© 2016 to 2017 Gita V. Reddy
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For my husband,
Prof. K. Venu Gopal Reddy
who believes in me more than I can ever do
“Maybe we should get a divorce,” Raj said, as Divya looked away.
The words froze in the silence of the room. Raj stared in shock. Where had they come from? Why had he said them? Had she heard? She lip-read very fast and when it was him, she was so quick it was impossible to believe she was reading his lips and not hearing him.
They had played a game in their early years. When they were in bed, they switched off the lights and Raj spoke against her palm. She felt his lips and told the words aloud and he soaked in the sensation of her soft skin, and its feather light movements on his face.
Why had he mentioned divorce? She had left the room. Had she heard?
“Dad?” Ritu peeped in, knitting her brow and looking like Divya.
Ritu gestured at the clock, and quickly signed, “We’re late.” She was eleven, and like her brother Sanjay and sister Sana, adept at sign language. The children were all able to hear and speak normally but mostly used sign language at home.
Raj made the alphabet A of the sign language with his right hand and rotated it twice clockwise on his chest. “Sorry”.
Ritu shook her head and held on to her frown. He pointed at her, then at himself, and crossed his arms across his chest.
Ritu made a quick sign with her fingers that spelt ILY and said, “I love you too, Dad, but you have to drop me to school, remember? I am not taking the bus today.”
Divya saw them off at the door. Raj busied himself with arranging Ritu’s science project in the backseat, and avoided looking at Divya.
When he returned from office, it was late enough for the children to have finished dinner. They were watching TV; Divya allowed them an hour of TV after dinner, subject to their homeworks being done.
“Where’s Mama?” he asked. Ritu and Sanjay did not look away from the TV but five-year-old Sana came to him.
“Mama is sleeping. She has a headache. Your dinner is on the table.”
Raj went up to the bedroom. It was dark. Divya had switched off the night lamp; she always liked it that way. Raj stopped within the door for a few moments. Was she asleep? Should he wake her up? Or was she awake? She wouldn’t have heard him or seen him either.
He slipped out and used the guest bathroom for a shower, after which he joined the children in the living room.
Divya was awake. She knew Raj was standing in the room. She did not hear him, she was deaf, wasn’t she, and the room was dark, but she smelt his cologne. It was faint at the end of the day but enough for her to be aware of his presence.
Why was he standing at the door? Why did he go away? When would he tell her about the divorce? Had he prepared the papers? That wouldn’t take time as he was a lawyer and his closest friend, Roger, was a divorce lawyer.
So Raj wanted a divorce. Thirteen years of marriage, three children, and they would go their separate ways. Where would she go? How would she manage? Would the children be taken away from her? She had no job, and getting a job after so many years would be difficult. Why had she given up her job after marriage? She would start looking for something tomorrow. She kept her mind on practical things and blocked the pain from overwhelming her. She would be prepared.
Not like Annie.
Roger and Annie had divorced a year ago. The divorce had also broken up their group of friends. Before the divorce, Raj and she, Sam and Lee, and Roger and Annie were a group. They went out for dinner together, carpooled, babysat the children in turns, and were a phone call away from one another. Or so they had thought. Yet none of them had seen the divorce coming. Roger and Annie had hidden the cracks so well that the break came as a shock.
“At least it was not messy,” Annie had said. She looked the same but she spoke very fast. She also kept smiling. As she wore dark glasses, it was difficult to see whether the smiles reached her eyes.
“We married when we were both were very young. We were high school sweethearts but you know that. We changed with the years and became different people. We did not seem to agree on anything. It is better this way. We managed to hide it in public but we were either quarrelling or shutting each other out. I wanted us to try but Roger said it was no use. The spark had gone. He offered a huge settlement, a handsome alimony, and an education fund for the children. He was that desperate to rid himself of me.” Here Annie’s smile had crumbled and the tears had come. When she removed her glasses to wipe them away, Divya saw her eyes were swollen and red.
Annie had moved to another city. Divya missed her and the time they spent together. She kept in touch as best as she could but the emails and messages did not provide the comfort of having a friend she could see any time she felt like it. Roger was still their friend. He often grumbled about the alimony checks and how he had been fleeced.
