By Ila Das
Kirti, actually residing in the small town of Meerut, comes for the interview of a job in Delhi, the big capital city of India. Ravi, heading the interview panel, is charmed by her, as usual. Managing a neutral demeanor selects her and as per rule, she has to join in seven days’ time.
She confesses that she has recently delivered a baby and would like an extension of the joining time. Bounded by rules of employment, Ravi politely declines her request. But he remains in touch with her, adding her to his list of innumerable girlfriends. His allure to lust is like addiction to dope, you can neither get away from it nor have enough of it.
Ravi keeps going to Meerut on the pretext of work and visits her family often. He becomes close to them.
After a few years, Kirti’s husband Jai is transferred to Delhi. Ravi offers him his two-bedroom house to stay until he makes alternate arrangements. Kirti and her two toddler kids continue staying in Meerut due to Kirti being employed there.
During one of his regular weekend visits to Meerut to meet his family, Jai invites Ravi and his wife Isha to join him there for the weekend. This is the first time that Isha visits their home.
Their house in Meerut is a small accommodation allotted to the employees, containing two bedrooms. Isha ignores the clutter and messy rooms as she understands how difficult it is to keep the house in order with two kids to manage single-handedly. She has gone through that phase.
Ravi feels tired, places his colossal ass on the edge of the bed and keeps groaning of body ache developed during the long strenuous journey on road. His wife is surprised to see Kirti massage his bareback and shoulder to relieve his pain. Should she overlook this fact? If massage is a necessity why could Kirti’s husband not do it or why could Ravi not ask his own wife to do it?
Night arrived, spreading all its ink on the outside. More shock came when the sleeping arrangement for the night is announced by Kirti. Kirti and her younger son in the middle with Ravi and his wife on either side while Kirti’s husband sleeps in the other room with their elder son; the reason being given that it is comfortable for Ravi’s wife to be on the side as she has to go to the washroom frequently.
Why could not the entire room be given to the guest couple? Should Isha sleep off the act as a trivial issue or remain a watchdog for the entire weary moonless night? Isha’s body, fatigued by now, compelled her to settle for the former. “The lady must be either too innocent or too gutsy,” she thought in gathering disbelief and felt annoyed. She tries to give the benefit of doubt to Kirti, knowing well the distasteful ways of her husband.
Back to Delhi, it’s a bright sunny morning torching its rays all over the already hot and humid city. Isha borrows her husband’s phone to talk to her son as her phone had some connectivity problems. When her conversation is over, a message from Kirti pops on the screen. Inquisitiveness overcomes her moral ethics of not viewing else’s messages and she opens the message. She is stunned to find a plethora of messages exchanged between her husband and Kirti on daily basis, or it may be rightly summarized as almost on an hourly basis every day.
Kirti is certainly not the dimwit she appeared to be. Does Kirti’s husband know this or he is unaware of this. Maybe he is aware, as he never objected to his wife sleeping with another married man in his house in Meerut. In case he is aware, what a shabby drama being enacted by the couple. The only reason Isha could think of is to take advantage of Ravi’s weakness for women and use his influential position in the industry to come to Delhi.
Isha is reminded of an instance wherein Jai did request Ravi to reconsider his wife for a position in his office so that they both can settle at one place and what place better than Delhi, where he is already presently employed.
Isha fights through the hubbub of her mind and settles for a quiet and calm countenance as this was not a new incident.
It is one week past the incident. Suddenly Isha overhears that Kirti is coming to Delhi with her kids to spend kids’ vacation time with their dad. The doom arrives at the scheduled time and the family occupies the bedroom of Ravi and Ravi and Isha sleep in the second bedroom.
Ravi and Isha have constraints in their marital relationship since the time Isha discovered his multiple affairs and thwarted his ardent approaches. They had been sleeping in separate bedrooms and such trivial incidents that force them to sleep together to show-off the world does little to spark any interest between them. Their platonic relationship was not a simple wrinkle that could be ironed out with time and effort.
