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Two women secretly wish to live the life of the lady next door, not knowing the truth about the other. A poignant short story.
Jiya stepped onto the balcony and looked out. Such beautiful weather, the calm morning, lush green trees, a light breeze, so different from the maddening traffic which she endured daily.
“Hi Jiya. Happy Sunday! You are up so early? What happened to the ‘no alarm, no snooze, Sunday is the day to wake up at 10’ girl. Kya baat hai?”
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It was Aarti her next door neighbour who was just back after dropping her kids to their squash classes. Jiya smiled ” I just thought for a change, let me get a feel of the real morning and guess what, I seem to like it. What plans for the day?”
Aarti exclaimed “We are having some guests, so much of preparations to be done. Deepak’s business associates and their families are coming over, everything has to be perfect. Got to go, see ya.”
Jiya waved her goodbye and sighed. It would be so nice to have a house full of people – a loving husband, 2 doting kids, so many relatives and friends who are always calling upon you – not for a moment does one have to feel the pangs of loneliness. What a picture perfect life Aarti lived.
Aarti was around the same age as Jiya. She had done her Masters and got married to Deepak right after her exams. He was a well settled business tycoon. They had 2 kids – Rahul and Rashmi. The kids were around 10 and 8 years now and were pretty independent. Though she was a stay at home mom, she had a jam packed schedule.
Waking up in the wee hours, planning the entire day’s menu right from breakfast to dinner, her children’s tiffin box, giving instructions to the cooks and maids and sending off the kids to school once her husband left – she spent time at the gym, her yoga and pilates classes. There was always some party, a luncheon or high tea that she got invited to, her husband was among the Who’s Who of Bombay and regular Page 3 celebs.
Though she was a mother of 2 kids, she had maintained herself really well and looked like a pretty lass in her mid 20’s. What intrigued Jiya the most was Aarti’s family – her husband who lovingly held her hands at every function and her kids who were always shouting at the top of their voices “Mumma do this, see this, he hit me, she scratched me“.
What a life to live she thought. Not only being blessed with the luxuries of life but a loving family as well– this is the dream life every woman would crave for.
She looked at the mirror – her own image seemed to be mocking at her. No doubt she had done well for herself in life. She held a very senior position in a leading FMCG company. She had grown up the hard way, unlike Aarti who got everything on a silver platter.
Her father was a bank clerk , they belonged to a lower middle class family. Her only asset was her intelligence, commitment and grit. She put in her best efforts and secured admission to the most prestigious MBA college. Thereafter there was no looking back. She topped the exams and was offered a prestigious job in a leading company with an attractive pay package.
In a few years, she proved her mettle and busted the myth that this was a male bastion. She was promoted to a very senior position. She bought a duplex apartment for herself in a plush locality. The only thing missing in her life at that point was romance .
As luck would have it, she met Rishabh, a dashing smart man at a friend’s party and they hit it off instantly. They both were attracted to each other. A few more casual meetings and they were a couple. Rishabh was ambitious like her and his dreams were set in the US. He was trying his best to shift base.
This was always a topic of debate between them as Jiya was least inclined in settling abroad. The day he finally got the passport to his dream destination, Jiya knew – she had lost him. She was unwilling to leave her parents behind and relocate. Besides, she was very happy living in India.
She earned well, had just invested in a 2500 sq feet apartment, was going places in her career. Any move at this point would be disastrous in all ways. They decided to part ways amicably.
Though she put up a strong face and bade him farewell with a smile, the pangs of loneliness were already creeping in. She buried herself in her work to divert her mind. She had limited friends, and since she and Rishabh had become a couple, she had drifted apart from others.
Her phone beeped and she was suddenly back to the present day. She looked at her reflection. Outwardly she saw a pretty woman in her early 30’s, pretty, confident, smart, successful.
A corporate honcho who had carved a place for herself, she had life’s comforts, but she yearned for a husband’s shoulder to lean upon, a place called home where she would return after a hard day’s work and a family to welcome her, a child who would call her Mumma and who would cuddle into her arms as they slept peacefully, arm in arm the whole night. She was once again drawn towards Aarti and she sighed “I wish I could have Aarti’s life, how lucky she is“.
Just across, Aarti had finally retired to her room after a long and hard day. The guests had all left and the smile on her husband’s face indicated ‘All’s well‘. She heaved a sigh of relief; even a single crease line on his forehead spelt havoc in bold letters. Although for the outside world theirs was a picture perfect marriage, a great looking couple who held hands and always indulged in PDA, this was just a myth.
It was a pretentious life they were living. Within the confines of the house they hardly spoke to each other, except if there was work. Deepak was only interested in his business; she was just a trophy wife he flaunted. To please him, she worked out so that she was always in shape and looked the part of the sexy young wife just as he wanted.
The parties they attended, hosted – none of them interested her but she just went with her husband’s wishes. She remembered, just after their wedding when she spoke to Deepak about her dreams, her desire to work and how passionate she was about starting her own crafts store one day, he had snapped back “Have u lost it Aarti? The bahu of the Khannas will work outside? Never! This has never happened in our family, nor will it ever happen. There is no dearth of money, take how much you want, shop, eat out with your girlfriends, go on trips abroad. I will never stop you. What will you do working? Anyway, we will have a child soon and you will get busy.”
She did not argue, stayed silent and since that day till this, the silence continued. She had given up her hopes, her dreams, for a man who didn’t even acknowledge her presence. Her kids too had growing up and they were more keen on spending time with their friends. They doted on their father as he never said no to any of their wishes. Aarti tried to stop him, as agreeing to all their demands was not reasonable, but he he just turned a blind eye as always.
Aarti took out her macbook and logged onto her facebook account. She saw a picture of Jiya with her office colleagues at a promotion party at the Ritz. Lot of people were congratulating Jiya on getting promoted. Aarti thought, “Lucky girl, she lives alone she can pursue her dreams, no one to stop her or question her. She is free from the shackles of marriage, she can meet new people and I am sure she will take her time and choose wisely before settling down. No kids to tie her down – you sacrifice your whole life for them and one day as they grow up, they don’t need you.”
“Jiya can wake up as she pleases, dress as she wants, spend her Sunday lazing in the pool or go out with her friends. She owns her destiny, unlike me. My life is a farce. It looks like a beautiful fairy tale that every woman wants to live, but in reality, it’s a cursed life.”
“People do not see the invisible shackles I have been tied with. My soul has been ripped apart! I thirst for love, my throat is parched, but I do not get it and I live this cursed life day after day. I wait for the day when this evil spell is broken and I am set free.”
Thus both women, lived their lives each day. Waking up and going about their daily life, smiling, making small talk and at night as they lay in their beds , each thought about the life they wanted, the life the other one was living which looked like a distant dream, a wish to make that their own, oblivious to the stark reality, the dark side of the life that the other lived.
Had they known the reality, would they still yearn for the life of the lady next door?
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