It was a Christmas party; we were all at “Bang O Bay’ bar with my best friend Saira, though she is double my age when I saw Jerenimo. Saira and Jerenimo were once married, it’s been eleven years since they are divorced, and the couple have a daughter, Joan, who is slightly younger to me. Saira says Jernenimo still loves her, but Jerenimo doesn’t seem to be interested in her anymore. We also had with us Henry who was coping with a recent heartache, Aliya a model struggling rather, Saif hooked to books, his dreams to be a research scholar and me trying to figure out what I need to focus on.
The music was loud enough for all of us to listen to each other, so we concentrated on our drinks waiting for the DJ to announce when to hit the dance floor.
I was trying to focus on my red gown, I found the length a bit shorter than usual, I shouldn’t have bought this gown, it revealed my knees and then again yesterday, I had paid a bomb at that salon trying to look my best since I will be meeting Jerenimo for the first time. A Thousand questions flew in my find but strangely it was only Jerenimo I was thinking about. Is it because he is a celebrity, man already taken, he had married thrice but he is still a man all women wanted, what is so great about Jerenimo? Looks, no no, not at all, he is too old with wrinkled skin, had his trademark glasses and beard, looked weird. I didn’t like his face at all and I hate those men who run after women, or do I hate those women who run after men? I was really confused, good Lord it’s a Christmas party I should be enjoying rather than thinking about Jerenimo, triple my age and also had divorced by best friend Saira.
Saira is a good singer but a bit off the mark, she has her mood swings, sometimes she sings to me, we share some good moments but then she gets annoyed with me for no reason. Saira, why are you like this with me? I want to ask her but I know she will not reply me, she even forgets what she says to me, in fact, I am a hermit when it comes to socializing. It was Saira who dragged me to this party saying Jerenimo will be there and Saira has to look her best to impress Jerenimo.
That red gown was eating my brains when Saif chuckled “Come on, have a puff, try it out once, forget your knees, idiot”, “Listen, Saif I don’t smoke, try that with Aliya or Henry and who said I was focusing on my knees”. Laughing Saif replied, “Been watching you since last fifteen minutes, you and your red gown”.
I tried to ignore his words wondering how he read my mind, it was then Jerenimo stepped in, “Hi, Rimli glad to meet you, have seen your photographs, let me have a look at your eyes, just stare at me let me observe”. I couldn’t speak, what is this man saying “My eyes” and then he doesn’t even have the courtesy to introduce himself and where did he see my pictures but again he is a big man, so let me look good, I am a female and I should look my best.
This was the time the DJ announced we should be hitting the dance floor. Henry chose Aliya his partner, Saif chose to sit back and enjoy his scotch, Saira was about to approach Jerenimo when Jerenimo asked me to be his partner. So we danced, me and Jerenimo, all the while Jerenimo focusing on my eyes, concentrating rather, but he also said “Your steps are not correct, you may be a classical dancer, but Tap dancing is not for you, either you improve or don’t dance”. How rude, you asked me to be your partner and now you insult me, I never wanted to dance with you, go get Saira, she is the one who needs you and not me, I am not interested, I wanted to say but I couldn’t. He is a big man, I cannot offend him.
Suddenly he stopped dancing and pulled a chair and asked me to sit and I did as told, and without giving me a chance, this man started clicking photos of my eyes. I remembered the song “For your eyes only, for your eyes only” from that movie Abohoman as he clicked my photos. “Do something, work on your eyes, let me be frank, we want to feature your eyes on the cover page of a magazine, you will get due credit, this is my card, meet me at my studio tomorrow at 7 in the morning, I don’t waste time, there are slots, so don’t be late, I jealously safeguard my time, and do not apply any kohl or mascara, our team will do it”. He left abruptly, his half-finished drink lay on the table, he didn’t bother to look back and see us.
This man is crazy, I am Saira’s friend, I am just an ordinary female, Aliya is much better, she is so good looking, but okay he is a celebutante, he wants to feature my eyes, so at least I will find my place in this glamor world, I need to be heard and then people will ask for my autographs, maybe I can even feature in his theatres. So in no time, I will be a celebrity, am already tired of the daily stupid chores, so this is indeed a great opportunity. In no time Aliya, Henry came running “What did he say? Show his card, let us have his cell number”, I was happiest, I flaunted the card and then I realized Saif was watching me. I suddenly got scared of his stony face.
“What’s up Saif, all okay,” I asked, “Where is Saira? Look around, do you find her?” Saif walked away. I looked around, where is Saira? Forgetting everything I ran in that bar, dim lights, and that cacophony, I felt claustrophobic. Shouldn’t I be happier rather, tomorrow is my shoot, why am I getting such a feeling? What’s wrong with me? But no, Saira was not to be seen. It was already late, I had to rush back home, I need to hit the studio on time tomorrow. Rushing downstairs, managing my stilettos I just screamed at Saif, Aliya and Henry “Am leaving, Saira is not to be seen, just say I have left and won’t be available tomorrow since I will be at Jerenimo’s studio for a shoot”. On my way back I was lost in my own world, I remembered Kendal Jenner, Adriana Lima, Cindy Crawford, I was the happiest woman, I was sure Jerenimo will make me a top model, I am tired of this mundane life, now I can see rays of hope. The rush of adrenaline was too much for me.
