It was 8 p.m., a full moon night in the hubbub of Chandigarh city. On a busy road, rock music was hitting the ears of passers-by, paving the way to the door opened into a restaurant called- The Terminus. Its coarse interior has become the talk of the town. The use of ropes, tires, antique train miniatures and campfires, makes it an eminent choice for celebration in the chilling December.
Amid murmurs and whispers of guests, a suited booted waiter opens the door of the kitchen with a big size plate of a beautiful velvet cake even more beautifully embellished and placed gently on his right-hand palm, sauntering in the aisles between the dining tables, he safely placed it at the center of a corner table surrounded by 12 mid-aged women.
“Whoa!” All were amazed to see the cake topper – A modish lady molded with fondant and rose petals.
Trisha Ma’am is celebrating her 40th birthday a day before with her friends. Tomorrow she will celebrate with her family of course.”
“Who am I?”
“I am Jolly. No, it’s not Jolly LLB, only Jolly.” I am always there with Ma’am at her service.
Ma’am is a woman of her choices. She left her job to embrace motherhood and ventured with a fashion house to be an entrepreneur when Dhruv baba started his school. Her fashion brand- Hummingbird is quite popular on all online portals. An epitome of elegance. Friends are envious of her fitness and poise. She is looking stunning in a peach Anarkali-plazo dress of her brand. Her half curly hairs are waving on her kurta like swanky accessories.
I captured many candid pictures of the night.
As guests started departing after the celebration, Ma’am also booked a cab for home. It was already 11 p.m.
“Rishabh would be furious.”
“Let it be, he had connived to give my car for servicing this weekend only. Neither can he lend me his XUV nor can come to pick me.” She mumbled.
“Bewafa hum nahi bewafa tum nahi fir bhi kitene gile ho gaye….” The choice of cab drivers is weird at least in the terms of songs.
This will create a poignant effect. The outer canthus of Ma’am’s left eye is up and running. A teardrops plunged on her cheek which she wiped quickly.
At home, Rishabh sir opened the door but said nothing. This is what being furious mean.
She was relaxing on her bed when the instrumental version fell on her ears.
“Happy birthday to you ……”
Followed the lighted candles on a cake from the darkness outside the room. More scintillating were two twinkling eyes, trying hard to stay awake.
Meet Ma’am’s lifeline, 12 years old son exalted for Mamma’s birthday, Dhruv. These are moments that keep you going. Aren’t these?
After cutting the cake, showering his love with hugs and kisses, the little one asked “Mamma, what’s the plan?”
“We will go for dinner, my dear?”
“Boring dinner.” Rubbing his eyes, he went back to his den.
After wishing Ma’am, Rishabh sir also felt the job done so retired to bed. Ma’am could not avoid the resplendent starry night with utter silence and kept looking out of the window while lying on the bed as she fell asleep.
The next day went as planned, insipid and bland, like their relationship. Forlorn attempts to rekindle also halted from both sides. Ingenious people around them were calling it the 14-year itch, a term primed according to social expediency. Frequent squabbles turned into wrangles and eventually, a truce of silence took over.
The next morning, Fatty entered Trisha Ma’am’s office puffing with her oversized bag and bottle.
Though she has a pleasing name, Prashati but mostly dressed as a hippie and to add on being overweight, she could not shun this nickname even after multiple efforts.
“Hey, girl! Do you remember, we have to reach Swamiji’s Satsang (gathering)?”
“Ahh! I am not sure yet. Should we go?” Ma’am wondering with inhibitions.
“What’s the harm? You can ask whatever you want to, effectuating or not, is your pick?” Fatty proffered as an exemplar.
“And yes Akansha is joining us too.” She added.
Ma’am and Fatty reached Swamiji’s ashram (hermitage). The lush green ground and the pleasant breeze of a winter afternoon was charging them with tranquility when the view of the long queue at the entry gate shell-shocked them.
The emergence of a familiar tall and slim woman dressed in office formals quite ahead in the queue provided some respite from their agitation. Blunt hairs with childlike charm and maturity of veterans. Akansha has been organized and punctual invariably. Concisely a sweet discerning woman.
“Phew! Our savior is here.”
They got settled down at their seats after collecting the ID cards. The Kirtans (devotional songs) were spewing forth an amiable aura.
Ma’am was yet jittery to ask her query. So finally Fatty decided to ask on her behalf, “Swamiji, in today’s time, conflicts in a man-woman relationship have become inevitable, how to tackle those to make it work?”
Swamiji smiled with a condescending sneer.
“My suggestion would be never to hurt a man’s ego and a woman’s emotions for that matter. Even if the whole world says your husband doesn’t have a brain, you shouldn’t say that. You can say -You are a genius, you don’t use your brain that’s a different thing.”
Peals of laughter and claps.
And to give an example, a man should never join his wife talking about the faults of her family. Just keep nodding and see if that works.”
Ma’am held her patience somehow for some time but kept picking at both the friends to leave.
Finally, they had to give up and left to reach a cafe. Laughing and mocking.
Ma’am got somewhat irritated, “Is this the solution? I have asked the wrong man I guess, this is an utter lie I can’t leave with a lie.”
