Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thank you, God!

No, it is not what you think it is.

I have not forsaken rationalism for a sudden restoration of faith in some higher power.

You will get it as you read on.

People are attracted to certain places. Even the most nomadic ends up going back to that “one place” frequently. Growing up usually means family; which usually means holidays; which means you explore new places each year. However, one does not resist that “one place” which keeps calling out to him.

In my case, it is Kili.

The first time was in 2014, more out of a competitive spirit. My friend has done it, so I should. He did it in style on his 50th birthday, I must do it before I am 50. And so it came to pass. Read about it here.

The second time was in 2016. This time it was to honour a commitment to an acquaintance. And about this here.

It was on the descent from Kili in 2016, the seed to 2017 was sown. The garrulous guide and I found a common ground (one of the usual three with men) Football! (the other two are women and women). In the middle of Pep G going to City and what would happen to Yaya Toure and the special one going to Old Trafford and Chelsea’s chances of winning the league under Conte and so on and so forth, I expressed my desire of coming back again next year, with my family, and inquired if Mount Meru would be a good choice for the family, to be followed by the inevitable safari.

And he agreed that it would indeed be a good idea; and offered to render his services once again if I desired.

I act quickly. I returned in the second week of August and booked the dream vacation for the family in November. Little did I know that Mount Meru would push me to the limit in 10 months’ time.

And here one word, almost a commercial endorsement, in appreciation of Zara Adventures and the formidable lady, affectionately called by everyone as Mama Zara.

We stumbled on Zara, more by chance, the first time around in 2014. This is the 3rd time I spent with Zara and I can only recommend strongly to anyone who is interested in similar adventures/holidays. In all fairness I have not experienced any other tour operator, and in all probability they are good too. But the story of Mama Zara is inspiring and the warmth and smile that you get from her is genuine.

The holiday almost did not happen. Thanks to few of my friends who stood in the time of crisis, I could take the break that I desperately needed.

2nd of August 2017, exactly to the day I summited Kili the previous year, found self and family in the, now familiar surroundings of Kilimanjaro International Airport, roughly 1/5th the size of a modern city mall.

And the whole family was excited, a little unsure, and prepared ourselves for the next three gruelling days.

At this point in time, I had no idea exactly how gruelling it was going to be.

Day 1: Calm beginnings:

It was a routine day. Lulled everyone into a false sense of complacency. The ranger who accompanied us with a mean looking rifle turned out to be superfluous. No animals came within few hundred meters. We did see a giraffe soon as we started and few baboons and numerous birds. One bird had a call that sounded like a mobile beep and often led the group to halt and fumble for the phone.

The trek from Momella Gate to Miriakamba (1500 MSL to 2500 MSL) was like a walk in the park. We hardly broke sweat, and reached the first point in a decent time of 4 hours. To the rest of the family, 2500 MSL was already the highest they had ever reached. I envied them, as every step upward was going to be a new record for them, a la Sergei Bubka.



Another pleasant surprise was firm huts, with bed and mattresses, a proper dining room and toilets with running water. A welcome change from crawling into a small tent, on uneven ground, with wind whipping you all night, holding on to rickety tables and having dinner in a make do dining tent.

The walk was pleasant, the food exemplary (the guide Alfan (from Zara) throwing in some family touch by bringing special cutlery from his home in our honour) and soon after the dinner the family crept off to a peaceful sleep. It was getting colder, what else could one expect at 2500 MSL, but the sleeping bag provided enough comfort.

We were all bitten by various insects, had welts and rashes but the confidence of a series of vaccinations we had taken prior to the journey made us bold to march on.

Day 2: Day of “Buffaloes with acute Diarrhoea”

It had rained all night. It had to, right? What is a climb if the weather is going to be clement all along. It was still drizzling as we set off. The departure point was Miriakamba at 2500 and destination for the afternoon was Saddle Hut at 3500.

The path was consistently steep and constantly winding. And extremely narrow. The need for the ranger was vindicated as there was enough proof of buffaloes in the vicinity. The narrow bath was splattered with buffalo dung all along. It must have been a herd of them, and with an acute case of diarrhoea! We hopped and jumped and after a while gave up trying to avoid stepping on them. We reached the 3000 level in good time. The smiles were still on.



