(Names changed to protect identities)
The dotcom world brought in IT culture, leading to the dawn of the open office with cubicles or workstations, rather than separate rooms or distantly placed tables for each employee. Office spaces are places where people spend most of their waking time (up to 90 per cent of it). They work with a set of people, eat with them, and interact with them, making beloved friends as well as hateful enemies. Apart from coffee, Cupid’s brew is also at work at office.
My current office, a Delhi-based private news channel, is an interesting place to work in. The newsroom is packed with inspired journalists working day and night. However, love can conquer the busiest person on the planet and drive them crazy. Who would have thought that a journalist (busy round the clock) would fall for a fellow journalist head over heels? Interestingly, both of these journos are already married (to other people). These are young people in their late 20s (let us call them Anushka and Rakesh), with not so old marriages, crazily attracted towards their colleagues.
What intrigues me about this couple is that they are quite open about their closeness. Everyone knows they’re married, but this love-smitten couple isn’t bothered.
Related reading: It had all started with innocuous flirting on WhatsApp
They come to and go from office together, eat together, go out during breaks together – to put it simply, they are totally inseparable, when in office.
No one says anything to their faces but everyone talks behind their backs (obviously). However, the couple seems totally oblivious as they proudly walk together hand-in-hand.
Surprisingly, they also seem quite sincere towards their marriages when it comes to fulfilling respective responsibilities. (I have overheard them receive calls and rush back home – in hours of need.) I very clearly remember a recent incident.
It was Anushka’s birthday and Rakesh organised a surprise party for her in office. He got the canteen area decorated with balloons, ribbons and flowers (thanks to his awesome relationsip with the HR department) and invited us all to be spectators of their love. As Anushka walked in, she was pleasantly surprised and almost in tears to see the lavish arrangements. She hugged Rakesh tightly, thanking him. The entire office pretended to be really happy and modern about this closeness of the couple, hiding their under-the-table nudges, pinches and smirks. The cake-cutting ceremony was followed by a lavish lunch party Rakesh threw for the entire team (almost 100 people). Everyone was happy, the office because they got a free lunch and free gossip, and Anushka and Rakesh for each other.
After the party, we all came back to our seats and started working/gossiping. Anushka returned to her seat beaming and blushing. She very proudly announced that this was just the beginning and that Rakesh had planned a lot more for the evening. We were discussing her further plans for the day when a tense Rakesh approached our cubicle (we sit next to each other).
His forehead was creased and he looked quite worn out. Anushka looked at him with genuine concern and asked what was wrong. Rakesh said, “It’s Seema. She fell off the table while cleaning the ceiling fan.” Anushka held his hands and looked straight into his eyes. She said, “You should go home. Take her to the hospital.” Rakesh said, “I know I must, but what about our plans?” Anushka replied reassuringly, “It is alright, love. Go.
“She is your wife and she needs you.”
I stood there staring with my jaw dropping. I couldn’t understand. I was confused.
Is this love or attraction? Is it right that they are listening to their hearts or wrong that they are cheating on their partners? Isn’t this a weird combination of betrayal and sincerity in marriage? Why complicate things so much? Why weave so many lies? Despite this cobweb of affair and marriage and confused sentiments, is this couple really happy?
Prachi Vaish says:
This is indeed a story that perfectly epitomises modern relationships. Technically speaking, Anushka and Rakesh are cheating on their partners and it might appear that they are probably just being greedy and not responsible enough. While this is true to some extent, how many of us aren’t greedy when it comes to a chance of being with someone who you meet later in life and connect with? And to be brutally honest, though the thought of actually taking a step in that direction might fill you with guilt, as a therapist I know many boundaries have been crossed when the right opportunity presents itself. Pragmatically speaking, yes, they are treading dangerous waters by risking their respective marriages. Moralistically speaking, they are probably violating their vows and deceiving partners who have faith in them. Humanistically speaking, however, they are probably just looking for more fulfilling lives where they are very well aware of the limitations of their relationship; they don’t make demands on each other that will jeopardise the other’s marriage; they don’t have unrealistic expectations from their future; they genuinely care that neither of their partners is hurt or deprived in the process. Sometimes in life, you meet the right people at different points, and modern ways of living now make it possible to experience a slice of that “didn’t happen then” life, too.
It is very hard to pass any kind of final judgement on what they are or should be doing. All that can be looked at are the facts of their equation. In my practice I have indeed come across relationships like this where the time they spent with the partners they were married to actually became more enriched and happier because people are slowly learning to accept the fact in marriages that it’s not fair to want or expect everything from their partner. The entire face of marriage is slowly undergoing a shift from what it “should be” to “what works for us”. Couples, married, or otherwise, are figuring out what works for the two of them, and finding the best ways to make it happen. Wouldn’t you give it a shot, too, if you could?
Prachi S Vaish is a licenced Clinical Psychologist and marital therapist, specialising in couples issues and recovery from trauma. She holds an M Phil in Clinical Psychology, heads India’s first online psychological services portal and regularly contributes articles as an expert consultant to many publications.