Smita was on a high because now she was convinced that Saurabh was in love with her. This was the first time that someone had fallen in love with her. In school and college there were many boys who had fallen for her but they did not count. She had always admired boys much older than her or men. She never had a crush on a teenaged boy. In fact she never had a real crush. She always imagined an older boy or man in her dreams, one she could look up to. A man whose strength poured out as much from his eyes, as from his arms. He would crush her in his embrace and kiss her gently. Once she reached puberty she imagined the man becoming rough with her.Seazing her with force and kissing her passionately and then making love to her. Saurabh came close to her dream man. He was a passionate lover, though she had refused to go the distance with him. That is because he was mean to her a month back. He only wanted her physically, without bothering to express his love. She had denied him the pleasure of making love to her. A fight had followed and they had broken up. But the little break in between brought his emotions to the fore. He had expressed his undying love for her and now wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
‘Oh how exciting’ she thought.
Then she paused to think.
But how frightening, if thought in real terms !
‘ I mean i have my own life with my husband Abhijeet and my son Arnav. What kind of a life was Saurabh talking about ? How can we spend our lives together?
What did he mean when he said that he was willing to leave his world ? Was he willing to leave his wife and daughter? And was he expecting me to leave Abhijeet and my son ?’
The very thought shocked her.
‘How could i have felt happy when he suggested that we leave our worlds behind? It would rock our worlds, our lives.’
Again she felt numb.
But after a few moments the visual of Abhijeet kissing her hand rocked her heart. She felt a shiver of excitement run through her body. The touch of his strong hand on her felt divine. She felt a sharp pang of love stab her heart.
‘Oh God ! What is this pain ? Why is love so painful? Of course i want to spend the rest of my life with him. I cant spend my whole life with Abhijeet. It is like living with death.’
She paused to think again. Then the contradictory thought came,
‘But i cant leave Abhijeet.’
‘What ? You want to live with death all your life ?’
‘ But life has always lived with death. Hasn’t it? Or in the shadow of death realistically speaking.’
‘But why should you ? Haven’t you had enough of that uncaring selfish man? Abhijeet has raped you night after night throughout your marriage. He has never thought about what you are feeling or whats going on through your body and mind. Has he once thought about your orgasm ? He just rapes you and rolls over. And you want to stick around with him ?’
‘But what will he do without me ? And what would Arnav do? After all i am his mother.’
All this was coming to her mind when she was serving Abhijeet and Arnav their dinner.
‘Maybe Saurabh wants me to bring Arnav with me. Maybe he will bring his own daughter too. We may all live together.’
She suddenly became aware that she had split herself in to two, just like everyone does when faced with death or destiny. Doom or hope. The transition from a hellish life to heavenly love is always a tough one. You go on splitting yourself in to many pieces.
When death starts lurking round the corner, human beings feel most alive.
The death of her life with Abhijeet was lurking around, with a fair chance that it was going to breathe its last. She was throbbing with life, yet somewhere within her she was grieving at having to let go of her painful past. She was worried about what would happen to the poor old wife-rapist Abhijeet, when he would be left alone in the world. She was genuinely concerned about him perhaps for the first time in their married life.
Abhijeet unaware of her thoughts or existence got up from the dining table to wash his hands after dinner.
‘How weird is habit ? It makes you feel attached even to someone who is as animalistic as him; Abhijeet.’ She thought that she would visit him once in a while, if he allowed her to meet him after divorce. She was sure that Saurabh wouldn’t mind.
She had started to work out/solve imaginary equations in her mind only because Saurabh had said that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Smita asked herself to hold her horses. Maybe he had said it only to express his undying love, so that he could win her back.
‘Maybe he will never bring it up again.’
But she had already embarked on an emotional roller coaster ride which was now making her feel giddy.
Saurabh started meeting her everyday now. He did not talk about making love to her in some shady hotel anymore. He acted like a good boy and only kissed her. Of course his hands would wander off to her breasts, but she didn’t mind that. He once brought up the topic of being together, but only fleetingly. Smita did not mind his silence on the topic since she needed more time to think it over, and until then she was happy with the status quo. They could go on meeting clandestinely for as long as they wanted.