The day was soothing, we did not catch the sun at all. After the small lunch break at 3000 level the party split into two! The ranger, my wife and my daughter stayed in one group. The guide, me and my son took the lead. The second half was taxing, from 3000 to 3500. We trudged on. There is something that is extremely beautiful about the Mount Meru climb. One usually comes to the mountains seeking solitude and silence. Both were conspicuously absent on Kili. I had about 40 people in front of me and another 40 behind me at any given moment on Kili. The porters were noisy in the night. You missed the silence on Kili. Here, on the other hand, it was QUIET. There were probably just about 15 people climbing on that day. And the mountain was big enough to keep them at a good distance from each other and allow you the silence you craved. It was just a metronome plonk, plonk of your dreary legs one after another after another after another…
In the meantime, way behind us, unknown to us at the moment, my wife was struggling to make progress. The walking sticks which were meant for additional support became just an additional stuff to drag along. She refused to smile, make any progress and had I been around, would have probably murdered me, slowly at that. As she later confessed to us, it was thanks to our daughter, who not only carried her bag but also offered her numerous bits of encouragement.

When our daughter gets hyper, she gets HYPER!

The sun broke, probably symbolically, as the leading party reached the camp at 3500. We had to wait for a good part of an hour and a little more before the rearguard joined us. As a matter of fact, my daughter and the ranger joined us while my wife trickled in.

She had that “why the eff did I marry this guy” look on her face. She was extremely tired and on the verge of collapsing.

You can see her famous completely resigned walk here.


And when they finally made it to Saddle Hut, I was waiting at the entrance to the huts, with a correct worried expression on my face, and first saw our daughter jumping into view, like a Gazelle, waving frantically at me, then turning around, shouting to my wife, still behind the bush, to march on. And finally my wife came into view, struggling to walk straight, but finally managed to reach us.

Teary eyed, all emotions, she gratefully acknowledged the precious role that our daughter played on the way up from 3000 meter onward till Saddle Hut.
Like a Mafiosi would say “Family is important” 😃😃

You can see her pain in this proud picture of the full family reaching an altitude of 3500 MSL.

A proud family moment.



Another wonderful accommodation, another fantastic lunch and we all grabbed a quick hour of sleep. It could have been a three hour rest, if we had managed good time, nevertheless the important aspect was we made it this far, together.
At 1700 hours we set off for Little Meru: the mini summit at 3820m. The climb was steep, winding, less taxing, hardly technical, and a totally exuberant family made it to the top just as the sun was setting down.

We basked in the golden light and breathed in our moment.



In front of us, the imposing Kili was firstly golden, then pink as the sun dove deeper.

To our right, we saw the imposing and intimidating Mount Meru for the first time as the clouds cleared.


I shat.

It looked like a huge cobra with its hood spread and equally menacing. We could easily see the rim that we would traverse that night and a chill ran down my spine.

I looked at the mountain and stole a look at my wife and a decision was instantly made.

She was not going to make it.

I could be a dick frequently. And I was one on that evening too. I kept on pressurising her, giving her all the pep talks (Al Pacino, Bill Pullman, Barrack Obama…) and unnecessarily putting additional pressure on her.

She was firm and said that she would not go one meter above 3820, and that she was proud of what she had managed to achieve, more importantly together as a family.

Both my children, showed maturity beyond their years (as a matter of fact, more than what I displayed) and told me to not put pressure on her.

Over the dinner we decided, much to my wife’s relief, that she would go back to the comfort of the sleeping bag and the hut while the remaining idiots would set off later at midnight.

Here the credit for my wife not joining us on this, in hindsight a certain suicidal mission, goes to the Ranger and my children.

The ranger was blunt – these were his words, repeated verbatim, “No picture is worth your life”.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  I remembered the words of the great Ed Viesturs “The most important role of the guide is to get the client back to ground safely, not take to summit at any cost”

Day 3: The night of the walking dead.

A fitful sleep. The usual orchestra of piling on layers. Zero appetite.

On the plus side, the sky was clear, a bright moon shining giving the entire landscape an impossibly gossamer make up.

My daughter threw up just before the climb.

Perfect!

Five bobbing headlamps danced along the road. Unlike Kili, here it is not a climb that is
A
     L
         M
               O
                    S
                        T
                            V
                               E
                                    R
                                          T
                                              I
                                                 C
                                                     A
                                                         L
But serpentine and long and winding and gradual and …well,in one word, sickening!