I hardly slept that night and reached the studio at 6.30 in the morning. He was there, working on some sketches, “Hi Rimli, glad you are before time, I like people who are punctual, please fix yourself a cup of coffee, there is the machine, my team will attend you shortly”. He was back to his desk making those sketches of eyes. It took us three hours, just to feature my eyes, how much he struggled, why only him, all the others of the team. All I had to do was to listen to his instructions and make my eye movements accordingly. My shoot got over by 11. “Listen, email me your bank details we will transfer the money to your account”, he said as I left. I didn’t even bother to ask the amount, what a relief; I am featuring for his magazine, who cares for money.
Humming a song I thought of sharing my experience with Saira, she is from the same field and Jerenimo was her husband so she will be very happy for me, no doubt about it.
Her door was open, and as usual, the house was empty, all her walls were covered with Jerenimo’s pictures, there was no one, I suddenly became cautious, and why is this silence sounding like screaming? There she was, Saira, all in tears, her eyes looked like a wounded animal, the tissues lay around, her eyes bloodshot red, she might have cried whole day, she was sitting on the floor, her gown revealing her bare shoulders, the red nail polish she wore last night has tainted, she has not even removed her make up.
I sat beside her, I tried to touch her when she pushed me with all her strength and screamed “Go away, I hate you, I thought you are my friend, you slept with my husband, he loves you, he is mad about you, he will marry you, just for you I lost him, I was happy with him, he is in the other room, I have shut the door, he will not be able to see you again, you look like an ogre, I saw how much you flirted with him, you danced with him and he whispered those poems which he used to say to me. You are not my friend anymore, you are a bitch, a whore, you stole my husband, all you know is to allure a man with your features, I am much better than you whore, I will kill you, I will expose you, and the media will run with your story on how you chased Jerenimo”. She continued those vulgar words and I could not take it anymore, I broke down, sobbing I said “Saira, what’s wrong, you were the one who gave me courage, didn’t you, you were the one who told me to look for wisdom, why have you gone violent, Saira please seek help, you need help, I can take you to a counselor”. Gritting her teeth she howled “I am a counselor myself, who said I need help and that too from a cheap woman like you? Just book your cab and get lost, I am a celebrity, dare you talk to me like that, bitch. I wish you die on your way back; the world will be a better place if people like you die, I am still young, and you need a proof? But no, I need not prove you, Jerenimo is mine, get lost else I kick you out”.
I could hardly believe what Saira was saying, I looked around, the house is empty, I was sobbing myself, and I felt like a slut. It was then I saw Joan, Saira’s daughter and a friend of mine. She held me tight weeping she took me to the elevator, both of us reached the lobby and we spoke. “Don’t take my mother’s words seriously, she doesn’t mean it, there is no one in our house, just the two of us, but she hallucinates, my father doesn’t keep in touch with my mother, he is tired of her, he wanted to help her, but my mother turns violent, she suspects him, if you wish to help my mother please turn down the offer my father wanted to feature and don’t even call my father. My mother needs help, we don’t even have money to pay our house rent but my mother still wants to live in this posh locality, she still thinks she is a celebrity, we struggle for money, I work myself, please do me a favor, please rush back to the studio and refuse the offer and send a message to my mother”. We cried, we hugged each other, both of us were broken, I had no words; I didn’t know how to react.
I reached the studio, Jerenimo has left, and I left a note with their team turning down the offer. On way back home I texted to Saira “I am no longer featuring for that magazine, Jerenimo said I am not suitable and he will feature only you, he also said I shouldn’t call him anymore”.
Within an hour I received a call from Jerenimo, I had to answer he is a gentleman a thorough professional “I know why you declined, I understand, I have aged enough to understand her, she throws tantrums but she is equally compassionate, forgive her Rimli” was his words, we spoke for a while, I wanted to know the theatre world, he explained, he spoke about his hardships, how people misunderstood him, I too shared my experience. He wished me luck and success before hanging up.
Two weeks later I received a text from Saira “Why are you not coming to meet me, it’s long we haven’t chatted, I hope you are saying the prayers I taught you, you should look for inner wisdom, and not outside favors from random people, you should know to respect yourself, never compromise your values, never at any cost”. I texted back to her “Yes I chant your prayers every day and just know this I remember you each time I chant”. I spoke to Joan several times after that, Joan told me Saira, as usual, has her mood swings, on bright days she gives words of wisdom and on dark days she throws tantrums
I didn’t visit Saira after that episode. Aliya, Henry and Saif we all met at Juhu beach within a week after that incident, I didn’t share the experience but I could make out they had understood everything. All four of us still meet except Saira, we share our memories, we laugh, we giggle, we wear stupid clothes, we eat ice creams, we sing but deep in my mind I see Saira, her soft face, tender, and then Joan. How much I wished to visit them but I refrain myself.
So that was the devastating impact of divorce on Saira that she fell a victim of that deadly curse called “Mental illness”. I still remember her words on Buddhism which she taught me “Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. Look for inner wisdom, don’t seek for outward favors from random people, no one can help you, you have to be your own God father, no one helped me either, I am a self-made woman. So you should be like that with your own values, respect, have faith, that is what matters and nothing else”.
As I conclude this essay my eyes well up, I just narrated one Saira, I really don’t know how may Saira’s are out, dealing with their demons, wish we could make the world a better place and get rid of that curse called “Mental illness”.
So this is what I call “Though the lens of a divorced women”.