IG­NO­RANCE WAS BLISS

It was her folly to be too wise.

Woman's Era - - Contents - Joyita Chakrabarti

Vi­jay’s child­hood was spent in a small town­ship called Raikan­ta­pu­ram, in Andhra Pradesh, where his fa­ther had worked as a se­nior man­ager in a PSU. When he was about 14 years of age his fa­ther got a pro­mo­tion and was trans­ferred to Delhi. Man­isha qui­etly took the phone and went to the draw­ing room. On check­ing fur­ther, she re­alised that these im­ages were of Vi­jay's class­mate, Rachna, with whom, like many of his other friends, he was very happy to con­nect through Facebook, af­ter so many years.

Man­isha en­tered her bed­room to put an alarm on her hus­band's phone so that he would wake up in time to be able to reach Gur­gaon for the meet­ing at 11:30. Nor­mally Man­isha woke up Vi­jay her­self with a cup of tea and news­pa­per in hand. But to­day she had to go to her daugh­ter’s school to at­tend the Par­ents Teacher Meet­ing and she wanted to reach within the time slot al­lot­ted by the school.

Af­ter set­ting the alarm for 9 am, she touched the phone to close the “Clock App”, when she saw the im­age of a wo­man, which seemed more like a selfie, on the pre­vi­ous app which had been opened ear­lier by her hus­band, who had for­got­ten to close it. She tapped on the screen and was shocked to see more selfie im­ages of the same wo­man,rather in var­i­ous poses. All the pho­tos had been sent through What­sapp in the morn­ing. Like most men, Vi­jay also ex­changed such vulgar and erotic videos and im­ages with his friends, but these im­ages were dif­fer­ent. They were of a mid­dle-aged wo­man, fair, with no make-up and seemed very real, un­like the videos of usu­ally fair-skinned young volup­tuous women. ee­ing Vi­jay turn­ing on S the other side of the bed afraid that he might wake up, Man­isha qui­etly took the phone and went to the draw­ing room. On check­ing fur­ther, she re­alised that these im­ages were of Vi­jay's class­mate, Rachna, with whom, like many of his other friends, he was very happy to con­nect through Facebook, af­ter so many years.

Vi­jay’s child­hood was spent in a small town­ship called Raikan­ta­pu­ram, in Andhra Pradesh, where his fa­ther had worked as a se­nior man­ager in a PSU. When he was about 14 years of age his fa­ther got a pro­mo­tion and was trans­ferred to Delhi. So, Mr Chaturvedi shifted his fam­ily to a new city and got Vi­jay and his younger brother ad­mit­ted to a renowned school in South Delhi.

How­ever, Vi­jay never for­gave his fa­ther for hav­ing up­rooted him and com­pelling him to leave the place the school was and his friends he had grown up with and loved very much. He of­ten com­plained to Man­isha, “He should not have done it. I will never do it to my chil­dren.” With no mo­bile phone and other el­e­ments of so­cial me­dia, he soon lost touch with all his friends. Man­isha tried to pacify him say­ing, “Papa did not have a choice. He could not have quit his job more­over he thought it will be a good de­ci­sion to move to a big­ger city like Delhi.”

Noth­ing could sat­isfy Vi­jay or com­pen­sate for what he had lost. It was only in the last few years, thanks to Mark Zucker­burg, he would ex­cit­edly tell Man­isha how he was able to con­nect with Swaminathan or Hari or Rachna and so on. But, never could Man­isha in her wildest dreams, imag­ine that Vi­jay could have a re­la­tion­ship or af­fair with an­other wo­man, leave alone a child­hood friend, who was mar­ried and set­tled in Doha.

As if in a trance, Man­isha, me­chan­i­cally for­warded the im­ages to her own num­ber and went to keep the phone on the bed next to her hus­band. She came back and sat down on the sofa, her eyes blurred with the tears that started rolling down her cheeks. “I can’t go to the PTA meet­ing. I have to con­front him,” she decided.

bout half an hour later the bed­room door to go to the kitchen to heat his tea, which he knew, Man­isha would have left in the mi­crowave oven. See­ing her sit­ting on the sofa, dressed in a nice silk sari, eyes red and swollen, he said, “What hap­pened? Everything okay? Why didn’t you go to Tr­isha’s school?”

“I did not be­cause I thought it was more im­por­tant for me to know what my 50-year-old hus­band is up to rather than my teenaged daugh­ter”.

“What rub­bish are you talk­ing about, right in the morn­ing?” asked Vi­jay, in his sig­na­ture ir­ri­tated tone, obliv­i­ous of the fact that his wife had got to know about what he was up to.

With­out speak­ing fur­ther, Man­isha went across to him and show­ing him one of Rachna’s pho­tos – asked “Can you tell me what is all this? No won­der you are all the time check­ing your phone or tex­ting.”

