Testing Times for Nikita and RogerbyNeesraj©
Author's Note: This is the story of the lovely relationship between Nikita and Roger (names changed). They came into each other's life some six years back, while working as part of a team with a most challenging assignment in their profession. Their bonding acquired strength first at professional level, after which, without even their realizing it, they became emotionally close to each other. Nikita and Roger married wrong spouses many many years back. Their new found bonding gave them a fresh reason to begin living again. Like all such relationships, theirs has gone through many testing times, and yet, they have marched on, regardless. This story that follows captures their mental and physical turmoil during one such Big Test. The story appears in the words of Roger.
I had never thought I would find myself at this crossroads one day. There is not so much regret at being at the crossroads as at the fact that I could never have wished a script anywhere near this one to take form. Things have gone so wrong on so many fronts. I have no complaints so far as the events pertain to myself. In fact, to be taken by surprise at the boomerang hurled by destiny at me would only be construed as my fault, for, I should perhaps have been in preparedness for the happy dream to be disrupted. Perhaps, the chain of events in the last few years had been too good to last for ever, least of all for someone like me, who has had an existence of deprivation, pain and struggle during the earlier part of life. But I feel so much upset that my ill-luck has rubbed on my Nikita, the woman who I owe my existence to.
There had been unmistakable divine signals for sometime past which forebode not so happy tidings for the coming days. We had barely been able to spend any time together for some months and our communication channels had been drying up. The occasional burst of my emotions translating to sporadic emails was increasingly piling up in her Inbox, unopened and unread. For some reasons, what I wrote had ceased to enjoy the indulgence that it once did. Was it too repetitive or too wishful? But I appreciated her limitations, her constraints. Yet, the signs did not auger well at all. I even noticed traces of helplessness in her musings about us in recent months. The helplessness was not one-sided. Even I had been feeling the heat, what with the environment in my own prison of a home getting more and more hostile, not that it was hospitable ever. Somewhere along the line, I seemed to have lost the urge to live. Something told me that there were seemingly insurmountable hurdles in the way to the much dreamed of union that I lived for. If such were to be the case, where was the incentive to live?
Having seen light, having seen colours, I dreaded a vegetative existence, black days. The only worthwhile reason to live for some more years that I could conjure up was to play whatever little role I could to see my children do well, and get settled in life. If Nikita was not coming into my life to protect me on a full-time basis, where was the rationale and justification to live? I stopped all medication, in the hope that my natural strength will help me last the two odd years till I accomplished my goal, after which it would be time to bid adieu to the world and put an end to a meaningless and irrelevant existence. But as the subsequent signals indicated that such an approach might cut the cord even before I accomplished my goal, I had to go back to medicines. How can I forget the support and care I received from Nikita during those days, when I seemed destined for a departure much before even the task set forth by me was completed?
And as is the case with people proven as ill omens, I had, in the meantime, multiplied the confusion and had written her an indiscrete sms from the US, which fell in the hands our most precious little one, Mona. How could I be the instruments of making Nikita small in the eyes of a daughter who had looked upon her as a Goddess? Each new dawn was pushing me deeper and deeper into my abyss. And yet I had not realised that all this was nothing in comparison to the bigger test that awaited us. Least did I know that I would be required soon to demonstrate strength and determination of the kind never associated with weaklings like me.
And then the sledgehammer struck. I was in Manchester on official business and unlike each day of our association in the past, she had not spoken to me since the morning. I attributed this to some preoccupation in office. I did ring her up once as soon as I could steal some time from my own office routine alongside a colleague in the hotel room where we had been working, and she said she was busy and would get back later. All this while, I waited with considerable trepidation for her call. The call finally came, when I was half asleep in the hotel bed, after the morning's hard work. Even though her voice betrayed no emotions, there was something unusual about it. She said she was in Swansea. In my half asleep state, I did not realise the import of what she said. I could only think of some emergency travel on her office account, and felt a bit agitated at the inconsiderate behaviour of her bosses. I had at the back of my mind that I had been a lot more protective of her when I was her "boss" some years back.