We started well, silent but enthusiastic and soon our old nemesis THE WIND joined us, uninvited. It was brutal and buffeting and relentless.

Our first destination, a mini stop, like the bread crumbs dropped by Hansel and Gretel, was Rhino point, a shade below Little Meru in elevation at 3800.

It was the time for the second sensible person in the family to call it quits. My son could not breathe, mostly due to the stupid wind, and after valiantly trying as far as he could, he said “Bye Guys! Good luck. Am not risking anything anymore for just a mountain”

At times am amazed at the clarity of the next generation.

Between my wife and my son, my wife was wiser by 70 minutes 😃

As my son left with the assistant guide back to Saddle hut, my daughter who has inherited her weird genes from me, said “And then there were two”

I felt like strangling her, but that would have proved her forecast and I would have been standing alone saying “And then there was one”

We reached Rhino Point.



So far so good.

Then the bedlam began!

Without any warning we were face to face with a rock cropping, at an ugly angle, the end disappearing into the dark abyss, who said that the unknown does not affect you, it made it scarier, I was not certain if I would fall a few feet or forever into an abyss and the guide scampered across holding onto the chain that was nailed to the rock with the dexterity of a mountain goat and we were standing like, well, idiots, not knowing what to do. 

We mimicked what he did, used one hand on the chain, the other hand groping for a hold, any hold, that the walking stick could muster and crawled across.
Then the guide said the most horrible words I ever heard.

“Only two more”

What he did not say was, that there were two more such menaces with a chain to hold on to your dear life and there was a last one with NO CHAIN.

Kili was enervating, but never once did I feel my life was at peril. Here, within the first two hours I have already seen my obituary column in the newspapers.

The last manoeuvre of the rock cropping without chain was the scariest of my trekking life so far.

That wonderful record was about to be shattered with what awaited us further on, but I did not know it then.

After the crazy rock adventures, the long walk along the rim of the crater started.

From reading up about the trek earlier on, I knew that to my left was the
D
     E
         E
             P
                C
                    R
                        A
                            T
                               E
                                  R

And to my right was the sloping mountain, and in the dark I was not certain about the width of the ledge I was walking on.

I instructed my daughter who was walking ahead of me to walk in the middle.
Thankfully, or maybe she realised the futility of the wisecrack, she did not ask “Where is the middle?”

And the crazy, stupid, harsh. biting cold wind kept at us with no mercy. It did not stop or slow down even for a second.

We took shelters behind rocks to escape the wind and catch our breath only to step out into that merciless wind yet again.

We lost track of time! We were hopefully looking at the sky to see if it was brightening, hinting at daybreak, as that would mean we were getting closer to that “stupid wooden plank on the top of the mountain”

We were walking for what felt like eternity. The scary walk along the rim, not knowing what was on either side was far more scarier than the rock dance earlier.

Designed by a sadist, the walk kept taking you to the inside of the hooded cobra and back to the outside and each walk on the inside of the Cobra Hood, whilst it gave you the reprieve from the wind, scared the daylights out of you knowing that the endless crater was on your left, probably a few feet away.

Finally the day broke and we could see where we were going. To an extent, as the fog and clouds reduced visibility to a few meters and the wind was not making it any easier.

We saw the first climber returning, on his way back, and were certain that we were closer to the top.

The affable guide, punctured our hope, by saying that we were another 80 minutes away.

This defeated our resolve. I did not see any point in trudging on for another 80- meaningless minutes, but humans have this inexplicable feeling called “pride”, hard to swallow, impossible to admit.

With each step the father- daughter duo halted, contemplated, sighed and ploughed on.

With uncharacteristic snappiness I asked my guide ”Tell me how many more minutes, or how far ? and be true please.”

He ignored my insult, egged us on, clapped and sang and made me squirm with shame for the way I treated him with my earlier question.

And at the end of one of the longest nights in our life the father-daughter duo climbed two unassuming rocks and

Voila

We were in front of the stupid fucking plank.

My daughter demonstrated for the second time that she had inherited my gene.

She did exactly what I did when I reached the summit of Kili in 2014.

SHE CRIED.

The temptation to kick that stupid wooden plank vanished, and suddenly there were lot of tears, smiles, hugs and that indescribable sensation of summiting overwhelmed us.

I did the following things.

