(As told to Eleena Sanyal)
Names changed to protect identities
I live in a bustling Mumbai suburb with Girish and Vihana, our 9-year-old daughter. Girish and I were introduced through a marriage bureau. Vihana was born 10 months after our wedding. My husband is a doting father and a very caring spouse. He’s a very pragmatic man and an equal partner. He is a hopeless romantic with a large and giving heart. He’s my anchor and I turn to him for everything.
Who would complain about such a life? No one, I should think.
A marriage without spark
Girish’s job soon required him to travel a lot. He missed being home though, and upon his return he was often too jet-lagged and tired to really give us quality time before darting off again. Returning for him was all about packing the next bag and hopping on the next flight. I was getting used to his absences but the evenings just hung heavy, and I craved some adult company and conversation. Rushed sex when he got back seemed more like a forced errand. It was poor compensation for the agonisingly lonely nights we spent oceans apart. It began to lack the spark that had kept our love alive for years.
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Upon his insistence, I went to the airport to drop him off when he was going to the US. With marriage, a baby much too soon and the stresses of urban life, I had never viewed the circumstances of our union in retrospect. And I never had the time to consider if I had decided to marry Girish on the rebound, until that ill-fated day that marked the beginning of the end of my sanity. After dropping off Girish, I saw a man stepping out of an auto-rickshaw that I had flagged down. Our eyes met and I felt a punch in the pit of my stomach.
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I met my ex
It was Nitin! His eyes didn’t leave mine as we both stood motionless for what seemed like an eternity. He broke the silence by asking me if I had an umbrella. We both knew it was a pointless question. With immense strain trying to sound casual, I pointed to a nearby cafe and asked him unabashedly if he was ok for a cuppa. His complaisance stirred up something lying dormant inside me. We sat down and I wrapped up my last decade for him while the coffee was still steaming hot. I was desperate to know where life had taken him.
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Nitin and I had met at a wedding a year before Girish came along and hit it off instantly. After a torrid romance lasting half a year, I had popped the question. His calm and collected reply had seemed planned and clear. He needed more time. I felt used and discarded. His silence over the next few days was devastating. Later, I didn’t return his calls and eventually blocked his number. Six months later Girish entered my life, oblivious to my history, and married me without any questions.
We picked up where we left off
Nitin did not as much as flinch, mentioning his pregnant wife Priya among other things. The image of another woman in his life now was a throwback to our relationship which never saw the light of day. I accused him of having left me in the lurch. He claimed he had made no promises. All the while, I felt an inexorable pull towards him. I gathered my wits and apologised for my mercurial behaviour and proposed that we meet again after his office ended the following day.
One meeting lead to another. The lapse of years vanished as we picked up the threads of our shared past over steamy afternoons and nights of unabated passion. Nitin unleashed visceral waves of excitement that I had long forgotten. He made me melt as I gave in to him. He ignited in me what Girish never could have, even if he tried.
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As we lay spent between the sheets, I stroked his sleeping head and said ‘I love you’. He opened his eyes and smiled but didn’t respond. Existential questions about the cascading effect of these concatenated moments hit me hard. Would I ever look at my unsuspecting, ever-faithful Girish the same way again? Life with him now felt like a chore. I wondered if Nitin might just be a transit passenger in my life’s airport while Girish is the plane that will always take me safely home. Only time will tell how long we will continue to live these lies.