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A Lack of Love

The astrologer took one look at my horoscope and said, "So, you devoured your father."

At the outset we look like a normal couple. There is nothing about us that enthuses curiosity or even a second look. We are regular Joes going about our business without as much as creating a ruffle. We have regular jobs that start at a respectable time and end without much fuss right before sunset. We neither earn too little or too much and have all the basic necessities of life that make city living pleasurable.


And yet if you look closer there exist these glaring clinks in the armour. Unspoken, hidden feelings that surface every once in a while to simmer over and then just dissipate. 


My parents were also quite like that model couple. My mother devoted to his every need and my father valiant and giving, constantly educating her about current affairs and geo-politics. His long letters to her were full of wonder about some new scientific development that had caught his fancy; a foldable cycle or a test tube baby. It was the pre-internet era where information was limited, their reading restricted to the monthly issues of Readers Digest and books given by friends. Hidden in these letters filled with mundane information was also a plea. One didn’t notice it at first, but as one read letter after letter it surfaced in nearly every letter. 




By, the time I was born after eight long years and due surely to a miracle, as they barely ever indulged in the physical act of lovemaking, the letters had turned business like filled with everyday mundanities. They had gotten shorter filled with details about other people. Little did they talk about emotional or physical needs and instead focussed purely on the material. A new frock for their toddler or more colour photographs of their happy smiling child, these were the themes that went round and round in circles.


Once long after my father had died and my mother in all her earnestness had taken me to an astrologer, he had taken one look at my horoscope and declared, “So, you devoured your father.”


It was said with no emphasis while we all heard it, it was something neither my mum nor I chose to acknowledge. 


However, it stayed with me as I had always been used to the narrative of me being god sent. It was the first time in my life that someone had questioned my very birth, casually admonished it as a curse that befell my parents and ultimately declared in a final flourish ‘devoured’ my father.


My father died a very cruel death. He suffered endlessly for seven long years. The Cancer gnawed at his very bones but had little impact on his effervescent mind. It was also the time my parents were closest to each other. My mother had a sparkle in her eye, a glow and untiring energy as she went about the business of ensuring he was comfortable. My father in those difficult times referred to my mother as his mother. On emotional days, he promised to return in an afterlife as her mother to repay the debt of her loving care. It was as if they had transcended their relationship and redefined it as a sacred a bond between a mother and a child.


I their only child created due to the carnal necessity of furthering one’s progeny as a consequence had become quite insignificant. I continued to be the centre of their universe but in a distant way. My father’s infatuation with me though had entirely dissipated. He expected little from me and our long conversations about life and existence which he earnestly looked forward to during my visits to the hospital were few and far between. In the end, he always seemed to be in pain but his face always lit up when he saw my mother. While once my mother was the outsider in our little club, she now became the bridge between me and him. It was only after my father died did I realize that she was the bond that made us a family.


My mother still describes the early years of my childhood as the most blissful. “We were quite bored of each other by then. You were like a plaything in our hands. An obedient skilfully articulate doll which sang to our tunes,” she said of me reminiscing.


Instead, now she had to brace herself with a moody, constantly irritated being. A daughter, who she felt, never had the time for her and ran away from even the most basic responsibilities of life like maintaining a bank account or getting a passport. Added to this eccentric persona, she had strange ideas which she vehemently argued about for hours at length.




We had been married for four years now and we had had sex less than 10 times in all these years. On an average two times a year, beating the Giant Pandas by a whisker. They procreate once a year when the female Giant Panda releases an egg which needs to be fertilized within 72 hours, if not the couple needs to wait for an entire year to get the female horny. 

I released eggs roughly every four weeks and begged for sex roughly every two months but despite both biology and psychology working in our favour, sex remained that expensive holiday you took once a year. Even when it was granted, it was after so many initial rejections that it felt tepid, completely lacking in spontaneity or desire. 


Back, when I was growing up, I remembered watching a television show where a very fat woman was married to a beautiful man. They made an odd couple. They slept in the same bed, lived in the same house, understood each other completely well, shared the chores and could talk for hours at length. But, they never had sex. The woman said there was no dearth of intimacy in their lives but she had never had sex with him. Every time she brought it up, the beautiful man made an excuse. He claimed sex was too carnal, demeaning all that they shared. Some other days when she caught him masturbating on porn, he said it was merely an exercise in removing excess energy. Finally, she caught him cheating on her. The woman had been devastated and sobbing in fits, she described to the host of the show that she still loved the man and could easily reconcile with the cheating as she still believed that their relationship existed on a higher plain and was beyond the ordinary but alas the man now wanted nothing to do with her.


I never could quite understand the woman and thought she was nothing short of vain and delusional. She also served as a warning, -‘Ensure you have sex regularly otherwise you will become this fat woman’ was the message which was communicated loud and clear. 


Now that I found myself in a similar situation, my demands for sex were mostly dictated out of fear that I will meet the same fate than out of any real ebbing desire. 

I was quite insistent as the episode played in my head in a loop. It was not even a matter of trust but more an issue of salvaging one’s pride. Sex now was no longer an act of expressing love but it was something that validated my body image. No sex to me implied that I was now that vain delusional woman on television who mistook manipulation to love.


It had been a regular evening. I had just come back from a swim. I saw my husband sitting on our ancient sofa, reading aloud from a book. He always did it when he found it hard to concentrate. He loved listening to his voice. It gave him immense pleasure when he used the correct pronunciation, paused where the commas were and read aloud pretending they were his words and not the authors. I liked listening to him too. He read with clarity. He was never in a hurry like I was when I read. He perhaps read it in his mind first before reading it aloud. It seemed like the right time to ask for sex. He seemed distracted and would perhaps relent this one time. Also, I felt beautiful and sexy, emboldened after the exercise, capable after all of dealing with the layers of fat around my stomach. 




Like always, he mumbled, “not today.” The rejection filled me with deep resentment. Instead of just sighing and getting on with life, I refused to relent. “ This cannot go on like this,” I said vehemently. “ Are you even attracted to me?” I asked. Doubts that had only lingered in my mind all these days resurfaced to question and provoke. “ What is this obsession with sex?” he asked, alluding that the very demand was frivolous. “ It is a biological need and everyone has a right to it,” I retorted viciously. 


I don’t know when things got out of control, they had just been a volley of sentences flung at each other like every other time we discussed it. But, this time, he became angry. He began flinging the books, I was reading at me. He flung it with such hatred, hatred I had never seen before. And then, just like that, he shoved me towards our wooden cupboard, holding me by my neck. At that instant, I burst into tears. He stopped immediately, shocked by his own actions. I irritated him to bits but his reaction was so out of character. Even, he had never thought that this uncharacteristic display of rage would spiral out of control in such a manner. We didn’t come from families where anger was expressed in such a manner. I continued sobbing, now crouching on the floor unable to comprehend how things had reached this point.


He looked at me and sat down facing me and watched me cry.


And suddenly, just as abruptly, I stopped crying. I felt very numb. Both of us got up. He cautiously pulled me closer and said, “ Come, its late. Let us sleep.”


We slept arm in arm as though nothing had happened and he whispered in my ear, “ I really do love you.”


Main artwork produced by South Asian Today's designer, Sathya Thavendran, @brown.n.bold

About the author

Kruthika Rao is a part-time writer and a full time communications officer in a non-profit in India. She writes whenever she can find time to unclutter her head and share her worldview. Instagram: @mitikaladi



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