Hugged my daughter, sat down to rest and relax, apologised to the guide for my insolent behaviour and smiled like a moron as both the guides (the assistant guide had dropped my son and returned to join us, before we reached the summit by the way, another blow to our fragile ego) sang the regular mountain song (replacing Kilimanjaro with Mountain Meru) in our honour.



The descent is always the same. You climb down in a sense of disbelief. The eerie landscape in daylight made the ordeal of the previous night even more worthy of mention.

I fell down a few times, my daughter fell twice, hurting her knee in the process, a rolling boulder almost broke the leg of our guide and like they used to say during second world war, it was SNAFU.

Some views on the way down











We returned to our hotel, washed and resembled human beings after three days and set out on the “touristic safari” thing in the next days.

Our guide for the safari was named Godilsten. And we chose to call him God, in short.

We visited Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro,

I do not know how lucky others usually are in their safaris, but we were exceptionally lucky.

What we managed in two days of Safari, covering two national parks and one conservation area, was as follows.

  •          The Big 5
  •          A zebra chasing a jackal
  •          A lion on its crouching walk towards its prey
  •          A lion just outside our jeep window
  •          A hyena and a jackal fighting over a carcass
  •          A male lion humping its mate
  •          4 lion cubs sucking milk from their mother
  •          A blue bum monkey inside our jeep
  •          A swarm of birds in flight
  •          A male bull elephant searching for its mate
  •          A lioness hunting a herd of zebra (and failing in its hunt, returning empty handed to the three cubs, almost National Geographic)
  •          Two gnus fighting
  •          A lioness walking straight at our jeep and halting just beside us
  •          An elephant walking straight at our jeep and steering away in the last moment
  •          Wait for a zebra and a giraffe to pass on our way from the dining room to our wild camp.









Our guide for the safari, went to extreme lengths to show us all these, and he always kept a tight lid on what was next, thereby throwing countless surprises on us continuously, and after each breathtaking experience our family would collapse blissfully and say:

“Thank you, God”







Saturday, July 22, 2017

How Often ........ ?

Výsledek obrázku pro choices

Life often gives a chance
To  shows one’s maturity.

Life often gives a chance
To help someone unconditionally.

Life often gives a chance
To show one’s magnanimity.

Life often gives a chance
To act with restraint.

Life often gives a chance
To choose not to be vindictive.

Life often gives a chance
To offer a helping hand.

Life often gives a chance
To not act petty.

Life often gives a chance
To forgive and move on.

Life often gives a chance
To select loyalty over opportunity

Life often gives a chance
To choose friendship over a fortune.

Life often gives a chance
To choose humility over arrogance.

Life often gives a chance
To throw prejudice away.

Life often gives a chance
To use decorum and show respect.

Life often gives a chance
To be a leader and lead by example

Life often gives a chance
To shun hypocrisy.

But
Every single time
One manages to fail.

Life often gives a chance
To act like a prick!

And
Every single time
One grabs the chance.

Without fail!


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dog Story

Výsledek obrázku pro lots of dogs

When I was young, which was indeed a long time ago 😃 the name for a dog was Jimmy and a bitch was Rosy.

Johnny was a regular alternative to Jimmy.

For some reason the Indians always felt it necessary to give Christian names to their dogs; even Christians  😃

Never understood why.

It was quite ironic to see a timid little Pomeranian to be called Tiger.

And the drifting souls of erstwhile Romans must have all squirmed, rather uncomfortably, whenever an upper middle class housewife bellowed “Caesar” 

A white dog of any breed had to be Snowy.

I know a friend of mine, as weird as they can come, who named his snow white dog “Shadow”

A boss of mine, way back when I started to work, wanted to call his dog after the name of our HR director. It was good he did not get around to getting his dog.

Unconfirmed reports had it that the HR director in question actually had his dog named after our managing director 

The eponymous cartoon serial ended up in many dogs being called Scooby.

A constantly snarling dog had to be named Toffee

A friend’s son had a penchant for typo and named his dog Spyke.

And in every message the dog’s name is misspelt or the phone takes the privilege to autocorrect it.

None can beat my nephew who named his bitch Danny!

The North Indians had a penchant for naming their dogs after their understanding of South Indians, deduced from the mindless wrong stereotyping of South Indians in the name of comedy from films.

Actor Mehmood is singularly responsible for such stupid caricaturing of South Indians in Hindi films.

