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The ease with which she stepped into two entirely different roles surprised her more than others. More so because she resented both from the core of her heart.
They were an ideal couple. Or so people thought. He was a high ranking officer in a multinational company. She, the daughter of a Brigadier in the army. They appeared to complement each other. They had the right blend of upper class sophistication and the ability to reach out to those belonging to the other strata of society. The parties organised by them were the talk of the town. Every minute detail was researched and arrangements were made according to the occasion and the guests who graced the ‘event’. Yes, you heard me right. Each occasion was an event – meticulously planned and executed.
Navaratri and Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were sober events. Ladies would be invited for ‘Haldi and Kumkum’. An evening’s programme of bhajan led by his company’s MD’s wife would precede dinner. Goodie bags with sweets, bangles, cosmetics and a fancy blouse piece would be distributed. Dressed in a traditional silk sari and gold jewelry she’d prostrate at the feet of elders and seek their blessings. Classical music would be played softly in the background. Dinner would be served and it would be ‘satvik’ as demanded by the occasion.
Holi and Deepavali parties were colourful and gay. Drinks were served and tables were set for card games. She was dressed to suit the occasion. Tight fitting shoulder less tops exposing just the right amount of cleavage and a floral skirt flaunting her gorgeous legs. Pearls and colourful beads adorned her neck – the mangalsutra symbolic of her married status duly relocated to her jewel box for the evening. Without really objecting to a sensuous touch by a guest who’d had a drink too many but safeguarding herself all the same with a sportive wink at his wife, she went around with practised ease while her husband indulged in negotiations with people who really mattered. Deals were struck and with each successful deal his company registered a profit.
The ease with which she stepped into two entirely different roles surprised her more than others. More so because she resented both from the core of her heart. She would have preferred a normal upper middle class life where she could just be herself. She was neither religiously inclined nor a party person.
Her mind drifted to a conversation between her parents who had thought she was asleep. She was a nine year old then.
“Brigadier Oberoi’s daughter is back for good. She’s pregnant. Her husband says that he’s not the father.” It was her father conveying the news to her mother.
“Oh my God. How sad. I was wondering where those late night booze parties would lead to. They could have kept the girl away from such gatherings.” It was her mother who responded.
“She was the star attraction. All those young officers were crazy about her.”
Pramila Oberoi worked in her school and was her favourite teacher. At the tender age of nine she wondered how her husband could say that the child was not his. He was just being mean, she felt. After all when he was her husband how could he not be the father of her child. It was all so confusing then. She now understood. She wondered if Pramila teacher’s predicament was similar to her own.
The party was over but she could not call it a day yet. He was talking to an important client. She awaited the dreaded call.
“Rashmi” it was her husband’s sugar coated voice calling out to her.
“Oh, no. Not again” …..She thought.
However, there was no escape. She pretended to be asleep but he was no fool.
“Enough of this drama” he hissed. “Khera is an important client. He is investing a crore in this project. Get ready as soon as possible. I am taking the kids out for ice cream.”
“Rishi has a sore throat. Ravi has an exam tomorrow. They need to go to bed.”
“I know what to do. They are my children too.”
“Are they?” She was in a mood to provoke him. “Maternity is assured. Paternity can be questioned.”
She could take no more of it. She picked up the negligee he had bought for the occasion and flung it at his face.
“Your promotion be damned. I am not entertaining that fatso. Would he let you sleep with his wife?”
She truly wanted him to strangle her and be done with it instead of killing her little by little.
“How dare you…..?” He almost hit her. But the contract had not been signed and there was no point ruining it.
“Just one last time” he almost pleaded with her. “I won’t ever trouble you after this.”
“You send him to me and I will kill him with my bare hands. I mean it.”
He was surprised at the changed tone of her voice. It gave evidence of a change of heart.
What he didn’t realise was that the resentment had been brewing in her mind all along. It had just found an outlet.
Hindu mythology was full of stories of female deities projected as Shakti who killed demons like Mahishasur. Why then was she so vulnerable? Why was she obliged to please her husband’s boss as well as his wife? And that too in a diametrically opposite manner. How long would it be before the children understood what was going on?
She stared at her dressing table. The best brands of eyeliner, lipstick, blusher, mascara and perfume seemed meaningless unless –
Cosmetics were like war paints and the time for their resurrection was
‘Here and Now’.
Editor’s note: This story was shortlisted for the October 2019 Muse of the Month contest.
Image source: a still from the movie Dirty Picture
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