But she soon clarified that she came to Swansea because "he had some problem yesterday". I still thought it was a problem created by him, may be because of me. Peter had known about me and Nikita and I always knew he must have felt uncomfortable at the knowledge. I was conscious at all times of the fact that regardless of how he had treated his legally wedded wife all these years, his male ego would be most uncomfortable with her finding emotional moorings with another man. Even his own emotional bonding elsewhere, which I knew existed, would not be dampener in such a situation. But my reverie was soon broken, when she told me that he had a medical problem, a heart related problem.
I was shocked like I had never been before. My heart immediately felt for Peter. Despite my closeness to his wife which he definitely resented, I had always had a great affection for him. We had the highest professional regard for each other. He consulted me on several matters, mostly professional, but some not quite so. In the earlier days of my closeness with her, I had often been caught in the debate of morality and propriety. However, in due course, I had formed a view about the context, my perception of the extent to which he ignored her and caused her agony in diverse ways, including his own dalliance with another woman. I had felt it was right for me to take my relationship with his wife to the high emotional levels that it was destined for, where I could give to her what was her rightful due. She was such a noble and superb human being, so caring, so giving, so compassionate. She did deserve at least something in return from the World.
And yet, I immediately remonstrated: How could this happen to him? I knew he had overindulged himself by having an excess of cigarettes and alcohol. But then, one had got used to him leading an existence like that. That was his way of life, but it did not mean that he should have a heart attack. I was rattled like never before. Nikita could sense my worry on the phone and reassured me that he was now stable and improving.
I returned to London in the evening. From the airport itself, I spoke to Sonalika our elder daughter, taking care not to make her too worried, yet telling her that papa was not well and that we needed to pray. I was in touch with Nikita during the subsequent hours, speaking to her even from the confines of the prison of my home. Peter was stable and improving and it was so reassuring. All that mattered to me was that he should get well.
She told me at about 5 pm the next day that the doctor wanted to talk her at 7 pm. I was alarmed. I asked her to get in touch with me as soon as she was through with the doctor. 7 pm, 7:05 pm, 7:15 pm, 7:30 pm, and yet no phone call. My heartbeat increased. The phone finally rang at 7:40 pm. I could never have bargained for this call. She was in panic, and just ordered me to speak to doctors in our departmental hospital in London, for Peter had to be shifted to the Cardiac Unit of the London Infirmary the next day. I asked her questions, but she could not answer. She was sobbing, her voice choked as she told me that doctors had said he was in bad shape, that his heart was functioning only 30%.
I would have gladly given my life for her being spared this agony, and for me being spared the need for this telephone call. I prayed to God most fervently to take her in His fold and protect her from any harm. Peter had to live, for, he was her legally wedded husband, father to her two most lovely kids. He had to get well and he had to, later one day, agree to give his own wife to me, for the overall good of all of us. I could never think of grabbing her surreptitiously.
The night was terrible. I thought for her, I could empathise with her. She was so noble, then why would God want to hurt her? The morning came. I checked that they had left Swansea at about 5:30 am. I kept in touch on their way to London. Hospital end had been tied up. I was at our departmental the hospital much before they arrived. The preliminary check up at the hospital revealed that he was in bad shape indeed. He had to be taken to the Infirmary. Documentation done, I accompanied them to the Infirmary. The journey was a nightmare. I prayed and prayed that he may reach the hospital in decent shape, so as to be able to benefit from treatment there. We reached the hospital in about half hour. I did the documentation. I was made to sign the hospital undertakings related to operation and other interventions. These are so crudely worded. I mustered all courage in my bosom and completed the documentation, placing all the faith I had in my God. Peter had to live; he had to get well, I kept praying to God.