Vi­jay was vis­i­bly shaken. How­ever, gain­ing his com­po­sure quickly, he said, “Oh that is what’s both­er­ing you. I was just flirt­ing. Noth­ing se­ri­ous. This is the first time Rachna has sent such pic­tures. Don’t worry, yaar. I will tell her not to send such pic­tures in fu­ture. Let me go and get ready. Oth­er­wise, I’ll be late for the meet­ing.”

As if in a trance, Man­isha changed into a churi­dar kurta and went to the kitchen to make tea, the way Vi­jay liked, strong and sweet.

bout two weeks passed and as Man­isha con­stantly checked her hus­band’s phone, when­ever she got a chance, she did not see any ex­change of mes­sages on What­sapp or any calls made to Rachna’s num­ber. She had clev­erly saved that wo­man’s num­ber. So, one day, when she tried to type that num­ber on Vi­jay’s phone, she found that Vi­jay

In all these years, Man­isha did not ever have any rea­son to sus­pect her lov­ing hus­band, whose only draw­back seemed to be his bad tem­per­a­ment. Oth­er­wise, he never for­got her birth­day or their an­niver­saries and show­ered her with per­fumes, jew­ellery and clothes on ev­ery spe­cial oc­ca­sion. Man­isha went across to him and show­ing him one of Rachna’s pho­tos – asked “Can you tell me what is all this? No won­der you are all the time check­ing your phone or tex­ting.” Vi­jay was vis­i­bly shaken.

had saved it by the name of “Richard”. She blamed her­self for be­ing so dumb. Any­way, she did not tell Vi­jay about her dis­cov­ery, nor con­front him. She wanted to give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt. Af­ter all, she has trusted him for so long in fact more than twenty years.

anisha had worked for many years in a re­puted pri­vate firm, sit­u­ated close to their house, even af­ter mar­riage. But, when their of­fice shifted to the other end of Delhi, both of them decided that she need not work any­more. Also, by then, Vi­jay had got a very de­cent break in an MNC and there were no eco­nomic com­pul­sions. Man­isha took care of the house and her two chil­dren, the el­der one was a son, who was study­ing en­gi­neer­ing and the younger one, was a teenaged daugh­ter, study­ing in Class XI.

In all these years, Man­isha did not ever have any rea­son to sus­pect her lov­ing hus­band, whose only draw­back seemed to be his bad tem­per­a­ment. Oth­er­wise, he never for­got her birth­day or their an­niver­saries and show­ered her with per­fumes, jew­ellery and clothes on ev­ery spe­cial oc­ca­sion. She, on the other hand, had al­ways tried to take care of all his needs to such an ex­tent that he had started tak­ing it for granted. Any slack­ness or cal­lous­ness on her part was met with ver­bal abuses or ar­gu­ments. Not that she bore all his crit­i­cisms and bad be­hav­iour un­grudg­ingly, all the time. She did re­tort at times, but gen­er­ally, would put up with Vi­jay’s ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, blam­ing it on the stress at work. How­ever, his be­hav­iour to­wards Man­isha and even the kids had wors­ened in the past year or so. But Man­isha did not com­plain much, be­cause he was a lov­ing and faith­ful hus­band.

The rev­e­la­tion of his “other side” left her dumb­struck. Hav­ing trusted him for so long, she be­lieved when he said, “Don’t worry. It’s over. These feel­ings are onesided. I was just en­joy­ing the way she pam­pered me. Af­ter all who doesn’t like to be com­pli­mented and pam­pered. I love only one wo­man and that is you. Do I need to tell you that you are the most im­por­tant per­son, in the world?”

“Have you ever met her.”

“Come on. She stays in Doha and when­ever she comes to In­dia, she only goes to Cochin to meet her sis­ter and her in-laws.”

As days went by, and Man­isha, while check­ing her hus­band’s phone, came to the con­clu­sion, that, Vi­jay had in­deed stopped com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Rachna. So it was over, as he had as­sured her.

Vi­jay had to go on of­fi­cial tours, once in a while, “I have to go to Rishikesh, this Mon­day. M D sir’s friend wants to in­vest in a pro­ject there. So Mr Bi­dani wanted me to have a look and make a fea­si­bil­ity re­port.”

“You’ll be go­ing by train or will they or­gan­ise a car? How many days will you be there.”

“Oh I’ll drive down my­self. They will pay for the fuel, ac­com­mo­da­tion and other ex­penses. I will stay for three four days.”

On Sun­day, morn­ing Man­isha asked Vi­jay, “When will you start to­mor­row? In the morn­ing, or later? Where will you stay? Have you booked a ho­tel?”