However, strangely enough, Ravi makes a temporary arrangement for the guest couple to stay in the adjacent vacant flat of his friend who is away on an office trip out of town.
Jai and his family shift to the house the next day. The day after, immediately when Jai leaves for his office, Ravi rushes to the house where the family has shifted. Ravi’s wife now understands the reason for shifting the family to the nearby house despite space being available in their own house for a comfortable stay. How she wished the house to be wired with cables running like tapeworms with their mouths ending in cameras. A chintzy thought indeed!
What trash her husband is. Don’t the women understand his motives or are they an equal participant in this felony.
It is a pleasant Saturday morning with an unpleasant medical condition for Isha. She is having severe diarrhea while her husband continued having a more pleasant rendezvous with another woman.
He informs her that they all are going to Mathura and if Isha would like to join them. Isha was certain that even if she was fit and fine, she would definitely not go anywhere with Ravi accompanied by any of his girlfriends. She loathed the ‘Who the heck are you’ sentiment meted to her on such occasions.
She tries to avoid, giving the excuse of her upset tummy, but Ravi desperately tries to woo her to go with them. When he fails, Kirti approaches her, the one who was otherwise not talking to her.
Isha could not understand why the two were wanting her to go with them when both did not even bother to wish her on the New Year day when they were busy boosting their happiness index. Maybe the duo wanted to put a moral stamp to their ‘so-called-friendly’ relationship projected to the society by having the presence of the wife or maybe they wanted the wife to take care of the kids when they go merrymaking.
After refusing to go with them, Isha sinks into her lonely self once more. Trying to nurse herself out of her illness, she expected at least a call back from her husband enquiring about her health. As usual, he fails to meet her expectations again. How she hated being right all the time, much to her chagrin.
It is a festival day, Lohri. Ravi asks his wife if she wishes to attend the Lohri party. She did not want to go to any place where Kirti would go. What a second-hand treatment she gets on such outings. So she points blankly refuses.
“You are making yourself sad this way”, Ravi educates Isha.
“Do I look sad?” Isha displays a manic grin, wringing her cold bitten dry hands, lolling on her recliner.
“You don’t have to look sad to be sad. And don’t think I need you to accompany me. I can do without you.”
“That’s no news. Here’s the deal. The day you need me, I will accompany you.” Isha crinkles her pitch-black crescent moon shaped eyebrows.
Ravi brushes his callused hand through the little white hair cropped on the edge of his otherwise bald head and gives a dour expression.
“O Ok. I need you then right now,” Ravi beseeched.
“See, how you change colors,” Isha retorts, without being amused by his wry sense of humor.
The fact thus confirms that Isha’s presence was only required for public show-offs. Ravi proved to be an ideal euphemism for infidelity.
Throughout the period Kirti was staying in Delhi, Ravi was sleeping on the couch of the drawing-room instead of his own bed. It was difficult to figure out why? The exit door was always kept open, maybe to ease the entry of Kirti without disturbing the inmate or the neighbors. Ravi used to sleep nude under the quilt despite it being the coldest and chilliest days of winter. So much for the ease of the shabby act.
The day Kirti left Delhi, Ravi was back to his bed, exit door closed and the process of wearing warmers while going to sleep restored. Wasn’t everything so obvious? But who cares.
When Kirti had visited Delhi, she bought a door hanging décor and put it on the front door without even taking permission of Isha as if it was her premises. When she left Isha removed it and put it away.
Finding the décor missing Jai informs Ravi who in turn enquires his wife. Isha says that she has put it away. Ravi at that moment did not tell anything, but the next day, Ravi himself hangs it back. Isha feels the same embarrassment that she had experienced in her teens when her breasts budded first and her periods came last.
Ravi becomes belligerent and has a big fight with Isha. Accosting Isha, he warns her that it is his house and he can hang anything he desired-or do anything he wants. He threatens Isha not to interfere in his life as long as it does not hinder her own wellbeing, which he takes good care of.
