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Men will be men and sometimes they make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean that they will not return to you. I waited for your dad because I knew that ultimately, he would always choose his family.
The Muse of the Month is a monthly writing contest organised by Women’s Web, bringing you original fiction inspired by women.
Prasanna Rao is one of the winners of the September 2020 Muse of the Month.
“Do you really need to work? Think about Megha. She is three years old and she needs you, these are the formative age of children!” exclaimed my mother as she poured a glass of water.
My father as always was immersed in his paper. It had been like this even when I was kid. Although we ate our dinner around the table as a family, my father would always be busy with his office papers or with the late evening news. He owned a chain of retail stores across the country and right from my childhood my mother had drilled this into me that my father was too busy to engage with my mundane everyday life.
I knew in my heart what would happen if I asked my dad’s opinion but that didn’t deter me from doing it anyway.
“Kusum, you are not in your teenage years to act foolishly. You are now the wife of an emerging business industrialist and you need to act with the dignity that your position in society demands.”
With this he considered the matter closed and took his paper along with him to his study. Although I expected something like this, it was still a rude slap on my cheek to be rebuffed like a child. I wanted to write professionally, something that I loved to do, and had honed my skills in the past two years using my website as an outlet to vent out my creative outbursts. A few weeks back I had been approached by a Lifestyle magazine that had offered me an opportunity to write a daily column for them. I was considering this offer, but I didn’t know what would be Shekar’s response to this news.
Shekar was out of town for a week on a business trip and I’d decided to spend few days with my parents. Gauging dad’s reaction to my news, I knew Shekar wouldn’t like the idea of me working. Shekar and my dad were alike, they lived in a world of acquisitions, mergers and business proposals. Shekar’s family owned a small but rapidly growing media production house.
I can’t even remember why I had married Shekar six years back, but if I was honest with myself then I would agree that I’d been blinded by Shekar’s good looks and it didn’t hurt that his parents were rich. I let myself be serenaded by the celebrity yacht parties, the glittering gifts and the romantic proposal. Oh yes, Shekar could be charming when necessary but I couldn’t lay the blame entirely on his shoulders. It was a match made in heaven, and my parents were over the moon when I announced that Shekar and I were engaged. It was the only time I think that my dad gazed upon me proudly. Any qualms I had of my future becoming like that of my mother were soon crushed by the blessings I received from my dad. Finally, I felt I had done something in my life that had pleased him.
The conversation with my parents happened a month ago and I’d temporarily put off my idea of working. I knew that I was unhappy with my idyllic life. I knew my capabilities and I was really itching to do something with my life. Of course, Megha was the focal point of my life but I couldn’t devote my entire life around her. I had my own desires and my ambitions in life, and I couldn’t settle being a mere shadow in my husband’s life. It was a weekday and I had settled Megha into her afternoon nap when my phone started vibrating.
“Madam, do you have any comments on the breaking news in your husband’s life. How do you feel that his name is being linked with the MeToo movement? Madam can you comment or provide any justification on your husband’s behalf?” I was speechless for a moment as the barrage of questions attacked me from the other end of the phone.
“Who are you? Why the hell are you asking me all this?” I finally succeeded in squeezing in my own two sentences.
“Kusum madam, have you not watched the news? Priya Kapoor has alleged that your husband asked for sexual favors in return for a role in a TV series. Shekar Mehta has huge contacts with the film and TV industry and he promised to get her a role in an upcoming series if she agreed to his certain demands. She has gone on record to say that she was scared to come out with these accusations before, but she also has some visual proof to back her statements. Madam do you have any comments?”
I disconnected the call and saw that there were fifteen missed calls. I had kept it on silent mode when I was putting Megha to sleep. I ran to the living room and switched on the TV and quickly scanned to find a prominent news channel. My body went ice cold when the reporter’s words were echoed by the news anchor. Photos of Shekar and Priya were flashed repeatedly like a broken record and the anchor’s words blasted at me angrily.
“Shekar Mehta, owner of Biz Entertainment is the new name that is being linked with the MeToo movement that shook the whole of Bollywood in 2018. Now Priya Kapoor, an upcoming and promising model has shared her experiences of harassment on social media. She took to Instagram to accuse Shekar of demanding favors in exchange for a role in a prominent TV series. Shekar got married in 2013 and has a daughter. He is a regular in the high-profile Bollywood parties…”
A picture of our family flashed on the screen and I remembered the memories attached to this photo. It was taken on our last annual vacation. We had been to Mauritius and I had been so happy to finally have Shekar for myself. I wanted so much for Shekar to bond with our daughter and not become the kind of dad that I had had. I felt faint and as I collapsed on the sofa, in the background I could hear the doorbell ringing insistently and my daughter crying in the nursery.
