I saw Shilpa, sitting far away, talking to a handsome young man. My heart missed a beat. How could it be? She had left for the meeting that very morning. She could not be in two places at the same time. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself. I would ring her up. If she picked up her mobile... But it was switched off.
It was Monday, a weekday. Normally, I have my office lunch at my workplace. That day, I don’t know what prompted me to deviate from this schedule and go somewhere else, when I jolly well could have gone to our canteen downstairs. This decision was to give me sleepless nights later on. It could be that Shilpa, my wife, had gone out of station for work, leaving me alone to fend for myself.
“Hope you can manage, darling,” she had cooed. ”I won’t be there to cook for you.”
“No problem,” I had replied bravely, not liking the idea of parting with her even for a moment.
“I’ll be away for only a week,” she had patted my cheek and then she was gone.
I decided to visit that new restaurant, The Inn, in Connaught Place and have my lunch.
Let me first tell you about myself. Shilpa and I had been married for the last six months. Though it was an arranged marriage, I was already head over heels in love with my beautiful wife. I could do anything for her; even pluck the moon and stars if she wished. I was not sure of her feelings, but so far she had always been friendly and affectionate towards me. I had decided to give her time. When she
saw how much I loved her, she would gradually start loving me too. That’s what I thought, like the oaf I was.
As I entered the dimly-lit restaurant, the cool air was a relief from the blistering heat outside. I selected a dark corner and sank down in my seat. I glanced at the motley crowd with disinterest. The place was filled with the usual office-goers. Armed with shopping bags, a group of women was yakking away. There were a few couples with their unruly brats. An NRI guy was sweating in his threepiece suit and drinking beer, while his wife, plastered with make-up was speaking with an accent. Waiters scurried to and fro, balancing plates on their hands. It was a typical busy lunch hour.
And then I saw Shilpa, sitting far away, talking to a handsome young man. My heart missed a beat. How could it be? She had left for
The next day in the office, I asked Sandeep, “If your wife cheats on you what would you do?” He looked surprised and amused. “Is your wife cheating on you?” he counterquestioned. “No. But tell me seriously, what would you do?” “Listen, buddy. My hard-working wife. I was so proud of her, but I had my doubts too, or was it jealousy? They say there are seven people in the world who look exactly alike. Could the woman in the restaurant be Shilpa's lookalike?
the meeting that very morning. She could not be in two places at the same time. Or had she come back? But then she would have informed me. I sat riveted in my place watching them. They were holding hands and gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes. The waiter arrived with my lunch, but it tasted like sawdust in my mouth.
Iwas in a rage. My first impulse was to go to their table – and then do what? Yank her hair? Slap her face? Create a scene? I would be behaving like a Stone Age man. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself. I would ring her up. If she picked up her mobile... But it was switched off. Maybe, I could ring Anita, her office colleague, but wouldn’t do, as they would all snigger and say that I was already suspecting my wife of infidelity.
I went back to the office in a foul mood, wishing once again that I hadn’t gone to that restaurant. Ignorance is bliss as they say.
“Hey, Rahul, what’s up? You are looking glum!” it was Sandeep, my friend. “Nothing,” I replied. “You must be missing your wife, yaar. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us in the beginning. But once the kids come along, one is hardly bothered,” he slapped me jovially on the back.
‘Yeah, joke all you want. It is not your wife who is cheating on you,’ I thought bitterly to myself.
My mind was in a whirl. I don’t know how I got through that day. I tried to contact Shilpa many times, but her phone was switched off. On the way home, I picked up some Chinese food for dinner and at 9 pm I rang her up again.
“Hello,” I said. “How was your day?” It was a relief to hear her voice.
“Great, but tiring. I could just go to sleep.”
I heard some whispering in the background.
“Is there someone in the room with you?”
“No, dear, it’s the TV”. The whispering ceased abruptly.
“I rang you up at lunch time but your phone was switched off.”
There was a long pause, or did I imagine it?
“You know how things are, sweety. All those long talks by the zonal heads So boring. I couldn’t let the meeting be interrupted by a phone call, could I? And then we had lunch at 3 pm, imagine! I was starved. Tell you what, darling; I’ll call you up each night. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be back by Saturday evening.” We talked about this and that and then she hung up.
My hard-working wife. I was so proud of her, but I had my doubts too, or was it jealousy? They say there are seven people in the world who look exactly alike. Could the woman in the restaurant be Shilpa's lookalike? My phone did not have a GPS. At least I could track her down. Was she in Delhi or had she gone to Mussoorie as she had said she would?
The next day in the office, I asked Sandeep, “If your wife cheats on you what would you do?”
He looked surprised and amused. “Is your wife cheating on you?” he counter-questioned.
