It was only a few days after I opened an account in Facebook that I found Saritha right in its very pages. Though it is now a little over three years since I found her, I can clearly recollect that I invited her friendship. She readily accepted without asking any questions. But our friendship seemed to be permanently grounded. It showed no signs of take- off except that I had not taken into account the mysterious ways of nature that consisted sometimes of having to pass through miles of rocky, sandy and barren lands before one came across surprisingly lavish patches of unexpected verdant pastures, gardens of beautiful flowers and mellow fruit orchards. Life sometimes included an overdose of surprises and twists in the tails after too many and too long boring and dry spells.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt from life is that one has only to endure those barren, boring, sometimes seemingly endless periods of desolations and despairs, those dry, uncreative and merely repetitive spells to be blessed with that light at the end of the tunnel, which invariably comes only if you have the patience to wait. When the blessing at the end comes to you, you should be at your place, ready for it. I don’t know If it was because by then my “dry, barren and bad spell” had continued for enough time to have run its full course or because I was ready for the miracle, the light at the end of “the dark night of the soul”, because one is never able to know when that state is reached, but with the very first conversation with Saritha I felt that unknowingly I had come in contact with a live wire that instantly made all my motors running and compelled me to shake all my lethargy, my moribund creativity, my dullness and despair at life. I am going to share here, in the following lines, my experiences with Saritha, one of the three great women of India who have exerted tremendous influences over me. The other two being Nisha, the only woman with whom I had enjoyed some sexual escapades too before I got finally married to someone else and about whom I have already devoted three articles in this blog, and the other is Jewel, one of my office colleagues about whom I have a wish to write an article some day.

One of the aspects of creative writing, like writing a novel or a short story, is to illustrate your point by enough details, by creating situations and individuals who are to bear the burden of the story, by giving them names and places, in other words putting everything and everybody in contexts so that the reader is given “a slice of life itself” as it were to make his understanding easy and complete. If the story teller’s idea and its execution are good enough then the reader may exclaim, “Yes, life is like this not otherwise”. That becomes the writer’s reward. A writer enriches his otherwise outwardly deficient and unglamorous social life by giving some happy, joyful moments to his readers by his creativity. Otherwise most writers of the world were of poor origin and thus automatically were deprived of many things that money could buy. As great a man as Dr. Samuel Johnson once said, “Nobody but a blockhead ever wrote anything not for money.” To this immortal statement and its immortal writer I may humbly make a rejoinder that yes, though everyone writes with some monetary considerations in his mind but money is not the sole consideration. Writing also is an exercise of one’s creativity and any act of creativity is a joy in itself. Otherwise I would have ceased to write long before as I have not earned even a shilling so far out my writing.

The world is not what it seems to be. Seemingly I should not be getting any joy out of writing as it doesn’t fetch me any money but it really gives me lot of joy. Similarly my small Job in a Govt. office should give me all the joys because my livelihood and the wellbeing of my family depend solely on the earning, however meager, from it, but it doesn’t. My job helps me to make a living but sadly I have not been able to make a life out it. I say ‘sadly’ because ten hours of my life daily for the last thirty three years have been largely wastage because the nature of the work was so ordinary that any other man with an average education and ability could have also done it. But the stories I write here could not have been written by just anyone. I consider it as a quirk of nature or as in illness of the society at large that a person who should be encouraged and paid for his creativity is actually wasted in book keeping or accountancy in the process of earning his livelihood. Osho once very correctly had observed that no one was happy in the society because no one was doing what he was created for, what he enjoyed. The one who should have been a dancer was keeping account of a rich man or corporation. So when life came knocking at his door, he was not there. He was at somewhere else, behind some other door waiting for life to knock there for his joy, for his salvation which would never be. Anyway, one can’t change the go of the world; one can’t change the social system even though it is littered with numerous victims of its own people. One can only endeavor to remain creative in spite of it and in the midst of all these. I consider it as a great act of creativity in itself wherever and whomever I have seen it with. The only other equally great act of human creativity is to think of oneself as a spiritual being despite so many evidences, like murders, crimes and corruptions in public life etc., to the contrary.