Isha becomes taciturn and sits in her empty room crying as if her timorous heart is hurt by a shard choking her lungs filled with clouds. Harpoons of pain renewed. A burning sensation rips its way up to the roof of her mouth causing heartburn literally. How she wished she could get rid of the pain from the cage of her mind but the stubborn soreness does not seem to leave her side, like tenants who refuse to budge and be evicted from their home.
Should she leave her husband? Then she calms down and thinks reasonably. All his girlfriends want exactly that to happen so that they can further invade his space.
Why is she disturbed if she actually does not have any relationship with him? Does she unknowingly love him? Impossible. At least he has not done anything ever to invoke such feelings in her and she had a tormented past with him, though Ravi does give her all luxuries of life minus love.
Marriage is certainly not a certificate of love, but a practice of compromises and negotiations, where both parties finally forget who is who. It is inflicted with lies and deceits where finally the lies eventually turn true.
Isha had become an expert in suppressing her desires with muted indifference and detachment. She had become an able captain of the great ship of matrimony that slowly makes headway through the turbulent waters of crisis. Welcome to the club where oblivion is free.
Come June and the only resort one can think of escaping the unbearable soaring temperatures of the hottest month is to restrict oneself to the cool indoors. Come June and it’s also the one and a half to two months summer vacation for school-going children. Come June and Kirti lands in Delhi with her kids’ et al.
Isha gets the hint when she observes her husband getting busy with housekeeping activities of the other apartment. How she wished he had set the same behavior for her. She was praying that let anyone but that bitch come but her prayers go unanswered.
Isha returns from the office to find many things missing in her room and stuffs disheveled. The next day she locks her room and goes.
As anticipated, Kirti complains to Ravi who in turn tells his wife not to lock her door as the kids watch television which is installed in her room. She tells Ravi to take away the television and fix it in their room.
“Kids should be taught to live in whatever situation comes one’s way. Did I not live in one room with our kids with no TV or any other entertainment media?”
“OK, I want to watch TV, so keep the room open for me.”
“Since when have you started watching TV leaving your office work in the day time? Also, you already have a more interesting live erotic TV performance in the neighboring house. Your toothpaste and towel have also shifted there. Why do you need to see the program in my TV room?”
Anyway trying not to confront any further, she opens the room and goes to the office. It was obvious, they needed a separate diversion for kids to carry out their own engagements without any interference.
Memories flood Isha’s mind like a treadmill, giving it a lot of exercise without actually taking it anywhere; a kind of epiphany-seen-through-flashbacks. The bitter incidents turn Isha from a Virgin Mary drinker to Blood Mary. Life does not always come bubble wrapped with happiness.
Twenty-five years back when she already had left him, with her small kids in her possession, she was living a life of struggle totally concentrating on her kids. It was only three years back that Ravi and Isha were living together due to an accidental posting of Ravi to Delhi. Ravi insisted Isha to stay with him so as to project a good marital life to the outside world. She decided to let bygones be bygones.
She did find this new life full of comfort and at least she would not feel lonely, now that her kids have grown and moved out. The only thing she needed to be in charge was not to let such fraught incidents bother her. She decided to hence take charge of HERSELF living rightfully with her legally wed husband, though with no actual wife rights. She decided to not worry about not being the darling of his life.
For the past few years, her husband’s flings did not bother her, perhaps because it was ‘out of sight out of mind’ thing. Presently, the dirty incidents happening right in front of her do bother her; she is human after all. The ‘sight’ thing was beyond her control, but the mind was hers and she needed to exercise control on this. That should not be difficult. Time has made her a strong survivor after all.
The evening is searing and sultry and gloomy. But the expression on Ravi’s face seemed to beat the miserable weather. With melancholy stamped prominently on his face, Ravi informs his wife that Jai has resigned from his job in Delhi to join a better job in Meerut.
