an unfinished song

The strains of “Subah, Subah, yeh kya hua…” played in a loop inside her head. She smiled. The cool early morning air felt good. She lifted her arms and flexed her wings. She spread them wide letting the wind play with them. Her eyes watched the black vees floating calmly against the azure blue sky. She kicked off on her course.

Sumit stood speechless while she held the baby…baby didn’t register yet. He watched her: Aditi…that is Aditi. …my Aditi. Is that her? The afternoon sun burned a part of her face as she sat with eyes downcast, tired hands weakly holding on to a piece of knitting. Her hair shone like a halo around her face where the sun caught the silver of her loose curls. So very, very beautiful – still. His breath caught in his chest. He had never wanted a child. It had been her wish.

Clutching at his left side he eased himself into an old cane chair across from her. She looked up then. He followed her eyes to the front gate. It swung open as the thin, wasted form of a young man walked in without turning to put the clasp back on.

The sight of the slightly built young man with a shock of black rumpled hair stirred a vision in his mind – of an excited man rushing, half carrying, half pulling a frail young woman hugging a bundle of swaddle and smiling, all the way to the house. Almost the age of this young man that walked into their strange life right now.

Strange life, because he could still not fathom it. This morning they had had a child. At six thirty p.m. they are here with a little mud pot sitting in a corner near the staircase, somewhere inside the empty house, holding the ashes of a child.

“Did you call him?” Aditi turned her eyes in his direction. “Have you?” She seemed to have forgotten why she had turned to look at him. She looked away abruptly, as if he hadn’t spoken. The curtain in a door behind them fluttered slightly. He raised himself and very slowly walked indoors stopping by a door that looked into a lovely little room. Lyric had been like her mother. There has always been so much rhythm in her. Everything about her space – from the little potted gardenia on the windowsill to the Japanese painting of a monastery standing on top of a hill to the shiny Tanpura and all her belongings arranged on the white marble floor in the way she liked was proof – of how much in love she had been, with her life.

There was a seat arranged near the window so Anurag could sit there and watch the changing colours of the sky while she did her riyaz. It rang in his head, her clear young voice caressing the sombre notes of Purvi as she released them one by one into the air like little pet birds. So much love!

These two had been inseparable from their childhood days: fatherless Anurag and Lyric. He sat on the floor now with his head resting on the bed that had been hers. The letter lay at his feet. There was a little breeze and it caught the piece of paper which floated up at him. Sumit reached out for it and started to read, for the hundredth time, for he just could not think of a way to deal with this yet. How could he have not known? Or seen? How could they have all done this together? And why could she not talk about this?

No, that she could not. He realized that at least. Talking wasn’t going to make a difference. This would take action and that is what she has done!

“It is love: yours and mine. I like Shamik. I hope he and you are both happy together. Papa taught you and me to respect choices people made. I hope you would respect mine. This isn’t about anger or sorrow or like the man on the street might call it – frustration.

I loved you as the man in my life, you loved me like your favourite tee-shirt, I guess. You wore me – to shield yourself from harsh weather, of hatred and fear and doubts and suspicion directed at your love.

This is my way of asserting my rights – not giving in to a life that needs be bound by choices other people make in the name of protecting us from ourselves, so that you and I, Anu, cannot make ours.

I exercised my choice rather than live a life as prisoner of a homophobic society’s misguided whims. I chose to be free. Will you please, always, remember this about your wife, Anurag?”

Sumit and Aditi had met at a concert. His lyrics and his music had drawn Aditi into his life and one day Lyric was born out of music they had created together in their life. Their child had been born of a song, and had lived like a song, lovely while it played, lovelier in its cadence heard in thought in the silence after it was sung. Only, Anurag sat there like a question mark, like the incomplete arc of an unfinished song, that Sumit could not yet hope to right.

10 thoughts on “an unfinished song

  1. One of my problems reading this is an inability to distinguish boys’ names from girls’ names, but I got it the second time round. As you say elsewhere, it is a study.

    I am trying to piece together the plot, because it is so compressed – in the form of the parents looking back to the birth of their daughter Lyric? And now unable to see her any more as their daughter because she has deserted her husband Anurag because of his affair with Shamik? Not because she disapproves of homosexuality but because she is modern and wants to let him get on with what she now perceives as a gay marriage?

    I am not sure whether I have interpreted correctly.

    • They now have Lyric’s ashes. She is gone. The Hindus burn their dead.

      She attempts to make a statement in death that she could not, effectively, with her life, it would have been lost in a divorce with the cause pushed out of sight under the carpet.

  2. She has committed suicide because of her husband’s relationship with a man, because society would disapprove of it, or did disapprove of it? Or because her parents had disapproved of it? It seems she was the one who should have disapproved of it! but apparently didn’t.

    It remains a mystery to me.

    • No, why should she disapprove! She understands him and his needs. She disapproves of society’s pretensions pushing them into situations that could well have been avoided.

  3. this is incomprehensible to me. So she does not consider it adultery? She will be prepared to tolerate husband’s behaviour to her, yet will commit suicide because of society’s attitude? What sense does this make?

    Did society push them into the situation? How?

  4. @ Vincent, so suppose she does do something about his ‘adultery’, divorces him taking conventional stand on the issue, where would that land him? Would he be able to get back together with the person he loves, a normal social life, the only friend he has ever had in Lyric?
    What would his life be like minus all that he loves and cherishes? Without Lyric as his shield and partner-in-crime as it were, can he still continue to live his ‘real’ life?

    Adultery is when one ‘cheats’ on their partner, he didn’t cheat exactly, he was being true to himself, I would think, if societal conditions were different, he would not even have thought of doing this to Lyric.

    The film Fashion, released last year features a study on the same issue, as a sideline to the main story of course, where a Gay Fashion designer marries a hetero model, longtime woman friend. The couple get together – but on mutual consent, fully aware of what they were getting into. How does society react to this union? Women and other not so fortunate Gay guys are shown laughing at them, sneering too.

    But what CAN people do in given circumstances? All of them cant escape to Canada or Europe, can they? Why should they have to do that? After all, we are only humans that need affection and attention to survive and someone we can love and hold on and relate to in a certain way! Where does sin and right and wrong come in where basic needs of a human being is concerned? Need for love and sex is organic, isn’t it?

  5. As Vincent said, the story is highly compressed. Would’ve been better if the plot could have been more relaxed, just my opinion.

    Well.. I think a wife should consider his husband sleeping with another man as an adultery. Even being true to himself, he is not actually doing that. Otherwise he wouldn’t have worn her as a tee-shirt. Marriage involves sharing many feelings mutually and exclusively to each other. And that includes sex too.

    I always felt gays marrying women as very unfair. No matter how much he tries to gain sympathy that society forced him to choose this decision, he loses his right to sleep with men.

  6. @Sam, thanks for your comment, yes, it doesn’t happen anymore this was a story about what had happened ten years back. Thanks to the activism of Siddharth Gautam and Bombay Dost and Humsafar and SAATHI and a handful of brave people, things have changed, men are slightly more safer than they were – now and women a little more aware, and parents more tolerant. Media is vigilent too.

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