March 26, 2010
The flight had taken off from Toronto’s Pearson Airport on the previous day, landed at Frankfurt airport at 7:30 next morning. The fatigue and disorientation after a long flight from a different time zone had affected Steven’s mind and body. To return back to the composed state was an uphill task. Severe headache bothered him. He wasn’t sure if the pain in his head was caused by lack of sleep or by unrestrained intake of scotch during journey. He collected his laptop bag and walked towards the washroom in passenger lobby.
Steven felt lot better after he brushed his teeth and splashed water on his face. He could sense the reactivation of mind and body. The ample number of duty free shops caught his eye as he stepped out. He ambled towards the shops and checked prices of variety of items. The price was indicated in Euros. He found it far more exorbitant than his assumption.
He stopped at coffee shop and stood behind the line. Steven waited for his turn behind five customers on the front. He flashed a credit card from his wallet and ordered for a coffee and sandwich.
“Sorry sir.” The lady at the counter politely refused. “The credit card machine is out of order. At this moment we accept only cash.”
Though he had Canadian dollars in his pocket his reaction suggested a state of unwillingness. He knew if paid in dollars, the loose change would be given back in Euros. The idea of converting the currency back into dollars at an exchange counter was not accepted by his mind. The thought of having a snack was given up. The displeasure was evident. Steven almost tripped when he turned and faced the lady waiting behind him. He gasped for breath while unexpectedly looking at his ex-wife Jennifer!
He was stunned and momentarily believed as if entrapped in trance. The chronological events of their past was ripped open stirred by emotions. He struggled to regain his tranquility. They had exchanged marital vows almost 10 years back in Malad’s Orlem Church. The separation had taken place in less than 2 years. There after they had met while passing thru procedures of divorce. Once the annulment was officially declared they kept themselves away from each other until today at Frankfurt airport! Steven shook his head in disbelief.
“Next.” The lady at the coffee shop counter reminded him.
“Hi.” Jennifer greeted. “I overheard what she said. I have Euros. I hope you wouldn’t mind if I pay your bill.”
She didn’t bother to wait for his consent. The lady at the counter pushed the tray containing sandwich and coffee after accepting the payment. Steven was left with no choice but to pick up the tray. They made themselves comfortable at a table close to the glass pane facing the runway.
A question plausibly goaded in his brain….. ‘What is she doing in Frankfurt?’
“I was in Dusseldorf for a cosmetics and beauty product exhibition.” She reacted as if she read his mind. “I was asked to represent by my company. Now I am on my way back.”
“I have moved to Canada.” Steven voluntarily asserted. “I have been living in Brampton past 3 years.”
“You had shown least interest When I had proposed the idea of migration. Now you have moved on your own.” She carped with a grin.
“I wasn’t ready psychologically and financially. Then we had just married.” He unsmilingly replied. “Remember, we had just shifted from Malad to Andheri. I was more focused on shifting to Bandra. Having an apartment in Bandra was my dream and obviously I was concentrating on savings.”
“You were falling short in marshalling your resources. On the other hand you also wanted me to resign from job to have babies and look after the house.” Jennifer continued.
“I still believe, it is prerequisite in any marriage. The wife has to give prime importance to fulfill the needs of her husband.” Steven thoughtfully answered.
“Our separation would have left me helpless if I had resigned and had gone for babies!” She was proud of her decision.
“A husband’s desires have to be satisfied by her wife. I find no fault in such expectations.” Steven insisted.
“On the contrary even the husband has to give attention in gratifying the wishes of his wife.” She maintained. “But you were such a big miser, not ready to spend a penny on me! I was tired of your lectures on unwanted expenditure. In your eyes I was a spendthrift and you always insisted for your consent for spending even from my own paycheck.”
“Anyway my dream to move over to Bandra remained unaccomplished. The real estate market shot up. By then I lost both my parents. Nothing was working out as per the plan. I was depressed and wanted a change. Canada was the most appropriate choice.” He bit into the sandwich.
