Thursday, June 01, 2006

Forty Something And Slowing

In his forties he prefers to go by Rajesh rather than the diminutive Raj. His wife Anjana calls him Raju the kids switch between Papa and Dad as frequently they do between Hindi and English - one man, many names. The elevator is out of order this morning and he feels wasted by the time he reaches his cubicle on the third floor.He feels vauguely envious of the slender woman in strappy red sandals as she races past him - she is probably in her late twenties and looks like youth is here to stay with her. At 5’10” and 200 lbs there is nothing diminutive about him anymore. Being on the road four days a week, living cheaply in motels and eating convenient have taken their combined toll.

Anjana complains about his beery breath as much as she does about his weight when they try the missionary position. She is the kind of woman who has lain prone all her conjugal existence and prefers it that way. Raju rolls over to his side of the bed, she heaves a sigh of relief. So much has changed since the heady days of courtship in college. The woman he is married to is nothing like the girl he fell in love with but he is not Raj anymore either. His hair is thinning and graying as if they were forces in contest with each other.

Everything about him has turned softer and slower over time – his speech, gait, smile and laughter. Sometimes he dreams in slow motion – each frame of his life moving a tenth of its normal pace forcing him to pay attention to minutiae that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and ignored. When he wakes up the world seems to be whirling around furiously. He tries to catch up with work, with friends from long ago, the tax documents, the investment portfolio, the boys’ karate lessons among a host of other things.

He trails behind dragged down by the weight of his existence. Anjana got him a membership to Gold’s Gym on their anniversary. Rajesh eyes it longingly each time he opens his wallet to pay for his sandwich to go with fries on the side. If only Anjana had more imagination.

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