A Short Story.
Neeti turned the page of their wedding album, was it really 10 years ago? Akash looked handsome in his sherwani, all smiles as he held his bride’s hand and his eyes were all for her. Neeti looked ravishing in her designer bridal lehenga, her hands full of bangles and her smile which added to her beauty as this was the happiest day of her life. A perfect wedding of 2 people who passionately loved each other, college sweethearts who were inseparable.
They had their share of testing times when work took him to another city and she pursued her Masters in Mumbai, it was a long distance relationship but that time passed and the relationship only thrived. Once he got a good job and had settled down, he proposed her and they had a perfect fairy tale wedding with both sides of parents beaming and cheering them. What more could she ask for? She had married the love of her life. 2 years later they were blessed with a sweet baby girl and their happiness knew no bounds. 2 more years and a cherubic baby boy was sent by God, their family was complete.
Neeti was bored of the daily drudgery of corporate life and the politics which she detested, she decided to quit and start her own venture. That would also give her flexibility to spend quality time with the kids. She started her own designer boutique where she sold clothes, accessories and slowly added some home decor sections. The business started growing. Akash being a marketing person, made use of his skills and contacts to popularize her venture. She took personal interest in procuring stuff and maintained a good camaraderie with customers and her staff which helped the business flourish. Her kids were taken care of by her parents and in laws, both took turns and she on her part maintained flexi work timings so that she could spend time with them as well. Everything seemed perfect, her business was doing well, she was happy that she could spend quality time with her kids but one thing that bothered her was Akash’s behavior. He seems very aloof and at times lost. She dismissed it off as work related stress initially as he was in a good position now and that meant many deadlines and stress but his behavior seemed odd at times. She knew that could no longer spend time like their earlier courtship days, but they did make a point of talking to each other, she liked to share her day with him and discuss about her store, her future plans, about what the kids did, but she noticed he had stopped sharing about himself, he had a blank look when she spoke to him as if he was mentally elsewhere.
When she discussed this with her bestie Nisha, her response was “maybe he has lost interest in you, what if there is some other woman in his life”?
She was taken aback, in her wildest dreams she had not imagined this, “you are over thinking Nisha, Akash can never do this”. “Babe I wanted to tell you but I wasn’t sure how, I saw Akash at Starbucks 2 days back with a babe, a 20 something chick, I may be wrong, maybe she is just a colleague but looking at them it somehow looked like they share a deeper relation, I pray to God that I am wrong babe, but i wanted to tell you”. Neeti just listened dumbstruck. She thought about it a lot after Nisha left. Can it be true? Could he be cheating on me?
She couldn’t get the thought out of her head and she decided to confront him. She hoped he would burst at her saying “This is outrageous how can a thought like this even enter your head, have you lost it”? But to her shock – he did not reply. He said “This is true Neeti, there is someone in my life who came like a breath of fresh air and swept me off even before I could realize what’s happening. Yes I know I am married, the father of 2 kids and I know how busy you are being a good mom, a good daughter, a good daughter in law and the awesome entrepreneur, but somehow amidst all this, one relationship had to pay a price and that was ours. The magic has died somewhere and that’s when I met her. And I realized what I had been missing in life. She brought out things in me that I had long forgotten even existed, she brought out new dimensions in me. You are a good wife and take care of all my needs, my family, my kids, my parents, there are no complaints but it’s with her that I feel alive. I cannot leave her. I intended to tell you this over the weekend when the kids go off to your parents place but as you raised it, I couldn’t lie to you”.
Her world came crumbling down; she couldn’t believe what she just heard Akash say. Infidelity, affairs after marriage, she thought all this happened in others’ life, definitely not hers as she had the perfect husband.
2 months later they were divorced by mutual consent, “mutual consent” ha- that sounded like a joke, a bloody joke which life had played on her. She withdrew into a shell; she kept blaming herself for this.
Was she so busy playing her role of a mother, daughter, and the career woman that she forgot she was a wife?
When was the last time she dressed up for him, they went out on a date or made passionate love? Though she dressed up smartly when she went to her store, but at home she was usually in a pair of pants and tee, her hair knotted up in a bun, sweat trickling down her forehead as she tossed pots and pans dishing out a meal or ran behind the kids feeding them.
