THE LAST STRAW

So, what re­paired it?

Woman's Era - - Contents - Tan­ima Das

Prava had tried to ig­nore the line of thought that Ranit’s be­hav­iour nowa­days en­cour­aged. All the signs were clearly point­ing to the pres­ence of an­other fe­male in her hus­band’s life. But she des­per­ately wanted her mar­riage to work.

Prava was cook­ing break­fast in the kitchen while her hus­band Ranit waited calmly. She was still wear­ing her night gown while he was fully dressed for of­fice. The clam­our of the uten­sils in the kitchen con­trasted the quiet at the din­ing ta­ble.

Shrimp pasta in white sauce with gar­lic bread was served along with a glass of fresh or­ange juice. Ranit put away his phone; his move­ments a bit too rushed to go un­no­ticed. And he tried too hard to fo­cus on his break­fast.

Prava sighed to her­self. They have been mar­ried for

Ranit got up when he was done and waved a po­lite good­bye be­fore leav­ing. As Prava watched him through the win­dow driv­ing the car to­wards the big com­plex gate her heart seemed to break from the weight of pain and she let out some of it by shed­ding co­pi­ous tears.

nine long years and she sud­denly longed for the early days of their mar­riage when her burnt toast elicited the hap­pi­est of smiles from Ranit. She sat on the other side of the ta­ble pre­tend­ing to look at the news­feed in her phone while Ranit bus­ied him­self with the meal.

Ranit got up when he was done and waved a po­lite good­bye be­fore

leav­ing. As Prava watched him through the win­dow driv­ing the car to­wards the big com­plex gate her heart seemed to break from the weight of pain and she let out some of it by shed­ding co­pi­ous tears.

An­other day when her hus­band did not make any at­tempt to start a con­ver­sa­tion. An­other day when he was ab­so­lutely in­dif­fer­ent to her un­rest. An­other day when she spot­ted him try­ing to hide the phone when she walked in.

rava had tried to ig­nore P the line of thought that Ranit’s be­hav­iour nowa­days en­cour­aged. All the signs were clearly point­ing to the pres­ence of an­other fe­male in her hus­band’s life. But she des­per­ately wanted her mar­riage to work. No, it was not per­fect in any way but she still wanted to make it last.

As she flopped down on their mar­i­tal bed her thoughts drifted back to a long time ago. They were both young and en­er­getic. They had big am­bi­tions. And they had love. Prava and Ranit were madly in love when they got mar­ried. When Ranit got an op­por­tu­nity to move abroad Prava was ex­tremely sup­port­ive about it. She will­ingly gave up her high fly­ing ca­reer and fol­lowed her hus­band in search of a new life.

‘I’ll find some­thing to do there,’ she told her­self hap­pily. ‘Be­ing with him is the most im­por­tant thing for me.’

How­ever, it turned out to be very dif­fi­cult for Prava to find a job that did jus­tice to her qual­i­fi­ca­tions. She even tried to ex­plore her long buried hobby of paint­ing ex­pect­ing to take it some­where phe­nom­e­nal but “the strug­gling painter” phase never seemed to end.

With the pass­ing years Prava’s smiles started to re­ar­range them­selves into a per­pet­ual frown. Her un­spent en­ergy went into cook­ing and Ranit felt pleas­antly sur­prised to no­tice the up­grade in Prava’s culi­nary skills. He had al­ways let Prava choose her way of life and he sim­ply had no clue about his wife’s in­ner tur­moil.

This went on for a few years. For Ranit work paid well, wife cooked well and trav­el­ling the pic­turesque coun­tries suited him well. Prava on the other hand went on strug­gling to ac­cept the role of the de­pen­dent rich wife.

At this junc­ture peo­ple from their fam­i­lies de­cided to re­mind them about the tick­ing clock. They were told to plan for a baby at the ear­li­est. Prava would have def­i­nitely de­cided to have a baby had peo­ple not told her to do so. Her al­ready de­pressed soul took it as an in­sult and de­cided to post­pone the step in­def­i­nitely.

anit was crest­fallen R when he heard about her de­ci­sion. He had hoped that Prava would be glad to utilise her ca­reer break to raise a baby but it was not meant to be. His wife was now firm in her re­solve. She had to re­in­state her­self as an in­de­pen­dent ca­reer woman first. Mother­hood could wait.

At her be­hest Ranit grudg­ingly moved back to In­dia. It would be eas­ier to restart her ca­reer in her home coun­try, Prava thought with a heart full of hope. Her de­ci­sion was not en­tirely wrong. She did get a job within a month’s time but when she found out that her re­port­ing man­ager was younger than her by al­most a decade she qui­etly re­signed mak­ing up silly ex­cuses.

