April 21, 2014
Manohar noticed a sudden change in his wife’s behavioral pattern. Divya was in a positive state of mind when he had returned from office at 6:00 pm. He was affectionately treated with a hot cup of coffee. All was well until he stepped inside the washroom. Her personality had undergone a sea change when he came out after twenty minutes. Being at the receiving end, he had faced such cold-shouldering in the past, mostly on trivial inconsequential matters. She preferred to behave passively aggressive to convey her grievance. That would leave him depressed and bewildered.
What could have happened in such a short time?
Manohar failed to understand. She had chosen not to clarify what actually was wrong. The silent treatment had become a stable ingredient in their relationship over a period. They would resolve the issues and get back to normal after the cooling off phase. The couple was blessed with three lovely children, eldest and youngest were daughters with second born being their only son. They were pursuing studies in different levels of university. Parental conflicts did not bother them. The children were familiar with shouting, stony silence and process of recovery.
He did not get the customary call to join for supper that evening. Manohar went to the kitchen and helped himself. He tried to speak when his wife appeared in the kitchen. Divya remained silent. She washed her plate and moved out. She turned sideways and closed her eyes when he entered the bedroom. That ruled out the scope of picking a conversation. He stayed awake for long, unable to sleep with disordered thoughts. Manohar woke up only to realize that he could be late to office. Divya had left him off to oversleep. His coffee had turned cold as he freshened up and rushed to the dining table for breakfast.
There was no point in complaining. He had been on the receiving end of her anger. It could still go nastier.
The children had gone away to college. The couple came face to face ine the kitchen while he entered with his mug and bowl. He tried to look at her eyes. Hot and intense flame radiated during their brief faceoff. Thereafter she consciously made an effort not to look at him. The cause was miserably unknown. She followed him to lock the door when he was about to leave on his way to work.
“What’s wrong? Why are you upset?” Manohar impatiently questioned.
“Don’t complain. You should know.” Divya adamantly replied without giving in. “Check your conscience. I am not dumb.”
“What did I do?”
“I am aware; you have a dark side behind your innocent look.”
“Tell me, I am prepared to talk.” He sounded desperate.
“Majority of men cheat their wives as they get older.” She fumed. “They destroy the foundation of marriage right in front of their grown up children.”
Divya slammed the door in his face. Dazed by her outburst, Manohar stood there for a while before sluggishly walking out. Life was well in control yesterday evening until he had entered the bathroom. Somewhere something had gone terribly wrong during those twenty minutes in the washroom. He was baffled by her charges of cheating.
Was there any mystery woman?
Right from childhood Manohar was shy and hesitant in nature while approaching girls. His first crush was Nisha during his high school days. Couple of years junior to him, she was his ‘marshmallow girl’, pretty and slightly chubby. Her magnetic features had aroused him. It was infatuation at first sight. Despite his desire to talk, he had avoided her with fear of embarrassment. It had taken more than three years to say ‘Hello.’ The initial step was daunting. During the course of time, their friendship in college naturally turned into romantic involvement. The dreams of rosy future were built. Nevertheless, their romance did not end up in expected glory. They were destined not to be together.
It was a leaf out from his college life. Manohar did not remember any romantic involvement with any other woman before or after marriage. In his twenty-five years of wedded life, he had found solace in being a family man. His single-minded priority had stayed on with wife and children. Unexpected charges of adultery shook him. His ethical values and integrity was intact despite his tryst with Nisha about six months back. They had dinner at Sizzler restaurant. That was his first and last meeting with Nisha after thirty years of fated split-up.
Thereafter he completely shunned her. The possibility of rekindled affair was quashed. To avoid unwanted suspicion, the incidence was not disclosed to Divya. Why did Divya rake up charges of dishonesty? Was she sounded by someone about his dinner with Nisha? How could this news resurface after six months? Could this be trumpeted by Nisha to break their blissful married life? Manohar was hopelessly thrown into disarray by Divya’s allegations.
Negative conduct from Divya continued when he returned from office in the evening. The usual coffee was not served. The supper call too was not signaled. He felt uncomfortable and stifled while facing cold shoulder. Standing in the kitchen, he ate his meal. Manohar’s happiness was stolen by Divya’s disdain. He secretly wished for normalcy. Once in the bedroom, he coaxed her to talk.
