IGNORANCE WAS BLISS
It was her folly to be too wise.
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.”