“I’ll start af­ter lunch. Will be there by eight o’clock or so. Don’t worry about the ho­tel. These days there are so many op­tions on the net. Will book some­thing to­mor­row or I can go there and have a look and then de­cide. It is off-sea­son any­way.”

o, on Mon­day morn­ing, as usual, Man­isha, af­ter send­ing her daugh­ter to school, walked into the bed­room to wake up Vi­jay, with a cup of tea. But Vi­jay had al­ready wo­ken up and was in the bath­room. So she placed his tea on the side table, when she no­ticed Vi­jay’s phone on the side table. Once in a while, Man­isha did check his phone, the What­sapp mes­sages, his mails. So, she started check­ing these. She went through his call log and no­ticed that he had called up Ho­tel Orchid twice on Sun­day. She then went on to check her mails.the last deleted mail was about book­ing con­fir­ma­tion. She opened it. It was a con­fir­ma­tion from Ho­tel Orchid, for a Deluxe room for three nights, on “dou­ble oc­cu­pancy”. The word dou­ble drew Man­isha’s at­ten­tion. She quickly for­warded the mail to her own email I’D and then deleted the mail from the “sent” log. Plac­ing the phone on the side table, she came out of the room.

eep inside her, she felt some­thing is not right. Should she ask Vi­jay about why he said that he will book for the ho­tel later, when he had al­ready got a con­fir­ma­tion from the ho­tel? Or why had he booked a dou­ble room? What if he be­came alert? What if he con­vinced her with some ex­cuses? Or maybe , he change his plans now that Man­isha got sus­pi­cious. No, she decided, she will not ask Vi­jay any­thing.

Rather, she picked up her phone and called up the taxi ser­vice owner, from whom they rented cars when­ever they re­quired. She asked if they could pro­vide a small car to take her to Rishikesh early in the morn­ing, the next day She also told the owner there are chances that she may not need the car at all in which case, she would let him know by 11 o’clock.

Vi­jay had his break­fast and asked Man­isha to give him the shav­ing kit. She told him, “I will pack your things just tell me which shirts you will take.” She usu­ally packed when­ever Vi­jay went on tours.

Man­isha went to the kitchen, to give in­struc­tions to the maid, feel­ing more con­fi­dent of her plan. Vi­jay left home by 1.15, wear­ing, his re­cently bought shirt. He waved at her from the car be­fore turn­ing to­wards the main road.

“Don’t worry. I’ll, do the pack­ing why don’t you fin­ish off the lunch prepa­ra­tion. I will leave by one o’clock.”

“By what time will you reach? You usu­ally book a ho­tel and give me the de­tails. Why don’t you book now, so that it will be con­ve­nient for you, when you get there?”

“There are so many op­tions, Mr Bi­dani has also told me to con­tact some per­son once I reach. Don’t worry. I will let you know once I have checked into the ho­tel. Any­way, you have my num­ber, don’t you? Lis­ten, Man­isha, let me han­dle this part. Why don’t you pre­pare the lunch in­stead?”

anisha went to the kitchen, to give in­struc­tions to the maid, feel­ing more con­fi­dent of her plan. Vi­jay left home by 1.15, wear­ing, his re­cently bought shirt. He waved at her from the car be­fore turn­ing to­wards the main road.

Now be­gan the long­est and more stress­ful hours of Man­isha’s life. One thing that both­ered her was whether she should go alone at that hour in a taxi on such a long jour­ney. Who could she ask to ac­com­pany her and not feel awk­ward about it? Any­way she thought she will cross the bridge when she reached it.

Man­isha called up Vi­jay around 8:30. “I have just en­tered Harid­war. Don’t worry, I will call you af­ter I find a ho­tel. Have din­ner and go off to sleep.”

As Vi­jay did not call till 11 pm, Man­isha checked her mail and called on the ho­tel’s num­ber where Vi­jay had booked a room. She decided to sound con­fi­dent with­out giv­ing the re­cep­tion­ist a chance to say, “Sorry, we don’t have the per­mis­sion to give such in­for­ma­tion.”

“Good evening. Have Mr Vi­jay Chaturvedi and his wife checked in? They were sup­posed to in­form me. I’m sure they have for­got­ten all about it.”

“Ma’am, they have checked in just 10-15 min­utes ago. Do you want me to trans­fer the call? Who should I say, has called?

So her worst fears had come true. She felt numb, but she had to speak, in a com­posed tone.

“Oh, please don’t do that. Ac­tu­ally, it is didi, I mean, Mrs Chaturvedi’s birth­day to­mor­row. I want to get a bou­quet de­liv­ered, right in the morn­ing. This is go­ing to be a sur­prise. Can you please let me know their room num­ber?”