The news catapults Isha to cloud nine. Her inner happiness knew no bounds; though her outer self confidently displayed a false glumness. Was this God’s blissful answer to her prayers? Strange and unpredictable are the ways of the Almighty to settle scores.
She utters a small ‘thank you’ prayer silently: Jai Sai Ram.
Ten years back…..
It was the time when she lived a separate life with kids in her possession but never objected to the children meeting their dad or grandparents. She felt that it was not justified to snatch the rights of her children just because she had a problem with her husband.
Ravi casually asks Isha whether she is interested in a trip to Maldives with kids. He also informs that one of his friends Madhavi and her kids will also be joining them. He was hoping the answer to be negative.
Isha has learned her lessons well. She realizes that her ‘NO’s worked in favor of her husband. He enjoys life and when she complains, he reminds her that it was she who did not want to go on a holiday giving the excuse of her kids’ studies or so on and so forth. Or a NO when he tries to buy her something costly boots him out with the same justification. She avoids buying to save some money only to find that the money has already been spent on others. So it’s always a YES from her for such forthcoming proposals from her damn husband, who most of the time takes a twist and turn to avoid committing when the expected NO turns for a YES.
Isha knows Madhavi as her husband’s senior college friend who is addressed as DIDI (an elder sister) by both of them. Recently Madhavi lost her husband and Isha felt it was ok for her to join as an outing will do her good. Little did Isha know what was in store for her and never anticipated that her presence would only exacerbate her problem.
Maldives is genuinely a paradise on planet earth. This lowest-lying country in the world is surrounded by vivid coral reefs and powder-white beaches. This atoll nation is 99% bounded by the crystal clear blue waters of the ocean that is home to spectacular species of turtles, whales, and dolphins. Anyone here can have a soul-soothing experience of his life, indulging in adventurous snorkeling and scuba diving activities. For the less active people of my category, the picturesque sight is enough to generate the same excitement and vigor.
Madhavi is the only swimmer in the group. And she offers to help the rest give a lesson in swimming which was immediately agreed upon by Ravi. Isha, who had always been scared of venturing in deep waters, politely declines.
Ravi in his scantily-clad trunk floats flat in the arms of strikingly sexy Madhavi, dressed in a two-piece bikini, that reveals her ample amount of nipples. Her luminous skin gleamed under the sun rays like an abandoned art piece in its fallow state. The two semi-nude Indians seem to love getting fluids all over each other with middling enthusiasm.
Isha does feel uncomfortable with the sight, but let it go. We give her a sisterly treatment, she consoles herself. The only sight that bothers her was no sign of any emotional breakdown that generally follows a spouse death, especially one whom you are in love with.
The clear morning sky soon transitions into the mellow night with stars twinkling in the crystal clear firmament. The morning activities at the beach and other sightseeing ordeals leave each one of us longing for early retirement to bed.
Their stay is in a two-bedroom AirBnB residential unit. Sleeping arrangements are meticulously planned so that Madhavi sleeps with her daughter in one bedroom, Isha takes the second bedroom with her son and Ravi decides to take the floor mattress of the open drawing-room, overlooking the common toilet. He has Madhavi’s son for the company.
At around 4am, Isha gets up to go to the toilet and the intertwined almost nude bodies of Madhavi and Ravi in the drawing-room stuns her. They are not even aware of a kid boy sleeping near them. Unable to bear the shameless act, Isha makes feeble noise to alert them to stop their clandestine deed. This is not her first brush with Ravi’s extramarital affairs, but certainly ‘Seeing is believing’.
The next day begins as usual as if nothing happened. Living apart from her husband for a long time has made Isha deterrent of such incidents. Maybe the absence of love and caring in the relationship has in a way made her carefree and unpossessed.
For her, marriage is just an amalgamation of custom and circumstance, a matter of a culture and a couple, arranged by their elders. Their legal bond is formalized by a mere convention and not passion. She knows that their nuptial was neither marriage nor this holiday an outing.
