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Love in the Time of Internet

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B'Khush is excited to introduce a new column on Relationships by Champa Srinivasan. 


About Champa : I was born in the year 1963 to teacher parents in Kolkata. My maiden name was Sengupta. Like most other kids of my time, I had a very modest childhood. Kites, marbles and storybooks and a few dolls were my best friends. I have spent many lonely afternoons either by striking up an imaginary conversation with one of the fictional characters or giving a makeover to my dolls by trying to dress them up in new clothes by ripping of my mother’s saris. I enjoyed playing with marbles on the lane in front of our house with local boys and flying kites too.

My father passed away in the year 1981, within a month of being diagnosed with cancer and that left a deep impact not only on my teenaged mind but on our entire family setup and our life style too. It kind of brought an abrupt halt to all the day dreaming and childish plays and I had no other option but to grow up overnight.

After completing my Post Graduation in English literature from Jadavpur University in 1986 I got married and went abroad to live with my husband, who was working in Germany then. Language classes, a new home and learning to cope up with new motherhood kept me busy there.

We came back to India before our son started going to school. I resumed my studies, got pregnant for the second time and after my daughter’s birth, joined a college under Calcutta University as an Assistant Professor. I taught literature to undergraduate students there and also headed the designing department.

I gave up my teaching job of many years when my family started getting scattered and I felt the need to be at more than one place to keep the things flowing smoothly as ever. I now keep shuttling between Chennai, my husband’s work place, Kolkata, our original home, where my daughter studies and Hyderabad, where my son is posted at the moment as a Software Engineer.

In between my travels I take care of the designing section of our family owned leather goods business and love to keep myself glued to my laptop, browsing through the happenings all around and scribbling down my memories and experiences as anecdotes.

One thing I have noted that whatever topic, I choose to write about, I end up talking about my mother , whom I have lost a couple of years back and my anagram kids, Agni and Inga, who are now, in their twenties. I was once told by a friend that I suffer from a typical ‘middle class mother’ syndrome. I did not try to look deep into what that actually meant. I felt complimented to be given a middle class mom identity because that is what I perhaps always wanted to be....


Enjoy Champa's first post under this column. 



Love In The Time Of Internet

My husband came back from work pretty late last night. I had almost fallen asleep on the sofa, still holding on my hands the book which I was reading and didn’t ever hear the sound of his car or the front gate opening with that familiar screeching sound. The door bell jerked me up.

I wanted to be very angry but could not be so with the tired and haggard man, standing there, office files in different shades of pastel spilling over his gathered arms, the black leather laptop bag dangling from one shoulder and the lunch box from the other.

‘So late!’ are the only two words I could mutter and ushered him in.

 Dinner, which I had cooked in the evening, had long gone cold, by then. Switching the oven on for warming up the food I asked, out of habit, ‘Whiskey or rum?’.

‘No no, no drinks, it is pretty late and I feel famished. Set the table quick before I change’, he sounded really tired, I knew.

‘I look forward to your cooking, it is so different from what the maid prepares’, he repeated once more what had been telling me pretty often, these days.

‘Oh you liked the dal? And the chicken curry too? Have one more chapatti then’, I fussed, ‘I am noticing that you hardly eat these days, in fact I have also been noticing that you seem to be in an endless hurry, but for what?’

‘Just put the left over in the fridge, leave the plates on the table. Clear them in the morning, now come and sit with me’, I heard him calling out for her from the living room balcony. It was almost midnight and she was in no mood for a chat so late, still I joined him, pulling a chair, close to him.

‘I know I have neglected you a lot, in all these years.’ This is not something I expected to hear from him, not at this odd hour, at least. ‘But it is a matter of only a few more years you see, perhaps for five six years more, only.’ I gazed in surprise at the familiar face of almost three decades and felt that it was looking quite unknown indeed.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ I sounded alarmed, ‘where do you want to go after a few more years, may I know.’

‘Did I scare you dear?’ he broke into one of his bursting laughter that he is famous for and said, ‘Oh no, not me alone, we are going, we both together.’

‘But where to?’ I wondered in my mind.

‘I have planned it all out. I want to retire from work, after five years. You too can close down whatever you are doing now. We would not live in this or any other city anymore.’

‘Are you planning to live in a village then’?

‘No, no, not any ordinary village, you see.  I know you aren’t fond of sea, so it has to be a village by the hills. It may not be a famous one like Kodai or Kalimpong or any typical tourist destination, which we have been visiting over the years, but a place, which will make us happy. I am saving to buy us a dream house there, small but beautiful, like we see in those exotic travel catalogues.’

‘Really!’, I couldn’t stop giggling any more.

‘Don’t laugh. I am pretty serious about this. You can decorate the house according to your wish; it might not be very big but would have enough space for two of us. There will be a flowerbed near the front gate and a small kitchen garden at the backyard. I will then become a full time gardener and grow all your favourite flowers and fruits and veggies at home. You won’t have much work then, you have to cook for only the two of us and spend all your afternoons in the garden reading and knitting and writing and chasing the squirrels and the birds. There wouldn't be any snoopy neighbours, no salesmen at odd afternoon hours to press the bell, no maids either to make you yell, my sweetheart, only you and me.’

I could almost see myself, sitting among the flowers, sipping my evening tea and reading Shakti Chattopadhyay and Vikram Seth, Cummings and Purnendu Patrea, facing the twilight sun. ‘There has to be swing at one corner of the garden, a wooden canopy and a couple of cane wood chairs under that,’ I thought.

‘We of course would have two spare rooms, always ready for the kids; they can come and visit us any time. Who knows, by that time they might even get settled with their partners and if we are lucky enough, we could have a few grandchildren soon, too.’

The very thought of grandchildren sounded so tempting to me. ‘But they won’t be staying with us and even when they do they would only stay with us for a few days! Your plan appears to be so picture perfect! But if I have no work at all to do and nothing to worry for, not even the children, wouldn't I get bored? How long would I love to read and knit, dance and sing? You know me well; won’t I need a few people to talk to?’ 

He looked at my eyes straight, smiled. His eyes were twinkling in mischief, I felt, just like those early years, when we had just met. ‘What do you think of me?’ he said, ‘Would I not find out about the internet connectivity before choosing a location for our dream home?

‘No, you won’t get a chance to feel bored dear. In the evening, when the flowers and birds of the garden would go to sleep, you and I will sit in our living room, face to face. I’ll watch an action movie on the net and you can log in to your account and talk to your heart’s content with all your “Facebook friends”!’

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What a beautiful start to

What a beautiful start to your column. Will look forward to the next write up.


nice read. want more of it...

Enjoyed the Write!

Thank you for writing the story, Champa Srinivasan. First of all, the time is absolutely ripe for such a story when our virtual interactions have taken over the simple, basic real time interactions that we are supposed to have within our family. The stress and strain of our everyday existence have made love ones crave for the space that they once used to cherish between themselves, and then, the gradual process of taking each other for granted takes a toll on the substance of the mutual relationship. The husband and wife and their quest for a retired life away from all the quandaries of city life, their imagination of that pristine life together amid the mountains is a symbol of the unattainable, yet cherished goal. But in the end, it is all about internet connectivity, chatting with Facebook friends and watching movies on the net, which subtly tells us how haunting and inevitable the reality of our present lives can be. Write on!

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