And that’s when Prava com­pletely gave up look­ing for a job. Life went on as be­fore but per­haps she had also given up on life as well.

Their fam­i­lies had got­ten tired of prod­ding them for a baby. They had been fi­nally ac­cepted as a rich and happy cou­ple who did not need a baby to com­plete their world.

At such a point of time one fine day Prava saw a stray dog out­side the com­plex gate cud­dling her lit­ter. And the scene did what hu­man words had failed to do. She started to long for the touch of her own in­fant. Af­ter a few days she had hes­i­tantly brought up the topic to Ranit. To her sur­prise he was over­joyed. Af­ter a long time they stayed up all night plan­ning for the fu­ture. They al­ready felt ex­cited to imag­ine the hap­pi­ness a baby would bring into their life.

But the joy was short lived. Af­ter months of fu­tile at­tempts in get­ting preg­nant they de­cided to con­sult the doc­tors. Their worst fear was con­firmed. They were not ca­pa­ble of hav­ing a bi­o­log­i­cal child.

ife again came to a lull. L Prava cried her­self to sleep on al­most every night and Ranit could not find the words to con­sole her or his own sad­dened heart. Time does not re­ally heal any pain; it just teaches you to han­dle it bet­ter. And with the pas­sage of time Prava de­cided to adopt a child to fill in the empti­ness.

Ranit had al­ways given in to his wife’s wishes but this time he said a no.

“I’d not be able to love the child as my own. It wouldn’t be fair to the baby. I’m sorry.”

Prava could not let go of the idea. Ranit had his work to keep him busy. But within the soli­tary con­fine­ment of her plush home Prava felt like the poor­est per­son in the whole world and she longed more and more for a lit­tle baby.

And that’s how dis­tance started to creep into their mar­riage. Every day Prava looked at Ranit with hope that he would change his mind. And every day Ranit had to find out ways to ig­nore her si­lent pleas. Slowly Prava be­came more and more re­sent­ful of Ranit’s in­flex­i­ble stance. And Ranit started to feel that he was made to bear the brunt of Prava’s ini­tial whims.

They lived un­der the same roof but the gap be­tween their hearts was

Prava sighed as she traced the way her happy mar­riage had come to the present day’s sham­bles. She slowly got up from the bed and pro­ceeded to pre­pare for her cake work­shop. Of late she had started to con­duct free cook­ing work­shops.

be­com­ing im­pos­si­ble to bridge.

Prava sighed as she traced the way her happy mar­riage had come to the present day’s sham­bles.

he slowly got up from S the bed and pro­ceeded to pre­pare for her cake work­shop. Of late she had started to con­duct free cook­ing work­shops. In­ter­act­ing with young peo­ple com­pletely clue­less about cook­ing made her think of her happy younger self and it made her feel a lit­tle bet­ter.

As she mixed the var­i­ous creams and colours to make the ic­ings her mind

again wafted to her hus­band’s thoughts. Ranit had lately started tak­ing good care of him­self. He was look­ing quite fit and hand­some for his age. As Prava looked at her flabby frame in the mir­ror she felt a feel­ing of pity flood her senses. There was no way Ranit was do­ing this to im­press his wife. She tried not to imag­ine the girl who had en­snared her hus­band’s at­ten­tion but the more she tried to think about some­thing else the more prom­i­nent the im­age of a tall and svelte doeeyed girl be­came in her mind.

Sud­denly her phone rang. It was Ranit. He called to say that he would be late and would have din­ner out­side.

Prava wanted to ask him right away if it was a woman. When they were younger Prava was quite the jeal­ous wife. If she ever caught Ranit check­ing out an­other beauty she would start a fight im­me­di­ately. Prava’s an­gu­lar eyes, full lips and tri­an­gu­lar face rava and Ranit car­ried P on with their al­most bro­ken mar­riage. Prava of­ten won­dered what it would be like if they got di­vorced. But she re­alised that she had no life left out­side her mar­riage. Ranit on the other hand would have his ca­reer and a brand new love. And she re­sented him more for de­stroy­ing her com­pletely.

She de­cided that she would have to find proper ev­i­dence about his cheat­ing ways. And then she would plan her next move against Ranit.

The next few days went in try­ing to read Ranit’s text mes­sages or emails. But she had no luck. His phone was bio­met­ri­cally locked and his email id could not be hacked into. She re­mem­bered the days when Ranit and she used to share their pass­words. But those were the days when Prava never had the need to not trust him.

