A short story
Shreya brushed her hair and looked at herself in the mirror. There was a woman staring back at her, she looked familiar but somehow she wasn’t able to place her. And then a flint of recognition and a smile spread over her lips. Oh yes she was the younger 20 something Shreya- the beautiful, graceful one who was so vivacious. She always took good care of herself- going out meant dressing up well, some make up, choose a shade of lipstick that compliments her, dangling earrings and a bracelet and a matching neckpiece, heels and she was ready. She loved to dress up and she loved it when she saw the look of admiration in the eyes of her husband Jeet. But that was the Shreya then and this was the one now.
18 years of married life had brought about such a change in her persona. Managing 2 active kids in their tweens, their studies, play dates, basketball and cricket practice, swimming and drama classes, birthday parties and then their falling ill and nursing them back to health, cooking innovative dishes to feed them- while this had been extremely fulfilling and she loved most parts of it (except the illness), somewhere in the midst of being a Mommy she had forgotten herself, the spark and romance between Jeet and her had worn off. They were a middle aged couple now who seldom spoke over the phone and if they did it was about the kids or some errands to run. They slept on the same bed but they were in 2 distant worlds. Romance had fizzled out amidst responsibilities, career and kids. They did not have any discord or disagreement it’s just that they no longer felt the urge to share their feelings and dreams with each other.
Middle age was catching up- that’s when your broad outlook and narrow waist exchange places. Looking at her waist she was alarmed and decided to join Zumba classes. The kids were now busy with their own life- friends and their hobbies. It felt like she had taken a back seat in their life. So Zumba it was to give her a fresh breath and also tone down that waist.
Life has unexpected ways they say. Little did she expect that her life would turn topsy turvy. It was a hi bye at first, just another person at the Zumba class and then a cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks. He used to give her a lot of attention, compliment her, notice every little detail, share his thoughts and was eager to hear what she thought.
There is a thin line between friendship and taking the relationship further. It seemed like casual flirting at first, she enjoyed the attention. It had been ages since someone spoke to her in such a flirtatious tone. It made her feel young, beautiful, and alive.
At times she suddenly woke up from her slumber, shook herself and wondered if they were crossing the limit. Was this immoral? Unethical? Was she cheating her husband? But it’s just harmless flirting she thought, as long as it’s limited to that what’s wrong? She deserved a little fun, dint she?
She did not realize when this harmless fun would turn into something more serious, something that would force her to think- if she needs to make a decision. Should she leave Jeet and move in with her lover? There was nothing left in the marriage anyway. Why live a sham, a lie? It was in his arms she felt alive and happy. People may think she is an immoral woman, how can she break her marriage, dint she think of her kids. Yes she thought about them, they were all grown up now and for once she needed to think of herself. If not now, when?
With these conflicting thoughts playing out in her mind, she decided to talk to Meghna her good friend who was a divorcee and was now living in with her much younger boyfriend. The news had been a shocker to all- after 22 years of marriage. Why did she do it? Shreya remembered Meghna telling her the same reasons – which seemed silly at that time but she was sailing in the same boat today and they no longer seemed frivolous. She decided to pay her a visit and slowly brought out her own case and confided in her. She expected Meghna would ask her to listen to her heart and take the plunge but she was appalled when she heard her response. “My dearie I can perfectly understand how you feel, the surge of emotions that you are going through as I was in the same place. But today after a year of living in with Josh I realize I am truly in love with my husband whom I deserted. It was like a dream come true initially, life was all about love and sex and everything beautiful but over time the fairytale has worn off and when I see his true side, I realize what a blunder I made. I can never set this right but I know I can save myself from further damage by cutting ties with Josh and that’s what I did. I am not saying you will meet the same fate but think about it and think hard. Is there something wrong or bad about Jeet or is it just that you have slipped into that stage where love and romance is missing? It is normal and happens to most middle age couples. I would not say stay back but do think deeply, whatever you choose, chose wisely my sister”.
This conversation only added to her woes, she was in a dilemma now. As she walked into the house, it was pitch black. Thinking everyone is out she reached for the light switch, she was glad in a way as she needed some time to herself, to sort out her thoughts. Before she could turn on the light, suddenly the room was all lit and a host of people- family and close friends were gathered, all smiles. The house was decorated and the aroma of food wafted through the air. A three tier cake stood on the dining table and it hit her- it was her wedding anniversary. She had completely forgotten amidst all these happenings. They never really threw a party any year; they just wished each other cordially and went for dinner to one of their favorite restaurants. But this time it was a grand celebration.
Suddenly the lights went dim and a slide show started playing. It has one of her favorite numbers “KK’s Pal” a song she loved and could literally feel and Jeet and her pics during their courtship, engagement, and wedding started playing on the screen. That proposal at the engagement party when he got down on his knees and proposed her as she coyly smiled, the mehndi day couple dance to DDLJ, the wedding day ceremony as she looked beautiful in her red lehnga and she smiled at her handsome groom, the honeymoon pics of the 2 lovers at Bali as they were completely smitten by each other. And then the pics of her pregnancy, baby shower followed by birth of her adorable babies. She remembered the terrible morning sickness, how she used to puke so many times and the temper tantrums she threw due to hormones, he patiently bore them all. He took her to all her favorite places to satiate her gastronomical buds, she woke him up in the middle of the night at times and he never complained. And when the baby came, except for changing diapers which he thoroughly hated, he did everything from making their bottle milk and feeding them, putting them to sleep, playing with them. Even after they grew up, despite his busy schedule he made sure he is there for them. He could not involve himself in their day to day studies and other activities but he did make a point of the weekend catch up and fun time with kids where Daddy and his bachas played soccer or video games or lazed around the pool or simply watched the sky and twinkling stars and talked. He took care of all her requirements too be it financially, or otherwise. But somewhere over the years their responsibilities towards their kids, parents, and jobs had taken a toll on their relation. Probably they never realized how far apart they had drifted. She was to blame as well; it was the fault of both. At that moment the lights were bright again and there was loud applause, she composed herself and smiled.
The party was a great refresher as they talked and ate and drank and laughed a lot. She was astonished to know that this was Jeet’s idea and he had planned everything right from the slide show to the guest list and food. Everything was as per her choice, right from the starters to dessert and most of the guests were her close friends and cousins.
As she retired to the room for the night, she knew what she had to do.
Adam and Eve were tempted to taste the forbidden fruit; just one bite they thought but when they had to face the Lord’s wrath, the rest that followed is history. Perhaps life could have been different if they had not succumbed, no one knows. But she knew what she had to do about the forbidden fruit.