They made love once a month but it was just as if it was a task which had to be done, a to do thing to be ticked off the list, she was usually exhausted and wanted to hit the bed.
She looked at herself in the mirror- most people said she looked pretty, though she had 2 kids she did not look like a mother of 2, she had maintained herself well. She placed her hand on her tummy was it bulging out a bit- her stomach bore stretch marks, those beautiful lines which reminded her of those 2 little ones who were in her tummy long ago. She thought of the other woman, she had heard that she was around 23, tall and slim, young , she might be having a flat stomach, she had not borne a kid. Was he attracted to her physically because she was young and sexy? Was she intellectual or a bimbo?
The more she thought about it, the more she blamed herself for this divorce. She never looked at it as her husband being the one who crossed the limits of a married man, or the other woman who should have known that this is wrong and stopped herself. She always thought she was responsible for breaking this family, for her kids to be living with their mother only and visiting their father on weekends. As a wife she had failed her husband, she had failed this relationship, she had let other relationships and her work thrive at the cost of this one. She should have taken time to dress up for him, to talk to him something other than what the kids did and how much her business was growing, she should have asked him about himself, his dreams.
These constant ramblings in her head had taken a toll on her relationship with her kids and her business, she seldom visited her shop, and the business had started to deteriorate. Her kids too were neglected as she was always teary eyed and lost. Her parents and in laws did their best to tell her that she was not at fault but nothing helped. Her friends stepped in but to no avail.
And then one day, as she spoke to a good friend who had called from the States on hearing about her, he said something that changed her life. He told her” Neeti I want you to know that this is not your fault. Someone decided you were no longer good enough for him and chose someone else over you; this is not because you are in anyway lesser than her. You did the best you could, in the limited time of 24 hours a day that you had at your disposal, Life is never the same when you have kids. With young kids around, and your desire as a parent to be there with them at every step no doubt meant, it would need you to invest time. You also had responsibility towards your ageing parents and your in laws and being a woman who is fiercely independent and loves her career, you owed something to yourself too. Your business, your dream, you had to nourish it and nurture it. In the midst of this, may be you couldn’t give enough time to your husband, though knowing you I would say it’s difficult to imagine that you totally overlooked him. Things change in every relationship as it evolves, it’s no longer the 20 something love birds who whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears, you are parents of 2 children, you have responsibilities and whilst this doesn’t imply that you don’t give time to each other, it is but natural that things will not be same as they were 12 years ago. Blaming yourself will only harm your soul and affect not only your self esteem but also your relation with your kids. What would they think when they see your puffy eyes and crestfallen face? Remember my friend; you did your best as always, what happened is not your fault. Infidelity is a bitter and unfortunate thing to happen to any marriage but when it does happen, it’s important to move on and look at the good things life has in store for you. Life goes on, you move on too. You have such lovely kids, supportive parents and friends, a thriving business. Yes you don’t have your man by your side but he is the one who betrayed you, you need to move away and move past this chapter in your life. Don’t ever ever undermine yourself, you are a beautiful woman and stay strong and pretty. This is not your fault.”
This call was a revelation for Neeti, it was like a message she had been yearning to hear. Others reactions were usually pity for her and the kids or some tried consoling her ” She is young and pretty, nowadays men are behind young chicks, never know when he will leave her and move on to someone else” and then there were those who told her “Use the bait of kids and pull him back else ask for a hefty settlement amount and threaten him that you will not grant divorce”. Some said ” You are much prettier and smarter than her, you take good care of his parents as well, he is going to regret this” and they were those who bitched behind her back and the message reached her “She was so busy building her career that she forgot she had a husband, deserves it selfish woman”. No one ever told her that she was not at fault, she did the best she could in the given circumstances but he failed her, failed their marriage. She had to understand it was not her fault.
She wiped her tears and swore she would cry no more for this man; this betrayal had taken a lot from her but given her so much more. She got up and smiled at herself in the mirror, a smile from the heart, she looked gorgeous. It was another day but she knew this would be very different from other days. A new beginning it was.