“Oh sure Ma’am. It’s 509 and don’t worry, I won’t tell them about this call. Good night, ma’am,” said the re­cep­tion­ist, happy to play a part in the sur­prise.

anisha stood up, her heart beat­ing fast, tears welling up her eyes. What should she do now? If she starts by three o’clock or so, she could reach there early morn­ing and catch them be­fore they leave for break­fast. So first she had to call the taxi ser­vice.

“Ma, I’m switch­ing off the draw­ing room lights and go­ing off to sleep.” Pra­teek’s voice star­tled her. Im­me­di­ately she knew the an­swer to “Who will ac­com­pany her at this hour.”

“Pra­teek, can you take off to­mor­row or, I mean, is there some test or pro­ject sub­mis­sion in the col­lege?”

“I have a sub­mis­sion, but that is day af­ter to­mor­row. I need to be in the li­brary af­ter col­lege. Why?”

“You have to miss col­lege to­mor­row. We are start­ing for Rishikesh around 3 o’clock. “What? Why? ‘I don’t know how to say it, but your fa­ther is stay­ing in a ho­tel room with an­other wo­man.”

“Ma, do you even know what you are say­ing? How can you even think of all this?”

“Pra­teek, I called up the ho­tel where he is stay­ing. He had al­ready booked it on dou­ble oc­cu­pancy. Please we can’t waste time. Get dressed quickly. I will in­form the cab­bie that he has to re­port at 3.”

Some­thing in the way his mother spoke made Pra­teek think that the best thing right now would be to obey her qui­etly.

Wak­ing up Tr­ishaa, Man­isha told her that Vi­jay’s car had bro­ken down on the way and they were tak­ing a cab and go­ing there and that she should lock the door. Also she should not call up her fa­ther, who would be tired and sleep­ing. Man­isha knew, any­way, Tr­ishaa was too obe­di­ent and at this point, too sleepy, to do oth­er­wise.

rav­el­ling in the mid­dle of the night on the high­ways, meant no jams and hence al­most on un­in­ter­rupted drive at a high speed. Pra­teek dozed off, hav­ing asked his mother twice, “Are you sure you are do­ing the right thing? What will you tell him, why you went all this way, when you see that he is all alone, which I ‘m sure you will?”

It was around 7 am when they reached the ho­tel they headed straight to­wards the el­e­va­tor, with­out paus­ing any­where near the re­cep­tion, as they knew the room num­ber. On reach­ing the fifth floor, Man­isha asked Pra­teek to wait at the cor­ri­dor and walked to the door of room num­ber 509. With trem­bling fin­gers, she pressed the bell, No re­sponse.

Then she pressed the switch three four times. With the safety chain in place, the door partly to ask, “Kaun hai.” (who’s there)?”

Im­me­di­ately, Man­isha had the good sense of putting her right foot in the gap and said, “It’s me. Open the door.” She could sense the shock in her hus­band’s voice when he said, “Just wait. Let me get dressed.” He tried to shut the door and re­alised that Man­isha’s foot re­stricted its move­ment.

“Pra­teek, come inside,” she cried out. Pra­teek en­tered the room and it took him a few sec­onds to re­alise that the man who

On the way back, Man­isha at times, cried softly, at times spoke to Pra­teek, and at times just stared blankly at the scenes pass­ing by. She kept think­ing what she would do now. She was not clear at all.

stood in front of him was his papa.

Man­isha, held her phone and took a few pic­tures of the two peo­ple.

“Yes, you are right, be­cause he loves me,” said Man­isha, in a tone that had more pain than sar­casm.

“Let’s go, Pra­teek,” said Man­isha and walked out of the room. O n the way back, Man­isha at times, cried softly, at times spoke to Pra­teek, and at times just stared blankly at the scenes pass­ing by. She kept think­ing what she would do now. She was not clear at all. The only thing she was sure about was that she will not live with that man and she will make sure that he pays a price for his be­trayal.

Next morn­ing, she looked it up on­line, found a num­ber and called up.

“Yes? Amita Joshi speak­ing from Reliance Law Firm.”

“Ami­taji it’s Man­isha this side. I wanted some help re­gard­ing my mar­i­tal problem. I mean ,I wanted a di­vorce. When can I meet you?”

“I have a case in Pa­tiala House Court post lunch. So can you meet me by 11 in my of­fice? You know the ad­dress or should I text it to you?”

Man­isha, sud­denly felt so alive, her life again full of mean­ing and pur­pose, and a ray of hope , all emo­tions ex­pe­ri­enced at once.

“I know the lo­ca­tion ,I’ll be there by 11. Thanks a lot, Ami­taji.”

She started sharp at 10.30 am from same the next day, only to re­turn to her abode, say­ing, “let me think it ever.”

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