“I think you men are all self-centered.” She tore the sugar packet and poured the contents into the coffee. “The wishes of wives are always conveniently ignored.”
“This applies for both men and women.” Steven attempted to smile. “Do you think the desires of men are treated with enough attention by their partners?”
“I forgot to tell you.” She remembered something. “Your dream of buying an apartment in Bandra would have fulfilled if we had not divorced.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have been living with Mom in Bandra for last couple of years.” She explained. “We received a large amount of insurance soon after my Dad’s demise. The shifting to Bandra was done as our financial difficulties came to an end.”
“I wouldn’t have claimed or accepted, what belonged to your Mom.” Steven was clear in thoughts. “My conscience wouldn’t have permitted.”
“Is it the conscience or the ego? “ She didn’t hesitate to question him. “I think you still carry your egoistic attitude.”
‘The encounter had taken place after many years of separation and they were efficiently engaged in pointing out each other’s negative aspects. Couldn’t they try to be affirmative? Was it the last bid to detach the dirt which had accumulated possibly caused by multi-layered aversion?’ Steven was found lost in his thoughts.
“Why are you silent?” She sipped the coffee.
“I was encountered by a truth.” He spoke after a deep breath. “We never ever had the heart to appreciate each other’s positives. Even today we seem not grown beyond this point.”
“But except for one difference.” She expressed her opinion. “Earlier such disagreements would make us emotionally distressful. But no more, today we sound cheerful even with conflicting thoughts.”
“Do you remember the day of our wedding?” Steven recalled. “We were labeled as the most beautiful and blissful couple.”
“I remember.” She nodded. “But it proved beyond doubt that outer appearance is ephemeral. Life partners stick together when their mental frequency gets connected. If compatibility crashes they end up as strangers.”
“Does such compatibility exist in every successful married life?” He quietly questioned her.
“……………” Now it was Jennifer’s turn to remain silent.
“When the frequency gets detached in a couple’s life, they are rescued by their compromises.” Steven stated.
“Compromise in life is like a balancing act.” Jennifer articulated with a weak smile. “Such act is normally channelized by tolerance and endurance. Frankly we didn’t have those virtues.”
“Do you have it now?” He was curious.
Jennifer didn’t make any effort to think and reply. She got up as the pubic announcement system declared the flight departure to Mumbai.
“I think we are destined to travel in the same flight.” Steven pulled the tray, disposed waste contents in the bin and placed empty tray on top.
They reached the check in counter and stood behind the line waiting for their turn.
“Do you still live alone?” Jennifer’s unanticipated question surprised him.
‘Why is she inquisitive? Does that mean she is still open for relationship? It must be hard struggle living in a male dominated society!’
“I am not lonely in life.” Steven cleared his throat. “Internet has become my life partner. I spend most of time on the net surfing, emails, chatting, you-tube, face-book etc. Domestic chore is not an issue anymore. There are enough companies listed on the net satisfy the essential needs of everyday life. Services such as Supermarkets, Catering services, Laundry, Cleaning are available at the click of the button. I have even arranged the adoption of an orphan boy.”
‘Sexual pleasures too could be obtained from the net…….’ He was tempted to express the outline of his view which erupted in his mind. The wavering psyche was somehow controlled.
“Did you find a suitable life partner?” Steven asked her after a brief pause.
“Are you curious to know about my life partner?” She replied with a giggle. “My dog German shepherd has become my most compatible partner. I like his temperament. He is intelligent, protective, obedient, faithful and bonds very well with me. Basically he understands my mood, never refuses my instructions and I truly believe he is a friend for life.”
‘Even in the past I was never desperate for sexual contentment and such desires have subsided in the recent past…….’ She didn’t reveal what appeared in her mind.
They walked together from the check-in counter, but were separated once inside the flight. Their allotted seats were in different corners.