(As told to Joie Bose)
(Names changed to protect identities)
I sit and look at the mirror often and practice the lines. How would I look saying them to him? Then I look away. I can’t fathom how his reaction will be. Will, he hit me? Will he scream and let everyone know? Drop me at my father’s home? Or will he just throw me out? But that inner voice in me tells me that I need to tell him. It says, “Megha, you can’t keep such a big thing from Manav.” And then I tell it, “What should I say? Should I say, ‘Manav, I’ve had a fling with your cousin’? Or should I simply say, ‘Manav, I’ve cheated on you…’” The circumstances were quite strange and perhaps too much to handle for him.
It happened during Arav’s marriage. Arav is my husband Manav’s cousin, older than him by a few years, who is a research scientist in the US. He was 42 but never had time for marriage before this. In fact, the last time he came to India was during my marriage and that too for a few days. Now as soon as he finished his doctorate, the family pressurised him and he complied. We had all thought that perhaps he has a firang girlfriend and his father even hired a detective agency to check this, but it was found that he simply was working.
The older, single man
Despite our families being quite modern, during marriage we all marry those whom our families choose. Love marriage is a myth in our community. The families and the community are quite close knit and we all comply with its rules. Now, as soon as Arav agreed we all went searching for potential matches. We live in a joint family, and Arav’s parents and his elder brothers family also live with us. Our kitchen feeds 18 people every day!
It was difficult to find a girl for Arav. No one close to his age was unmarried in our community. And there were no divorcees either, for our community does not accept divorce. Also, many didn’t want to stay in the US or marry a research scientist, for they don’t end up making as much money. Finally, we traced an unmarried girl of 35 who was willing to relocate and settle down with Arav, but the only problem was that she was dark. When her picture was sent to Arav, he did not have any issue and the marriage was fixed and Arav came to India for a year.
Related reading: Is it better to marry young or when you’re older than 30?
A sympathetic guy
Arav was unlike Manav. He was always around in the kitchen with the ladies and joked around. He told us stories of his colleagues, their houses, and what he did with his friends. It was almost as if I was living as a research scientist in the US. He ate whatever we made and that made me quite fond of him.
Unlike Arav, Manav always liked his paranthas with butter and not ghee and made a huge fuss if I ever goofed up. And since the rest of the family had their paranthas with ghee, I often goofed up. So, one day when I had given Manav a ghee parantha instead of butter parantha, he shouted at me. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and my aunt-in-law all chided me as well. “It’s been so many years Megha, and you still forgot?” I felt embarrassed and since this happened in front of Arav, who was new to me, I ended up saying while crying, “It’s not a big deal. Manav won’t die if he didn’t have buttered paranthas!” I was told not to make a scene before Arav’s marriage and if I needed a break, I was welcome to go to my father’s house and stay.
I admire your frankness
That night I couldn’t sleep. Manav was not talking to me. In fact, no one was properly talking to me. At around one in the night, I went to get myself some water. Arav was there watching TV and the moment he saw me, he said, “Megha, I’m sorry. You were right! What happened in the morning was really stupid.” I was quiet. I don’t know why but I’d hoped that he would speak up for me. I didn’t look at him.
He got up and came and said, “Megha, you know, you’re quite a pataka! Never do the girls in our family speak like that in front of everyone and when you did, I was pretty awed. I hope my wife will be like that. I don’t like meek women…”
Looking at him sideways, I blurted out, “This is the problem. We all go to the best schools and watch the latest TV shows and movies, we see modern people and our men admire modern women. But at home, everyone wants a meek servant! And I can’t even do anything, for even in my father’s house it is the same. I wish I was never born here!” Arav had never expected such an answer. He turned me and held my face in his hands and kissed me in the mouth. I didn’t stop him as he took me to his room. I didn’t stop him as he slowly nibbled my ears and his hands slowly crept under my clothes either.
We continued after his marriage
What began that night continued whenever we got a chance. I was shamelessly in love with Arav. But then, Arav got married and his wife too came to stay with us. She was nice and shared her troubles with me. But that didn’t stop me from being with Arav. I loved Arav’s touch and what he did and the talks we had… He told me how his wife was cold in bed. He told me how stupid she was. We didn’t know where this was heading. Their marriage, albeit new, was as stale as the one I had with Manav but then again, in real life marriages are like that.
Their marriage, albeit new, was as stale as the one I had with Manav but then again, in real life marriages are like that.
Six months ago I got pregnant. I don’t know whose child it was. So I kept quiet. I was scared. There was no one to talk to. Should I tell Arav, I had wondered many times… And then I did tell him. He became stone cold. He moved away from me without a word. That was when I felt like a criminal and life or karma or God, whatever you call it, took revenge. I had an accident. Perhaps I was not mindful. I was crossing the road when a car hit me. I woke up in hospital. I’d fractured my foot. My neck. And my back. And I had lost the baby. Arav never came to the hospital. His wife did. And Manav did.
My life has returned to where it was when before. Almost. Except that I wonder. Every second that I’m awake. Should I tell my husband what happened?