Sunday, December 16, 2012

The White Quilt

This is my entry for the indifiction workshop.    Leo gave the plot of the story for this workshop.
The complete story can be found  here too.


They are mocking at me ,from the pages of the afternoon tabloid.The young faces of Deepak and his so called girlfriend. It has been almost a month that Deepak was away from home on a road trip ahead of elections.Suddenly my mouth goes dry,eyes straining against their sockets,I try hard to focus on the written words accompanying the story about Deepak... It is his love story splashed all over the papers today. Darkness engulfs me and I feel cornered. Words and letters begin swimming in front of my eyes,like giant black ants eager to meet ugly,grey ,hairy spiders...all very slowly  merging into one huge black spot in the centre .Concentration has left my mind....unnoticed. I should close my eyes and think , think very hard about my next action.It was after all anticipated and  just a matter of time.They tried their best to hide it from me but scandals like these can never be hidden ,at least not from the kind of people who were tirelessly working against me and Deepak. Sometimes I do pity Deepak ...

Deepak, my husband,the debonair young politician had recently forayed into the murky field of politics.Unlike other politicians, he carried a clean image and was projected as a promising future leader by his party. His image  in college was that of  a shy, handsome boy who had a mind of his own .He hardly spoke but when he did, one could not help but listen. His lean strong frame stood tall owing more to the way he carried himself and less to his being six foot high. He had  intense good looks with wheatish complexion and deep set eyes. He was one of those rare breed of handsome boys, who was not aware of his good looks.If he was ,he definitely did not show it and that made him more desirable to girls. We provided a perfect balance to our relationship, his quiet unassuming ways and my extrovert nature. Mere thought of  Deepak  always filled my heart with happiness. Then why was it different this time...I feel a certain kind of panic deep inside..a feeling that something unpleasant was coming my way.

 Deepak had told me about a surprise that he had planned for the our second wedding anniversary and that was all he was ready to reveal before he left for the road trip. The love lorn eyes,the pained look on his face, was it unreal...a figment of her imagination ? Well , it did not seem so ,not at that time.Incidentally,it was the first time,that they were apart from each other for so long. They had been inseparable, from the time of  being the best of friends in college, to  being married now for almost two years. 

Lost in my own private world, I  hear a pounding sound, but am unable to point  out the exact source.Is it my heart beating against my rib-cage ?The sound is incessant ,and gathering momentum now.I open my eyes and trace the sound to my bedroom door, someone is banging on the door! In my need to be left alone in my hour of gloom ,I choose to ignore.I can hear whispers urging me to open up.I know better.Sliding beneath the cover of the soft quilt,I lie in wait for the pounding to stop and it eventually does after a while. Quilts are the best things to have happened to me, particularly this white quilt .Dad got it for me when I was a  little girl and it never left my side since then.I can shut myself from the world whenever I feel the need, even from Deepak. It does not allow any one to enter my space ,light and sound included.It is my world, my secluded and comforting.This is like a hidden bunker for me ,deep inside the earth. I don't miss anyone,especially mother when I wrap myself in the tender ,warmth of this quilt. Mother!!

Almost as if on cue,the pounding on my door begins once more,softer this time and very familiar in rhythm. It is not possible for her to have come down here ,not now when there was no one around to fetch her from thousands of kilometres away .I hear a soft tender voice calling out to me.My heart leaps in my mouth as I try hard to focus.It is her ! I jump out of my bed in my hurry to meet her.She is my shield and I feel safe now...Suddenly everything around ,inside and out ,is  quiet.Time has come to a stand still. She will set everything right,I am sure .I open the door and fling my arms around her neck.We are clasped together  in a tight embrace for several minutes .I hear all familiar words of endearment and my restless heart and agitated mind are at peace with each other.I realize that her presence can not be a mere coincidence.Strong as she was in her resolve to protect me from all evil, she was ignorant about many worldly wise matters-travel being one of them.Then how did she manage to arrive all alone..who informed her that I needed her at this time?Could it be Deepak ?