“You have to tell me what’s wrong.” He insisted.
“Most of men gladly give their souls to devil.” Divya hissed.
“Could you stop the taunt?” He pleaded. “Please be specific.”
“Fine, I am going to be straight up with you. Who is this woman in your life?” She opened up.
“A woman in my life? That’s you.” He honestly replied.
“Manohar, enough fooling around. I know you have an affair.”
“Do you think I am insane to have an extramarital affair?” Manohar sullenly reacted.
“History has proven that devils are skillful in make-believe acts.” She concluded.
“It’s okay, you don’t trust me.” Manohar helplessly articulated. “I believe false accusation too is sin. You have to substantiate your charges.”
“Do you want evidence?” Divya hit back. “Yesterday evening, you were in washroom. I deleted an SMS that appeared in your cellphone.”
“SMS from woman?” He asked curiously.
He had firmly advised Nisha to stay out of his life. Did Nisha foolishly send text message to his cellphone? The taste of sourness lingered in his throat.
“No, not from any woman.”
“Who was the sender?”
“It was sent by Sizzler restaurant.” She explained. “The message expressed the gratitude for last dinner and proposed a discount in next romantic dinner, if availed during this month. You have never taken me to that restaurant nor did you ever mention business outing at that place. I am sure it must be an illicit escapade. Tell me, who is the lady?”
He remembered his moments with Nisha in Sizzler restaurant. Soon after their dinner, restaurant manager had given an evaluation form. Inadvertently he had entered his cellphone number while filling survey form. It was a grave mistake, now hovering above like a noose.
“Is that all?” Manohar unconvincingly smiled.
“What’s there to smile about? You are shameless.”
“Do you remember six months back you stayed with your Mom for couple of weeks? I think, during that time, boss had thrown a party to office staff at Sizzler restaurant. I had coordinated the table booking. My cellphone number must be in their database. They must have sent the customary promotional messages by SMS.”
“Are you sure?”
“Fine, I will release an advertisement in newspaper, looking for a mistress for romantic outing in Sizzler restaurant. That will provide much needed evidence to substantiate your charges.” He quipped in a state of newfound joy.
“You are too much. Now tell me, when shall we go to Sizzler restaurant?” Divya entreated. “I have heard of smoky, hot and chattering food. But never experienced.”
“Why not? This Saturday for sure.” Sizzled by sensation of love, he pulled her close.
…… ……. …….
Nisha was Manohar’s first love. She was his bubble of infatuation that he chased with passion and admiration during his high school days. The inspiration had matched its intensity once in college. Initial introduction had ended up in attachment, closeness and youthful romantic involvement. Nisha’s father was a central government employee. His transfer of job to Delhi came as a jolt. Love smitten Manohar and Nisha’s sentiments were stirred by reality check. The relocation left the lovers high and dry. The separation caused emotional distress much due to absence of internet and mobile phones during those days.
They met in an ice cream parlour for the last time. It was a wet, dreary evening. They looked at each other in a depressed state. Nisha had bitterly wept with heaviness in heart and thoughts of being apart. Swayed by unbearable feelings they bid adieu, however with a promise to remember.
They vowed to remain in touch by exchanging letters once a week. They also promised to accept each other when destiny brings them together again in life.
The initial days of coping up were tough. Manohar felt ‘let down’ by circumstances. He experienced profound disappointment, stress and grief. In a gradual process, he attained restraint over his emotions. The intensity turned lukewarm as days passed. The schedule of writing letters was altered from week to month. This further slowed down only to be irregular. By then, Nisha’s father was sent by the central government for mission in Canada. That was the end. Their connection conked out. He prevailed over by accepting it as infatuation, a short-lived passion of growing process.
Manohar took up a job after his graduation and travelled across the country on work. He got married to Divya, became father of three adorable children. Time simply flew while years rolled away. He had nothing to complain, both on professional and personal front.
About six months back, his wife had gone to be with her ailing mother for a couple of weeks. Manohar received an unanticipated call from a woman that took him by surprise. Seismic waves passed beneath his feet when the caller revealed her identity.
Nisha had come back!