One early morning as I was engrossed in reading some posts in Facebook, reading all kinds of posts in Facebook was one of my passions those days because I had not been seriously into creative writing by then, all of a sudden my chat window popped open and I was abruptly sucked into the eye of this tornado named Saritha. I cannot call her by any other name because that won’t fit. Her arrival in my life and departure from it was as tumultuous, unexpected and upsetting as a tornado. Well, it happened like this. Her ‘Hi, old man’ was flashing in the chat box window waiting for my reply. As I wrote ‘Hi’ I was wondering who this woman really was and why was she offering me this privilege of holding a person to person private chat which up to that time no woman had given me in Facebook from her side unasked. It was difficult to correctly identify or place her as I was inviting friendship from at least ten men and women each day. However, a few lines later she would clarify that too.
At the outset I asked her to tell me something about herself; especially why she thought of chatting with me.
She replied, “Aren’t you from Bhubaneswar?’’
I said, “Yes, I am. But what has this place got to do with you?”
Completely surprising me by her informal, easy and intimate manner she said, “Once I was almost engaged to a man from your city.”
I asked, “Who is he? Let me see if I know him.”
She replied, “No, that was a long time ago and marriage with that man never materialized. However, now I am happily married with my wonderful husband and have been living in U.S A for the last sixteen years. My husband is an engineer with an MNC. He holds a top post. I have a son and a daughter too.”
I wrote on my chat window with all my wickedness, simplicity, vulnerability and candor unfurled, “Why do all others get the most wonderful spouses except me?”
Without batting an eyelid, as it were, she wrote,” Are you whining?”
I said, “Yes. Why am I stuck with someone who only abuses me, criticizes me and loses no opportunity to put me down? Why has she filled my life with so many problems which were absent before she had come into my life? Why can’t I say like all others that I have got the most wonderful spouse?”
She said, “Don’t whine, don’t grumble and don’t complain. Accept life as it is. What you call as problems are in fact opportunities in disguises. After all, you have chosen her. It is your choice also to continue to live with her. In all cases and at all times you have choices. I don’t believe that anybody is a victim. Come out of this victim mindset and see that you are always free and you have always choices. I don’t like blaming others for one’s miseries. If your wife accuses you of any of your acts of commissions or omissions then know that she is your true friend, even more she is your teacher. Pay heed to her advises and do accordingly. You will be fine. By the way, I can see from your date of birth that you are fifty five; actually for how many years have you been married?”
I said “We are married for a little over 25 years by now. We have two children like you, a daughter and a son. But there the similarity ends. I hold no top jobs. I am a mere accountant in a vast govt. organization where three thousand people like me worked. ”
She said, “You are in Govt.? Then a lot of mullah must be coming your way as kickbacks, bribes or under the table change of money to grease your palms?”

I laughed and said I have never taken any bribe ever. Till today I ride my bicycle to duty. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t have much bank balances either.

She said, ” O.K., O.K. I was speaking in jest. Seriously, a marriage to have lasted that long as yours must have some solid foundations. Find out what are those in your case and nurture them. Most marriages here in America don’t last half as much. Here individual freedom is more and family bonds are a lot less feeble also. Count your blessings”.
I blurted out cutting her short,” I want that kind of individual freedom, I am dying to be free of such family bonds that extinguishes one’s life out of oneself just as a python’s coil does to its victim. Damn with all such hollow Indian pride that we have the lowest divorce rate in the world, just 2 per cent. No one counts how many are killed or get killed by their spouses.”

She said,” I say again that I don’t accept that anyone is a victim. You always have choices. You are always free. You are free to divorce her also.”

I said,” I am not free, I don’t have choices and I can’t divorce her because she won’t give me one. For the last 25 years I have only begged her for a divorce in return of anything she might ask, but she won’t give it. She says she can’t live in the society as a divorcee. It would be a great shame on her and her family. It would be much better, easier and much preferred way for her to kill me or get me killed instead. That way she would not only get whatever I own as my legal heir, she would be entitled for a Govt. job on compassionate ground and family pension also. She needed only to be a little bit careful for not getting caught in the act. This is not her opinion only, it is widely shared. Instead, she advises me to continue living the rest of my life with her, in her grip, as we have till now. I am not killed only because where from she would get the money which I place in her hand on the last day of every month as my pay. So in such a society where your spouse would rather kill you than give you divorce, where is my freedom, where are my choices? Indian court will not give me divorce without her consent. In my situation, won’t you feel as a victim?”