“Annie is looking after his children,” Divya had told Raj furiously after one such visit. “The children have become rebellious. They blame her. Her daughter calls her a failure. She does not like her new school. She wants to live with Roger. Annie cannot tell her he doesn’t want her. She is having a tough time. What is Roger grumbling about? Money? He has enough of it and a new wife too.”
Divya could not sleep. Raj hadn’t come up. He must be using the guestroom or the living room couch. She remembered another conversation with Annie.
“Divya, please don’t get me wrong. I did not expect your marriage to last. I’m happy that it did but when you told me about Raj, I was worried for you. I knew you wanted an ever after marriage but how was that possible? I didn’t see much in common between the two of you except that he had come from India and your grandparents were Indian immigrants. He hadn’t learnt sign language, either. Communication is important for a marriage to last. I thought you were making a huge mistake.”
Annie had been Divya’s friend at work. She had learnt sign language while doing volunteering work. Raj was in law school with Roger. Annie had told her about him. “Roger has a new friend. He’s from India and homesick. Roger wants to know whether you can introduce him to some Indian families.”
She had brought Raj home and laughed when he had wolfed down her mother’s cooking. She had liked him and his dry wit. Soon they were making a foursome with Annie and Roger. Being a little hard up, they would pool their money and have fun.
Divya did not sleep for a very long time. Old memories kept her awake and they were filled with so much love and happiness that they brought fresh tears into her eyes.
Raj dumped the dinner Divya had kept for him in the trash and felt a rush of anger. Why had she to be so bloody perfect? He had told her he could get his own dinner. Why did she spend hours cooking Indian meals every day? Many Indians in America cooked once or twice a week and stored the food in the freezer. Some of them had stopped making chapatis at home. Weren’t there enough Indian stores selling food from every region in India? But Divya’s grandmother had cooked daily, as had her mother, and she would become a lesser person if she did not serve freshly cooked food.
If he ate out because he was getting delayed or forgot to tell her about a dinner with a client, he was faced with a meal he did not want. There was no use telling her. Her answer would be the same. “Put it in the fridge. I’ll eat it tomorrow.”
She would too but it had started to annoy him, maybe because he was skipping dinner more often. The small microwavable dishes in the centre of the cleared table announced his absence more loudly than words. He was thankful she had started having dinner with the children instead of waiting up for him.
He sent the children off to bed and, though he did not want to watch TV, surfed channels. When he got tired of it, he stretched out on the divan. Would a divorce solve their problems? What were their problems? He didn’t know except that they were always fighting and he at least had no peace of mind.
They did not have proper quarrels either, as they were both careful not to create scenes in front of the children. They ripped into each other viciously, in short angry spurts, said hurtful things, sulked, and put on a mask for the children under which fermented a slow bitter poison, corrosive like acid, eating away at all that had made possible their coming together.
He wished they would really quarrel, bring out all the recriminations, thrash them out as it were and come to a decision. He wished he could shout, and make himself heard. He wished he could break through the deafness that Divya used as a strategic defense.
Raj woke up at six, which was his usual time, and went for a jog. When he returned, Divya was not down. An hour later, he peeped into the room. She was asleep. The sun would soon be on her face. He drew the curtains close. She could sleep in late. It was Saturday and the children did not have to go to school. He would look into his office for a couple of hours later in the day.
The children woke up and started shrieking with laughter. One of them must have played a prank on the others. They were very noisy but that would not wake up Divya.
Raj made some avocado sandwiches, remembering to add the Indian curry powder the kids liked. He had to call them three times before they came down.
Ritu was eleven and Sanjay ten. Sana was a surprise baby, but none the less welcome. Seeing their fresh and happy faces, Raj felt ashamed. How could he think of a divorce, even if it was for a minute? The children needed him and Divya. Moreover there was nothing wrong enough in their marriage to part ways. They had hit a bad patch and were being senseless and stupid. He would not let it come in the way of his family’s happiness.
Divya did not feel like getting up. She knew it was long past breakfast but she felt exhausted. Raj must have given the children something to eat. He must have also told them they were not to wake her up.
When she finally came down, Raj was still at the dining table.
“How is your head?” he asked.
“Better,” she signed.
“I made sandwiches.” He moved the plate with the crust free neat triangles, wrapped in cling film.
“I’ll just have tea,” Divya said, speaking instead of signing.
“Take at least one. I went to a lot of trouble.”