Rascal and Thambi (younger brother in Tamil) are two such names.

Then there are the rebels and the freaks. A friend calls her dog Isis. Every facebook post of hers is now scrutinized by the CIA, FBI, Interpol and ISIS!

Star wars gave birth to Sidh, Jedi, Vader, Luke and Leia!

The intellectually challenged named their clean coat dogs Fluffy!

Sridevi, the sultry siren of South India, was responsible for many dogs in the late 80s to be named Subramani.

Then there is a small minority of people who name their dogs with proper human names, like Alisha, Ayesha, Wilson.

The geeks name their dogs Google, Chip, Byte…….

The best name I ever liked for a dog was from a film where the old man calls his dog Sabapathy – such an original name from the 1930s.

We as a family decided that our dog would be named Sabapathy after this film, but Europe corrupted my son and when we brought the brown Boxer home, he was named, yes you guess it right, Scooby!

But no story of a dog can ever be complete without narrating this wonderful story. Real life incident. No exaggeration.

The above mentioned sultry siren of South India, Sri Devi was every young man’s muse in the 70s and 80s and the biggest of them all that I knew personally was my brother. One summer evening he took me and a few of my relatives, with lot of commentary about her prized assets, her drop dead looks, her mesmerizing gyrations, her shape, her this, her that, virtually everything about her, to a film featuring her. The film’s name is Bala Nagamma! The film started, and there was Sri Devi sending my brother to heaven with her looks and moves and 12 minutes into the film a magician sends a curse her way, cinematically delivered with a sweeping curve of a magic wand, accompanied by dusts of holy ash and clouds out of nowhere and turns Sri Devi into a ………………….DOG!

Sri Devi is freed at the end of the film by her son, but my brother stormed out of the cinema hall at the 14th minute!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A quarter kilogram of silver.

A quarter kilogram of silver.









The silver shekel was not a coin, but rather 8.33 grams of silver. When Hammurabi’s Code declared that a superior man who killed a slave woman must pay her owner twenty silver shekels, it meant that he had to pay 166 grams of silver, not twenty coins –“Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Thus 30 pieces of silver would amount to 249.9 grams of silver!





The sense of guilt hit him once again. As it happened every time. Every time he had to wash, dress up and leave for his home after making love with his lover, the sense of guilt consumed him. It was as powerful as the exhilaration he had felt during the act of making love in the hours before. He had to be extra careful with his affair; the reasons were as they always are. He was married, rich, stinking rich as a matter of fact and he had a son who was finishing school. Old enough to have his girlfriend. He probably did.

He did not need this affair. His wife was lovely, accommodating and committed. He was not henpecked. Their married life could be labelled as a successful one. He had everything a man needed. Money, family, loving wife and a comfortable life. He was , hence, the proof that humans have a knack for complicating life.

His feeling of guilt was not strong enough for him to overcome his temptation. And his lover was the least demanding. She demanded nothing, spoke very little and was always ready. He knew nothing about her personal life. They met in a party, liked each other and connected. Simple as that. All their meetings were at his initiation. She never asked for a meeting, never communicated, always replied, never refused. He was convinced that she would never contact him if he never approached her after one of the visits.

His wife was a loving woman. But not a fool. She sensed something was wrong. She could never muster up the courage to ask him directly. What if her apprehensions were wrong and unfounded and she ended up hurting him. Or worse still, provoked him to go and commit adultery. But her gut feeling could not be ignored. She even followed him on a few occasions, trembling with fear and uncertainty. And always ended up feeling more miserable for suspecting him, as, in all those occasions, never once did he commit an act of misdemeanour.

There is no curse worse than the seed of suspicion. She started to get edgy. She was nervous most of the times. Lost her interest in most things. This state of affairs started telling on her health. Psychosomatic is what her doctor told her. Emotions so strong, the self-induced stress starts to actually manifest in physical ailments. She needed to visit her doctor more frequently with a series of complaints. Migraine, bowel disturbances, back ache, stiff neck, cramped muscles, joint pains, frequent cold, occasional fever. She had them all.
She started to lose weight.

It was when she started to lose weight that her husband noticed the problem. He was concerned and the medication and treatments intensified as he refused to ignore the recurring health issues as non-alarming or irrelevant. The deterioration was rapid.

