She has started to look like a crazy person. Her sarees have given way to striped pajamas that remind him of asylum inmates, or maybe convicts. When did she stop wearing her sarees? He could not remember. She has even stopped wearing her kurta-churidar sets – the ones that she bought after careful scrutiny of the cheap stores at Dakshinapan. Her more expensive sets, bought from the mall, now sit in the darkness of their almirah, never to be worn, unless she decides to go to a party. She does not go out these days. He has stopped asking her if she wants to go with him. Sometimes he feels relieved; her presence beside him on every occasion used to please the people around them, but made him uneasy. At least that is over now. But his arduous journey is not over yet. She is still there, with her strange new likings and tastes. He squints at her from the distance as she combs her freshly shampooed hair. She wears pajamas now – a hundred bucks a set – courtesy Gariahat hawkers. The one she is wearing now is blue and white. He wants to cry out, visualizing a concentration camp. She is still combing, at peace and expressionless.
Tomorrow is Friday. She will ask him to go to the bazaar. He will buy some fish, some vegetables and some masala. She will slip into another set of pajamas after her bath and go about her chores. He can almost remember the colors and patterns of all her pajamas. They are etched in his memory like a scar that refuses to go away.
He does not know why her pajamas bother him so much. He can try to fix the problem. He can ask her to wear her old and normal clothes again. She may rudely decline at first. But he knows that she will wear them if he asks. She knows he is her only source of any opinion or request. But an unseen force holds him back. He sees her move in front of him in quick, agile movements, setting the washing machine to the delicate level. Is it for her soft pajamas? She is pouring in some expensive detergent meant for woolens. It cannot be her pajamas. They are too cheap to demand so much care. He fights off an overwhelming desire to go and investigate. She will get suspicious. Her laundry is not his business. Nothing she does is his business, if he thinks about it. She has changed into her white pajamas – the one with tiny lavender flower motifs. Her full-grown body in that absurd print suddenly reminds him of autism. Slightly nauseated, he turns away and tries to make a mental list of the things he will buy tomorrow.
She is having lunch. He watches intently as her jaws work on her mouthful of rice and cauliflower curry. Her nimble fingers work skillfully to strip the piece of bhetki of its few bones. A drop of curry falls on her pajamas. She makes a barely audible noise to convey her annoyance and keeps eating. He cannot concentrate on his lunch. He wants to strip her of that defiled garment much like she removes the fish’s undesirable parts. She looks like a filthy child. He imagines stains of food on her neat mouth and chin. It becomes difficult to swallow the yellow mess on his plate.
As the afternoon gets hotter, she goes into the bedroom – their bedroom – and turns the AC on. She lies down for a nap. In that claustrophobic setting comprising tasteful furniture and demurely painted walls, she lies like a disfigurement. Yet she looks like she is totally at home. He can almost hear her gentle snoring. Her curry-stained pajamas are nowhere in sight. She has changed into the dull green one. She looks like a mossy block of stone on the pale blue bedsheet.
He slowly walks out, almost on tiptoe. Out of the 22 degree Centigrade air, a wave of 33 hits him like a sandstorm. Beads rising on his forehead, he lights a smoke. Tilting his head towards the window, and looking blankly at the sky outside, he recollects how it all started. He realizes that when she talks to him she is quite animated. She is a happy woman, satisfied with her own life. He knows this, yet it surprises him no end whenever he realizes it. Does she notice what he wears? Maybe his shift to wearing Bermuda shorts had bothered her too. He shakes off that thought. He berates himself from digressing from his original train of thought. He was thinking about how it had started. – It was an ordinary evening, when she had mentioned how hazardous Indian clothes were becoming for her. Sarees needed regular washing and starching, salwar kurtas were too much of a hassle to wear and take off. She had noticed women buying cheap pajamas on the streets – cheaper than her Dakshinapan kurtas. He had nodded perhaps. She had been true to her word…