Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Long Email

Vibha and Sheila went to school together but had been only in episodic touch the last ten years. Not in the least because Vibha never had an e-mail address. So when a few weeks ago, Sheila saw a mail from her in her inbox, she was beyond elated. They had been very good friends once. She hoped time and distance had not impaired their connection too much, that it would be easy to pick up from where they had left off. In response to her very brief note that said:

"Hope you still remember me. More when you reply - Vibs"

Shiela wrote :

"Heaven be praised ! Vibs has an e-mail id like the rest of us ordinary mortals ! Where have you been, girl ? And what have you been up to ? Tell me all - of course I remember you - what did you imagine ? "

Sometimes utter innocuity - like her message to Vibha - has a way to hitting a raw nerve but even knowing that would not have prepared Shiela for her response. Which was:

"I am writing this to you from the public library which is an hour away from my house if you walk. My husband Gaurav, is away on a business trip for a week, so I have little to do. Oh ! you wouldn't know about the marriage would you ? It happened two years ago and I have been in the US since then. We have so much to catch up on. I completed my MBA a couple of years after we lost touch and was working in Mumbai. Gaurav has been the States for fifteen years.

Back home, I used to hear about the H4 wives and how they settled down to domesticity and making curds in the oven by the heat of the pilot light. Some of my own friends had ended up that way. After a while their e-mails became a pain to read. You know you expect better from a one time fund manager than have her recount in school-essayish detail their trip from Boston to New York. I used to tell myself I would never ever become that woman.

I met Gaurav online, we dated long distance via phone and e-mail. This went on for a year until he was able to take the time off to come see me. We spent a wonderful month together, met the parents got engaged and the rest. It was a foregone conclusion by the time we actually met that we would be married. The marriage proper happened six months later and I came here on the fiancé visa.

I had wanted to take a sabbatical from work for the longest time and a new marriage seemed to be the perfect opportunity. We were on an extended honeymoon with me tagging along with him on most of his business trips. About six months later it dawned on me that I still did not have a driver's license, never did anything for or by myself and that my e-mails to family and friends were becoming dangerously school-essayish.

Every rest area stop, airport and mall was recounted in excruciating detail. I had not listened to my favorite Led Zeppelin album since arriving in America. And yes, I was acquiring the reputation of being able to turn ricotta cheese into the meanest ras malai in town. In essence I was becoming the dread H4 hausfrau that I so did not want to be.

Gaurav has been wanting to start family for a while now. I had no excuse or reason to put it off. Wanting to go back to work at this late date seemed silly almost. My experience is dated, rusty and dusty - maybe completely useless. He thinks I should go back to school before trying to find work - I don't know that I want to do that.

So, I am four months pregnant now and am starting to show. I am excited about motherhood but feel clueless about where my life is headed. I still don't drive - I mean I do have a drivers license but somehow prefer him to drive. Talking of which, it has started to rain outside and I don't have my umbrella. If you were to ask me why I walked so far in such weather, I would have no answer. I can't bring myself to admit I am too scared to drive. I hope there is another reason that I just cannot articulate.

Recently, I stumbled upon an online forum for emotionally abused women and have been going back there frequently. I hate myself just for that. I can't claim Gaurav has ever abused me - not in any way that these women say their husbands have at least. Something has killed my joie de vivre, my desire to live a full and meaningful life.

I seem to have been sucked into this huge whirlpool of inertia where I am willing to let the days slip by without accomplishing anything. Its like if someone were to shake me up real hard and force me to get a grip on my life, I still could. I wish Gaurav would do that for me. What scares me is that I could get past even that point in a few more years. The few times I've tried to talk about it he is all confused - he'll say "Tell me what I can do to help, Vibs and I'll do it". If I had known wouldn't I have helped myself already ?

I sense that Gaurav is getting bored and restless. I used to be a size two gym rat until I got pregnant - it didn't feel important any longer. I wasn't trying to stay in shape for me - I was driven by insecurity maybe. I realize that I am no longer the woman he was once attracted to, I try to keep up with business, technology and politics. The internet is my best friend second only to the local Barnes and Noble. I think I can still hold my own in a conversation but its not the same thing as being able to buy him an expensive gift on his birthday with my own money. Each time I swipe his credit card, it feels like a little more of my self- esteem is draining away. I don't know if he even notices.

He travels a lot more these days. Sex is not what it used to be but then I am pregnant as well so that could have something to do with it. I am vaguely suspicious and uneasy about what he does when he is out of town for days. I panic everytime I get his voicemail instead of him - expecting the very worst until he calls back. And when he does, I try to read hidden meanings in his words, undercurrents and undertones - you know how they say the wife is always the last to know.

I have tried to sneak into his e-mails and cell phone bills - there really are no red flags. It's probably all in my mind, from my own feelings of inadequacy. I am terrified that I will go into depression - you know have the post-partum blues stay on for good. I feel nervous and anxious a lot wondering what may happen next - almost sure that something will happen to challenge the status quo of the past two years. I have disturbing dreams sometimes.

We have this beautiful home that we both spent a lot of effort in decorating. The vegetable garden is thriving like I am not. Sometimes, I wonder if all this will come crumbling down like a house of cards. What if one evening, Gaurav tells me that he has been seeing someone else for a while and wants a divorce. Imagine that happening after I have our child.

Just because I used to have a career does not mean that I should continue having one forever. Why can't I accept gracefully that I was cut out to be a house wife (home maker to be politically correct) and that it is my natural state. Why can't I be content to just be Guarav's wife and not have to be his courtesan - the woman who can compel his interest in her forever. Why can't I just be ? I think marriage takes more work than I had thought it would and I am overwhelmed.

Anyways, I did not mean to drown you in my litany of woes after all these years. I felt like you would understand the internal conflicts that I am trying to resolve with such little success. Please don't feel like you have to rescue me - I will tell you when I need that. How have you been, what are you doing outside of work ? I look forward to your mail.

Vibha"

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