Then one day he told her, ‘ I spoke about you to Shipra. She wants to meet you.’
‘You spoke about me to your wife ? But why ?’ asked Smita.
‘Ultimately she has to meet you. She meets all my women friends.’
‘So i am one ofyour many women friends? Is it ?’
‘ No. With you it’s different. Shipra doesn’t know as yet that i love you. Meet her. You will like her.’
Smita thought, ‘ I will like her ? But why do i have to like his wife ?’
Saurabh was insistent and as bizarre as it felt, Smita agreed to meet his wife, Shipra. She did not know about Saurabh’s motive behind arranging this meeting. Nor did she know what he had told his wife about her. But she was certain that Shipra must be thinking that Saurabh and she were in a physical relationship. Maybe she was insistent about meeting her just to check out the competition.
Shipra had thrown a small party at her terrace flat and Smita went to the party dressed very ordinarily. She actually did not give a damn anymore about what Shipra would think of her.
She was a middle class girl, the wife of a Section engineer in railways, but the ferocity of her pursuit of love had brought her to this upper class party. It gave her the strength and the style to walk in to such a party with grace, her head held high.
At heart she had never been a wife, only half a mother, but she sure was a full time woman in love. None of the women in the party could match her attractiveness, though Saurabh’s wife Shipra was a stunning looking woman. But to match the depth of Smita’s eyes was impossible. Shipra and her coterie were shallow people. Not because they were rich, but because they had chosen to lead lives of convenience, lives which were compromised so that they could hurt less and which had no silence, nor dialogue with the self. Everyday parties until late nights made sure that they did not have the time and energy to face their inner selves. They were people who had only seen their shadows, not their souls. Compared to them Smita was vulnerable but her inner strength was much greater than all of them put together, because she had faced her demons. She had looked inwards and knew that as a wife she had strayed, had fallen in love with someone’s husband, but at the same time she had accepted her truth and forgiven herself. She knew that she could not survive only on air, water and expensive metals like gold or stones like diamonds. She needed love and she had come here to be amongst strangers only in pursuit of her love.
Saurabh introduced Smita to Shipra. Shipra was delighted to meet her. In fact she found Smita very beautiful. ‘She is so pretty Saurabh. Your taste in women certainly seems to be getting better. Now will you get her a drink and then leave us alone to do some girl talk? I am sure you know what she likes to drink.’ ‘ I do.’
Saurabh left them and Shipra turned towards Smita. ‘Isn’t he sweet ?’ ‘He is.’ ‘ He is extremely romantic too. He can love more than one woman at a time.” Smita understood the subtext of her sentence. She did not react to it. ‘Have you guys had sex?’ Smita was stunned at Shipra’s directness but did not show her reaction. ‘No. Your husband was insisting on it but i put my foot down.’ It was Shipra’s turn to get stunned by Smita’s boldness. In fact Smita was stunned at her own boldness, but she knew within herself that this was the only way to deal with someone like Shipra. That Shipra would understand only this kind of language. Shipra fell silent for a while. Saurabh came back with a drink, handed it over to Smita. ‘How are you two girls getting along?’ ‘Just fine Saurabh. You have truly surprised me with your choice this time’ said Shipra. Saurabh smiled and lovingly looked at Smita. Shipra did not miss the look in her husband’s eyes. When he looked at Shipra again there was an unwritten message in her eyes that he should vanish. Saurabh nodded and left to join the men. Amongst these men Smita noticed a very funky looking man. He was dressed in orange. He had a lot of beads around his neck. His long hair was tied in a ponytail and there was a sandalwood ‘tikka’ on his forehead. ‘We have an open marriage Smita.’ Shipra suddenly brought Smita back to reality. Smita said, ‘I know. He has told me about your open marriage. I respect that. I do not want to disturb your open marriage. But i have made it very clear to him that as long as he is seeing me, he cannot cheat on me.’ Shipra was again stunned by Smita’s boldness. She thought how can someone from the middle class, living in a railway colony ( as Saurabh had told her about Smita’s background ) dare to talk to me so audaciously. She could not see the hidden lioness in Smita. Love had made her rise above any class or creed and given her the power to become what she had become in the moment. Love had made her fearless and bold. She had risked her entire boring but secure life for the sake of Saurabh’s love. What fear could Shipra instil in her? She had already crossed the boundaries of fear by straying in her marriage.