“Hold on! I asked, you just listened.” Fatty interrupted.
The trio had a brittle laugh.
“I think Swamiji was right, you should never hurt a man’s ego.” An air of despondency took away the smiles when Akansha opened up.
“Vivek is a nice man. I respect him. He loves me and cares for me. The only thing is he is too bothered about what people will say. Even silly things. To start with it was my height that looked more than his. Actually, he is taller than me. Then my fertility issues and now it’s my salary which has apparently become more than his. It is a prestige issue in society. That suffocates me.
Although he doesn’t say anything but my salary and position in office bothers him. His friends are there in my office to make the situation awful.”
“Whenever I try to talk to him he says he has no issue. But I know it bothers him. The problem is even if I leave the job, will it over? Tomorrow something else may arise.”
Fatty interrupted in her freakish way, “Tell that nincompoop to go to hell with his ego.”
This made Akansha furious enough to stand.
“Yes, everyone should divorce their spouse as you did.” Ma’am got up to move ahead and hugged her.
“She is in the throes of divorce herself. She can’t wish that for anyone and you know very well she didn’t mean it.”
Akansha said sorry.
“No I am sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” Fatty realizing.
Ma’am put her hand on Akansha’s hand.
“Husbands never have problems. They only have problems with the fact that their wives have problems.”
Both gave dull smiles.
“And why not the system is set according to their convenience. Women like us are creating a stir in this social pond.”
Ma’am to lighten the tension, “We need an escape. What are we doing buddies? We have one life.”
“Where, where, where?” Fatty patting the table.
“Goa, let’s go Goa.”
All three got up in excitement to sit back with disappointment.
“No, I have exhausted my leaves already” Akansha with a sad face.
“Dhruv has exams next week.”
“Yeah! Siesta has exams too. Maybe let’s look for the weekend destination.” Fatty ebbed.
“I am looking for some solace. Home, business, Dhruv’s studies, and hobby classes. And to make it worse this dysfunctional relationship, I couldn’t find anything to respect him, it’s all shallow between us. Upon that his perplexing and irrational behavior. Anything can come out from nowhere.” Ma’am expressed her need for an escape.
“Golden Temple.” Akansha propounded with a curious face.
“Hmm! Yes, a great idea we will go for the Palki sahib ceremony in the morning this time.” Ma’am agreed.
Fatty grumbled the loudest as she hated an early start.
“It will be worth it,” Ma’am assured.
“And I will drive.”
“Are you sure Trisha, it’s 230 km,” asked Akansha.
“Yeah! We will have to leave on Saturday itself to reach the temple at the crack of dawn on Sunday. Driving is liberating, we will have fun.”
On Saturday afternoon Trisha Ma’am’s red polo hit the road on the highway. Yes, I accompanied too. I told you, I am always there with Ma’am.
Fatty sitting in the front seat turned on the music.
“I used to carry the weight of the world
And now all I want to do is spread my wings and fly.”
Both Akansha and Fatty started grooving on their seats when Ma’am popped up with a serious question to Fatty, “How is Siesta, Fatty? Long time I didn’t hear anything from her. She is not coming home to play with Dhruv as well?”
“Like Mother like a daughter.” She is turning into a food maniac, looks fifteen at an age of 10. Hey, how’s the keto diet? I am thinking we both should start.”
“Don’t fall in the traps of fad diets, consult a good nutritionist?” Ma’am suggested.
“Not only that I need to find a stable source of income too, choreographing in marriages etc. is not reliable.”
Akansha suddenly peeped her head in between the front seats singing whimsically, “I used to carry the weight of the world…”
Unsolicited camaraderie tumbled the car with laughter.
On Sunday, before dawn, a quiet walk of 5 minutes from the hotel to Temple was a surreal experience in itself. All rants of Fatty about having to wake up early disappeared as we took on the magnificent sight of the Golden Temple bathed inch by inch with the rays of the rising sun after the Palki Sahib ceremony of the Guru Granth Sahib.
When sitting at Amrit Sarover (pond) with fishes, the whole ambiance left us spellbound. Later we had food at langar (community meal) with a huge number of people and worked with volunteers which gave a sense of union with the Universe.
It is bad manners to read someone’s diary but I could not hold myself. Ma’am writes with so much heart.
While driving back home thoughts were pronouncing in her mind which she later wrote in her digital diary application. We hate the indecisiveness of crossroads forgetting the steering wheel is in our hands. To leave aside the ambivalence, we need to embrace life as it is.
Yet completely in a state of solace, Trisha Ma’am rang the bell. House help opened the door and Dhruv baba came skating and almost stumbled in front of her as he was trying to stop.
Ma’am hugged the boy. “My sweetheart.”
“Do you bring kada prasad?”
“Yes,” Ma’am handed over a packet with a cute Ashtadhatu Kada (8 metal bangle).
“I am going to a football game now.”
Ma’am said bye with a flying kiss.
“Ma’am, I am leaving, everything is done.” informed helper Seema.
Ma’am was in the kitchen for coffee when the bell rang. She opened the door thinking, “Must be Rishabh.” She was right.
Though silence is common between them, she sensed some awkwardness. Not giving it much thought she put the coffee mug on the center table and turned on the TV before plonking herself on the sofa.
As she extended her hand for coffee, something plummeted on the table.
“Rishabh coffeeeee___.” She didn’t complete the sentence as the mug was safe.
It was a book and CD from Swamiji’s ashram, complementary for joining the Satsang.
“Oh! It arrived.” Ma’am started peeking in the book.
She tried to elude sir who was looking infuriated.
“So you are doing all this?” Sir in a vehement voice.
“What do you mean?” Ma’am felt a jolt.
“You know I don’t like all this? All these Swamijis are fraud. What made you think to visit him? I have given you so much freedom that doesn’t mean you will cross your limits.”
“When did my freedom become your authority and you started deciding limits for me.”
“If this is your response then leave my house.”
“Your house? Now, who is crossing the limits? If you want to stoop further, a significant part of the payment went from my account so forget about me leaving this house.”
I have seen Ma’am so furious for the first time. Red-faced, she was hardly able to hold her tears.
“I will leave then.” Sir stomped to his room and slammed the door.
Ma’am fell back to the sofa in despair. She didn’t try to hold her tears this time.
Coffee on the table lost its aroma as well as warmth. No one noticed it till Dhruv baba arrived. He saw her sitting on a bench in the front garden cuddling her heirloom shawl which her mother passed on to her. She just smiled when he arrived. He sat beside her, bouncing his football. When he didn’t hear anything from her, he went inside to see coffee waiting with Swamiji’s book and CD on the table.
In some time Ma’am saw a cup of tea appearing beside her from the back. When she looked back the little soul brought his tongue out, “You taught me how to make tea for daddy but never instructed on coffee.”
Ma’am caressed his hand and pulled him to make him sit by her side.
“Sorry Mamma, I thought that book you ordered for me, had arrived so I opened the package but it was Swamiji’s book.”
“That’s not your fault honey.”
“Do you want separation from Daddy?” In sudden disdain, Trisha ma’am looked at him.
“Who told you this?”
“Come on! I am not a kid.”
Ma’am’s eyes crinkled and Baba shrugged.
“I do but not sure if I have enough reasons for it?”
“Is it you, society, or me?” Ma’am surely didn’t expect this question.
They say that you should treat and respect your kid as you would respect an adult. Probably this thought restricted ma’am from stopping him else she was looking quite shattered with this conversation?
“I mean if it’s me don’t worry, Nikhil, one of my friends, his parents are separated and he is ok with it. I believe I will be fine as well.”
“No baby I think this is me and my dilemma.”
“If people can live-in before marriage to clear their confusion why don’t you guys live-out before separation for clarity?”
On this Ma’am’s eyeballs were ready to fall out.
“Relax Mamma, you only say, you should be in sync with yourself in whatever you do. Are you in sync?”
He didn’t stop there, “You know Daddy got a promotion offer, he is required to join the Hyderabad office. If he wants to go, I can visit him during my vacation.
Rishabh sir was hearing all this standing behind.
Dhruv Baba looked at him and said: “I can live with you as well but you don’t know anything about cooking.
None of them was sure what they would do next but Dhruv baba could bring the smiles back.
Tea’s aroma and warmth were not only utilized but acted as a shock absorber too.
Few days passed by. Akansha got pregnant, IVF worked this time and she serendipitously decided to leave the job. I would give this time to my passion for writing and try to create some understanding with Vivek regarding his mute repressions. She called Ma’am.
Fatty has consulted a renowned nutritionist and joined the gym along with her daughter. She messaged it’s also bonding them together.
How do I know all this? I know everything. I am Jolly.
The day came when Rishabh sir had to leave for Hyderabad. Dhruv baba just came from the school, said bye to daddy, he confirmed that they will have at least a video call daily. Rohan, Rishabh’s friend, came to pick him up for the airport.
Sir didn’t say anything to Trisha ma’am while leaving. An air of melancholy was surrounded. Even if expected, departures are wrenching. Though by now she became an expert in holding her tears only to fall later.
Dhruv baba hollered from the sofa while watching TV, “Mamma, your Jolly is ringing.”
Ma’am came and picked me up. It was Rishabh sir.
“I have left the society maintenance check in the drawer can you please submit it in the society office.”
“But why check I could have transferred it online?”
“Checkbook would go to waste.” Rishabh sir answered.
“This is what annoys me about him.” Ma’am looked at kiddo.
Word “Jolly” was glittering at the backside of cell phone.
In the car, Rohan said: “Don’t take it otherwise but I think when we are happy to have an educated, independent wife as she earns herself, doesn’t bother us for anything and contribute to expenses as well, we are still fettered into the old system. Rather than man and woman we need to consider it as two people in a relationship, living together, working at their careers individually, and coming back home similarly.
Rishabh while pulling down his luggage out of the car contoured his dark sunglasses on his watery eyes.
Palki sahib ceremony- Daily ritual of taking the Guru Granth sahib to the Temple, from the Akal Takhat Sahib.
Kada Prasad- A sacred sweet prepared with ghee, wheat flour and sugar at temple.
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