Now he went through a cycle he found difficult understand. He was sad for his wife, was disturbed, needed the comfort of his lover more, felt more guilty each moment he spent with his lover, returned to find his wife showing no signs of improving, felt sadder and the cycle repeated all over again.

The administrations of the ever dependable doctor was not showing any signs towards recovery. The doctor tried his best. Changed medicines, doses, alternated between allopathy and naturopathy and acupressure and acupuncture and Ayurveda. And the doctor was more convinced that what was ailing her has its roots in her mind and not in her body.

He, being the family friend, and having treated all the members of the family over the years, took the liberty of talking to her husband.

“It is strange. And I am worried, to say the least. She is continuously losing weight and I need to utter the dreaded C word, I am testing her for cancer tomorrow. The probability is too low, but I would like to be sure. If I am confidently eliminating the dreaded C then I would have more confidence in the ongoing medication”

It was an information. Not a request.

The husband went into deeper remorse. The waiting period while the blood had been sent for the analysis was nerve wrecking. The mind sought only one avenue of reducing stress. The lover, the ever-willing one, never once asked anything about the increase in the frequency of their meeting.

The doctor called to say that the report was negative. It was the first time in his life that the husband realized that the word “negative” could make someone so happy. While the dreaded C was put to rest, the deteriorating condition of the wife continued. She was pale and weak. While the smile was always present, the grimace behind the smile could not be hidden successfully.

Mustering up all the courage the husband asked her one day, “What is troubling you dear? I am certain that there is something that is gnawing at your mind. Please tell me if there is something that I could do.”

All he received in reply were the same three answers.

A smile.

A shrug indicating all is well.

A verbal assurance that she is just tired.

After the blood report ruling out cancer, things looked up a little. She was returning to some sort of normalcy.
There were times that she thought that she would ask her husband directly if he was cheating on her.

She was unsure.

An affirmation would give him carte blanche to whatever he had been doing, as yet unconfirmed.

A negation would only make her more convinced that there was indeed something wrong, but a thing that could not be confirmed.

She thought of hiring some detectives but the very idea started to look ridiculous on deeper inspection.

What would she tell the detective? How could she talk about her inner demons to a complete stranger? And how trustworthy are these detectives anyway? What is the guarantee the detective would not turn into a future blackmailer?

The second bout of illness that followed was catastrophic.

Her deterioration was rapid. She was becoming gaunt and started to look alarmingly anaemic.

The decision of whether to hospitalize her or not was taken out of the hand of the husband when she collapsed on a Sunday morning.

The next few weeks were a blur. The unit for pain is “dol”. (Now all those painkillers with dol in their name suddenly makes more sense). There are various scales available for arranging the pain that a human can endure starting from the lowest (banging your toe against a rock, a simple “ouch”) to the highest (a kick in the testicle, childbirth.. “Oh My Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawd”). But there is no scale available to measure the pain that a person feels without any physical cause. The husband was on this level. He was so disturbed and so shaken up looking at his wife deteriorating right in front of his eyes that the pain he felt was almost physical. Probably worse than the physical. The pain escalated probably because of the sense of guilt that he started to acknowledge.

For some strange reason, he started to feel responsible for her predicament. He came to a conclusion that her ailment was a result of his disloyalty. On more than one occasion he came close to confessing his shameful digression. But he just could not bring himself to the task.

The doctor was worried looking at the condition of the husband and was mentally prepared to start treating both of them.

It was a Friday. As a matter of fact, Good Friday. The day a poor carpenter’s son was administered a gruesome ending to his 33 years of existence on earth.

There was something wrong. It could be felt in the air; so palpable was it. The husband was intercepted before he could reach his wife’s room in the hospital by a sober looking stocky short nurse. The nurse was waiting with a specific instruction to bring him to the doctor ASAP.

If the nurse bore an expression of someone receiving news about an Ebola outbreak, the doctor looked as if he had discovered a black mamba under his duvet.

“Early this morning, few of her vital organs collapsed, I had no other option but to put her on life support. It is difficult to say if she is responding well as anything short of a complete collapse is considered an improvement at this stage. She is not on ventilator. You may be a bit taken aback with the number of tubes that are running into and out of her body. She is not in a stage of coma. Her response, if there is any, may, however be a little incoherent”

The doctor did not rattle off the stuff above. He patiently explained it as if he was talking to someone who was intellectually challenged. The husband, known to be patient listener, listened in complete silence.

