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I have always heard my mother say that a woman is incomplete without a man. That's what society would like women to believe.
“Pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming,” the man sitting on the chair said and shook his head vigorously. The thick locks of hair parted to reveal a half-bloodied face.
“Yes, me,” the man replied as the crowd went berserk.
“Pathaan? How did you survive?”
The ensuing dialogue was drowned by the cacophony of the adoring crowd.
Reena stopped whistling and looked around her. In the dark, she could only make out the heads of those ahead, behind and around her. She was willing to bet her entire month’s salary on the fact that there was not a single vacant chair in the two hundred and fifty seater theatre at the moment— the whole nation seemed to have come together to celebrate the comeback of one of its favourite actors after a four-year hiatus.
“Is there anyone else like me? Would there be one other person in the crowd who has come to the movie alone on Valentine’s Day?” she wondered, not willing to bet on an affirmative answer to the question.
Her phone vibrated just then. She glanced at the WhatsApp notification and smiled.
“The girl must be prescient,” she muttered while tapping on the notification.
“Enjoying the movie?” the message read.
“Pretty much,” Reena replied.
“I will never forget you ditched me for a man,” came the reply from the other end.
“Look at the pot calling the kettle back. Who went to watch the movie alone on Republic day?”
“You were not in town, Reena!”
“And you couldn’t wait to date your favourite actor without me. Now it’s my turn, and you are interrupting our Valentine date,” she teased her best friend.
The volley of emojis that came as a reply made her smile.
“Talk to you later,” Reena typed and put her phone away. She turned to the screen, but for once, her mind was not on her teenage crush but an incident from five years ago.
“The report is full of errors, Reena,” Priya said to her marketing manager. They were looking at the marketing plan to launch a new jewellery brand for the company that Priya owned.
“I am sorry, Priya,” Reena replied, head bowed.
“This is so unlike you,” the businesswoman continued. She would have said much more had Reena not burst into tears.
The silence in the room was punctuated by Reena’s sobs before Priya tore some tissues from a box on her table and got up from the chair to close the distance between herself and the colleague she trusted the most in her company.
“I am sorry, Reena. Here, have a glass of water and wipe your face,” Priya said, sitting beside Reena on the other visitor chair in her cabin.
“No, don’t say sorry. It is my fault. I have been unable to focus much for the last few days,” Reena said, taking the glass of water and tissues proffered to her.
“I could see that you were not your usual self but did not want to pry. Now that you have mentioned it, would you like to talk about what is bothering you, Reena?”
Reena stared at Priya. About the same age as Reena, Priya ran a successful business while pursuing her passion of being a DJ on the side. After three years of working with her, she looked up to Priya as a mentor and friend.
“My boyfriend broke up with me yesterday,” Reena confessed, tears streaming down her face again.
“I’m sorry to hear this, Reena,” Priya quipped, putting her hand on Reena’s shoulders.
“I just don’t understand. We have been together for three years, and I expected him to propose marriage. Instead, he decides to break up with me when I bring up the subject. Now I am alone on the most romantic day of the year.” Reena said. “Today is Valentine’s day, and the city is bustling with couples buying each other gifts and making plans for the big day. Everywhere I turn, I see hearts, flowers, and chocolates. I am the only miserable in the sea of happy people.”
“I know how you are feeling. But it is better to enjoy your own company rather than be stuck with a commitment-phobic person. You are better off without him, Reena. Trust me.”
“Three years is a long time, Priya. Now I am feeling lost and alone without him; it is as if I am incomplete.”
Priya sat straight. “Reena, you don’t need a man to make you happy. You are complete on your own,” she insisted.
Reena sniffled. “I have always heard my mother say that a woman is incomplete without a man.”
“That’s what society would like women to believe. Even today, when I go to family gatherings, the first question that my well-meaning relatives enquire about is my plans to get married. They can’t digest that I am happy being single and devoting my time to work. That doesn’t mean I confer to their expectations about me. I am the most important person for myself, and I would not make myself unhappy to make others happy. Conversely, I would not let anyone else determine my happiness.”
Reena listened in rapt attention, her tears dried and tongue tied.
“You are a strong, independent woman, and that’s something to be proud of. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise,” Priya concluded.
After a considerable pause, Reena said, “You are right, Priya. I don’t need a man to make me happy. I have my friends and family, and that’s all that matters.”
“Atta girl. And you know what? Let’s celebrate the love we have for ourselves this Valentine’s day. Let’s go for a fancy lunch and treat ourselves to a spa.”
Reena was taken aback at this side of her boss. “Are you sure, Priya? There’s so much to do.”
Priya waved her hand. “Work will always be there. There’s nothing that can’t wait for half a day. Let’s go all out to pamper ourselves today.”