When I opened my eyes, I saw my mom peering over me, Megha perched on her hips. Everything came back to me in a horrible nightmare and a groan escaped from my lips. I just didn’t know what to believe. Was Shekar really a sexual predator. I was not a naïve person; I had heard of casting couches, but I couldn’t believe that my husband could do something like that.
“Kusum are you alright? I was trying to call you after I heard the news. It’s horrible, these false accusations that they are hurling against Shekar. I’m sure that everything will be cleared. Papa has already contacted the top-notch attorneys and right now Shekar, Shekar’s dad and your Papa are coming up with a strategy on how to deal with this.”
“But Mama what if they are true? What if the claims made by that actress is true? What shall I do?” I sobbed.
My mother was silent for few minutes as she placed Megha down and placated her with a plate of cookies.
“For God’s sake get a nanny or an Au pair. Why do you keep insisting on doing all the things by yourself? It’s so uncultured and really doesn’t seem fit for you.”
I couldn’t control my anger. “Mama, my life’s breaking to pieces and you are worried about pretenses. I don’t want to be a replica of you, OK?” I knew that I was dangerously close to a topic that was taboo in our household. As a teenager I was aware that my father had a torrid affair and for a short time the tabloids had blazoned the grizzly details of his affair all over the paper. Mysteriously after few weeks the news story had fizzled out and things had returned to an uneasy normalcy in our house. I never knew how or why my mother had remained in their marriage.
Now my mother straightened her back and stood tall. “There are some decisions that you need to take for the sake of your family. We have a reputation and an image in the society and nothing you or I do can tarnish it. Do you understand?”
I almost laughed out loud. “What image are you talking about? Your son in law is accused of sexual harassment openly on a prime news channel and you are worried about me tarnishing the image of our family. I don’t believe this!”
I heard a car turn in the driveway and knew that Shekar was back. My mom fiercely said to me, “Don’t take any hasty decisions Kusum. Men will be men and sometimes they make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean that they will not return to you. I waited for your dad because I knew that ultimately, he would always choose his family. You have always been brought up in comforts and luxury, so you are not aware of the harsh world outside and how ruthless it can be. But let me assure you that we will offer our complete support and assistance to Shekar and make sure that no harm will come to him.”
She quickly hurried to the door and I was left speechless again. My own parents wanted me to turn a blind eye to a cheating spouse. Do they really care for me? I had to know the truth from Shekar before I did anything. I turned towards him as he came through the door and his averted eyes and edgy stance made my heart go still.
“Look Kusum I cannot go into a detailed justification now. The media is hounding me, but I’ve planned to have you and Megha shifted into the Pune farmhouse. You can stay there until all this mess dies down. I must collect some files and important documents and I will be staying at our office guest room for a while. You don’t worry. Your father and I are working to build our defense. We will take care of this.”
“But Shekar all these allegations…? Are they true? Did you really…?” I couldn’t finish the sentence.
“Kusum, I said that I’ll take care. You don’t have to think of it. It’s common in entertainment business. “
“But is it true what Priya Kapoor claimed?”
“For God’s sake Kusum. It was a moment’s weakness and she was goading me on, coming to all the meetings in skimpy clothes and always wanting to talk in private. If you are asking me if I slept with her then yes, we did. But it was not my fault that she didn’t get the part and now she wants her two minutes of fame. Don’t you look so shocked. You come from a business family so you should know that these things are common.”
There was a small smirk in his face as he walked away from me and I knew what he was referring to. I made up my mind. In my naïveté I had made a mistake six years back but now I had another chance to do the right thing. I knew the path I will trod will not be an easy one. I may not have my parent’s support and it will be a long, difficult battle. But I will survive because there was one thing that was clear as crystal in my mind.
When Megha grows up I don’t want her to wonder why her mom stayed back in a marriage that was broken beyond repair. I didn’t want to be that kind of mother who sets a wrong example to her daughter. With trembling hands but a firm mind, I searched my emails for the job offer and clicked on reply.
Editor’s note: Elizabeth Stamatina “Tina” Fey is an American actor, comedian, writer and producer, best known to her fans for Saturday Night Live as a comedian and later 30 Rock where she famously impersonated Sarah Palin while Amy Poehler impersonated Hillary Clinton during the 2008 US elections, and her autobiography Bossypants and the movie Mean Girls as a writer.
There were many other interesting things that she also did, both on and off screen. But all along, she has been this brilliant woman who is best perceived as a sort of ‘glamorous’ librarian, with legendary work ethic, deadpan humour, and a grounded personality, qualities that helped catapult her comedy projects to unprecedented levels of success. And of course, a feminist. I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone reads her book, Bossypants.
The cue is this quote by her: “There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”
Prasanna Rao wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: a still from the film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
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After completing her degree in Engineering, Prasanna Rao joined the IT industry in 2006 and
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