“More trouble than the dinner you did not eat last night?”
“I told you not to cook every day. Just cook once a week and freeze it.”
“Why should the children and me eat frozen food? All that it takes is a phone call. Why can’t you inform you will not be in for dinner?”
“The dinner was not planned. It just happened. A meeting extended and the client insisted we have dinner.”
“Did he also insist you not call?”
“Look, how would that have helped? You would have finished cooking by then.”
“I wouldn’t have packed it in hotboxes! I would have let Sanjay had the second or third helping of malai kofta he wanted! I would not have waited for you! You will never understand, will you?”
“And you, you understand? Do you know the pressure I’m under since I became a partner?”
“How can I know? Before I married you I was only deaf. Now I’m deaf and dumb, a dumbo!”
Divya’s voice had risen to a high pitch. Raj knew that was because she could not hear herself.
“Shh, the children,” he signed.
Divya glared at him and rushed out before Raj could stop her. Their bedroom door banged shut. Raj dropped his head in his hands. Why did they fight so much? Where had the love, the fun, and the warmth gone? He would have called last night and informed he was not coming in time for dinner, but he was afraid; he did not know whether she had heard him mention divorce, and he did not know how she would react to his message.
Whatever the reason, he was in the wrong, and he ought to try and make peace. If he made tea and took it to her along with the sandwiches, she would relent, and the situation would be smoothened over. But he continued to slump in the chair, weighed down by he knew not what.
The children were playing in front of the house. They sounded happy but he knew they would soon quarrel and come to him with their complaints. He would not get a moment’s peace, he thought, and was immediately ashamed. Divya spent much more time with the children and kept them happy. She was never angry with them, either. All her anger seemed to be focused on him.
Maybe he should go and look over the contract his assistant had prepared for their most important client. It was for an overseas deal and he had a nagging feeling they had missed something during the discussions. He remembered reading about a change in government policy that could impact the deal but he needed to look it up. Two hours spent immersed in work, in the calm and quiet of his office, would help him stop thinking about the strained atmosphere at home. With him gone, the children would not leave Divya alone. She would have to come out of the room.
“Tell Mama I’m going to office. I’ll not be home for lunch,” he told Ritu, as he took out his car.
But he changed his mind after a few minutes on the road. He went for a haircut, and took the car for a wash. He bought himself a newspaper, a burger, coffee, and until the car was ready, spent two hours poring over business news.
When he started the car, a thought came to him. It was so tempting, so liberating that it seduced him away from home and office. He turned left at the crossroad, and set the GPS to a point a hundred and fifty miles down the road.
This was how he used to spend his weekends when he had first come to America. Lonely and homesick, he would pick up a random spot to visit. It gave him something to do and he also saw a little of the country. Now he drove to get away from the mire of anger and guilt. He slipped in a disc of Indian classical music. With his eyes on the road and his mind on the music, all thoughts of home, wife and children receded.
He stopped at a beach. It was crowded with parents, children, friends, and lovers. Beside him, a couple sipped beer as their children played in the sand. A boy laughed as his dog shook water on him. People were shouting and laughing but the roar of the sea was louder; it shut out the voices. And watching the waves rise and fall made him forget the people. His mind emptied itself of all thought.
When he returned, the children were watching cartoons and Divya was in bed. He was suddenly very hungry. Except for the sandwiches in the morning, and the burger, he had not eaten anything.
There were no casseroles waiting for him. The table was bare except for the flowers in the crystal vase. He checked out the fridge. There was milk, eggs, cheese, and oranges. The freezer had neatly packed ready-to-cook vegetables, lamb, and chicken. Other people stocked precooked dinners and instant meals but not Divya.
The breadbox was empty. Divya would have crumbled any leftover bread and fed it to the birds because they had only Indian meals on Sunday. He could have cereal and milk, with oranges, but his stomach protested at the very thought. Cheese? Coffee? In spite of having spent more than two decades in America, he craved for at least one Indian meal a day.
Divya was not asleep. She knew Raj had returned. When he turned into the driveway, the headlights from his car brightened the bedroom window. As it grew late, her anger had turned into anxiety. Now it blazed into fury. How dare he waltz in and out of the house as and when he pleased? Did he have no responsibilities as father, and husband?