He was petrified. Did not know how to react. Crying did not come easily to him. He never cried when his parents died, prematurely, in a car crash. He did not cry when there was not much left of them in the crash for even a proper funeral ceremony.

He did not remember walking the distance from the doctor’s room to his wife’s bedside. He looked at her and talons of grief tore at his heart. She had become almost white, translucent at edges and she was either fast asleep or totally unconscious. The heaving bosom was the only sign of that she was still alive.

Medicine never interested him and all the monitors and panels around her did not make any sense to him. For reasons unknown, all the monitors had green colored lines and trends on black background. He understood graphs that showed green in a preferred zone and red in danger zone. This almost monochromatic trends conveyed nothing to him. The two bottles of IV fluid connected to her was so colorless, it could have been water.

Her pupils moved sporadically behind her closed eyelids. Did she feel anything? Could she hear if he spoke to her? He had this premonition that he was losing her. He wanted her to come around, just once, just for a few minutes, so that he could confess to her. She deserved to know the truth before she died. He would never be able to live in peace if he could not confess his indiscretion to her. Was it really indiscretion or a planned conscious lapse?

He lost track of time. He did not want to sleep. He did not want to miss that small window to confess, if she woke up from her current state.

She stirred awake a little before midnight. Her face was ashen. Her looks clouded. There was hardly any strength or will to move her limbs. Her tongue snaked out and tried to moisten her parched lips. She looked around, totally disoriented, looked at the tangled web of tubes running in and out of her and exhaled sadly. Her roving eyes passed her husband and returned to him in a sad acknowledgement. Her look conveyed helplessness, pain and almost a sorry expression that was almost apologetic.

He had been rehearsing throughout the day. He had also been secretly hoping that he would not have to do it. That she would peacefully pass off without ever gaining full consciousness thereby removing the onus of confession from him. Life is known for landing you in positions that you never imagined, never wanted, never expected.

He mustered enough courage, held her hand, the ever reliable human gesture of affection and honesty, looked her straight in her eye and confessed. He had kept it short. He just mentioned that he had been not loyal to her, he had been cheating on her, been sleeping with another woman, mentioned her name and sought forgiveness.

Her look turned from pained to incredulous to sheer horror and settled to one of complete resignation. She had no strength to display any of her hurt. Her eyes told the misery she felt. He was sorry that it had to come to this. She closed her eyes, not dramatically like in cinemas, but out of sheer exhaustion. All the pains and hurt she felt took shape and trickled out of her eyes in a steady stream of tears, that left a snail like trail between the corner of her eyes to her ears.

He expected his confession to make him feel light and absolved. It made him feel like a vermin. He let her hand go from his grip, ashamed to hold her anymore. The hand dropped like a dead leaf. Her silent tears cut through him like a hot knife. He had never felt more miserable in his life.

He had woken up with his whole body aching. He had slept, seated in his chair by the side of her bed. The stain of two lines between the corners of her eyes to the ears reminded him of the painful moments of the previous night. The panels around her, the beeping monitors and her conditions had all remained the same. She looked as lifeless as she was the previous day. The chest movements were no longer a steady pattern. It was disturbed and troubled. The body remained still.

The doctor came for his morning rounds and insisted that the husband went home.

“There is no change in her systems. If the condition did not deteriorate her chances would be better. It is difficult to say anything now. But one thing is certain. You staying here would not change anything. You need rest too, please go home and take some rest”

There was nothing to argue against that instruction. He went home and collapsed onto his bed without even removing his shoes. He slept through the day and woke up because he was hungry. He fixed himself a light meal and returned to the hospital for his vigil. It was like he never left her in between. Someone must have sponged her, the face was clean and there were no streaks of dried tears. It also meant that she probably never woke up after the previous night.

He felt light now, a full 24 hours after his confession. And he was clear in his mind that he had done the right thing. The doctor met him before leaving, and his double handed handshake was more in commiseration than a mere wish. The look of resignation on the doctor’s countenance was unmistakable.
Both of them silently acknowledged that they were only waiting.
For the inevitable.

He drifted off to sleep more easily and stretched on the spare bed.