Prava’s re­peated at­tempts to gather proof were met with fail­ure. She had al­most given up on catch­ing him red handed when some­thing hap­pened un­ex­pect­edly. Prava had gave her a fe­ro­cious and fe­line look that Ranit sim­ply adored. And when she got mad it usu­ally ended up in a night of wild pas­sion. Ranit did not mind his wife’s pos­ses­sive streak at all…it kept the magic alive in their life he used to think.

Re­cently Ranit had of­ten made ex­cuses about work to come home late but Prava had never found the courage to con­front him. Per­haps she was afraid that he might ac­cept it with­out any re­sis­tance.

Every day Prava looked at Ranit with hope that he would change his mind. And every day Ranit had to find out ways to ig­nore her si­lent pleas.

been out of home to get some fresh air. But af­ter a few min­utes she started to feel tired and came back from half way.

She was about to en­ter her home when she could hear Ranit speak­ing on the phone with some­one.

“Yes…i can meet you to­mor­row. Which place? Sins Café? Ha­haha…nice choice!...yes I will be there…i’ll make up some ex­cuse…no prob­lem…6:30pm sharp.”

Prava had heard enough…she quickly ran to the lift and went to the com­mu­nity li­brary. She picked up a ran­dom mag­a­zine and sat down bury­ing her face in it. Sur­pris­ingly the tears re­fused to come out to­day. She could only feel a shiver rake her whole body. Till this point of time Prava had hope – maybe a thin hope but still there was hope. But now that was gone; she had heard Ranit plan out a tryst with her. And now she had to make the de­ci­sion of when to con­front Ranit and what to do about it.

fter a long time Prava A de­cided to post­pone the de­ci­sion mak­ing bit. She would catch them first. Then she would slowly de­cide what to do. She felt a bit stronger and she headed back home.

She found Ranit watch­ing an EPL match with a glass of scotch when she walked in. He was in­dif­fer­ent to her en­try in the room. Prava quickly rushed to the kitchen and fried some sausages to go with the scotch.

While toss­ing the sausages she re­alised that she loved her mun­dane rou­tine a lot and the fact that it was about to end made her cry again.

When she handed the plate of starters to Ranit he smiled and mur­mured a word of thanks.

For a sec­ond Prava was happy to see him ac­knowl­edge her pres­ence. But her hap­pi­ness van­ished when she re­alised that it was a smile out of pity and guilt.

“Did you have any se­rial to watch now? Would you like me to record it for you to watch later on?” Ranit asked.

rava sup­pressed her P sigh…how lit­tle Ranit knew about her daily rou­tine. She had given up watch­ing tele­vi­sion a long time ago.

“No…i’ll just rest a bit.” Prava re­tired to the bed­room.

It was now im­pos­si­ble to not cry. At din­ner Ranit no­ticed that Prava’s eyes were red and asked her ca­su­ally if she was well. “I’m a bit fever­ish.” “You should visit the doc­tor to­mor­row. May be at Ar­o­gya In­sti­tute? Shall I make an ap­point­ment for you?” Ranit sounded en­thu­si­as­tic.

Prava knew the rea­son. Ar­o­gya In­si­tute was lo­cated not far from Sins Cafe.

“I’ll do it my­self. Would you be able to pick me up from there at 10pm or so?”

“Sure,” Ranit agreed im­me­di­ately.

The next day Prava woke up en­er­getic. Per­haps the clear con­clu­sion in sight gave her strength. Or per­haps the lack of re­cent ex­cite­ment made her get worked up at the sud­den twist of fate.

Prava en­tered Sins Café at 5pm. She found a cor­ner fac­ing the kitchen and de­cided to wait there.

At 6:35pm Ranit walked in. And he was not alone.

To her sur­prise Prava saw him walk­ing in with a young man.

Ranit’s com­pan­ion was dressed ca­su­ally in a T-shirt and jeans. He had a strong build and a nice face. It was im­pos­si­ble to de­tect from his ap­pear­ance that he was gay.

‘He is try­ing too hard to look like a het­ero­sex­ual,’ Prava thought.

Then her eyes shifted to her hus­band. Her hus­band of nine years; her friend of 15 years. All th­ese years with him and she had no clue about him be­ing bi­sex­ual.

Prava saw the ex­cite­ment in Ranit’s eyes and it felt like a rude stab.

Sud­denly em­bold­ened by the in­ci­dent Prava got up.

She walked briskly and parked her­self in front of their ta­ble. Both the men looked up. Both of them looked shocked and scared. The air stank of naked guilt.

“Sorry, Prava madam,” the young man stupidly apol­o­gised.

“Shut up. You speak up…ranit,” Prava felt her­self coil up in anger.

“I’m ex­tremely sorry, Prava. I think it all hap­pened be­cause our mar­riage was slip­ping away from our grip…fast…very fast.”