“No. But tell me seriously, what would you do?”
“Listen, buddy, I would behave in a logical manner. First, I would hire a detective to find out all the details. Then I would confront my wife and ask for her side of the story. Then we would do what is best for both of us and the kids.”
Sandeep had always been a level-headed guy. This made sense to me. As I had nothing better to do, I took the day off, googled and found out a detective agency in a shabby area of old Delhi. I climbed the narrow steps of the building where their office was located. “Acme detectives – we aim to please” was written on the frosted glass door. ‘You had better be as good as your name suggests,’ I thought to myself.
Mr Dhawan, a middleaged man, was sitting behind a large cluttered desk. I sat down opposite him and told him my sad story. He listened carefully, noting down some details.
“Not to worry,” he said. “Here we solve all kinds of problems. We guarantee full satisfaction or all your money back.”
I heaved a sigh of relief. So it was all for nothing. I paid up, took the photographs and left. My heart was light and my pockets were lighter but at least my doubts had been cleared. “Thanks to modern technology, there is this thing called photo shopping. Your husband fell for it hook, line and sinker.” Mr Dhawan looked at the goodlooking young woman in front of him and wished he were 20 years younger. He knew that it was not his business, but he could not contain his curiosity any longer.
I didn’t want my money back. I just wanted to be proven wrong.
He went on to tell me about a few famous cases which his agency had solved, but I was not interested. After completing all the formalities, I walked out, lighter in mind. He assured me that I would get the results within a few days, before Shilpa came back.
I guess I am a glutton for punishment. I was getting obsessed with this whole affair. I then drove back again to The Inn for lunch, but seeing Shilpa there with that hunk, upset me further. I just had a cup of coffee and left. I was not hungry any more.
Wednesday and Thursday passed as slow as a snail. There was no sign of Shilpa and that guy at that restaurant. On Friday I went to the detective agency, after getting Mr Dhawan’s call.
“You have been quick,” I said.
“We have our methods, and we also live up to our motto,” he replied. “Which is?” “We aim to please. Actually, you have been worrying unnecessarily,” he smiled as he handed me some photographs.
Ileafed through them. Seeing Shilpa with that bloke, sent a fresh stab of pain through my heart.
“What am I supposed to see?” I asked.
“Look here,” Mr Dahawan pointed out. ”The woman in the photograph has a curved nose and a tattoo on her right hand, which your wife doesn’t have. Listen to this tape. Does it sound like your wife’s voice?”
Mr Dhawan was right. The woman in the photographs was not Shilpa. Even the voice did not match, as I listened to their lovey-dovey talk on the tape.
“Such things happen. Yours certainly was a case of mistaken identity.”
I heaved a sigh of relief. So it was all for nothing. I paid up, took the photographs and left. My heart was light and my pockets were lighter but at least my doubts had been cleared. I would never suspect my wife again. As I drove home, I noticed a pile of burning leaves near the road. I stopped my car, got out and consigned those photographs to the flames. Tomorrow, Shilpa would be coming home. I had to get the house cleaned up. I would order her favourite food at home and we would have a candlelit dinner for two. I would also give her a bunch of red roses and even muster up the courage to tell her how much I love her. Saturday morning saw Shilpa talking to Mr Dhawan at the Acme Detective agency.
“It was smart of you to inform me that my husband had seen me at the restaurant with my boyfriend. By the way, how did you convince Rahul that it wasn’t me?” she had a hard look on her face, a far cry from the smiling and loving wife which she had portrayed for the last so many months.
“Thanks to modern technology, there is this thing called photo shopping. Your husband fell for it hook, line and sinker.”
Mr Dhawan looked at the good-looking young woman in front of him and wished he were 20 years younger. He knew that it was not his business, but he could not contain his curiosity any longer.
“Your husband is a good man. If you wanted to cheat on him, why got married in the first place?”
“As if I wanted to! But it was all my father’s doing,” she said sarcastically. “He knew I had a wild reputation and he thought marriage would help me settle down. As for my husband, he is a dolt. He fancies himself to be in love with me. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. Next time I’ll have to be more careful.”
She stood up and stretched looking like a cat who had swallowed a bowl of cream. Mr Dhawan sighed. He felt sorry for the husband. He felt sorrier still for the wife who had been cuckolding him. What a tangle! He was no one to tell her about her moral obligations. He took the thick wad of notes which she had left on the table and shoved it in the drawer. Confidentiality! What was that? He had no qualms about double-crossing his client. His agency had certainly lived upon its motto – we aim to please. We
Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.
I was in a rage. My first impulse was to go to their table – and then do what? Yank her hair? Slap her face? Create a scene? I would be behaving like a Stone Age man. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself.