Kia had just finished her daily chores and sat down in her favorite spot on her terrace with her cup of tea and her book, which she had been trying to complete for the last three months. An avid reader she could finish a book in one go, but that was all in the past. Now married with two children, reading was a luxury. A couple of pages on and off was all she could dedicate in between running the house and looking after the kids.
Naveen, her husband, was a kind man and took good care of her needs. An arranged alliance it was and after 12 years together it still felt like that, love was the missing factor. The kind she read about in books, the toe curling, breath stopping romance, that was limited only to her fantasies. After the kids, the intimacy in the bedroom also reduced, it was as if the purpose had been achieved after a daughter and a son.
Her parents were her inspiration. She’d seen them throughout her childhood and harboured dreams of a life like theirs. The sweet glances, the holding hands, offering food to the other, small gestures which were full of warmth and love. She craved that kind of intimacy, on the emotional level. She knew physical love was a manifestation of an emotional bond, but in her heart of hearts she wanted to feel all the emotions she had only read about.
Her daughter Shreya would turn ten this year and her son Rohit, six. Time had literally flown by. When she looked in the mirror these days all she saw was Kia the wife and homemaker and Kia the mom, Kia the girl, Kia the individual with a thousand dreams of her own, had somewhat taken a backseat.
Pushing her thoughts away she opened the book, only to keep it aside as her cell phone rang. It was her school friend and bestie, Aditi.
“Hey Aditi! What a lovely surprise. Been ages I heard from you. How are you doing?”
“Kiaaa! I’m doing great and I missed you so much all these years, but you know how it is. Managing work, home and Aryan, phew, it’s a task in itself. We women should be handed some kinda award for it I guess”, she replied good naturedly as always.
Aditi was her friend from school who remained in touch with her over the years. College, marriage and her shifting to a different city, made their meetings and conversations rare, but the bond between them was as strong as ever.
“Guess what? I’m in Delhi and have something up my sleeve. Let’s catch up. You name the place and time”, Aditi rambled.
Kia was so excited. Since the call with Aditi her mood had changed and she was looking forward to meeting her for dinner in the evening. Keeping her book aside, she got back to her chores and prepared the evening meal of Rajma Rice, her kids’ favorite. She dressed in a beige pant and black shirt and applied a lipstick and kajal, her go to make up and the only thing she knew about it. Settling the kids and bidding adieu to Naveen, she left to meet Aditi.
Aditi was waiting outside the restaurant when Kia alighted from her car and was smooshed in a big bear hug, trademark Aditi style. She’d always been a hugger, guess old habits die hard. Kia felt like a teen, laughing and chatting away without any worries or responsibilities. Aditi always bought out the fun loving girl in her and she secretly missed her calls and company.
After a sumptuous meal consisting of their favourite Chinese cuisine, they ordered cheesecake, another favourite, for dessert and indulged in them sinfully.
“Can life get any better? Dinner with my bestie and this delicious cheesecake”, Kia cooed.
“It definitely can, if you wish”, Aditi answered with a mysterious smile.
“Oh pray girl, and how can it be better than this?”Kia questioned her.
“Hmmm…let’s run away. You, me and our school friends, to Ladakh for a week. Only us girls, no spouse or children”, replied Aditi to a visibly shocked Kia.
“You can’t be serious? How can I just leave Naveen and the kids behind all on their own and take off?”
“Just like I will leave Satish and Aryan, ditto for the rest. C’mon Kia dont be negative from now. At least discuss it with Naveen and see. Just imagine, Ladakh, the pristine lakes, the beautiful mountains, the calming monasteries…”
“Aditi please come out of your dream world and leave Ladakh behind. Enjoy your dinner in Delhi for now, am sure you must be dying to go back to your hotel room and call Satish at peace. You two lovebirds are my idols in romance,” saying so Kia laughed, but deep within she was herself transported by Aditi’s words. “Let me speak to Naveen and get back. Irrespective of my reply, you and the rest please carry on,” saying so Kia and Aditi left with the promise of calling each other the next day.
Kia drove in silence, lost in her own thoughts. She didn’t know how Naveen would react to the plan. He was a travel freak and together they’d visited many places and explored. She was content in life, but the lure of travelling all alone with friends was a bonus for sure.
She entered her home and headed to the kids room and kissed her sleeping children as was her nighttime ritual. She went to the dining area to clear it up, but to her surprise it was spic n span and all the leftover food neatly kept in the fridge. She smiled and entered her room to find Naveen engrossed in his laptop as always.
“Naveen who cleared the dining area? Did Shreya do it?”
“You think?”, he replied looking up from his laptop. “It was this humble servant”, he said with a fake bow.
Kia laughed out loud at his antic. “Since when did you become so filmy?”
“How was dinner by the way and more importantly how’s Aditi? You should’ve invited her over or better still asked her to stay with us”, Naveen told Kia.
“You know her Naveen, she isn’t the kind to burden anyone. She has loads of relatives around, but she prefers a hotel. Anyways, she’s asked me out on a trip for a week to Ladakh. I laughed and brushed it off. I will tell her no tomorrow…”
“But why?”Naveen interrupted her. “Don’t you wanna go?”
“Oh I’d love to, but home, the kids and you, how would you guys manage?”, Kia replied
“Don’t worry about us, we will be fine. If it’s something you’d like to do, you should go ahead. This is the first time I’ve heard about a trip with your friends. You should definitely give it a thought.”
Kia was zapped. She jumped with joy and hugged Naveen who laughed at her antics. “I’ll call Aditi right now, she will be super excited”, saying so she rushed to call her.
Aditi screamt on the phone hearing Kia’s positive reply. “I’m so happy bestie. Finally we get to spend me-time with each other after ages. Will come over to your place to thank Naveen personally tomorrow and will discuss the trip itinerary and dates. Can’t tell you how happy I am” she excitedly said.
After saying their goodbyes, Kia returned to her room to find Naveen fast asleep. The laptop kept on the side table and his files spread over the bed. She silently gathered the files and put them on the laptop and got ready to sleep with a smile on her face. She still couldn’t believe what happened today.
Aditi came over the next day and spent it at Kia’s home. The children loved Aditi and her infectious energy and she also brought out laughs and smiles from Naveen. The trip was a month away and the itinerary looked simply amazing. There were going to be ten of them.
The days leading up to the trip were jam packed for Kia, trying to organise things and making arrangements for everyone. Naveen on the other hand was super calm and took her around to shop for her trip. A day before leaving, she was teary eyed, when Naveen hugged her.
“I know you are worried about the kids and home, so I’ve got my parents to come and stay with us for the week. Hope this will assure you. You go and have fun, make the most of your trip”
Kia didn’t know what to say. She never knew this thoughtful side of Naveen or maybe he was always like this and she failed to notice it earlier.
Bidding adieu to Naveen, the kids, and her in-laws, Kia left with Aditi for the airport.
At the Leh airport, the rest of the girls met them and they hugged each other. Some of them Kia was meeting after nearly 2 decades. After exchanging pleasantries, they left for their hotel. Every day was a marvel in itself. They lost their heart to this beautiful place.
Every night they’d sit around a bonfire and chat to their heart’s content. They had so much to catch up on. Slowly as the days progressed and their old bond rekindled, everyone poured their heart open and let loose their emotions.
One of them was living with an abusive husband, whilst one had intolerable in-laws. One was childless and going through trying rounds of IVF, whilst one had problems with work, Kia realized that life had changed everyone including their dreams and expectations. On the outside everyone looked happy and peaceful, but within there was a turmoil raging amongst all.
She walked to her tent to find Aditi on the phone arguing and screaming. When she saw Kia, she ended the call and was on the verge of tears.
“Aditi is everything all right? Who was that you were arguing with? Are you having any problem Satish isn’t aware of? Should I inform him of it?”Kia rattled.
Aditi broke down in tears and hugged Kia.
“Who were you going to call, Satish, my husband to my aid? Do you know it was none other than Satish on the other end. This is my life. My fake life which I’ve been living since the last decade. Satish is hardly the man I thought he would be. Falling in love and marrying him against my parents wishes, I’ve probably brought this on myself. The romance had fizzed out within the first year of marriage when we were faced with the reality called life. I thought having a kid would strengthen our bond, but i couldn’t have been any more wrong. Once Aryan was born, Satish escaped the noose. He knew I wouldn’t go anyway and he drank and gambled openly. I still could tolerate that, but gradually he would visit brothels and stay nights away on end. I had to keep a brave front for Aryan and started work again to keep the household running, which gave Satish the encouragement to quit his job and laze around on my earnings. My smile, my laugh, all are fake. It’s like a defence mechanism I’ve adopted to keep my misery and wrenched life at bay. I’m stuck in a place, this hell, from where I can’t escape except for death”, and sobbed uncontrollably.
Kia was stunned. She couldn’t fathom what she just heard. She always believed her friend to be blessed with the best, but hearing about her life, she couldn’t utter a word that would comfort her. She hugged her tight and sobbed along with her. That night sleep eluded her, seeing her friend emotionally, mentally and physically drained out, left Kia moved. After putting Aditi to sleep, she dialled Naveen’s number without realising what a late hour it was and immediately cut the call only to get a callback from Naveen instantly. She started talking casually and inquired about the kids and him, but Naveen had sensed her discomfort.
“What’s wrong, Kia? Something’s off. Are you ok? Do you need any help?” Naveen was agitated.
Kia couldn’t believe he sensed her emotions from across the phone and hung up saying she was tired and missed them all too much.
“Kia, I love you and am missing you like crazy”, Naveen replied after a pause.
Kia was flabbergasted. Never had he professed his love verbally for her. Hearing him say it after Aditi’s outburst made Kia realise how blessed she was. Naveen though was inexpressive but he never gave her any trouble or dictated her life. The choice to stay home and leave her job after Shreya was her decision, which Naveen supported wholeheartedly and slogged day and night to provide for his growing family. Sometimes in your daily monotonous life and routine you never realise how fortunate you are.
“I love you too Naveen and I can’t wait to get back home to you and the kids”, Kia confessed.
This trip was an eyeopener for all of them. They learnt about life and its bitter harsh truths in a place so pure and pristine. Maybe the magic and calm of Ladakh was needed, to accept their reality and escape in a fantasy world. Everyone left with memories to last them a lifetime.
Kia hugged Aditi at the airport as she had a connecting flight to Mumbai from Delhi. After a much needed push from Kia, Aditi had decided to leave Satish and start life away from him in Delhi with Aryan. Kia had spoken to Naveen about Aditi and he wholeheartedly decided to welcome Aditi and Aryan to live with them till she finds a place of her own. He had even circulated her resume to a few of his colleagues and friends and was sure that Aditi would soon be financially independent and secure.
Kia saw Naveen in a new light and realised that her affection and respect for him was nothing but love, not the fickle or superficial kind, but a solid bond of unspoken words, happiness and contentment.
She started working again at Aditi’s behest, who was put up to it by Naveen. She regained her sense of individuality and confidence and her relationship with her family changed drastically. She no longer felt devoid of anything in life and realised that happiness and sadness are both an inevitable part of life.
We must learn to swim against the tide and wait for the storm to calm. What’s meant for us will definitely find a way to you, never lose hope and faith.
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