But she stuck to her position that I was always free, I had choices and she considered nobody as a victim. To conclude the chat she said,” I am to quit you now to take my car to a garage”. I requested her to wait a minute longer and let me know in which place of US of A she resided.
She replied,” Which place? Why do you need that unimportant, worthless piece of information? Even what I had in breakfast yesterday is more important information. Don’t ever ask such a silly question again. Bye and take care.”

So much had happened in a first meeting with a woman who had been almost a total stranger till a short while ago. The words and phrases she employed like “ you are always free’’, “you always have choices”, “ nobody is a victim”, “problems are actually opportunities”, “count your blessings”, “your wife is your teacher” were so novel to me that when she had abruptly ended the chat I wondered if by any chance I had met the wisest and the wittiest woman alive. I longed to have more such chats with her. I was in fact dazzled by her wit, her spontaneity and her ready mind. She had typed very fast and words were coming from her like torrents. I had a distinct feeling that while I was typing my long sentences in my slow, novice way she must be getting impatient and so must be reading some other posts till I finished. I was left wondering where she had learned all those exquisite gems from. Was she a genius or a realized soul? Considering her being an Indian her command over English was even more admirable. I began to hold her in very high esteem. One thing just rankled in my mind. What was wrong in my asking her the name of the place in America she lived in? Why should the place one lived in be far less in importance than even what one ate in breakfast yesterday? I thought maybe that was because America was a lot more mobile nation than I had imagined and people there gave the slightest importance to the place they lived. Perhaps none took any pride with any place nor identified oneself with any place. But whenever I asked any American themselves about the places they lived in they invariably gave me that information which of course I always forgot. So her not giving the information stood her out. The information in itself didn’t mean much, but her holding it back was curious. I was all admiration for her and simultaneously a bit puzzled too by her last reply.

A few days later again in an early morning here in India she invited me for another chat and I readily joined.
She straightforwardly asked, “Hi, old man, are you still whining?”
I said, “Yes I am. How can anybody be happy if constantly nagged, harassed and tortured by one’s partner? Worst of all she has succeeded in setting my two children too against me. She also abused my parents, brothers and sisters and their spouses and made me cut off all relationship with them. Sometimes finding me non retaliating and non violent she also beats me. One day for just promising my youngest brother that I will give him my mobile number, she beat me for half an hour with her shoes, a rolling pin, a broomstick, a spoon with a large handle besides kicking and slapping me with her hands and legs for innumerable times while all the time swearing and calling me all sorts of names. She didn’t want anyone of my brothers, sisters or parents should be in contact with me. That day like many other such days my belief in nonviolence and in the words of Buddha and Gandhiji , my all time heroes, were put to severe test and I didn’t fail neither in their eyes nor in my eyes even once. I want separation from her but not with the help of any kind of violence on her. I sincerely wish her well. But I am thoroughly disgusted and fed up with her violent, cowardly behaviors. I tell her, “Can you behave in the way you behave with me with anyone else in the whole world? You know that you can’t. You are a coward that beats a nonviolent man.” As usual I get some more harsh words only. Sometimes I feel with the removal of her uterus and ovaries a decade back all vestiges of humanity have also been removed out of her. Tell me what choices do I have in a country where divorce is almost non- existent and she won’t listen to any talk of divorce?”
She stuck to her earlier lines. Nobody was a victim. All that I suffered was due to the choices I had made. Really, I was free all the while. She even wrote that life manifested in vivid detail only those things which were present in my thoughts in atomic or very subtle forms much earlier even before her appearance in my life. In that sense I should be thankful to my wife for precipitating the process and events which were going on silently in my unconscious for a long time. In her opinion there were really no quarrels between the husbands and wives; there were only quarrels within oneself. The contradictions in our own thoughts and behaviors were the cause of most of our quarrels which married people projected on each other. She said I should stop considering myself forthwith as the victim and my wife as my tormentor. Actually I was tormenting myself. In real we get only what we deserve, not more not less. She said she would never project anything on any one. She took the responsibility for all her happiness and sorrows on herself. To emphasize her point she said nobody could give her pain or unhappiness. She won’t allow anyone to have that power over her. You only get treated by the way you ask for. Nobody would dare to treat her the way I was being treated. None could ride on a straight back. People needed a supine back to ride rough shod over. Instead of feeling that I was a victim I should show some spine. And lastly don’t make a fetish out of nonviolence. It is just a technique; if it didn’t work discard it. It can’t be a religion or a goal in itself.

