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Sometimes we jump into things that seem perfect but we forget that all that glitters isn't always gold.
Sometimes we jump into things that seem perfect but we forget that all that glitters isn’t always gold.
She stared at the email on her computer, the thoughts in her mind racing so fast that the words in front of her blurred together and no longer made any sense. Just three lines, but enough to make her life-the life she’d worked so hard for and sacrificed so much to build-begin to crumble around her.
Her mind went back to the moment when, almost five years ago, she had got a her first big break in the world of entertainment television. She was just 25 then and had 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 to national television and here I am, getting the job on a silver platter”, she told Ira, her best friend. Ira, of course, smirked and said, “Just look at you!”.
With such a glowing and rosy 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 was striking about her were her hazel eyes. They were limpid pools that could melt any man. “Oh come on, it isn’t only about how I look. What kind of a best friend are you? You give my intelligence no credit, maybe I actually impressed my employer with my knowledge”, retorted Kaya . Ira laughed “Yeah, right. Knowledge of Kareena Kapoor’s diet chart or Salman Khan gym regime? Whatever! I am happy for you.”
However, Ira couldn’t help but think, “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 at the same news channel. Her appearance was inconspicuous – just a big girl with corkscrew curls or ‘Maggi noodles’ curls, as her colleagues often called her messy hair. She hated her unruly hair, all things girly and anything with even a hint of pink. But what was truly unfettered, was her spirit. Ira had 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. She interviewed celebrities and many told her that she was too pretty to be just interviewing them and that she should be an actress herself. Kaya would be flattered but she wasn’t too ambitious. She had everything she wanted. Her parents, though were simple hardworking people, had 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. Having grown up listening to compliments about her radiant beauty, she secretly nurtured the desire for tall, dark and handsome knight in shining armour.
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 conversations, 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 isn’t possible! I could not have put on 4 kgs in just one month!”. Her mother just smiled softly 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 Kaya was heading to the ladies room for a shower at the gym, she slipped and her phone went flying across. She was helped to her feet by a tall, well-built young man. She kept staring at him and his sculpted arms. Suddenly he whispered hoarsely “I am sorry”. Kaya was mesmerised but she gathered herself and walked past him. She felt a breath in her ears and turned around as whispered “Where are you going? That is for men, Madam”. Kaya looked up and realised she was standing in front of the men’s washroom. Flustered, she mumbled a sorry and ran out of the fitness centre. She could not run from her heart though. It was love at first sight.
A few stolen glances and some clandestine meetings later, they began meeting everyday, for coffee, dinner and 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 a big hotelier. In six months, Karan proposed and Kaya accepted. Kaya’s mother did offer a word of caution though, “Kaya , aren’t they too wealthy for us? I mean, they are out of our league. We are simple middle-class people and they are big businessmen. Will you be able to adjust to all that?” Ira had also said “I know, you don’t want to hear this but I don’t have feeling about Karan. I mean, there is more to him that meets the eye”.
Kaya ignored everyone, after all she was hopelessly and completely in love. She reasoned that Ira, with her 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, “You were always my beautiful princess, and now Karan will make you live like one. You deserve this”. Soon there was a big engagement followed by a lavish destination wedding and then a dream honeymoon. The spree of parties with the city’s rich and famous seemed endless. Kaya was living the high life- fast cars, big parties, branded clothes and diamonds. She took to it all like a fish to water.
Six months later, she was sitting with Ira. “I think I’m going 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 resigning. I need to be around my husband. I am not going anywhere with this job. Honestly I don’t even like it any more”. Her boss turned around and looked at Kaya and 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 will be your life then. Is that what you have worked so hard for in the last few years? Also, believe me, your husband should not be the be all and end all of your life. You will always be just one part of his. You shouldn’t give in so easily, you may not need the money but a job gives you an identity.” Kaya smiled and and left as she thought, ‘What would she know, she does not even have a steady boyfriend and marriage is basically an alien concept to her. I will be happy with my husband and if I get bored, I can always join the family business.’
In a few months, Karan announced that they were moving to Hong Kong for their new office . Kaya was thrilled, for she never even dared to dream about living abroad. She spoke to him about helping him with the business, only to be turned down 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 isn’t 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 had moved, Kaya became pregnant. She started enjoying the new life and made many friends, which is easy when you have a lot of money and your husband is the big boss.
Kaya began feeling lonely; Karan started coming home very late and would always be on a conference call. It felt like Karan had changed, maybe 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 and remarked, “It is all in your head. Can’t you see what I have work? You have all that you could possibly need. Call your friends, call your mother to stay, call my mother, I don’t care, 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 and said he had an important conference in Singapore . By then, Kaya had become numb but she when held her baby girl, she felt a new sense of hope.
Things kept getting worse though. Karan was hardly ever came home. He barely spent time with Maya, their beautiful baby girl. Before leaving for India 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 quickly responded, “It’s nothing, just work. Mom, you relax and give my love to Dad. Love you”. With a heavy heart, she entered her palatial house. It was just her, Maya and the babysitter.
A month later, Kaya asked her mother-in-law, “Mum, is there something I don’t know? Karan has been acting very strange. He has been avoiding me for almost a year now”. Her sophisticated mother-in-law, patted her cheek and said, “This is how it is, we have to look after the family and they will look after the business. Now he can’t sit in your lap and do that can he ? Such a big business and now the new hotel, give him some time”.
At night, as she was again waiting for Karan to return, she felt she heard whispers. She slid out of the bedroom softly so that Maya would not wake up and walked towards the doorway and then, she just froze. Her heart pounded so fast, she thought it was going to jump out of her body. She wanted to scream and cry but she just stood there. “I think she has understood, Raj. I told you, we should have told her in the beginning”. Her father-in-law in a hushed tone said, “Just go to sleep. Even if she knows that that Karan is gay and in love with his partner at work, she can’t do anything now. She has 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”.
Kaya walked back to her bedroom. Everything seemed crystal clear and 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 to a modest alliance? This was all a big trap.
As soon as Kaya had landed in India, with shivering hands, she dialled a familiar number. “Hi, Divya, how are you? Can we meet for coffee. I have actually just landed. I was wondering if I could join back. I mean I know it has been a while butI would love to get back.” Divya responded curtly, “Honey I thought you didn’t need the money”. Kaya broke down on the phone and started crying. Divya’s voice softened, “Kaya, what happened? Are you alright? Okay, come to my office next week”.
Two weeks later, Kaya had a job. The salary was less than before but she did not care. She needed the money and 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 vending machine, popping out babies?”. Ira had done well for herself. She had moved to New York as a documentary maker.
“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 e-mail from her official id.
I love you, I really do, but I can’t live this lie anymore. It is over between us and you are free to follow your heart. I am not coming back.
She hit send and she felt free.
Image Source- Canva
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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