By NIKITA SINGH
Author of The Reason Is You
This had been a great idea, to take a self-care day to reset and recalibrate. Leena had been quarantined with Abhishek for over a month, hiding from a global pandemic, and by this point, they were at each other’s throat. They had begun bickering about irrelevant things, and lately, they had been finding themselves midway through arguments, unable to remember what they were even fighting about.
Their small, one-bedroom flat in Mulund West made it nearly impossible for them to have any space from each other, but after watching her favourite YouTuber’s latest video about self-care, Leena had decided that the only way to get things back on track was to take time away from each other. Abhishek had looked hurt when she’d suggested it the previous night, but she had insisted, and he had agreed in the end. That was the first step successfully accomplished: schedule your self-care time, and guard it with passion.
While Abhishek valiantly gave up the desk against the window in the living room for her, and hid in the window-less bedroom all day hunched over the breakfast tray he perched his laptop on, Leena focused on hitting everything on her list. So far, her day had been perfect. She’d taken the extra time to do her hair in the morning, decluttered her desk, and had been more mindful and present all day, as prescribed. She had even gone up to the terrace for a walk during her lunch break, using her scarf as a mask, just in case she passed someone on the staircase.
Once her last virtual meeting ended, Leena unrolled her yoga mat, ready for a 30-minute practice, followed by a cold shower. She’d barely started, when Abhishek’s head appeared from the bedroom door. “Can I come out, or will I be disturbing you?” he asked. “I have finished work, so you won’t be disturbing me,” Leena said, keeping her tone neutral. It was important to put up a wall and discourage conversation, so she could really be alone with her self. “Can I use the kitchen?” Leena broke character. “Yes! Come on, Abhi, don’t act like I’m some kind of an evil dictator and you need to ask permission to eat!” “Just asking...,” Abhishek said, not looking at her as he walked to the kitchen, muttering under his breath. “I don’t know all the new rules you make up...”
Leena ignored that. He was usually the sensible one and she, the volatile troublemaker, so this behaviour was unlike him. But she put Abhishek out of her thoughts, plugged in her headphones and followed along the yoga video. As her shoulders stretched and relaxed, she reclaimed the zen.
However, that didn’t last long. Soon the aroma of spices wafted from the kitchen, and her stomach grumbled. What was Abhi cooking? Was he cooking enough for two? Stop. She pushed the thought of food away and sank deeper into her utkatasana. That’s it. That felt good. She just needed to focus. She took a deep breath, and the unmistakable smell of MTR’s pav bhaji masala filled her nostril.
“Ugh, forget it,” she muttered. Leena stood up, rolled her mat and marched to the bathroom. Better. The torturous smell of bhaji couldn’t reach here. And once again, she felt calmer, as she turned on the shower and the cold water cooled her back. The smell of her soap overpowered everything else, but her stomach didn’t stop grumbling.
He was doing this on purpose; he knew fully well that she had a weakness for pav bhaji.
She took her time in the shower, refusing to give in to Abhishek’s twisted trap. However, despite all her efforts, minutes later, she found herself in the kitchen, watching Abhishek eat at the counter, as her hair dripped water on to the tile. Leena scanned the kitchen, her heart sinking.
“You really didn’t make me any?” Her voice broke.
Abhishek took a moment to finish chewing. When he looked up at her, embarrassing tears had filled her eyes. He nodded towards the living room.
Leena walked over there, to find her dinner waiting for her at her desk, where she’d had her lunch, alone, away from her loving husband who was always patient and kind and put up with her erratic, stupid ideas. As much as she’d needed her self-care time, now she missed her husband suddenly and terribly.
She picked up the plate, walked back to the kitchen, and pulled up a stool next to him at the counter. He didn’t say anything. As they ate quietly, Leena let the pav bhaji blissfully overwhelm all her senses and already began thinking of ways to make it up to Abhishek.
She took her time in the shower, refusing to give in to Abhishek’s twisted trap.