To a man who had been already feeling himself as a heap of dirt by constant abuses and tortures for twenty five years her words of wisdom only made him doubly sure that what he got was only what he truly deserved. Not only that I asked for the type of treatment I was getting! I was awe-struck by her assertiveness, her surefootedness, her wisdom and understanding of the ways of the world. Such was her power of wit and words that I put aside all such questions to a corner of my mind that were coming to me at the time as whether people like Gandhiji, Jesus or Socrates also really asked to be put to death because that was how they had been treated. Were they too spineless? But before her torrent of hitherto unfamiliar new age words I was awestruck. As the chat came to an end I began to profusely admire her and admitted without any qualification that she might be true in her observations about me and my problems. I sincerely wished I had such clarity of mind on all matters related to me. Afterwards for many days in my conversations with others I avoided using the word ”problem’’ as if it was a four letter word. Instead like her I substituted it with words such as “opportunities” or “challenges”. In short she exerted tremendous influence over me the like of which very few women had ever exercised. I visited her page in Facebook a number of times daily and under each of her photograph, there were a lot of them, I wrote a long paragraph in appreciation which were, to say the least, extremely eulogistic. At various times in those comments I compared her with a powerhouse, the Sun, the goddess Durga, Mother Kali, St. Jones and with some other great women of the east and west. Of course, as soon as she had seen and read them she deleted them all. When I asked her why she had deleted those nicest of words about her she replied that I didn’t know the “shitty society” we lived in which could cause her a lot of embarrassment and explaining for my eulogistic comments. Moreover, she said she was still not ready for deification or canonization. She said she was only 36 and she hoped she had a number of more years to live and kick around. She added that I had not seen her in anger, in her foul moods yet and therefore I should suspend all my judgments on her till then otherwise I might go through many thorough revisions subsequently and repent my earlier generosity. To sum it all up she said I was a good man but I was a poor judge of women including herself and my wife. One I admired uncritically and without any reservations and the other I vilified in similar fashion.

Slowly and gradually without any conscious willing or effort on my part my admiration for her developed into love. I easily fell in love with anyone that showed some excellence in any area of art and life. Once in my childhood when I was reading in class 6 I had been so infatuated with a male singer and dancer who was reading four classes higher in the high school in that same compound that for days I wandered dazed by his performances on the stage during a school annual function. In similar fashion I fell in love with Saritha. There was an age gap of twenty years between us but when did the heart take note of such outward differences? In age I was her senior, but in all else she was the senior and I was the junior partner. I knew she was young, witty and beautiful and she had a way with the words which few could match. Therefore I expected her to be in great demand in social networking sites such as Facebook. So although I wished to talk with her daily, I dared not invite her for chat too often. I always abided for my turn patiently. Why disturb someone so fiery, so idealistic with my mundane, “challenging” existence? But surprisingly at least thrice in a week she invited me for chat. Whenever I received such invitations I was overjoyed. In all such chats my only duty was as if to praise her because that was what I did in abundance. All her words, all her sentences were music to my ears. At the turn of a beautiful phrase from her I would go gaga on her. One day she asked me, “What do you think of my educational qualification?”
I replied a bit sycophantically,” You must be a college Professor” because I knew she couldn’t have been one considering her age, her marriage of more than 16 years etc.
She replied, “A college professor? Do you know I have never set foot in a college?”
The pressure to praise her was so hard that I didn’t budge an inch from my position even after this information. Yes, like the bladder pressure, the bowel pressure there was another strong pressure I felt at times. It was the pressure to praise someone. Under the throe of this pressure I have written so many articles at various times of my life. Buddha, Mahavir, Gandhiji, Kabir, Osho, Raman Maharshi, Tagore, Vivekananda, Orwell, Emerson, Thoreau, Bertrand Russel, Wayne Dyer, Eckhert Tolle and many more great men and women both of the East and West have been the receptacle of such praises. I have not been able to preserve all such articles. Only one article in praise of SriRamakrishna and Mother Sarada, namely “I have had her” has survived because it was included in this blog. Not that always the pressure to praise was released through writing articles only. In most cases it was done through spoken words too. Observing my generous praise of her in the pages of Facebook a western lady once remarked that I was essentially a “Bhakta”. By that word she brought to my conscious attention an aspect of my character I had never known till then. But I loved her description, nonetheless.

