Silence is a weapon. A very potent one. Like slow poisoning. You keep using it on your target without inflicting evident physical injury, yet killing the person bit by bit.
The click of the doorknob was enough to wake Lata out of her fitful sleep. The turn of the key to lock the door from outside, made her sit up. Dhruv had left the house without eating for the fourth consecutive day. He came back late, and when she asked him for dinner, his standard reply was, “I ate.” Where, when, with whom, he didn’t bother to explain.
Lata spent most of her days cooped up in the sixteenth floor apartment rarely leaving, except to run errands like grocery shopping or visiting the dry cleaner to pick up Dhruv’s freshly laundered suits and silk ties. The rest of her daily needs- the green grocer, the beautician, the seamstress- were easily accessible in the posh society where they lived. Dhruv had little time for neighbourly exchanges and more than often, discouraged her interaction with them. “Try to keep yourself occupied in something constructive like reading books or watching documentaries,” he said. Lata did as she was told, never questioning the validity of his argument. She immersed herself in books and could be seen sitting in the balcony with a book in her hand.
A few months ago, a few ladies from the society approached her. They wanted to start a book club in the society, and who would be better to lead them than Lata, they said. Lata sought Dhruv’s opinion, as was customary for her. He gave her a reluctant go-ahead, provided she did not neglect any of her wifely duties.
On the day of the first meeting of the book club, Dhruv asked Lata to pick his suit from the dry cleaner as he had to wear it to a party that night. Lata told him she was busy that evening and would appreciate if he could pick it himself. Dhruv did not talk to her for two days. She had to apologize for her dereliction of wifely duty.
The silent treatment had grown intense over the past few months. For every minor inconvenience, Dhruv would retreat into silent mode. Lata would try to initiate a dialogue but would receive either silent mutterings or monosyllables in response. Cajoling, coaxing, pampering and even apologizing were in vain when Dhruv decided to go into hibernation. Lata now lived under perpetual fear of his silences.
A few days ago, Lata was preparing breakfast for Dhruv when the doorbell rang. Three ladies from the book club stood in the doorway with a box of sweets. The women almost barged into the living room, shouting ‘Congratulations!’ ‘Lata ji, we had sent one of the poems penned by you to a local newspaper, without your consent. But look, they have published it under your name in today’s edition. Congratulations!’
Dhruv had that particular expression on his face that said, “You defied my orders.” He left without eating or congratulating her and since then had retreated to his ‘silent zone.’
Lata sat pondering, and for the first time realized that Dhruv’s behaviour was nothing short of ‘Mantrums’- the tantrums of a grown up man unable to think maturely and acknowledge the existence of another person in his domain.
“No,” she decided, “I will not be bogged down by his dark silences anymore.” She brought out a bright saree from her wardrobe and decided to call an emergency meeting of her book club.
Dr Sonika Sethi