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Until He Was Seduced By Temptation And Broke His Marriage Vows

Neelu might have outwardly forgiven Ramesh, but in her mind, which once was filled with unconditional love for Ramesh, there was now a seed of resentment.

Neelu might have outwardly forgiven Ramesh, but in her mind, which once was filled with unconditional love for Ramesh, there was now a seed of resentment.

Ramesh’s footsteps paused at the entrance of the hotel’s ballroom. Inside, his school’s reunion party was going in full swing. The air was heavy, as expensive perfumes and the aroma of food from the buffet table, mingled. There were low murmurs, tinkling laughs and clinks of cutlery.

Ramesh had not wanted to come, knowing that she would be there. She, Neelu, who once had been the love of his life. Taking a deep breath, Ramesh entered the room. His eyes found Neelu almost immediately. She still looked the same. Maybe there was now grey in her hair and a few wrinkles on her face. But her vivacity, her mannerisms were still the same. Things, that had first attracted him.

As if noticing his eyes on her, Neelu looked up, and their eyes met. The years melted away as memories swamped Ramesh. Of seeing her for the first time across the playground as she whooped with joy on the swing. Of how their eyes had met and her laughter had faded. The frisson of awareness that had gone through them. Somehow instinctively, they had known they were bound to each other. Their friendship blossomed and grew deeper until it transformed into love. Ramesh recalled his wedding day. How radiant Neelu had looked. Her face aglow with the love in her heart. How blissful they both had been in those initial years. It felt as if nothing could tear them apart.

Until Ramesh was seduced by temptation and broke his marriage vows.

Ramesh’s face burned with shame as he remembered how Neelu had confronted him. “Why Ramesh?” Neelu had asked in an anguished whisper. “Why did you feel the need to be loved and comforted by somebody else? Was my love not enough for you?”

“Your love is the reason I live for!” Ramesh had cried. “I can make excuses, but the real reason is that I was tempted, I was weak and I gave in. I hurt both of us. Please, please forgive me“. Ramesh had begged, cajoled and grovelled. In the end, Neelu had decided to not leave Ramesh. It might have been because she couldn’t give up on the love that had been a part of her life for so long or because she was bound by the norms of society. They pushed Ramesh’s lapse to the recesses of their minds and never spoke of it again.

Things slowly fell back into their old routine, and soon Ramesh felt that all had gone back to normal, but it hadn’t. On the surface, all may seem calm, but things move forward exactly as they should, in tandem with an unseen natural rhythm. Neelu might have outwardly forgiven Ramesh, but in her mind, which once was filled with unconditional love for Ramesh, there was now a seed of resentment. Resentment of the fact that Ramesh could so easily be swayed by temptation to break sacred vows. Resentment that while breaking the vow, he had been so lost in pleasure that he had not had a moment’s twinge. Slowly over the years, as the resentment grew, Neelu became quieter, withdrawn. 

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One day, Neelu met Shashank. Shashank was young, handsome and could make Neelu laugh. He reminded Neelu of Ramesh in his younger days when Ramesh’s sole aim used to be to make Neelu happy. Shashank continued to make Neelu laugh, and Neelu continued to let the attraction between them build.

Ramesh had watched the growing closeness between them with alarm. He was further shocked, when one day, Neelu confessed her growing attraction towards Shashank. Ramesh couldn’t believe his ears. He couldn’t understand how Neelu, his Neelu, could say something like this. Ramesh raved, ranted, cajoled, and threatened. And finally, in the end, he said, “I want a divorce.” Neelu, who had been listening to him quietly with her head bowed, looked up at his words and gave a small smile. They were divorced quietly, going their separate paths.

A jostle by a former classmate brought Ramesh back to the moment. As he shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, he sneaked another glance at Neelu. Once again, he had the same frisson of attraction that he had years ago. As they looked at each other, a soundless understanding passed through them. Neelu smiled and walked towards him. As he inhaled her familiar lavender perfume, she asked, “Coffee?” He wordlessly nodded.

 An hour later, Ramesh and Neelu sat across from each other in a yuppy cafe. “Did you remarry?” Neelu asked. Ramesh nodded, “Yes, her name is Sarita. She is in Lucknow helping our daughter settle down in a hostel. “ Neelu smiled in acknowledgement.

“How is Shashank?” Ramesh asked. Neelu gave him a surprised look and replied, “Shashank? How would I know?” It was now Ramesh’s turn to be surprised. “You didn’t marry him?” he asked. “Why would I marry him?” came Neelu’s reply.

“Because…?” muttered Ramesh, uncomfortable about verbalizing his ex-wife’s affair.

“Because I was attracted to him? Because I wanted to go to bed with him?” Neelu completed his statement. “Tell me, did you marry all those women you have slept with since our divorce?” She asked sarcastically. Ramesh flushed at Neelu’s tone. “But you agreed to the divorce. That means there was something between you two”, Ramesh said belligerently.

“I divorced you because I could no longer live with a man who had cheated on me. Your betrayal made me doubt you all the time. Moreover, it made me doubt myself and my decisions. I resented you for breaking my heart, and I hated myself for giving you that kind of power to hurt me. Shashank was just a passing sailor in my life. Yes, I was attracted to him as he made me feel desirable. But I knew I was not going to sleep with him. I told you about my attraction to him as I wanted to see your reaction. And you behaved the way I thought you would. Being a cheater yourself, you thought I would also cheat on you. My love for you had died bit by bit, every day, after I came to know of your extra-marital affair. That day, when you asked for a divorce, I was relieved that I did not have to continue the sham of our marriage anymore. I was finally free. I was free to love myself. To be me. The past thirty years have been the best in my life. I have travelled the world and explored new avenues. Maybe I would have done the same with you by my side, but then it would have been a compromise. Now I was responsible for no one but myself. I was influenced by nobody else’s choice. I had the freedom to choose for myself, to think for myself. I came to the reunion just to say thank you to you. If you had not asked me for divorce that day, I would have continued in that unhappy marriage.”

With these words, Neelu picked up her bag and walked out of the cafe, smiling.

This story had been shortlisted for our December 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. The author-juror Ranjani Rao said about this story, “Of love, marriage and assumptions. When catching up with a former spouse leaves you confounded.”

Image source: a still from the Marathi film Kaagar

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About the Author

Harshita Nanda

My Motto is you can learn anything from books! I am an engineer turned SAHM turned book blogger. I love to read, talk and write about books. I am passionate about instilling a love for read more...

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