And that’s what they did. They first went to a fine dining restaurant and ate to their heart’s content, then went to a spa and took the most expensive massage on the menu, enjoying each other’s company.
As they sat in the spa, waiting for the nail polish on their fingers to dry, Reena looked at Priya and said, “I don’t know how you do it, Priya. You are so content being single.”
Priya smiled and said, “It’s not about being single, Reena. It’s about loving yourself and being happy with who you are. I love my independence and the freedom it brings. I can do what I want, when I want, without having to answer anyone. That’s what makes me happy.”
Reena nodded, understanding what Priya was saying. “I guess I just need to work on loving myself more,” she said.
“That’s the key, Reena. It’s not about finding happiness in someone else; it’s about finding happiness within yourself.”
“I have understood it now. Thank you so much for the best Valentine’s Day I have ever had. I owe you one.”
“Then pay me back,” Priya teased.
“By spending the next Valentine’s Day with me. Can this be the day we spend loving ourselves together every year?”
No words passed between the two of them. None were needed. Reena’s smile said it all.
From that day on, Priya and Reena made it a tradition to spend Valentine’s Day together. They would go out for a fancy lunch or dinner, treat themselves to a spa, or just spend the day relaxing and watching movies. It was a day to celebrate themselves.
“Tiger has come,” Reena’s favourite actor declared on screen. The crowd broke into a frenzy witnessing the tango between two superstars on screen, bringing Reena out of her reverie. She jumped off her chair seeing two of her favourite actors together on screen. This was such a bonus.
A thoroughly satisfied Reena emerged from the hall an hour and a half later. The movie may not have been the best of all time, but it was total value for money and time well spent. She glanced at her watch and quickened her steps, knowing someone was waiting for her in her favourite fine dining restaurant.
She was going down the escalator when her eyes fell on the bewitching red gown adorning the body of a mannequin on the floor she was departing for. Somehow it seemed perfect.
Her partner was waiting. Should I let it go and carry on? She mused.
A relook at the dress made her take the roundabout and go back up to fetch the dress. Her partner would have to understand.
When Reena entered the restaurant twenty minutes later, she saw her partner nonchalantly scrolling through the phone, taking a sip from the pina colada glass in the other hand.
The other person looked up as Reena approached.
“So, you are finally here. I was wondering if you enjoyed the date so much to go for an encore, ditching me once again,” Priya mocked.
“I did enjoy that date. But I wouldn’t have missed this one for anything or anyone. I got held up temporarily because something caught my eye. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend,” Reena said, placing the gift-wrapped package containing the red gown in Priya’s hand.
Priya’s eyes widened. “What is this for?”
Reena smiled at the person who had made her realise true happiness all those years ago, who she no longer worked with but was closest to in the world.
“A little something from my side for a special person who taught me that you don’t need someone else to complete you and self-love is enough to fill your heart with joy. It is because of you I am celebrating myself today. This gift is but a small token of gratitude for that celebration.”
Priya gulped the Pina colada down her throat to stop the tears that threatened to come out before stopping midway. She then held her glass high up in the air, beckoning her friend.
Reena picked up the glass of water in front of her and slowly raised it to the same level as Priya’s.
“Cheers,” they chorused as their glasses clanked.
Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...
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I wanted to scream with excitement that my daughter chose to write about her ambition and aspirations over everything else first. To me, this was one of those parenting 'win' moments.
My daughter turned eight years old in January, and among the various gifts she received from friends and family was an absolutely beautiful personal journal for self-growth. A few days ago, she was exploring the pages when she found a section for writing a letter to her future self. She found this intriguing and began jotting down her thoughts animatedly.
My curiosity piqued and she could sense it immediately. She assured me that she would show me the letter soon, and lo behold, she kept her word.
I glanced at her words, expecting to see a mention of her parents in the first sentence. But, to my utter delight, the first thing she had written about was her AMBITION. Yes, the caps here are intentional because I want to scream with excitement that my daughter chose to write about her ambition and aspirations over everything else first. To me, this was one of those parenting ‘win’ moments.
It's well known how diplomatic and professional Priyanka Chopra is. Why would she want to stir the hornet’s nest when everyone’s happy in their personal space?
Priyanka Chopra (PC) did something completely out of character. She’s usually known for being articulate and mostly diplomatic, unless she wants to give sassy comebacks to people who try to put her on the spot or ‘in her place’.
She’s someone who’s never fought the establishment because she understands you can’t win against it anyway. But you can work around it to get your way to the top. She’s a thorough professional and team player.
For someone like Priyanka Chopra who’s never played victim so far, to admit being the scapegoat of petty politics in the Hindi film industry was refreshing. It’s good to see this unfiltered, vulnerable side of her for a change. PC revealed one of her reasons for shifting to Hollywood on the podcast, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard.
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