“Eclectic, interesting…will fill you with hope and resolve!” – Pick up our new short story collection, Women.Mutiny
She stared at the email message on her computer, her mind racing so fast that the words blurred together and no longer made any sense. Just three lines, but enough to make her life–the life she’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build–begin to crumble around her.
Her mind raced back to the moment when almost five years ago, she had got her first big break in the world of entertainment television. She was just 25 then and been offered the job of an entertainment reporter, at Sky TV, a leading lifestyle channel .. “ I can’t believe this, this is too good to be true. People take years to come on national television and here I am, getting it on a platter.” She told Ira, her best friend. Ira of course shirked, just look at you. With peaches and cream complexion, a thick mane of auburn hair and a voluptuous body, Kaya was truly a sight to behold. At 5’7 inches, she stood tall but what stood out was her hazel eyes, they were limpid pools that could melt any man worth his salt. “C’mon, it is not only about how I look. What kind of a best friend are you? You give me no credit for my intelligence, maybe I actually impressed my employer with my knowledge “ retorted Kaya. Ira said “ Yeah, right. Knowledge of Kareena Kapoor’s diet chart or Salman Khan gym regime? Whatever! I am happy for you.
Ira thought in her head” Not everyone is as beautiful as you, lesser mortals like us have to actually work, slog it out to even get noticed and then work harder to prove our worth. Ira was interning as a camera person on the same channel. Ira was inconspicuous when it came to appearance, just a big built girl with corkscrew curls or Maggi noodle curls as her colleagues often called her messy hair. She hated her unruly hair and all things girly and anything with even a hint of pink. But what was truly unfettered, was her spirit, she has lost her parents in a road accident when she was ten. Raised by her grandmother, life had always been tough. She had worked hard for everything in her life and could only smile at her pretty friend, who had loving parents and warm home to go back to.
Years passed and Kaya became a celebrity in her own right. Soon she was offered a prime time show and was openly called the boss’s blue-eyed girl, only her eyes were not blue but a warm hazel. She interviewed many celebrities and many told her she was too pretty to be just interviewing them. She should be an actress herself. Kaya would be flattered but she was not significantly ambitious. She had everything she wanted, her parents though simple hardworking people, ensured she had everything she ever needed. So her aspirations were like any other middle-class girl, all she wanted was a job which made her financially independent, a loving husband, a beautiful house and two children. Though, she often dreamt of a good looking spouse, having grown up listening to compliments about her radiant beauty, she secretly nurtured the desire for a tall, dark and handsome knight in shining armour.
Not necessarily in that order. And she got all that and more but if only she knew, what life had in store for her.
After three years at SKY TV and late nights peppered with a conversation, midnight snacks and endless editing shifts, Kaya woke up to a rude shock one morning. “ She stepped on the weighing scale and yelled” Mom, this is not possible. I could not have put on 4 kgs in just one month” Her mother, just smiled indulgently as only mothers can, and said “Just start walking and do some yoga.” “No, this is it, I will join a gym. Don’t wait up for me tonight, I will go to the gym near my office and take an annual membership.”
Little did she know, that the gym membership would change her life forever.
After sweating it out for a week, one day, as she was heading to the ladies room for a shower, Thuuud….. Her phone went flying across and she was helped to her feet by a tall well built young man, there he was all six feet of handsomeness. She kept staring at him and sculpted arms and suddenly he whispered hoarsely, “I am sorry.”
Kaya was mesmerised, she gathered herself and walked past him, suddenly she felt a breath in her ears, she turned around and he whispered “Where are you going? That is for the boys, Madam.” Kaya looked up and realised she was standing in front of the men’s washroom. Flustered, she muttered “I am sorry” and ran out of the now busy fitness centre.
She could not run from her heart though.
It was love at first sight. A few stolen glances and some clandestine meetings, soon they were meeting every day. For coffee, for dinner, for movies. Karan always drove fancy cars and Kaya was often self-conscious around him. He seemed to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the only son of Anuj Mehra, a big hotelier. The Mehras owned a few boutique hotels in the city. In six months, Karan proposed and Kaya accepted. Kaya’s mother did offer a word of caution, “Kaya, is he not too wealthy for us? I mean, they are out of our league. We are simple to service class people and they are big businessmen. Will you be able to adjust to all that?” Ira also said, “I know, you would not like to hear this but I don’t get a good feeling about Karan. I mean, there is more to him that meets the eye.”
Kaya ignored everyone, after all, she was in love, hopelessly and completely in love. She reasoned that Ira with her below-average looks was a little jealous and her mother, well she had never seen so much of luxury. Her father was the only one who seemed happy, he said “You were always my beautiful princess, and now Karan will make you live like one, that is what you deserve.”
Soon, there was a big engagement followed by a lavish destination wedding, a dream honeymoon followed by a spree of parties with the city’s rich and famous. Kaya was living the high life. Fast cars, big parties, branded clothes and diamonds and she took to it like a fish to water. Six months later, she was sitting with Ira, “I need to quit. I don’t need the money and Karan wants me to be home.” She walked into her boss’s room and said “I am putting in papers, I need to be around my husband. I am not moving anywhere with this. Honestly, I am not even liking it any more.”
