Thursday, June 19, 2008

Parched Lips of Desire

Inspired by the television drama, “Tell Me You Love Me”.

Akanksha demurely fussed over her skirt as she waited outside the closed teak doors. She had been, for some time now, pretending to straighten out a few imaginary creases. Or plausibly not. One couldn’t be too sure. The fidgeting had caught the attention of the small urchin who was trying to serve tea to the victimized faces in the waiting room. He looked at her expectedly, smiling his most affable grin. She politely turned down the offer and shooed him off. “This is no time for tea”, she reprimanded herself. The urchin loitered off, disgusted, and the fidgeting resumed after a moment’s notice.

Her pale blue blouse was in sharp contrast with the black skirt. A necklace of perfectly white pearls and a pair of modish sandals completed the guise. The dress had seemed so somber that she had thought about changing into something livelier more than once. She didn’t want Shlok suspecting anything. Not now at least. However, deciding that the purpose was probably just as gruesome, she had gone along with the prior choice.

A sign on the door, in golden letters, proclaimed the presence of Dr. Renu Makhija, Psychotherapist within the hallowed confines. She waited for it to devolve into something less intimidating. When she started smarting with the lack of consequence, she chose to look away. Another couple shared the waiting room. It would be some time before she would be called in, it dawned on her.

The leave from work had been difficult to explain. But she had handled the situation deftly. Shlok did not know. Of course. It was best that way. Akanksha had deliberated over this visit for some time now. He had been apprehensive about the whole idea. His unwillingness had even metamorphosed into an altercation that had seen him sleeping in the guest bedroom. He had held onto the opinion that once they accepted the idea they were a couple with problems, they would become one too. She had been a bit more open minded. Or maybe plain ignorant. Ultimately, she had decided to proceed on her own.

Five minutes later, the couple went in. They somehow seemed a bit ill at ease for people who were going to share their best kept secrets with a total stranger. Secrets about their troubled relationship. Taboos about their sex life. Squabbles over in laws and what not. Maybe theirs was a first time too. And mulling over that line of thought, Akanksha began to retrospect on what had gone wrong.

It was a ritual she had indulged in often. Without much consequence. A money plant in the lobby caught her wary eye. She smiled absent mindedly. Shlok and her were comfortably well off. But affluence can not guarantee everything. She had only now begun to comprehend the beauty of the cliché. Their busy schedules hardly gave them time for each other. The problem was, neither of them complained about it. But that was just one of the reasons, some obvious many indistinct.

What had started off as a picture perfect love affair, had now managed to assume a much more sinister form. Conversations had assumed the garb of a compulsion with alarming ease. As long as they possibly could, they avoided every mention of everything. It had been almost a year since they had made love to each other. It was not like any of them was having an affair. They still loved each other. Very much. But the spark had somehow fizzled out. She questioned whether loving each other was enough. Shlok simply chose to ignore the questions, fearing the answers might throw up more demons than he was prepared to face. Their life had turned into one of the clichés they had once abhorred.

The daytime reverie breathed its last when it was finally time for her to see the therapist. Akanksha thought about running away when her name was called out. About giving Shlok another chance. About crying and hoping everything would be set in order. About somehow resolving their differences just like they had managed to as a young couple, madly in love with life. And with each other. Maybe even she had come to believe that there was no coming back from this. It would just be a desperate attempt to salvage something that had already been lost. A fight against a few evens, and several odds. But she was not willing to witness the downfall like a mute spectator. So she steadied herself once again and walked in.

Dr. Renu turned out to be a wizened old granny who had somehow managed to hold on to the glow of her youth. Her face was comforting, as if she knew the cure. Already. Without even listening to her problems. The beige couch was frighteningly comfortable and Akanksha made it her oasis in the desert of the office.

Dr. Renu spoke nothing for the first few minutes, probably trying to weigh the gravity of the desperation she would be confronted with. She had, as a marriage counselor, managed to salvage several wrecked relationships. Hopefully, this would end up as being another one of them. Once the introductions were over, she asked Akanksha why her husband wasn’t there.

“He, Shlok, has some misgivings about this rigmarole. His apprehensions. We have our differences.”

“The sad part is, Shlok’s apprehensions probably have more weight than you give them credit for. It won’t be long before you both start arguing over this, well, rigmarole. Your husband will feel misrepresented and outraged that he doesn’t have a voice in something that’s so important for your relationship. He will feel angry and would invariably end up on the same couch, beside you, hyperventilating about how unfair all this has been. Then we might progress to the next phase of this therapy. Is that how you want it?”