I detach myself, from my mother's arms and I soon find my thoughts  drifting towards Deepak. Is it possible that he ,in his need to be with that younger girl,has meticulously planned his exit from my life? I shall not speak, I shall wait for my mother to explain her sudden appearance in my life.Almost for  two long years, I have been away from mother and my maternal  home .I also can not believe that in a few months from now we will be completing two years of married life ,Deepak and I .Two years of being away and the same time spent being felt like eternity and the other just flew by.




The timing could not have been worse.It is  difficult to concentrate on the most important phase my career.The switch of career ,that seemed so natural and effortless a year back ,is slowly draining me out.I feel constantly being pulled in two opposite directions .Home and politics...choosing one over the other is out of question for me.I am missing Sandhya more than ever at this stage.She ,who has been my pillar of support  from the time we became best friends in college was herself in need of a support system now.I find myself thinking about her constantly while travelling.Good,  I had managed to  arrange for Sandhya's mother to be with her till I was free from elections.At least I am assured of her well being in my absence.The last conversation I had with my mother in law is still etched deep in my mind.

When I made that call to her,I narrated  briefly, my concern for Sandhya's health and my impending road trip ahead of upcoming elections.I voiced another concern of mine,a doubt actually,the seeds of which were sown by my sister in my mind.On my last trip with didi to my constituency, I sent in some donations to an asylum with didi. That is when didi chanced upon a psychiatrist who had treated Sandhya briefly before marriage.  Mother in law asked me whether I was  aware of my wife's condition. I said it looked like depression and that is when for a brief moment there was silence at the other end.Few moments later,in a deep ,emotion filled voice,she told me that her daughter had been under treatment for Schizophrenia since the age of  twenty.She thought I was aware...that Sandhya had confided in me.Well obviously I wasn't aware .I don't know what shocked me more...that I was kept in the dark about her condition or the fact that the revelation  made no difference to me at this stage.She feared that a relapse was under way when I narrated a few recent  instances where her behaviour had  seemed bizarre to me.

 I wanted Sandya's mother  to be with Sandhya because I feared for my wife's safety. Sandhya had left the house once in the dead of the night and the neighbours had escorted her back home at dawn.She could not explain her absence and was quiet afterwards for a couple of days before bouncing back to her normal self. Sandhya had lately been plagued with excessive jealousy when it came to me and our common friends especially women. She picked fights,became cranky,tearful and later withdrew in a shell for days on end.It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to have a normal conversation with anyone of the opposite gender.

Armed with half baked knowledge of the disease,I was not the best person to have dealt with her symptoms.I asked for Sandhya's medical history,groped in the dark for any evidence of her being on medication for all this time that she was with me.I drew a blank.I had to act swiftly,now that I was aware of the disease and its progression. Sandhya was prone to violence ,if the disease was allowed to progress untreated. I sought help from a renowned psychiatrist.I was informed by her mother that Sandhya would rapidly turn suspicious of everyone close to her .She would also refuse medication of any kind .Sandhya was aware deep down , of her condition but would be in a state of denial. Haloperidol liquid mixed in her food / beverages was the only option left. Determined,I latched on to it.I had to be extremely careful and discreet about the whole thing .If caught,I could face losing Sandhya's trust for ever. I had been able to manage pretty well , till it was time for me to leave.

It would be a few days before Sandhya's mom could arrive from Canada. I entrusted the responsibility of administering medication to didi who stayed a floor above till that time.I left with a heavy heart, my mind clouded with uncertainty.I remember the night I left home..Past few days Sandhya slept longer and  like a log, owing to the medication.She lay curled up in bed under her favourite quilt.With her small frame,it was almost as if she was not there inside.Her quilt was always tucked snugly around her and I knew better, than to disturb her in her sleep.From one raised corner of the quilt, an old photograph could be seen. I picked it up to see that it was her favourite candid shot of us ,clicked during one of our college trips.Young and beautiful Sandhya was laughing with abandon and I was looking at her face intently. I had held her for the first time that day. The desire and longing was writ large on my face and Sandhya often teased me about it.I put the photograph in my pocket and  slipped outside . I then sat in the living room waiting for my trusted driver to arrive .I thought of readying her milk in the mean time just in case she got up earlier than usual.

