"Anniversary Night" by Nirendra Dev : An English Short Story (WBRi Online Magazine)

Anniversary Night

By Nirendra Dev

A Short Story


Nirendra Narayan DevEditor's Note: Nirendra Narayan Dev (nirendev1 [at] gmail [dot] com), an acclaimed political journalist, is a special correspondent of The Statesman, New Delhi and author of the books Ayodhya : Battle For Peace, The Talking Guns North East India and Godhra A Journey To Mayhem. Nirendra was born and brought up in India's northeast and his father served with paramilitary force Assam Rifles. His blog is at bestofindiarestofindia.blogspot.com.

We have previously had an opportunity of talking to the author and have posted the audio recording of the interview.

This is Nirendra Dev’s fifth short story in the series. His earlier short stories published on Washington Bangla Radio are ‘The Pawns’, ‘Arms of Comfort’, ‘The Guiding Sun, Soothing Moon’ and "Patrons of a Letter Box".


The entire township seemed to have been lulled to sleep. It was around mid-night. Nothing much seemed to have changed in this tiny town. Nights are most often calm and apparently also peaceful. Two of us walked among the paddy field beside the thin river that has only become thinner over the years. The water flow has minimized and that way it offers a totally different picture unlike what it used to be during my childhood. The mystique of timelessness has not touched it. The riverine too has grown old like me.

Two of us – me and my husband – were walking back to our house after attending the dinner party at my sister’s place. Circa 2043, May 12. Time has just flown. It’s my marriage anniversary, fortieth one. Our son is away in Brazil pursuing his career. That Latin American country is today one of the strongest economic power – materializing the dream the founders of the international forum BRICS saw decades back. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are today far better than the hitherto leaders from the west. The US is still to overcome the jolt it received in 2011 debt crisis.

As two of us are passing through lonely life – away from our only son - my sister thought of hosting a dinner.

She is so happy and always looks contended. Life has been all that fun for her; unlike mine.

My sister could marry the man of her choice, where as, I was somehow compelled as my father had given his word. We are not from Raghukul, but the idealism of Rama’s dynasty had cost me dearly…. Raghukul riti sada chalie ayei, pran jae par bachan na jae.

In Raghukul, Lord Rama’s dynasty, people sacrificed their lives but would not allow compromising or going back on one’s words. The legends and history mostly leave only bad affects on people, I always thought.

Now, we have grown old; but the gulf of difference, as they say, between me and my husband has not narrowed down. Our relationship is so much in contrast to the river below. Our differences have remained where they were unlike the river, which has thinned.

Old age perhaps does strange things to people. It is highly intoxicating for some, like my sister and her dutiful husband. I always envied my sister. They seemed to have discovered teenagers in them; looking for fun most of the time. Jumping into the cool swimming pool; sitting on the banks of fish pond to catch a few Rui and Katla fishes.

My talkative husband has instead turned introvert. I have stopped writing. Writers do retire….. yes, specially if they are like me.

People also turn mercurial and unpredictable. My husband, nevertheless was always unpredictable.

The cold strange wind was hardly provoking him. The romance between us was lost many years back. Now he even avoided my gaze and mostly looked the other way whilst we talk.

I stared at him. The moonlight falling on his aging face and the bald head could not conceal from me - his stammering lips.

“Are you thinking something? It’s 40 long years,” I said.

He stared up towards the empty sky as if his sight was trying to embrace the entire universe. He passed a long breath upwards – the smoke rose above his head.

He must be polluting the already polluted township, my native place. Just then the cement factory wall clock started ringing 12. My mind was trying to make sense of what my husband was thinking. “These days, you really speak less,” I muttered again.

He was still walking speechless. There are many things that separate or create complexities in a couples’ life – infidelity, money, diseases. I was trying to figure what was that in our case.

One is certainly his arrogance, especially during early years. The other one, I thought was his harsh remark about my family, my sister and my parents.

In the past, he even had mouthful for our tiny small township.

The snobbish words from him about the lives in Mumbai or national capital Delhi as compared to this town would only made me angry.

My husband was marching down the street, his wide shoulders swinging even as the belly was bulging a few inches ahead rhythmically.

But it is I who felt the pain of shouldering the weight of the burden of this marriage. May be because of this, our son has chosen to stay away miles away.

Our son used to be creative and supportive to the family; committed to us and others. But as he started growing up, he understood that things were not so easy between his parents. So slowly, he made himself isolated and got lost in professionalism. He chats on mail or even phones, but the warmth is missing. Actually, he never liked two of us fighting! However, thanks to the technological inventions of the Americans. After telephone, the IT revolution is undoubtedly the most valuable offerings for mankind.

I can make out these better than his father. Mothers have a few inherent talents and so also the problems, I presume.

As we were strolling down back to our house, I presume both of us were unable to appreciate each other’s grief. When it was the last time I had been here walking together with my husband past mid-night?

A lot can change in just a few years. In our case, nothing has changed, except perhaps my husband has given up the audacity to pick up quarrels over small things. As he turned introvert, his willingness to quarrel with me also diminished. I still do not know, whether all these augur good or bad?

§§§

Next morning, I get up and get started by the morning dose of newspapers. A couple of them including in Bangla lying tossed aside. I pick up the local English daily. Even my native town now has an English daily paper – something unthinkable even a few decades back.

I try to search for my favourite columnist’s snap and the piece. Long back column journalism got replaced by blog journalism --- but what’s important is all these have survived the test of time. The best of columns still forms a special bond with the readers as they used to decades back. The newspaper columnists, like fiction writers, really need seductive skills and they have retained the same.

My husband does not read newspapers. He hardly read even during young days.

But he keeps a scrap book jotting down something. But I have never had the interest to peep inside those pages. My feminine self-hurt sentiments or chauvinism of a writer does not allow me doing that. But I do wonder, what are the things he is keeping note?

He never kept such notes when doing that would have been perhaps more useful.

My favourite columnist also appears boring. All I got is the routine phrases and the routine templates. The Indian foreign policy is yet again stuck with the traditional syndrome – displease none or appease all. In the process, during the crucial voting on Libya at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on ‘use of force’ against war-torn Libya, India abstained.

These have been having about a century now.

In the bed room, my husband plays his favourite love song: Some say Love …. by Bette Midler. The Mashima, we have employed for doing the laundry and cooking has come. She asks me about my choice of menu. I am at a loss. I scream for my husband by his name.

“But he says, he won’t eat anything,” said Mashima (aunt).

This angers me obviously. As if he is ignoring me and talking to the maid.

I again scream his name. He walks in slowly but looks unmoved by my anger. I hate his approach. I hate this man. He just waits for Mashima to disappear inside towards kitchen and then whispers: “our son got married in Pretoria, they are coming next week”.

“When did he tell you?” I scream.

“Last night”

“But, why the hell you did not tell me then?” I quiz him hard.

“It was our anniversary night” – is his cryptic reply.

Oh boy, I think; this man has weird ideas.

The son’s marriage always is a big event in a woman’s life. But the destiny has again deceived me. My dreams easily turn into some shadows and like my husband, I tend to believe – silence is bliss.




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