Shall we go watch a movie today?’ I ask my best buddy, my better half, my wife. “Please not today,” she says making puppy eyes at me, “I need to finish this book …”
Aaaargh.. not again!
“…. It’s about this bunch of people who make up a literary society called the Potato Peel Pie society.. isn’t that the quaintest name ever? It was during WWII….’ On she goes talking animatedly, words tumbling out faster than I can comprehend.
We don’t stand a chance – the movie and I. The old enemy had struck again. Her books!
As I pick up the TV remote listlessly past injustices come flashing back. I remember the time we went on a holiday high up in the mountains. I was dreaming of scouting the hills, of long walks and sweet conversations, of taking her soft hand in mine and strolling along the emerald slopes. “How lovely is the mountain breeze”, she had said rolling out her mat on the grass. Even as she pulled me down beside her she was wandering off into the grounds of Pemberly.
There was the time I wanted to explore Delhi’s Red Fort but she had much rather be at Hogwarts. “Do you know they have moving staircases and ghosts floating around and portraits that actually talk? Can anything match that?” Nope Shah Jahan certainly hadn’t thought of it. And so I picked at peanuts while she told me about pumpkin pie.
Maybe humour would draw her away, I thought. I got tickets to this amazing stand up comic show. “Have you heard of Blandings? she had said. That’s where we should be. The things that happen…. wheels within wheels”, she had said laughter bubbling up like a clear spring on a summer day.
Ah I’ll take her to Goa, thought I. Some romance – that’s what we need. I dreamt of lazy days in the sun, candlelight dinners on the beach and castles in the sand. That’s what my dreams turned out to be – castles in the sand – for all she wanted to do was put out her towel, lean against me and lose herself in the dusty farmsteads of Drogheda.
Then there was the day of my office party. She agreed to come along though she knew not a soul. I’d lost her in the crowd. Worried, I’d called her on her phone. “Where are you?” I had queried. “In the parking lot,” she answered sobbing. My head buzzed with a hundred panicked thoughts as I ran to her. The sight of her tear-stained face as she stood there book in hand, squeezed the breath out of me. “Why did he have to die?” she sobbed on my best party shirt. “Who? What? Who died?” “He shouldn’t have left Holly. Oh it’s the most beautiful story,” she was smiling through her tears. PS: I love you, said her book.
That was the day I knew I’d lost the battle. I had since then, contented myself with being her pillow while she read, wearing eye masks to bed and gifting her books and more books for I’d do anything to see that glorious smile break out on her face. And I loved to hear her talk about people and places, wars and romances, friendships and betrayals even though I never could strike a friendship with her books.
I snapped back to the present.
‘Does she love me at all?’ I wondered listlessly. But then there was the time I found the bouquet of wild flowers I’d picked for her on the mountains tucked carefully between the pages of her book. And I see the shells we had collected in Goa lovingly lining her bookshelf. The other day she tried to create the wizarding world’s butterbeer specially for me. Ah yes she cared.
But the books!! Always her books… stealing her away from me.
Then ….. the baby came along – hers and mine.“Now I’ll see!” I thought. Aren’t new mums just the busiest of beings? “No time for books, now. It’ll be me, she and the baby and nobody else.”
One bright sunny morning, I entered the room with a bottle of milk and I found her with the baby in her lap, picture book in hand. I watched as she opened it. The baby kicked it away. A secret grin spread across my face, “Way to go little one,” I whispered. Unfazed, she reached out for the book, opened it again and again and yet again. She’s stubborn, this girl of mine but so’s the little one. It’s in the genes, I think delightedly. But what’s this! That bus in the book caught his eye. “Da da da,” he says tapping it with one chubby fist. Drat, those genes! I looked on, helplessness changing to fascination as my gaze shifted from baby to mum. I watched her watching him, face shining as she pointed to the picture and softly hummed ‘The wheels of the bus..’ .
I find my resentment melting away. That’s the girl I fell in love with. Stubborn, passionate, delightful, enchanting, bookworm forever. And I reach out for her and pull her in a hug – bottle, book, baby and all.