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10 - You Aren't Quite in Step!

10 - You Aren't Quite in Step!

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Published by Arvind Passey

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Published by: Arvind Passey on Jul 22, 2009
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05/11/2014

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Date: 30 March 1998 A short-story written by Arvind Passey Word count: 824

You Aren’t Quite in Step!

She spoke no angry words. Her replies sounded effortless. Why then this awkward restlessness? Why did I try to get away from asking more personal questions and why did even a pause in what she spoke summon another droplet of agonising sweat and add to my uneasiness? Anyway, the good thing is that she is far away right now and so could not possibly have even sensed the turmoil that I had been experiencing on the telephone. “Why am I feeling so ill at ease today?” asked Kokila as she came in and sat on the bed opposite me, and then as if she remembered a long lost detail, urged me on with another query, “Who were you talking to...?” “Water...glass of water...,” I managed to speak through my dried up lips. Kokila again heaved herself from the bed with what seemed to be a lot of effort, and slowly swayed towards the kitchen. That gave me some more time with my own thoughts. Not that my wife ever tries to interfere when she senses that I am with my thoughts...but with uncomfortable thoughts like the ones that are with me now, her presence would not only add to their intensity but would tend to come out in the form of a discussion. That would surely cause physical pain. I didn’t want that to happen. Thoughts such as these must exist only as thoughts. I did not want to share them with my wife too. “You are not well... you were saying...,” I started asking as Kokila returned with the much needed glass of water. “Nothing really,” she replied as she once again settled herself comfortably on the edge of the bed diagonally opposite to where I sat. There was silence. That is how it always has been between the two of us. Nothing unusual, I thought, I must quickly find words to fill the distance and that would keep her busy. Though she would do that by nodding a lot and getting up to fetch me another glass of water. I know it as it has happened with me every time we have been left to ourselves in a small room. My expression must have changed for I could observe Kokila on the verge of starting her nodding exercise...it must have surely been a smile for her head was starting to tilt a bit 1

towards the right. Forty-two years of life together makes understanding each other so easy! “Ti was on the phone,” I said, “and we have chatted for a long time after a long time.” Whenever I used such phrases, I felt eager to use more of them, and so continued, “I was telling her how well I was smelling new ideas for short-stories these days...and new ideas of telling the...,” I paused for Kokila to begin nodding, “compelling realities of life. She did not speak much, but then how could she? She is a guest there and must take care not to talk much. Though I did ask her how Bahenji was now. She is not very well and was asleep. Maybe that is why Ti was not speaking so much...” “You were talking to Arundhati.” “Yes.” It always surprises me how easily my wife understands what I intend to tell her. Somehow, the staff at office never...they must be pretending not to understand me. That is the way things go on in government offices here. So I continued with what I was saying, “It is good that I have retired after all these years. God’s grace is with us. I have started earning money even out of writing now. No, we were not able to talk about the volume of shortstories that I presented to her...” “She is at Bakrola.” Kokila enquired, steadying her nods for a moment. “Bakrola? Yes, yes, she is there for the weekend...and I must say, I like the way you ask your questions. That is an art. We should all learn to ask without making it sound like a query and the other person must answer as if a query has been put. Yes, it is indeed very artful.” I paused to reconsider what I was saying and what I wanted to assert, and continued, “We must plan a visit to Bahenji’s house in a day or two. She is not well and may need my advice...and your presence,” I added. At this, as if it was a cue for her to get up, Kokila heaved herself from her comfort so I accelerated my request, “No, I don’t think I need any more water right now.” I closed my eyes, silently chanted thrice the mantra given to me by my guru and then told myself firmly not to be so free with such requests at such moments. I did want to be left alone with my rambles into my own plans so even those few shuffled instants would have helped.

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