He heard that voice after almost thirty years. The lost baggage had fallen right in front from nowhere. A distant relative had passed on his cellphone number to Nisha. She informed her job assignment in the same city and wished to meet him at Sizzler restaurant. It seemed she liked sizzlers.
They joined up for dinner at the seventh floor restaurant. Well-laden smoky seething food with bounty of spices and flavors was served on heated iron plate.
“Manu, I could not forget you.” Nisha’s voice wobbled. “Twenty five years back, I married a sailor in Canada. It ended in divorce in less than a year. I never felt the motivation to marry again.”
“Why?” He asked apathetically.
“You were my first love. Perhaps, while dating other men, I measured them up based on traits I had liked in you.” She awkwardly reacted as if she burnt her tongue.
“Food is too hot. It could cause tongue burn.” Manohar cautioned.
“It was sheer misfortune that caused our separation.” Nisha reflected. “Do you remember the promise that we had made while moving away?”
“I did not move away. We were distanced by circumstances.” Manohar curtly put it right.
“Yes, whatever.” She reluctantly nodded. “We had vowed to accept and live together when destiny would bring us back.”
“I do remember.” He ate spoonful. “That’s not all. We had also pledged to exchange letters once a week. We could keep none of our promises. I have neither complaints nor regrets. We were immature. We had parted ways and moved on. We made mistakes and I have no desire to cling back to such lapses.”
“You sound selfish.” She grumbled. “My sentiments seem ignored, only because you are well settled in life.”
“We valued our friendship. Hence we are here for dinner.” Manohar cleared his throat. “I suggest, we should keep a distance, avoid private meetings and conversations. Our relationship did not last for more than five years. However, I have a wife who has been resolute strength of my marriage for more than twenty-five years. I have three grown up children who are dependent and look up to me as their role model.”
“Manu you are my first love. I cannot forget you.” Nisha’s voice choked.
“I got to go. My kids are waiting.” He reminded.
Manohar helplessly observed growing sadness in Nisha’s eyes. He determinedly resisted the likelihood of emotional exploitation. By then the restaurant manager appeared with a survey form on general quality, cleanliness and service. Duly filled, the form was returned. He paid the bill and walked out. Nisha silently followed him. Utter dejection was written all over her face.
The elevator door opened and they stepped inside. No one else was around. As elevator began moving down, her next move took the wind out of his sails. Nisha stretched her hands, intensely pulled Manohar’s face close and passionately kissed his lips. It took him thirty seconds to detach from the sudden stimulation. He overpowered the enticement and pushed her back.
That was the last time he saw Nisha. He did not meet her again. She tried to reach him more than once. Manohar left her calls and messages unanswered. Her efforts to infiltrate came to a halt in a gradual process. Last three months had been peaceful. He got his life back on track.
…… ……. …….
The much-anticipated Saturday arrived. Children refused to join due to their weekend commitments. Divya excitedly accompanied her husband to the seventh floor Sizzler restaurant. Manohar looked at the menu, briefly discussed and ordered two chicken sizzlers. The hotel staff took thirty minutes to serve chicken sizzlers containing a mix of meat, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes and spicy sauces. The smoky, hot and chattering iron plates gave a visual treat.
“We have never been out for dinner for quite some time. We must regularly dine out.” Divya elatedly suggested. “This is hot and delicious.”
“One has to allow the food to cool down to avoid hurting the inner mouth.” Manohar cautioned by experience.
They were a happy couple in the restaurant as if on first romantic date. Both enjoyed themselves with humor and laughter. Manohar found it fulfilling to see his wife gratified. It was pleasuresome. They vacated after payment was done.
Manohar waited for the elevator to come up. Divya stood behind him. The automatic doors opened up. What happened next was completely unforeseen. He was unprepared for this eventuality. All at once, Nisha stormed out of the elevator like a bolt out of the blue. Nisha’s eyes lit up the moment she spotted Manohar.
“My God… What a pleasant coincidence! I had this intuition that today we would bump into each other. My instinct came true. I love you Manu.” Nisha forced herself unto him and kissed his lips.
Terrified by the moment, he stood motionless. His life was set on fire. Manohar was left in agony by searing smoke of heated up sizzler right behind him.