So when Saritha said that she had not even set her feet in any colleges for study I replied without flinching,” You may not have. But you surely could put many professors to shame by the words you use and at your command. Certainly none of the colleges and universities I had gone to had one Professor like you.”
She said, ”You may be right, in a way, for reading in a college and knowing things and life are two separate things. Bye the way, I was an ordinary homemaker till just four years ago. Then I heard Marianne Williamson and life changed for me. Then I read many new age spiritual gurus and went to listen to them when any of them visited my city. Thus I have listened to many such brilliant men and women of America. Have you heard of Marianne Williamson?”
I said,”No, but certainly I will listen to some of her audios and videos in YouTube. But I think you must have surpassed her by now because the words at your command are awesome. By the way, do you do any kind of job outside your home? Otherwise so much of talent must go in waste.”

She replied,” Paresh, you are too generous. I don’t have any talents. However, for the last few years finding so much time at my hand I have been teaching in a school for spastic children. I get enormous joy by interacting with such innocent children. I also get paid for my work, though compared to my husband’s salary it is just a pittance. Yet I am happy doing it. The director of the school and the parents also appreciate my work”.
I said,”I had hoped so. One day you will go very far in your newly started career. You deserve all this and lot more.”

Another day as she invited me for a chat I happily joined. But after one or two sentences of by now customary praise and appreciation of her she said something which surprised me.
She said,” Paresh, please don’t love me; please don’t say you love me.”
I replied,” Saritha, I am shocked and surprised at your allegation. Please tell me the words I have used which made you think so. You know that I am in awe of your intelligence, learning and wit and everything. I am all praise and appreciation for you. But to want to be romantically linked to you is something completely out of my mind. I know my limitations, I don’t deserve you. It would be like the desire of the moth for the star. So I have never thought of you in that sense.”
If ever I have told any lie to anyone then this was that. Truthfully speaking, not only I was all praise and appreciation for her but also I was in deep love for her. But aware as I was of my serious limitations, even though I consciously refrained from using all such romantic words of love, her intuitive knowledge as a woman very correctly and accurately found me out. It is true my spirited defense of myself saved the day for me but I took heed of the message. She was off limit for the like of me. Though I have become old now, the same game of seduction and conquest that I have been playing since I was a boy of, say, 15 and which up till now has never been able to bring any woman to me or my bed continued in spite of no conscious effort from me. I am astounded by the power of samskaras or the past impressions. In other words I am astounded by my unconsciousness.

To my spirited defense of my innocence she had to yield. She said something to save her face but really she entangled herself more. I too was surprised again.

She said,” Paresh, actually I didn’t mean you. I know you are a nice chap. There are some others who have been speaking “I love you” and I am bothered by them. I had meant to say you that please don’t be one more in the crowd. Please excuse me if I have hurt you. Can I confide in you something?”

I said just go ahead without any fear or apprehension.
She said,” I myself am in love with someone.”
I asked, ”Who is that extremely fortunate man?”
She said, “It is a secret for now. So don’t ask me for any details.”
I said,” I am sure he must be a white American. At least confirm this much.”
She said,” Please don’t ask me for any details. It is a secret.”
I said, “As you wish. I knew there would be a crowd pining for you.”
She said,” Paresh, you are so nice. Thank you. Bye.”

One day thereafter as I opened my page in Facebook I was surprised to find a friend request from Saritha herself. It was enough of a shock and puzzle for me. However, I immediately accepted her request and wrote on her wall,” Saritha, I thought we were friends already. Then, why is this defriending and requesting again for friendship? Please don’t be so mysterious.”

The next day the first thing that I did after I woke up in the morning was I went straight to Saritha’s page in Facebook to see what she had written as reply to my question. By chance she was present in the Facebook at that time. Instead of writing on her wall she instantly came online and invited me for a chat. She explained that her husband had deleted the names of all her male friends from her list of friends. He thought she was spending too much time on the net chatting with them. He also suspected her of having an affair with somebody. She said she was again painstakingly requesting all to reconnect with her. She begged excuse for the trouble and went off.