“So you de­cided to sleep with this man? How can he help you to strengthen the grip? Tell me! Tell me all the lurid de­tails…i want to know!”

A few peo­ple looked up from the ad­ja­cent ta­bles. The cafe man­ager came up and po­litely asked them to main­tain deco­rum or leave. The de­ci­sion was easy.

All three of them were soon out­side fum­ing over dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

“I did not sleep with your hus­band,” the young man quickly clar­i­fied.

“You were in­tend­ing to,” Prava was sure.

“I am not gay and I have a girl­friend to vouch for it,” The man spoke up in his de­fence.

“Prava, will you stop mak­ing a fool of your­self. Sorry, Neel. I’m sorry about what hap­pened just now.”

“Oh..to him you can apol­o­gise so eas­ily?”

“Prava, we are not in a re­la­tion­ship. I’m not gay. Neel is not gay. Pe­riod.”

“He is not? Then is he a pimp? Look I know that you are hav­ing an af­fair be­hind my back. Don’t try to hide things from me any longer.” Prava was con­fused and an­gry at the same time.

“Just tell her the truth, sir,” the young man was now red with em­bar­rass­ment.

“Well, Prava…neel is ac­tu­ally a spy. I hired him.”

“A spy? Are you in­volved with some top se­cret work?

While toss­ing the sausages she re­alised that she loved her mun­dane rou­tine a lot and the fact that it was about to end made her cry again. When she handed the plate of starters to Ranit he smiled and mur­mured a word of thanks.

Some clas­si­fied alien project?” Prava was sar­cas­tic.

“Prava, please... I hired him to spy on you. I thought you are cheat­ing on me.”

“What? But why? Why would I cheat on you? You are the guilty one!”

“I have seen ques­tion­able creams and desserts hid­den in your cup­boards. I thought that you were mak­ing some­thing to sur­prise me in a kinky way some night. But ob­vi­ously they were for some­one else be­cause you never of­fered those to me.”

“They are for my cook­ing work­shops.”

“Your what? See how far you have moved on from me. I don’t even know what you do th­ese days.”

“You never cared to find out. I spend most of my days cook­ing for you.”

“An­other at­tempt at over­com­pen­sat­ing for cheat­ing on me. ” Ranit was con­fi­dent.

“I am not cheat­ing on you. What did this guy find out? He should be able to tell you what I was re­ally up to.” Prava looked to­wards Neel for the first time with some re­spect.

But Neel lost his chance of mak­ing his mark.

“I didn’t re­ally find any­thing against her. Here is the file con­tain­ing the in­for­ma­tion I stole about madam. But I don’t know about any cook­ing class or work­shop.” rava sighed and P re­quested Neel to leave.

“Can you please sign on this and write a good re­view?” Neel held out a printed form.

“But you failed to do any­thing good!” Ranit protested.

“You don’t have to pay me. I have a day job…i do this as a hobby. The good re­view will make me happy.” Neel looked at them ex­pec­tantly.

Sud­denly his small eyes looked like those of the pup­pies that Prava had seen through her win­dow and she promptly wrote a rav­ing re­view and signed it.

Neel pro­fusely thanked them and left af­ter wish­ing them good luck.

“So, Prava…where is your al­ibi?” Ranit asked once Neel had left. “What?” “You now know that I was not cheat­ing on you. How will you prove the same to me?”

Taken aback Prava was quiet for a while. Then she res­o­lutely said, “Let’s go to the club where I con­duct the work­shops. That will clar­ify the mat­ter.”

As she started to walk Ranit held her hand and pulled her back.

“Let’s go to the doc­tor first…your fever is the only thing that is not fake to­day.”

By the time they man­aged to drive back home it was late in the night. riv­ing in the lonely D road Prava and Ranit were both re­minded of the long drives in their ini­tial days. “You know Prava…all th­ese months I had only one thought run­ning through my head.” Prava looked at her hus­band feel­ing a bit un­set­tled. “I kept think­ing that I would have changed my mind re­gard­ing adop­tion had you not de­cided to be­tray my trust and have an af­fair.” Prava in­stantly broke into a happy smile and let out a deep sigh as she rested her head on Ranit’s shoul­ders. That night they both slept well af­ter a long time. The next day would bring a new be­gin­ning.

Sud­denly his small eyes looked like those of the pup­pies that Prava had seen through her win­dow and she promptly wrote a rav­ing re­view and signed it. Neel pro­fusely thanked them and left af­ter wish­ing them good luck.

A life of leisure and a life of lazi­ness are two things. There will be sleep­ing enough in the grave.

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