Infact now she was debating in her mind how much more should she destroy herself for the sake of love ? She wondered if Shipra knew that Saurabh was planning on divorcing her. By not committing to Saurabh about leaving Abhijeet, in a way Smita had contributed to Shipra’s married life. At least it was still breathing.
Shipra on the other hand was pitying Smita. She knew that like the rest, Smita would soon be nursing a broken heart. Saurabh had a way of completely destroying the woman once she had given in to his physical demands. Since he had not yet had sex with Smita, he was still pursuing her with his lies and false love.
Saurabh looked at the two women standing together and thought ‘how desirable Smita looks, even though she is dressed so simply. No amount of designer clothes and jewellery can make any of these woman in the party look half as attractive as Smita.’
He wanted to go and take her in his arms and crush her in his embrace. But he knew that Shipra would kill him if he did that in public. She always told him ‘Do what you want behind closed doors. But never embarrass me in public.’ He was brought back to the party by Shiny’s voice. Suddenly Shiny was announcing that Jags ( the funky guru ) would like to say something.
Jags cleared his throat and said, ‘ I dont want to say anything but Shiny is insisting that i repeat what i told him, aloud. You see these days everyone has questions about relationships.’
Smita was all ears suddenly. So was everyone else.
‘Someone wants to know why they are still with someone, whom they dont love. And someone asks me why did she and her boyfriend part even though they were madly in love ? Our urban society has become much more accepting about relationships without a certificate, which were once not acceptable.’ Jags said and smiled. ‘But this freedom to indulge in relationships has also created chaos in many lives. Someone’s husband is involved with a young girl. Someone’s wife is involved with a man or a boy who is younger and more exciting than her husband. Indulgence brings pleasure, but it also brings chaos. Of course some couples truly fall in love. I am not saying that everything that goes on is only physical. There is love, deep love in some relationships.’ Smita looked briefly at Saurabh. The guru continued, emphatically saying, ‘ But you should know how relationships work on a deeper level.’
Everyone in the party was all ears. It was like this rockstar guru had touched a chord in everyone’s heart and life.
‘You see, we see only bodies. Our eyes are only equipped to see matter, bodies. But actually we are souls, who have been given our individual journeys. The body is temporary, it will go back to dust, but souls are eternal and they are on a cosmic journey. When we choose a partner we are actually choosing another soul.’ Guruji paused so that everyone could absorb his words. ‘We can form a long bond only with those souls who are on similar journeys like us and are going to the same destination. So..we come together for a certain journey that will take us to a predestined destination.’
Smita looked at Saurabh. Saurabh looked at her too. The same question arising in their minds about their relationship.
Jags continued, ‘We part with someone we may love, sometimes for the stupidest of reason, because we are on different journeys, to different destinations. We have different karma to complete with different people. So even if two people are madly in love, they can still part. Because they have come to learn different lessons in the physical world. Their destinations are different.’
Smita felt a stab of pain in her heart.
‘ And certain people may not be in love with each other, but they can still continue to live together for a long long time. Because their journeys are destined to be together, to a similar destination.’
It was Shipra’s turn to look at Saurabh and then at Smita, as if trying to tell Smita triumphantly with a silent look that ‘ I have him and will always have him.’
Jags said, ‘ Isnt it strange that the words destiny and destination have a certain similarity ? In sound, in their association with our lives?’
Smita once again felt that she was standing at a crossroad in her life. The future of her relationship with Saurabh was going to be decided by unknown higher forces.
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