I thought what a strange coincidence! Just the other day I was wondering how correctly and accurately Saritha could catch my true feelings for her using her intuitive wisdom as a woman though I had laboriously guarded and camouflaged it by using the smokescreen of words of praises and appreciation. I had thought only women were capable of such intuitive wisdom. Lo! See here a man too, Saritha’s husband, could equally correctly and accurately caught her, I hope not with her pants down, with her romantic or amorous leanings towards someone else although she too must have tried her best to camouflage her feelings by employing as much smokescreens of words as I had employed. Now I knew that the physical and mental differences between men and women were just superficial. All those talks of womanly wisdom or jealousy were just bullshit. All life is one, Buddha said. That is only what I needed to remember.

The next day as I switched on the computer and went straight to my Facebook page I found as if Saritha had been waiting there for me. She instantly came on the chat and said,” Paresh, something serious has happened. I have had a violent quarrel with my husband. He wanted to control me; he would have me curtail my time on the net to the minimum. I would tolerate no such dictates. So he called me all sorts of abusive names. He put a question mark on my character. He has again deleted so many friends from my list. He ordered me to keep away from Facebook altogether. He has threatened me with dire consequences if I disobey. What should I do?”

Her anger was so palpable that it seemed to me as if I could feel her agitated, irregular, excited , hot breathings all over me. It seemed as if she was spewing fire. It seemed as if a Royal Bengal tigress has been attacked by a man with bare hands and she was about to bit him to pieces. Interrupting my thoughts, she asked,” Paresh, are you there? What are you thinking of? What should I do?”

For the first time advices were sought from the very man who always needed them most. And advising a fiery, witty, wise woman like Saritha was something I was most unwilling, hesitant and incapable of. Yet as she went on pressing me for a reply, I asked her first about the thing that I had been receiving regularly in similar or even much lighter situations,” Saritha, did he beat you?”
She said,” He won’t dare to beat me. Because if he did I would holler till the whole of America listened to me.”
I said,” Then what do you fear? I am sure in verbal duels he couldn’t be a match for you. Before your torrent of words how long can any man stand? But did you, by any chance, take things lying down?”

She said, ” Never. I am not the one to take things lying down. As he shouted I also shouted and he fled. But before he fled I had given him a piece of my mind. I abused him more than he had possibly bargained for. I could be nasty and vicious too when occasion arises. You should have seen me in that state. Then you won’t be writing such nice angelic stuff about me. But that is not the thing worrying me. I worry because I have very little money with me. What should I do now?”

I asked,” Do you fear that he might ask for a divorce?”
She said,” Suppose he does? Then what should I do?”
I said, “Then he is a goner. First give him ten slaps and as many kicks. If he still insists on a divorce then tear four of his beloved books to pieces and break or burn whichever things he likes most. If he still continues to be adamant then threaten him to kill or get killed so that you could inherit all that he owns and then marry the one you love. Alternately, if he directly goes to court, the court wouldn’t give him divorce without your consent. Demand as much money as he would never be able to earn in his life. The divorce proceeding will go on for two decades. In the mean while you go on living in his house with his money like a queen and treat him like dirt. Each month on the day he gets his pay you insist that he draws his whole pay from the bank and puts that in your hand. If he ever disobeys you complain to the police that he tortures you to bring him more dowries. That would put him behind bars for a year, with his parents and siblings if at all they stay with him, because that is a non- bail -able offence. You needn’t prove anything, mere bringing in the allegation is enough. It’s so simple. God save him”.
She said,” Paresh, be serious. This is not India, this is America. Divorce is not so difficult to get here. He has all the money with him. I don’t have much. For God’s sake be serious and tell me what I should do.”
For the first time it occurred to me that I should treat her with her own medicines.
I said,” Then also you have your choices. The choices include the choice for agreeing for a divorce. But you have also the choice of considering him as your teacher and accepting his advises and taking heed to his warnings. As he is holding a top job he must be bringing in lots of dollars to home and a considerable part of it must be going to you and your children’s upkeep and wellbeing. So you have the choice for making a compromise with him in order that you keep on enjoying things that you have been enjoying for the last sixteen years. Alternately you have the choice to be recalcitrant and rebel and walk out of the home and face the consequences. You have always choices, you are always free, and never consider yourself as the victim and your husband as your tormentor. See this not as a problem but as an opportunity.”