How I wished Sandhya was healthy enough to accompany me on this trip. She weaves magic with her words. My speeches written by her have always been successful in connecting with the masses.The best part was that she did it in minutes,it came straight from her heart .I depended heavily on her instincts and her ability to read people.I felt incomplete without her beside me.
It was  going to be a long winding road ahead ...


I knew this was coming. I had only one proof of his relationship with that young girl and he took it away stealthily in the night from under my pillow.
He betrayed me ..How could he forget my years of dedicated friendship and love..Few months of lack of physical intimacy, is all it took for him to bury our wonderful relationship deep into the oblivion.
It hurts, deep inside somewhere,it does...
They told me ,he was up to something.I was naive ,blinded by his love all this while.The girl in the photograph looks familiar,may be a junior in college.They said, Deepak was drawn towards that girl and I ignored.All this while I thought the voices were evil.I thought they conspired against us as a couple.Now I know,they are my friends. They said they were special, as special as I am. I believe them when they say that only I can hear them.I do.It is going to be our little secret from now on.
If it was not for the voices,I would not have walked into the kitchen where Deepak was mixing something in my milk. I witnessed it all myself . I was also able to dodge that other female  who Deepak had entrusted to cook for me.She wanted to give me Vitamins along with food.I quietly took them and later threw them away.
No,I am not even letting mother in, this time.I think she talks to Deepak behind my back.

Deepak came home tonight with a defeated look on his face. 
I smiled to myself and Deepak and mother reacted as if they had seen a ghost.
'I am going to be strong,I will not waste my life ..I will stay alive.. I will not run away..I will smile always...'-I repeated to myself again and yet again .Mother made me repeat after her  while she fed me, gave  calcium tablets along with milk and stroked my hair gently till I fell asleep.I longed for those moments..Times change,people do too.The pain however just wouldn't go away...



I lost...
I was so preoccupied throughout the road trip and the subsequent elections ,that it showed .I was just not there in my whole being, and it showed.I was not spared.I deserved what I got.

I returned defeated to what once stood ground as my home.She looked at me like one would, at a stranger on the road. She curved her lips but smile eluded her pretty face.

I lost...
I was not there for her when she needed me the most .Her silent cries reached out to me across the skies but I just could not reach out to her in time.


She had stopped living ,somewhere in between .Life was not the same without Deepak. He was no longer exclusive with his attention .He basked in the glory of mass popularity that he enjoyed as the youngest politician.Then there was this heavy guilt of hiding a slice of her life from his best friend and love.Her shoulders felt heavy and she felt  a sharp stab in her back that hurt .
By the time her mother arrived,Sandhya was hallucinating. She was stuck in the past when she and Deepak were just friends and it was okay to hide a secret or two from friends.She held that old photograph close to her heart.The carefree young girl in the photograph became someone else,one who vied for her husband's love and attention.Fear gripped her in a vice so tight that she felt suffocated.She disconnected ,cut her ties ,her bond with Deepak. She was strong..she would live.With this thought ,she smiled .
Deepak could not bear to see her like this. She had stopped all medication soon after their marriage.Disease crept up slowly  like cancer ,spreading its tentacles He was assured by experts in the field that the disease was not incurable.If Sandhya continued taking medicines lifelong ,she can lead a normal life. 
There was hope at the end of the tunnel and Deepak was ready to hang on to the last bit of hope.She was his life and he was going to claim his life back from life itself. 

 A year later...

Deepak and Sandhya were part of a special delegation to East Europe .Sandhya was four months pregnant and  working as the official speech writer for the party.They worked together complimenting each other beautifully.Hallucinations were non existent , though jealousy crept up with its ugly face every now and then. Deepak was learning to live with it. Sandhya  alternated at times between periods of trust and mistrust but she now accepted her condition well and never missed a dose. 
Together ,they had gathered the loose ends ....
The white quilt at home, looked tired  and worn out... 


  1. Lovely! I liked the twist in the tale at the end!

  2. Together we shall overcome....

    A lovely end to a poignant story.

    1. Was apprehensive Purba ..about this attempt at short story writing.Glad you read it and liked the end.

  3. The story seized from its dramatic start till the quiet end. I like the way you unfurled the layers. An excellent, modern work.



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