Divya turned around and looked at Kaya, there was a reason she was called the Diva of the entire office. She said “Hear me once, loud and clear. You walk out and this is it. Household politics, maids, diapers, tantrums of your spouse and demands of in-laws. Is that what you had worked so hard for the last few years? Also, believe me, your husband should not the be-all and end-all of your life, you will always be just one part of his life. You should not give in so easily, you may not need the money but a job gives you an identity which your own and money never hurt anyone. Rest is your choice.” Kaya smiled and gave her boss the letter. In her head, she was thinking, “What would she know, she does not even have a steady boyfriend and marriage is an alien concept to her. I will be happy with my husband and if I get bored, I can always join the family business.”
After that, life was like a whirlwind, in a few months, Karan announced that they were moving to Hong Kong for their new office. Kaya was thrilled, she never dared to dream about living abroad. She spoke to him about helping him with the business, only to be snubbed rudely, “Why don’t we have a child? You focus on what you know best, I will do the rest. What do you know about setting up a new hotel, in any case? This is not about looking pretty and rattling a few questions to a Bollywood star. This is serious business, Kaya, stay out of it.” A month after they moved and Kaya became pregnant. She started enjoying the new life and made many friends, it is easy to make friends when you have a lot of money and your husband is the big boss.
Though she felt lonely once she was back at home, Karan started coming very late and would always be on a conference call. She felt, Karan had changed, may be the work was too much or may be it was the pregnancy. Intimacy and romantic dinners became a distant memory. She tried to talk to him, about their growing distance. He shrugged, “It is all in your head. Can’t you see what I am doing? You have all that you possibly need, call your friends, call your mother to stay, call my mother, I mean, just leave me alone.”
For the first time, Kaya cried herself to sleep. And it became a pattern, Karan stopped entering the bedroom on the pretext that he had work to do. When she entered her eighth month, Karan sent for Kaya’s Mother. When the baby was born, Karan was missing again, he said he had an important conference in Singapore. By then, Kaya had become numb, she held her baby girl and felt a new sense of hope.
Things kept getting worse, Karan hardly ever came home, he was always away. He barely met Maya, their beautiful baby girl. Before leaving for India, Meera, her mother, confronted Kaya, “What is wrong, Kaya? Karan is never home? He hardly spends any time with both of you, is everything alright?” Kaya just shrugged, “It is nothing, just work. Mom, you just relax, give, my love to Dad. Love you.”
With a heavy heart, she entered her palatial house. It was just her and Maya and the babysitter, she had employed.
When Karan’s mom came a month later, Kaya asked her, “Mum, is there something I don’t know. Karan has been very strange, he has been avoiding me since for almost a year now. Something is not right. Her sophisticated mother in law, patted her and said”
“This is how it is, we have to look after the family and they will look after the business, now he cant sit in your lap and do that. Can he? Such a big business and now the new hotel, give him some time.”, she said.
At night, as she was again waiting for Karan to return, she felt she heard whispers. She slid out of the bedroom softly so Maya would not get up and walked towards the doorway and then she just froze. Her heart pounded so fast, she thought, it will jump out of her body. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry but she just stood there like a statue.
“I think she has understood, Raj. I told you, we should have told her in the beginning.” Her father in law, spoke rudely, just go to sleep, Meera, even if she knows that Karan is gay and in love with his partner at work, she can’t do anything now. She has tasted blood, lived the luxurious life. She can’t go back to that small 3 bedroom house of hers or her silly little job. Now, please relax and just sleep.
Kaya walked back to her bedroom. Everything seemed crystal clear, she knew what she had to do. The next day, she called the travel agent and booked her tickets for India. She left without a word to anyone. No letter, no confrontation, no drama.
She did not want anything, she had her daughter and that’s all that mattered. She should have known all along, it was too good to be true. Why else would such a big business family have agreed so quickly for a modest alliance? This was all a big trap. Karan was a closet gay, his parents knew, so did many others. Her father in law had devised the plan to get his son married to a simple middle-class girl. He had told a reluctant Karan, “Don’t worry, I will set up a new office for you, you and Rohan can live happily ever after. But just do what I say, marry Kaya, move abroad and give us a grand child. That’s it. Everyone is happy and we don’t lose face in the business social circles.”
As soon as Maya landed in India, with shivering hands, she dialled a familiar number, “Hi, Divya, how are you? Can we meet for coffee? Hmm, I am moving back to India, I have actually just landed. I was thinking, could I join back, I mean I know it has been a while but maybe, whatever there is, I would love to get back.”
Divya responded curtly, “Honey, I thought, you did not need the money.” Kaya broke down on the phone she started crying. Divya asked, “Kaya, what happened? Are you fine? Okay, give me some time, come to my office next week.”
Two weeks later, she had a job, the salary was less and so was the position but she did not care. She needed the money, she had to start somewhere.As she walked back into her office, she could hear Ira’s voice in her head, “But Kaya, you have worked hard for this, don’t just give it up for a man. Do you just want to be his trophy wife and a vending machine for popping babies?”
Kaya smiled to herself, Ira had done well for herself. She had moved to New York, she was an independent documentary maker, as she walked up the stairs, she smsed Ira, “ You were right, I worked hard for this and why should I give it all up for a man. I am back to take what is mine. She entered her cabin and typed a message out. Her first email from her official id.
Dear Karan,I love you, I really do but I can’t do live this lie any more. It is over between us and you are free to follow your heart. I am not coming back.Love, Kaya
She clicked the send button .. and she felt free, like a bird in the sky.
Image via Pixabay
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