I would have gone on for some more time till I had emptied out the full medicine chest on her. But intelligent as she was she quickly understood my design. She cut me short and interjected,” I had sought an advice from you but I didn’t ask you to lecture me. Sometimes I have a feeling that you are working for my husband. It seems by endearing yourself to me you have been knowing my secrets and passing them on to my husband. Otherwise how does he know all my moves? Are you in his pay roll?”

I was aghast at her allegation. I, who was her greatest admirer, greatest fan, how could she think of me betraying her to her husband. I have never had any kind of communication with him. I just saw him in her pages among her photographs. However, I thought it was better to play along with her a little more on that line because she might have told all those in jest.
So I replied, suppressing all my bewilderment,” Yes, truly I am on his pay roll. He has employed me for the purpose you have correctly guessed. Poor and underemployed as I am, I thought I could do with a little more money from any source available to supplement my meager income.”
She quipped,” Yes, he will pay you in dollars too.”
I replied,” Yes, I hope a few more dollars won’t harm me much.”

Actually I would never know whether her allegation against me was made in jest or in all seriousness. But there might be a suspicion in her mind that someone might be betraying her trust or passing on her secrets to her husband. A suspicious mind sometimes sees enemy where there is none. It becomes even more serious when you have never seen your friends whom you have got from social networking sites. Whom to believe and who to disbelieve becomes very important when you have really something to hide. Saritha had, I hope by her “choice”, a word she so much loved to use, come to a state where she had something to hide. As she had by chance, in an off guarded moment perhaps, confided in me only what she had had to hide thereafter from everyone else, she thereafter perhaps saw in me a potential enemy. From that suspicious, fearful mind only negative thoughts could emerge. To quote a wit, “Fear is the darkroom where only negatives are developed”. As a result of such negative thoughts one day she defriended me for a flimsy cause.

One day in the course of a conversation, I asked her,” Saritha, do you come to India?”
She replied,” Yes, we go there once in almost every two years.”
I asked, “Do you have your parents?”
She replied, “Yes, both of them are alive.”
I asked,” Where are they? Where were you born, in which state of India?”
She replied,” Which place? Why do you ask for such worthless pieces of information? Even what I had in yesterday’s breakfast is a more important piece of information. Don’t again ask such unimportant questions.”
Her answer reminded me of a similar reply at the start of our friendship when I had asked for the name of the place of USA she lived in. A thought came to my mind that probably she had something to hide which is related to the place she was born and the place she has been presently living in. Was she in love with a man when she got married to someone else and left India? Just like the man she is presently in love with in the place she lived with her husband? Is it a case of broken hearts? Why each woman I loved admired or praised had had a history of broken hearts? Are sorrows, grieves and broken heart the prices one paid for being a good man or woman?
I asked her,” Saritha, please tell me the place you were born because there is nothing to fear from me. The place you were born or the places you live in are not as unimportant as you say. So please tell?”
From her side there came no response. I continued to wait for her reply. About three minutes later a notice appeared on my chat window that you cannot chat with this person because she is not your friend.

Since then more than three years have gone by. But there has never been a day in which I have not thought of her. I have felt her loss very deeply. Each day I have been missing her. Facebook lost much of its charm for me after her loss. The urge to rise up at 4.30 in the morning and coming straight to the computer and Facebook, because that was the time she was mostly available, only to be greeted by her warm, affectionate words ”Hi, old man, are you still whining?” is no more. Now I sleep up to seven or eight. Once during my chat with her, in the midst of my usual profuse praises for her, she had said, “You also write well and I appreciate your English”. That sentence had later on given me much confidence to come out of my cocoon and try my hands at creative writings for which I have been thinking, preparing but postponing for ages. Our friendship had lasted for only four or five months. Apart from chats with her and a few short statuses and some comments here and there I had written nothing till then to show her. I wish she read some of my posts, especially this one which is nothing but my homage to her. She is still in Facebook. She is still with her husband as I can still see her smiling alongside her husband in her profile picture. Of course, I have to see her from another account. So I guess, she weighed all the pros and cons of her situation and finally chose to compromise and stick to her husband. Thereby I knew another truth of life. All such talk of “I have the most wonderful husband/wife” etc. was not true, after all. After a few years even the most wonderful spouse started to gall like mine did. The truth is everyone compromised in life, some a little less and some lot more. Saritha was no exception, though I had thought her to be one. I wish her all happiness, peace and success in life.

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