The only times she feels frustrated are the occasions when she sees loving couples at a party or holiday. How she wished she had an assuring hand to hold on to, a warm hug to cajole her in tough times, a patient ear to hear or a hobby to share.
The holiday ends. The group lands at Mumbai airport.
Ravi dumps his family of three in a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw, huge luggage of three suitcases included. Isha sits in a cramped position for the one hour journey to the railway station, the traffic crawling like snail. Stationing them on the platform, he is about to rush off when Isha retorts, “Where are you going now?”
“To bring Madhavi and her family here.”
“What? If they were to come to the same place, why the hell you did not take a big cab and bring everyone in one trip?
Are you not aware of Mumbai traffic? Another one hour of your going and a minimum of another hour of your coming back will make us miss our train.”
“Don’t worry. I will be back soon.”
Isha broods in her mind about her eccentric lust-driven husband who managed to callously drop his family off to have some exclusive time with his mistress in the way. She is to get back to Delhi and her train is due to come in an hour’s time while her kid is to accompany their dad to Ahmedabad as it was his school vacation time and their train had a comfortable time margin to depart.
The Delhi train arrives in time and with no sign of her husband in sight, Isha decides not to board the train. Clasping the little hand of her son, anger and disappointment cloud her mind.
The mad crowd of the platform, the shrill shout of the hawkers and vendors inviting the attention of prospective buyers, the push of the hurrying passengers could make anyone go insane in the almost three hours that go by.
Finally, Ravi arrives with his troupe and has no sense of guilt.
“Why did you not board your train?”
“What do you mean? How could I leave my baby boy alone?
“O, nothing would have happened? I was coming after all”
“How irresponsible of you.”
“Ok, forget it. We will get down at Madhavi’s station which comes en-route to Ahmedabad and I will make your flight ticket to Delhi from there.”
“You ought to do that. But who is Madhavi to me that I have to get down at her station? Sorry, no. My in-laws stay in Ahmedabad and I am not getting down anywhere else.”
“Ravi, don’t make a scene here now at a public place. You all go to Ahmedabad. Don’t worry about me. I will manage. Man proposes, God disposes,” ripostes Madhavi, batting her kohl-lined long eyelashes.
Isha counters in her mind, “what a slut?”
Twenty years back…..
Ravi introduces Isha to his friend Ashmita. Ashmita is first time widowed and second time divorced school time friend of Ravi, presently staying with her widowed mother.
Isha is new in town and Ashmita offers her to show her around and they both develop a camaraderie.
They frequently visit each other’s house and Isha could never in her remotest dream think that her husband may be having an affair with the lady until the day his phone keeps ringing loud for a long time when he was taking shower.
Isha, seeing Ashmita online, receives the call to find a nervous voice disconnecting with the remark ‘sorry, wrong number’. Inquisitiveness overtook Isha’s mind who blatantly opened Ashmita’s mailbox and found the two had been exchanging many love messages over a period of a long time.
She avoided confrontation with her husband as she feared his rash temper. An act of spying on another’s phone is certainly not a commendable act. She had already been a victim of his violent behavior due to his rage.
She found it wise to step out of the house in a respectable way with her kids in custody. There was no legal process of divorce involved, but an unwritten separation wherein she moved into her parental home but never disallowed Ravi to come and meet his kids whenever he wished.
About Ila Das
Ila Das is professionally an Engineer from India, with a creative personality, having dabbled in acting, music, and voice over. Her short stories are featured in ‘Bethlehem Writers Roundtable’ and ‘Trivia Mundi’. Simplicity, of narration and portraying real-life situations with women-centric characters in a lucid language is her forte. She loves dreamy romantic stories and heartwarming tales that make you believe in the wonders of life. Her themes generally include women’s issues. Her published book, ‘O(h)FFICE’ is available on: Publishing, BookRix, Amazon. Her micro-short horror stories are included in Nano Nightmares, now available on Amazon.