Posted in Journal

Some Sense Of Lightness

I was in one of those moods last month, sulking in a corner and staring into my phone, when MB suddenly decided to break the silence.

“You remember the night we stayed up all night? I hardly felt tired the next day! But here I nearly die at the end of overnight duty days…”

Of course I remembered. We were three weeks into our compulsory residential internship. I was posted in Ophthalmology and he in Emergency Medicine. It was a Saturday. He was assigned the night shift, and I had the next day off. We had broken up on mutual terms after the final exams, and were generally keeping out of each other’s way. Every time I caught sight of him, sporadically, while turning corners near our hospital canteen around lunchtime or after dinner, my heart would skip a beat. I was sure his did too.

And that Saturday, three weeks into our internship, I texted him, asking if he’d like to have company during the shift. I sat across the table from him through the whole night. There were some bouts of small talk, and a lot of warm fuzzy silences. A few odd patients would show up every couple of hours with wheezing children in need of a nebulizer. The nurses on duty would give us curious glances before retreating to their room to catch whatever sleep they could. The senior medical officer was sleeping in his cabin, oblivious to this, and the next morning, when he saw me leave, he gave a knowing smile but made no comment. We got back together the next day.

“Why don’t you do stuff like that for me anymore?”, MB asked playfully.

I wasn’t in a playful mood.

“Because you wouldn’t let me. THAT is the person I want to be. The girl who does whatever she wants to do with no regard for what other people might think. Who isn’t retrained by etiquette and social norms. Who thrives on spontaneity. Who sneaked into your hostel room at 2 AM or jumped over a park fence with you… Who does things like that, because she likes it. Will you let me be that??”

He was taken aback, and looked hurt. Like a puppy that had been shunned unexpectedly.

“I thought you did it for me.”, he mumbled quietly, the smile from earlier wiped clean.

I knew what he meant. He didn’t see the person who thrived on excitement, but someone who did scandalous things for him. But he had been mistaken there… I had done scandalous things because that was who I liked being.

I keep telling people we are a happy couple because we let ourselves be ourselves. It was true. He had his things, and I had my friends, and being students meant we had our own set of people to keep us in bubble wraps. But moving out of Pondicherry and living in a nondescript place like Vellore has been challenging. He no longer has his things and I no longer have my friends. There is nowhere to go, no one else to be with. The toxic environment he works in came home with him like a stench you cannot get rid of, leading to frenzied emotions and frequent fall-outs. Work consumed him, and then, hungry for more, gnawed at our relationship as well.

This conversation which was supposed to be sweet and reminiscent only confirmed what I feared. His idea of a perfect life lies in a quiet content world with just the two of us, and mine in an abstract chaotic one. Isn’t it funny how someone can seem like a stranger even after years of knowing them?

With the steep rise of the second wave of infection in the country in these last two weeks, his work has ironically reduced multi-fold. Outpatient clinic timings have been cut down because of night curfews; routine admissions have been drastically reduced to accommodate COVID patients; travel restrictions have cut off the inflow of patients from other states who typically form the bulk of cases in his department. Easier working hours for him means he’s around a lot more, physically as well as mentally. The shadows are retreating slowly. There is some sense of lightness, many hugs, quite a lot of smiles and occasional laughter.

I do see many more unpleasant conversations ahead, as we figure out how to build a life where both our worlds can co-exist. It won’t be easy. It won’t be perfect. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Some sense of lightness, some hugs and some laughter – I can certainly make do with those.


A wayward thinker hiding behind the facade of necessary courtesies

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