Instead of spending time with the children, he had gone away on his own. Where had he been? He had switched off his cell phone. When Ritu had rung up his office, the security guard had told her he had not come in at all.
She waited, holding on to her anger, so that she could hurl it at him as soon as he entered. When he did not come, she jumped out of bed and marched to the guest room. He was not in it. He must be with the children, she thought, and came downstairs.
She saw the light in the kitchen and went in. He was standing with a box of cereal in one hand, and a carton of milk in the other. Divya swept past him and opened the microwave oven’s door wide enough for him to see the dish within. She moved aside and waited, her arms tightly folded across her chest.
Her patience lasted until Raj had served himself. “Didn’t you get dinner?”
He looked at her. He knew the signs. Divya was furious, and would create a row. He suddenly lost his appetite and the day that had lightened him, fell away. An answering anger uncoiled within him.
“You want to fight?” he asked, signing.
“Do you think I have reason to?” she signed back with tight, jerky movements, and her face blazing.
“You always have.”
“How was your day? Your work day.”
Then, without waiting for him to answer, she gripped him by the shoulder and shook him viciously. “Ritu called. So did Sanjay. He wanted you to take him to the Science Exhibition you had promised. Your son waited for you the whole day while you switched off your cell phone and worked. Where were you working? Not in your office, that much I know!”
“I did not switch off my phone!” He reached for his cell phone but Divya stormed out and a moment later, he heard the bedroom door slam, hard.
He wanted to go after her, to explain, but he did not. He knew very soon the explanation would spiral away and they would speak of past hurts, some real and some imagined, and he did not want that. He would try tomorrow. He would take the children and Divya out for lunch, or if she had already planned a meal, he would help her prepare it and if possible, they would talk. They had too. They had set up hostile boundaries and guarded themselves from the other as one would in the presence of an enemy.
But the opportunity was taken away from him.
His senior partner called after breakfast; he was worried about the foreign contract and wanted him to go over it again. Divya was in the room, watching him as he spoke. She would have understood he was going to the office.
“Will you be working like yesterday? Will you require dinner when you come in?”
“Look, I’m sorry. And I didn’t go to the office yesterday. I meant to but I took a haircut, then went to the car wash, and…”
“And came home at ten o’clock. As you will today. You come home for dinner and a bed.”
“That’s not true.”
But she had turned away, using the perfect weapon of the deaf. By not reading his lips, she had shut him out. He may shout and rant but it would be of no use.
The weeks that followed were only worse.
Raj was swamped with work but that was not what kept him away from Divya. Somehow, somewhere, he had forgotten how to speak to her. The language of ease was gone. He was not more late from work than usual, but he it made him defensive, guilty.
He also felt angry with her; it was as if her behavior had propelled him to utter those words that fateful morning. Why did she not understand that he did not bother about a spic and span house or hot meals? He wanted to spend time with her, to talk the way they used to, and not only about the kids and the mortgage. Why was she always so stressed?
He was the first to agree she was an excellent mother but somewhere down the years she had forgotten how to be Divya. They had both decided she would stay at home and raise kids; it made better sense in every way. But they were becoming different people, inhabiting different worlds. And the love and companionship? Where had it gone?
He did not like to admit it but he was happier away from home. He would be preoccupied and happy during work but as soon as he eased out of the traffic and moved into the road that took him home, a load would settle on him.
The children would usually be in bed and Divya would have made herself scarce. When he let himself in, he felt like an intruder in the silent house.
As the weeks passed and Raj did not mention the divorce, Divya felt her nerves stretch to breaking point. What did he think? He could say something of that magnitude and leave it to assume a life of its own and haunt her?
It was about her being deaf. Annie had been right. They were not suited in a very basic way. Raj liked music, movies; she was deaf. That was why he spent more and more time away from her. In the early years, he wanted to be with her as much as possible. Her deafness had never come in the way. They had talked all the time and played that silly game he had devised; he would place her palm on his mouth and speak against it slowly, enunciating each word carefully. Cocooned in love and darkness, they had bared their souls to each other during those long, restful conversations.
Such memories only led to tears and Divya was determined not to weep. She would not be bogged down in sentimentality, clinging to the love they shared, or had shared. She would not be caught unprepared like Annie. She would not wait pitifully for alimony checks grudgingly doled out. She was a strong person. She may be deaf but she was not helpless.