The procedure was done successfully, but the doctor apprised us of the dangers involved. It was prayer time still, for many weeks and months to follow. I was determined. I worried for him but I also had to steady her. Nikita and me had been close for several years now, but I had never bargained for this proximity. There she was, sitting next to me in front of the ICU, lost in thoughts. I understood. They had been married for over 22 years. There inevitably had been so many moments they had proudly shared, so many achievements jointly enjoyed. I could imagine thoughts of those years racing through her mind - the time they fell in love, the moment they proposed to each other, the marriage, their first union, the planning of the children, the birth of children..... And yet, I could not afford to let her go into a state of shock. I kept talking to her, of hope and prayers, of how good the doctor was, of how my intuition told me that all would be well. I prayed also that she understood my position, that I meant well, that I wished as much as she did that he gets well. She did. In this hour of grave personal stress, she cared for me, she appreciated my presence.
The night fell and we had to leave the ICU area of the hospital. At the doctor's suggestion and with her permission, I had hired a room in the hospital guest house, mainly with a view to ensuring that she had a decent rest before the hard morning. We slowly trudged to the room. We had been in closed rooms with each other on numerous occasions in the past, but the act of bolting the door behind us that night was very painful indeed. I had a sense of guilt, for the first time since she came into my life. But I argued with myself that I meant to be helpful, to be protective in her hour of turmoil. I asked her to try and sleep. Thinking that her fatigue might be relieved if I pressed her body with my palms tenderly, I tried to comfort her. But she was as caring of me as ever and refused this little assistance. While she lay in bed, I kept praying all the time. I had never wanted something from God so much. I had never prayed so fervently even for our coming together for good. I wanted Peter well, and soon.
Nikita noticed that I was awake and asked me to lie down. How could I? She was in such mental agony. And yet, I did lie down. I kept my hand on her arm. She valued the care I bestowed upon her. She kept on telling me to sleep. I curled up to her and held her in my embrace. That was to be my most embarrassing moment ever, my biggest shameful act ever. As my body touched her, I had the most ill-timed arousal of my life. I abused myself silently and in no time it subsided. I thought she would hate me for it the rest of her life. But she was too large hearted. She understood, yet again.
An hour after midnight, we went to the ICU, just to catch a glimpse of Peter, but entry was rudely denied. We came back, hoping and praying for everything to fall in place. The morning came and we went to the ICU area. She went up and I followed a little later. It was so gratifying to note that he had spent a peaceful and comfortable night. We resumed our position in front of the doctor's room in the ICU area and prayed. I kept showering her with whatever words of comfort and hope I could manage in that state. The doctor came and after examination told us that his systems were functioning alright, that he passed urine at high pressure. It was so good to hear that both the cardiovascular system and the excretory system had accepted the stents. Finally, I left her there and returned to my prison, to get ready for my office.
I had persuaded her to go home for a little while to be able to spend some time with the children, more particularly the little one, who had been the victim of my indiscretion these last few months. She did that but the unseemly scene that Peter created was disturbing in the extreme. In full view of the hospital staff and other patients, he insisted that he would eat only from her hands. He made protests as to how she could be away for so long. I felt so helpless, so belittled at the humiliation meted out to her when this was reported to me by those in the Infirmary in her absence. And yet, I argued with myself that perhaps, he was not wrong and that he really loved her so much and wanted her to be by his side at this hour of his suffering. The day in the office was most uncomfortable. I kept talking to her to find the position and it was comforting news that he was stable.
She felt that after a day's work in office, I could not be back in hospital. There were others willing to stay in the hospital with her. But I knew that she would be comfortable only with me beside her. I knew what I meant to her and I felt proud of it. I told her I would be with her during the night. So, I packed her dinner and mine and came to the hospital again. She talked to me for a long time. She shared some of her deepest and innermost thoughts. She shared with me the anguish at the self-inflicted curse that Peter had caused upon himself. She shared with me her apprehensions about her parents-in-law coming over from Ireland, frail and old as they were. And she was generally hopeful about the recovery process.
