As he switched off the lights of their small bedroom, the world around Varun Pal and his wife of 3 years suddenly came to a standstill. Neither he, nor his wife Madhavi seem to have anything to give each other anymore. Theirs is a done and dusted, dead marriage now that is reeling under its own wounds. The wall clock blared birds’ chirping sound in eleven rythmic repetitions. They had received this wall clock as a wedding gift. Madhavi loved its chirping sound initially, but now it’s nothing more than an unwanted shriek, that’s sounds disgusting to her ears. Amidst the awkward silence of the house, perhaps these two birds seated on their nest, is the only sound that is heard at regular intervals.
The nest is a beautiful one, tiny, cosy, with few tigs here and there. Varun glances at the perfectly built small nest, while it’s pendulum swung from one corner to the other.
Varun and Madhavi had first met each other years back in Art College. Though his family profession was that of pottery, Varun had a special knack for the brushes and the colors. He loved to take his brush through the various contours of the human body and create those bolder lines on the canvas appear real and alive. Varun was a human portrait painter, an artist to the truest sense.
In his 3rd year in Art college, he had first met Madhavi. A dark skinned, slim figured, tall girl, Madhavi didn’t have anything overtly sensational about her, yet there was something that drew him strongly towards her from the day he set his eyes upon her. The whole day would be spent stealing glances at Madhavi at various instances and the nights would be invested in breathing life into her contours on his canvas.
6 years went by, Varun by that time had become quite an acclaimed artist in the small circle of upcoming human portrait painters in the city. Madhavi, was an art teacher in a school by then. Right from their college days, they were as their friends claimed the ‘made for each other’ couple. They perfectly complemented each other and looked just too good together.
After years of endless waiting, life seemed to be in their clasp finally. Their wedding was just a month away and both Madhavi and Varun were weaving hopes of a blissful life ahead.
Everything seemed to be picture perfect, but then that fateful evening happened. Madhavi was returning after taking her tuition classes when a group of hooligans brushed past her pulling the dupatta away from her body.
Madhavi was totally taken aback, not a girl to take anything lying down, she shrieked hoarse and made vehement protests, assembling quite a few passersby within minutes. The guys couldn’t manage to escape and got badly beaten up by an equally irate public on the street.
As Madhavi walked past them, she snatched her dupatta from the guy who had pulled it off. She noticed, his bloodshot eyes glaring at her with fire in them, they were unapologetic, furious, vengeful. Those eyes pricked something within her. Filled with abhorrence, she spat on his face, pulled the edge of the dupatta one final time that was still clutched in his fingers and rushed off.
Same day night, she was shown her place for what she did. A bottle full of acid was smashed at her.
Next day morning, almost every newspaper had her featured on its headlines, her name flashed on its reels in big, bold letters. Madhavi suddenly became a household name, someone everyone sympathised with but noone actually knew much about.
While the world came crashing on her, life was never the same for Varun too. His colleagues, old friends, almost everyone he knew asked him and enquired about Madhavi. As days passed, instead of the news getting subdued, it became even more talked about due to its continued newspaper coverage in some daily or the other.
In his mind, he felt as if the whole world was witnessing and debating the in and outs of a rather personal trauma, his very own tragedy is now out in the market, a topic open for long hours of discussion. In his mind, Madhavi was now a public topic of discussion and debates and sympathy. The simple, undiluted life of a painter who took pleasures in the little joys of life was lost forever.
After a month in the hospital, Madhavi came back home. She looked like an apparition of her former self, far beyond recognition.
She lost her beautiful round lips, her nose and partly her ears. Almost 80% of her face was burnt. Just those eyes remained. Once sensuous and fiery, those eyes looked tired and spent now.
She had refused to marry Varun after the incident, however, it was he who insisted on marrying her. Varun had said that his love for her is beyond everything else, atleast that is what he thought and believed then.
Few months into the marriage, the nights started becoming unbearable. No matter how much he tried to look at her with love, touch her with care and embrace her with affection, Varun couldn’t bring himself to loving her again, it wasn’t possible anymore.
Things changed and drastically so for both him and her. Her lips were badly burnt, the sight that ignited Varun years back, looked sickening to him now. Her nose are now just two blunt holes. Her ears, a small round of flesh put together haphazardly.
Their first night together had left a bad taste in his mouth, post which their love life turned from bad to worse. Varun lost the courage or the will to go any closer. The woman who incited the manly zest in him once, inspired some of his best creations, is today an object of aversion. The woman he wanted to possess so dearly at one time, he wishes to get rid of now with all his heart and soul
Varun is surprised to see this change in him. As an artist, he found all answers to his artistic quests in Madhavi, but today he feels empty, his paintings are no more alive, when he looks from inside his creations, they look vaccuum. Love has left him, life has left him.
Now that the lights are off, they cannot see each others faces anymore. There in that quiet night, two people, husband and wife, lying on either sides of the bed, made a secret resolve.
They know they aren’t required in each other’s lives anymore and that nothing is left of their marriage anymore. There in that quiet night, two people, now strangers, swore to themselves to break out of this meaningless, hollow societal bond that is throttling them every moment of their wakening hours. The wall clock struck 12.
Madhavi took a deep breath and glanced at the small little pendulum nest that was now swinging to and fro. A perfect nest, inside a broken one, she thought to herself.