Divya found a job with a United Nations initiative in Mumbai, India, designing teaching aids for deaf-mute children. Meantime, she did all she could to keep the children from being affected by the rift, and to hold herself strong and aloof, away from Raj.
“I thought I would check on you,” Roger said, entering Raj’s office. “You have not been looking very well. Is everything alright between you and Divya? Don’t answer me; I can see it is not.”
There was only one way to stop Roger. “How are things with you and Lena?”
“Good. Second time wiser, as they say. I try not to repeat the mistakes I made with Annie.”
After Roger, it was Sam. He announced he and Lee were separating. Lee wanted out. She wanted a divorce so that she could marry someone else she had met at work. She did not want anything from him. Or him.
Sam was shattered, Raj saw, and he tried his best to console him. He used all the platitudes he had heard spoken in such situations. “It happens. Iit’s not your fault.” “There’s no point in hanging on to a bad marriage.” “Why flog a dead horse?” “Children are better off after a clean break than in an unhappy household.” “People change, they grow apart, there is no animosity but the relationship has changed.”
Sam left but Raj did not get back to work; he sat still, in a swirl of thoughts. So many divorces! About half of first marriages ended in divorce courts, many citing irreconcilable differences. He felt cold and terrified; as if he was a mere step away from a precipice and could topple in any moment.
Did he want a divorce? Was his marriage a failure? Had it died a natural death? For there was nothing unnatural in a marriage living out its purpose; it happened. Did not the tribe of sociologists and counselors agree that it was better to let go of a marriage if it made one unhappy? Divorce was not the end, it was a new beginning, they said.
But what if they were wrong? Who was to determine the exact point when the marriage was not worth fighting for? What was the prescribed amount of oneself to be given into a marriage? What were irreconcilable differences? Was there any such thing?
When Sanjay and Ritu quarreled, and announced everyday they could not get on with the other, did they not reconcile? Did one legally break away from a sibling, a parent, and adopt another? Why with a spouse? Because divorce had become easy, unlike the days when one had to prove cruelty, or adultery?
Was that why he had mentioned divorce, because it had become the first recourse, the easy way out?
He would talk to Divya, Raj decided, but how? She used the children to stay away from him. She sought them out, joined in their games, helped them with their homework, and devised lessons for Sana.
The few times he managed to corner her alone, she turned away, refusing to look at him, blocking him effectively with her deafness. He was struck with something different in her face. It was a look he had never seen before: a look of resolve, of detachment.
Finally, one night, after Divya came to bed, he bolted the bedroom door and switched on the light. Raising her chin, he lifted her face to his, but she would not look at him.
He placed her palm on his mouth and said, “Divya, speak to me! Please. We cannot go on like this.”
“Maybe we should get a divorce,” she said. “Is that not why you have been trying to speak to me? To tell me you want a divorce?”
“Well, I want a divorce now,” Divya said loudly, looking up at him with angry, stormy eyes.
“You can’t go back now. You spoke of it first. You have been thinking about it. Why do you refuse? Are you scared I’ll take a huge amount from you, like Annie? Do you think Annie wanted money? Roger gave it to her, to get rid of her. He makes her feel like a beggar!”
“I am not Roger. Don’t blame me for his mistakes.”
“I am blaming you for what you said. You said we should divorce! We should. Give me the papers. I’m sure Roger has prepared them. I’d like to sign them before I leave.”
Divya marched past him and took out a folder from the table drawer. She thrust it into his hands.
“You are leaving me and going to India?” Raj said, shocked.
“I am taking the children too. I will not give custody of the children. You have to settle amounts on them, and instead of alimony, I demand childcare. You owe them that much. Your monthly checks can stop once the children are grown up and settled.”
The night was spent talking. The dam of silence, once breached, allowed an outpouring of speech. Words spoken aloud, and in the sign language they were adept at; words of anger, of recrimination, of hurt, and of love brought about the reconciliation between husband and wife.
There was no pride, no ego, no self, to come in the way of their oneness.
Raj told Divya again and again, “I had no thought about divorcing you. I don’t even know why I said such a thing. But I regretted it the moment those words came out of my mouth.”
He made promises, and insisted she do too. “We will never think of divorcing. Everything else is negotiable, except that. We will talk, and even fight, but we will not separate. No mutual consent; I will not consent and neither should you!”