After the ICU area became out of bounds for us, we had our dinner and trudged back to the guest house. I was determined not to repeat the previous day's faux pas. I asked her to try and sleep. But she could not. She was in an unusually pensive frame of mind. She mentioned that the fact that Peter had to be on oxygen off and on meant that he was not improving sufficiently well. I was also rattled. I could not sleep after that. As for her, sheer weight of her physical and mental fatigue sent her into an uneasy sleep. When she woke up for a moment at about 3 am, I spoke about what I had been thinking about the oxygen supply. I argued that the purpose of oxygen was to increase its content in the blood which was being pumped at sub-optimal level by an ailing heart. In the absence of such a supply, the heart would be constrained to work harder for the same quantity of oxygen in blood. So, artificial supply of oxygen was intended to make the work of heart a little easier and was for the good of the heart. She appreciated and even I was convinced with my own argument. We slept for about two hours and were ready for the next day.
He had had a comfortable night. The worry, however, was that the lead doctor would be going out for a conference for a couple of days. We prayed that all would be well during his absence. In the meantime, she had worked out modalities for the next day. She had called the lady with whom Peter has had a close relationship, to be in Infirmary for sometime while she herself could go home, have a wash and look up the little kids. I realised this was intended as much to permit her some time with the kids as to let Peter with someone with whom he enjoyed emotional comfort. I wondered what material this woman whom I have admired and loved so much was made of. I knew I was not wrong when I began to regard her as an angel. Needless to say, Peter did not throw the tantrums of the previous day.
An office colleague had visited the hospital during the evening and arranged a small room for her, on top of the ICU. She told me about the room and we quietly debated whether we should spend the night there. She was decisive and told me that we would go to the new room. It was more conveniently located. So, the affairs of the day taken care of and he having retired to sleep, we went up to the new room. The room was really small. It had a small sofa-cum-bed, whose length was not enough for her, and a sofa, whose foam had been compressed and dilapidated by extensive usage. Purely with a view reassuring her of my physical presence for all the support I was capable of, I agreed when she asked me to sleep alongside her. I did all that I could to fondle her caringly, to comfort her in this hour of grave concern and worry. I felt proud that the indiscretion of the earlier night did not return. She cared for me so much even in this moment of crisis. She kept telling me to sleep, to feel comfortable. I had never known that I was so blessed. I had never known that she was so noble, so good. Half way down the night, I moved to the sofa, to let her more flexibility in her movements in sleep.
The morning again was comforting. He had had a good and comfortable night. Being a Saturday, she felt more relaxed as the little one had the day off from school. The day went off quite well. She had told me that the two of us need not spend the night in the hospital and instead, a friend of Peter would do the duty. It would be easy enough for this gentleman, with the room on the second floor available. I visited her in the hospital in the evening. She talked as usual and I felt good. After a while, she went inside the ICU for a routine look at Peter. I could not resist accosting a doctor about what I had so much wanted to know all these days. I asked the doctor how Peter was doing and whether he would be able to lead a normal life once adequate time had elapsed and he had recovered sufficiently.
The answer was comforting in the extreme as he told me that within the parameters of the usual dangers and need for utmost precaution and care, it should be possible for him to lead a normal and active life a few months from that point of time. I had tears of joy in my eyes. As she came back, I held her close and told her. She was so relieved too. I took the first opportunity to go inside and tell him what the doctor had told me. He did not react. He was perhaps not very pleased to see me there at that time of the evening. But then, my day had been made. He was going to be okay and the two of us were going to succeed in our struggle to help him normalise. We parted soon after, with me additionally relieved that today she could have a decent sleep at home, cuddling up to the little one. I knew she needed proximity with someone close and dear and I also knew I could not provide that, for, the connotations in such an initiative from me would be all wrong.