phone conversation to him, giggling all over again, and repeating a couple of things for his benefit. He wondered if she recognized his terse tone, his monosyllabic answers and his complete lack of interest in something that was obviously turning out to be the highlight of her day.


“Do you remember that poem that you wrote for me after the first time we met?”, she asked as she suddenly re-appeared at his desk. He looked up with surprise, taking trips down memory lane was a rare past-time for her, the present was where she was utterly comfortable. She could not be expected to weigh herself down with an era now past or just as she could not be expected to conjure up images for the future. Now and here were the only tenses of time she was familiar with, everything else, he surmised either was forgotten or not ruminated upon. “It was a poem wasn’t it?”, she prodded , “Or was it a sonnet?”. Her eyes lit up as she credited herself upon recognizing this fine distinction in the words that he was a master at conjuring up.


“It was a poem”, he answered, wondering where this was going. “You thought of me at day break or dawn or some such thing, didn’t you”, she was at it again.

He decided to ignore the bland simile she had presented.  The lines presented themselves to him, clear and precise, like he had penned them just yesterday and for a minute he mulled over all that could have been.


When night flees, gathering her robe

And dawn peers over the horizon

At a pristine promise, yet untouched

I sift through your memories

And paint a sunrise for the day that will be


When the seasons serenade the earth

And spring arrives with music in her steps

Ripe with new beginnings and dreams

I sift through your memories

And gather rosebuds for the times that will be


He repeated them for her sake with his voice taking on a new tenderness and depth and she listened, just like she used to in another era and time. He had never dared to ask her back then if those lines or any lines from any poem for that matter, stirred her soul and released a longing inside her, like it always did for him. When you are not sure you have the strength to bear the answer, your questions go unasked, he had read somewhere long ago. It was a truth that he now solemnly practised with her, because he was weary of asking her anything or of expecting a response that could have matched his intensity and his anticipation.


For a minute they stared at each other and he took in her raven black hair, her brown eyes, the fullness of her mouth and the smile that was playing at the corner of her lips.

“It sounds beautiful”, she said, and then added “I am not even sure I really understand it or anything, but it sounds nice…”. He smiled wanly and managed a thank you. He wondered if she had uttered something similar when she heard it for the first time. It seemed like eons ago now and he could see her in his mind’s eye with her head leaning against his shoulder as she chewed on a blade of grass with her eyes half closed. He had been confident back then, that she would be the inspiration for many, many of his creations. It hurt him to remind himself that his writing was now more of an escape from the mundane quality she seemed to emanate towards him and the surroundings.


“Did you ever get that poem published?”, she asked all of a sudden. He knew that she considered his work done, when he published something, in vain he had tried to tell her that his creations, any creations for that matter was an act of completion in itself for the creator, and that no work of art could be tagged with such labels. She had dismissed his theories with her smile and with the logic that no composition was complete till it reached its audience. He had to confess that he had been struck dumbfounded by her ideas, he never expected her to give the whole cycle of art and its creation so much of thought. Then again, like she said, she hadn’t given it much thought per se, she was just extending the analogy of what one did with a cooked meal or anything else that was to be consumed.


“Nah, I never got it published, there are many such poems and verses I have, that were written for special occasions…at least the occasions were special back then ”, he confessed, “They are not for publication, they are private emotions”


“You should get this one published though”, she laughed. “It is just the kind of thing that your readers would love, wouldn’t they, all those words conjuring up images of morning and of night disappearing with the darkness”.  She cleared his desk and made herself comfortable on the glass topped cherry stained table. He noticed that she was rubbing at a turmeric stain on her t-shirt sleeve, like always it amazed him that she seemed to accept such things as part of her daily ritual and they rarely bothered her.


He wondered how she could be so blatantly disloyal to what he considered a very special gift that he had presented her with. Didn’t she realize that he had written each word with her in mind, that her fragrance had filled his senses as the words flew out of his pen, that he could feel the warmth of her body as she leaned in towards him to tell him something…how could she not feel that he was violating something by sharing those moments with the world? “It would be sacrilege”, he mumbled, “I was sharing a piece of myself with you then, it was our love, it wasn’t love that sought to be put up for review”.


“It does not bother you then, that your words touch me but not in the way you want them to?”, she asked. “ I mean, I am not one of your poetic types, I can never respond in kind – we know that don’t we?”. He looked up sharply to see if she appeared upset but she was calm, composed even.


“You should get it published”, she said, her voice strong and steady, “There is no infidelity here from your side here, some one will read it and sigh over it. How would you describe it – yes, maybe some young beating heart will recite these lines to his lady love on a summer morning, maybe an old couple will read the poem together as the moon comes up to light the wintry sky. Don’t you see, the love you sought to express, will somehow find its way? That is the best we can do for each other, sometimes letting go is the only way you can reclaim something”.


He stared at her as she went on, for a split second he couldn’t believe she was the same person whose giggling had infuriated him a while ago.


“I sometimes think of all your readers as your mistresses”, she smiled lightly, her voice almost musical with its low pitch, “I need to share you with them but that is the only way, that you will come back home to me, for at the end of the day, you do not need to woo me, like you need to woo them. I am the part of your life that can exist without this seduction”.


Even as the words sunk in, she jumped off his desk and walked towards the kitchen, picking up the same tune, that she had stopped humming a while ago. For a long time, he stared after her and then kept staring in the direction of the kitchen.


After a while, he went back to writing, only this time he knew that sometimes when you set out to leave, your footsteps can find their way back home.