Easter Sunday. The day of resurrection. He woke up and almost fell out of his bed. She was still lying in her bed, all parts of her body as immobile as they were the previous two days, but her head was turned in his direction and she was looking at him with zero expression. Her look was intense, almost scrutinizing. He jumped up and rang the bell and one of the nurses rushed in, and he was pointing at his wife, mouthing no words, just a mixture of incredulity, joy and silent terror on his face. The nurse had one look at the wife, consulted all the charts, adjusted few knobs on those monitors and went out to page the doctor.

The doctor arrived soon. His face was beaming. He broke into a wide grin at the end of an hour and told her husband that this was nothing short of a miracle, and probably he would present a paper in the next conference if he would permit.

Her recovery was as slow as her deterioration. The husband felt naked in her presence now. He was embarrassed. He could not hold any conversation. He was happy that she had come around and was equally aghast on what would transpire in a matter of weeks.

The wife was completely silent. She never uttered a word. She never smiled. It appeared as if she was harnessing all her energy in getting well and returning home.

And recovered her health, she did.

The first words she spoke to her husband when they reached their home were“I would like a divorce”

He started to object, tried to explain, wanted to give their life a second chance, pleaded for understanding.

He spoke for hours, she outdid him in patient listening, she never once interrupted him and when he had finished, had said all that he wanted to say, she said once again

“I would like a divorce, please”

The husband who had never cried all his life, sat down on the floor and cried his heart out.

The process of divorce was a long drawn one but eventually it worked out. The custody of the child, already a strapping young boy, was not too complicated. He expressed his desire to stay in a hostel and was all right with visiting rights allocated to both his parents. He was never close to his parents and the new arrangement did not bother him much.

The alimony was substantial, but barely a dent on his vast fortune.

The husband did not fight the alimony amount, he expected the settlement to cleanse him off his sin.

He stopped seeing his lover. Probably there was no wife to cheat took the sheen off. He never understood why.

As days passed, the husband sank into a deeper misery. All those days of exquisite pleasure and the thrill of two-timing his wife was gone. He sank into the predictable routine of a man paying for his sins. He was constantly soliloquizing, wore a constant mask of grimace, snapped at his colleagues unnecessarily resulting in the few close to him to drift away, leaving him more isolated, thus increasing his sense of despondency. The empty home did little to alleviate his sadness.

To his surprise, he started to realize how much of his daily life revolved around his wife, a matter that he had taken for granted. From simple things like breakfast and juice on the table, to folded socks and underwear in the correct chest of drawers, to the little more routine of utility bills and services and payments to thousand things like gardener, watchman, servant maid, cleaning services, home insurance, car insurance, ……….

The whole mental misery started to reflect on his physical appearance and in his overall health. The temptation to self-flagellate as a redeeming act for his sins of the day past, that of not continuing with his erstwhile, ever accommodating, lover only exaggerated his overall sense of discomfort.

In a nutshell his life was reduced to one of utmost misery, nullifying all those days of ephemeral pleasure and thrill. Nothing could be considered as worthwhile against the current state. The more he revisited his stupid, careless days the more he was convinced that ONLY he is responsible for the current state.

And he squirmed further knowing that he had been directly responsible for such untold misery his wife had undergone because of him. He realized that he could never forgive himself, even if his loving wife decided to forgive him after stoically bearing all that he unleashed on her.

The wife was getting used to her new life. There was no need to work to earn a living. The sizeable alimony took care of that aspect. There was now enough time to pick up new hobbies. She started to learn to paint. There was a small garden at the back of the house to keep her busy and satisfied. She was getting into a routine of working the garden in the morning and going for a run around the park after lunch. She kept her lunch light to keep her running swift. If someone had been following her, they could have set their clock by the time she finished her afternoon run and returned home.

Probably, at least one gentleman was following her routine as she found him arriving at her gate just as she finished her run and returned home.

Her face broke into a terrified look and she dragged him inside quickly and shut the door.

“Everything worked as planned. It was a gamble but we had to take it. If he had not confessed, all the charade of falling health would have been a waste. But, no pain, no gain. Correct?” He smiled mischievously.

       Her face broke into a smile, now that she was safe behind the closed doors, and she nodded her head in agreement.

“Now that the divorce is over and done with, and it has been five months already, when are we going to get married” he asked anxiously, inching closer to her.

She held him off at arm’s distance, put a finger to her mouth and transferred the kiss to his lips and said

“Few more months, Doctor”