The wily old fox seems to understand this, thought Akanksha. It’s her job after all, thought she again. “I guess he will understand”, she ended up muttering, more under her breath than over it.

“Let’s forget about your husband for a while. What do you want?”

“I don’t know. I guess I want to be close to him again. Like we used to be.”

“Do you think something like sex would make that happen? Or is it connection on a philosophical level that has gone missing? Do you feel that you want to have the same kind of romance that you enjoyed when you guys first started off?”

“I was hoping you would be able to sort out that tangle.”


A few days into therapy, Akanksha decided to break the news to Shlok. Office had not been pleasant for him that day. The traffic even more so. Common sense dictated she postpone the trauma for some other day. However, she decided to pile it on him all at once. The melodrama turned out to just as she had expected it to be.

“Shlok, we don’t try out anything anymore. I mean it’s been almost a year. Not that I am hinting at anything. But still. We sometimes need to get out of this mess we have landed ourselves into. Get it out of our system.”

“You know, we do my version of things.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That means I love you. And that’s what matters. We have been around for a while now. We are not going anywhere. Not me. Not you.”

“This is not who I want to be Shlok. Or not what I wanted to be. You never help me.”

“Akanksha, all I do is help you. So much so, I am sometimes sick of helping.”

“I just feel we need to talk about this with someone.”

“Oh, that. Oh. Oh! So you have been seeing a therapist? Haven’t you? And you did not think I was important enough to be included in the decision? Since when have the sessions been going on dear? Since when? And when did you plan on letting the cat out of the bag?”

“It’s just been a few days. You don’t need to get paranoid and start getting hyper about this. I was sick of all the things that kept going around in circles in my head. I needed a way out. You were not ready for it. So I decided to proceed on my own.”

“You really want to do that? Turn us into a couple with problems? That’s a slippery slope you know.”

“So is this. Well, I just did. I am just gonna see how this goes.”

“You talk about me?”

“A little. Not really. It’s mostly about me.”

“Why are you doing all this?”

“Why do you care?”

“If we have sex, will all this go away?”

“Are you kidding? Please don’t dwell on that subject.”

“No. Maybe this was needed for me to know how much it matters to you.”

“Please don’t. Please.”


A month later, Akanksha chanced to meet Nethra, a friend from college. Over a cup of coffee and two sugar free pastries, she opened up to her. The incessant battering of her emotions over the past few weeks had left her considerably weak as far as restraint was concerned. Even things not meant to be discussed over coffee were debated about with abandon. For a second, even Nethra was stumped. But she must have sensed the plight in her friend’s voice. So she chose to just listen. Sometimes that is all it takes.

“Do couples start hating each other if they stop having sex?”

“I think they stop having sex, and then they realize they hate each other.”

“No, is it like they start hating each other because they stop having sex? Or the other way round?”

“Sex is a great thing to hide behind, you know. Do you get what I mean?”

“I am not that sure. It should be more than just that. Love was a beautiful experience.”


  1. I was waiting for you to spoil it all throughout. But you didn't. And that is to your credit. Good piece without much jhol-jhaal. Just one thing - the conversations could have been a little better.

    And yes, the lines of poetry in between seemed awfully out of place.

  2. Piper. I am honored that my self-obsessed self could come up with something that does not please just the self. Conversations could have been better. Yes. But imagination was found wanting. I have never been in such a situation na. It's lyrics. And I just had to put it there :(

    El. It's taking people a lot of attempts to finally post a comment on the blog. Should I be worried?

  3. interesting...but I don't know..left me dissatisfied in the end. .....

  4. bahut bada hai.... it really exausted me and my memory isnt woth me anymore....

  5. you get a new chandni! i need one too man. Anyway this post left me somewhat dissatisfied :| but i remember you touching a similar theme while discussing eyes wide shut...right?

  6. Chandni. :|

    Pinky. Tum rest karo. Jab glucose maatra normal ho jaaye to padhna. Reading requires a lot glucose.

    Woman. You are jealous :D
    This is somewhat different than that one. But maybe I haven't realized ki same sa ho gaya.

    ps - all the chandni's seem dissatisfied.

    now i know i should be worried


  7. Yaar please...mujhpe ehsaan karo...its 'honour'...'honor' mat likha did the same in your resume also