Divya lay beside him, her palm on his mouth, feeling his words form, as her other hand tangled in his hair.
Never Ever is from my book, A Tapestry of Tears, which is a collection of a novelette and twelve short stories.
The title story, A Tapestry of Tears, is set in the nineteenth century. A young couple from an affluent background fights against the time- honored tradition of female infanticide.
In another story, Division into Two, a family is torn apart by the brutal partition of British-ruled India into India and Pakistan. Told through the voices of an estranged aunt and nephew, it reveals the human tragedy that is often a fallout of social strife.
The other stories also deal with social issues and family relationships.
A Muslim woman suffers when the mujahedeen drive out the Hindu midwife. A grieving husband resents the presence of his new daughter-in-law. Then there is the husband who drives his wife crazy with his obsessive cleaning, the man who loves playing mind games at his wife’s expense, and a family that struggles with the decision to move the aged mother into a home.
The book is likely to appeal to readers of women’s fiction, historical fiction, and also to readers interested in knowing about other cultures.
“Reddy writes in a straightforward prose that entices you to turn the page. For an American reader, it is truly a journey into another world,” Donna Foley Mabry ~ #1 best-seller author of Maude.
“Gita Reddy is particularly perceptive about the dynamics of married relationships.”
“To learn of another culture is amazing and this book will give you just that. Each story tells their story and the way that things are.”
“The stories are like pages out of our own lives.”
The Vigil and Other Stories
This is a collection of fifteen short stories set in India. They reflect upon life, loss, unrequited love, and the debilitating effects of inequality in Indian society, i.e. women in a male-dominated society, the existence of the caste system, and the inflexibility of unhappy marriages. However, though the stories revolve around incidents that aren’t uncommon in Indian households, the emotions of love, anger, jealousy, fear, sacrifice, redemption and other human emotions are universal.
Catherine Dickens: Outside the Magic Circle
Written under the pseudonym Heera Datta.
Catherine was Charles Dickens’ wife whom he separated from after twenty-two years of marriage and ten children. Enamored of a young actress, Charles scripted a fiction about his marriage in which he was the long suffering husband to a woman who was unfit to be wife and mother. He spread this story through his powerful editor friends.
Catherine did not, could not, fight him. Even the law gave custody of minor children to fathers, and all her children, except one, were minor. She retreated into dignified silence which seems baffling today. But the strength of her agony is exhibited in her words to her daughter, to whom she gave letters written to her by Charles, and told her to give them to the British Museum, “so that the world may know he loved me once.”
Outside the Magic Circle is the story of Catherine and the repressive times she lived in.
Children’s / Middle Grade Books
Cheetaka, Queen of Giants
Hunt for the Horseman
King Neptune’s Delite
Dearie: A Tale of Courage
Daksha, the Medicine Girl
The Forbidden Forest
Krishta, Daughter of Martev
The Magician’s Turban
The Homeless Birds
Knife and Fork
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
The Dinosaur Puzzle and Other Stories
Theft at the Fair and Other Stories
The Unicycle and Other Stories
Rangeela Tales: Book 1
Rangeela Tales Book 2
Rangeela Tales: Book 3
The Ant Thief
Bala-Gala the Brave and Dangerous
Gita V. Reddy writes for readers of all ages. Her books for adults are written when she takes a break from writing for children, and vice versa. She has written several short stories, chapter books for children, picture books, and three novels. She also writes under the name Heera Datta.
Gita lives with her family in the southern part of India. After working for twenty-six years in a bank, she took early retirement and is now a full time writer.
If you enjoyed this book, please leave a review on your favorite review site. Your review will help others discover the book and support the work of an independent author.
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After thirteen years of marriage, Raj utters the D-Word, and it reverberates between him and his deaf wife, Divya. They did not have proper quarrels either, as they were both careful not to create scenes in front of the children. They ripped into each other viciously, in short angry spurts, said hurtful things, sulked, and put on a mask for the children under which fermented a slow bitter poison, corrosive like acid, eating away at all that had made possible their coming together. He wished they would really quarrel, bring out all the recriminations, thrash them out as it were and come to a decision. He wished he could shout, and make himself heard. He wished he could break through the deafness that Divya used as a strategic defense.