The Near Perfect Woman - contd
by Preethi Warrier
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And then, on their tenth anniversary, Sumit took her to dinner and insisted on keeping the kids with his parents. Anu loved it, all alone like old times, no kids, a drive and a dinner together. He did everything to make her comfortable, ordered her favourite dishes and then suddenly said, “Anu, you know this lady Tara Rai?” Of course she knew Tara, Anu had met her at quite a few parties she attended with Sumit. She had also seen Tara’s photos on some business magazines, Tara was famous , CEO or CMO of some famous company whose name Anu couldn’t remember. Anu liked Tara.
“What about her?” she asked. Sumit went on to tell her that Tara had been his classmate in business school and that they had dated. Anu didn’t know how to react, with her eyes wide open, she listened. He continued,” Well, we were serious and I wanted to get married. But then she was keen to pursue her career and didn’t want to get married. Being from a different caste and community, mom couldn’t dream of her as a bahu. So then, we split.”
“Then you married me,” said Anu. “It was a sacrifice you made, for your parents. “
“No,” he said. “I loved you the moment I saw you. But then I kept meeting Tara often, officially you know. But then two years ago in London, we met, on a personal level... She said she still loved me and wanted to settle down. I don’t know what happened, we ended up, you know... and then we did meet up for a few times, abroad, and now she is pregnant with my kid, she wants to keep the kid.”
Anu felt her head banging, she wanted to vomit, cry, run, she didn’t know. But she ended up asking, “What do you want? “
He said,” I, hmm... got the baby’s sex determined, it’s allowed abroad. I know it’s a boy. I want it too.”
She just got up and ran towards the door. Sumit didn’t stop her, she hailed a taxi and rushed home. She didn’t know what she said or where she went. She reached home, the kids had slept, in-laws were watching TV. They looked at her, didn’t ask her anything, not even where Sumit was. Did they know, she wondered. She went to the bathroom, vomited it all out.
She didn’t know what time it was when she stopped weeping. So that’s why Sumit had insisted on marrying her within two months of meeting her, not because he had fallen for her madly, but so that he could somehow forget Tara. And that’s why her in-laws had never interfered in their lives, so that Sumit would live peacefully with Anu. She had heard stories about infidelity, but her Sumit? And, he was so cheap , he could do anything for a boy?
That’s when Sumit entered. He pulled her to him but she forced herself free. He said,” I love you and the kids. I always want to be with you. But I used to love her, it’s my kid she has. I can’t leave her like this. “
Now Anu spoke with rage. “After everything that you did, you wish to keep her here, and that too, only for the boy? How dare you. I feel ashamed of myself to have loved a cheap chauvinist like you. Don’t you know you fool, that it’s men who decide the baby’s gender?”
He heard her and said,” Enough. I love Tara and she will live with me. She wants to meet you, make friends with you, and you behave typical Indian bahu. Yes, you were a compromise. I have spent ten years toiling for you and your kids. I just can’t take it anymore. If you wish to leave, I won’t stop you, but Tara will live with me. But then, just one thing, how will you live without me paying for you?” He banged the door and left the room.
It was six in the morning when she woke up, she needed water and went to the kitchen.
Her mother- in- law was making tea.
She came to Anu and putting her arms around Anu’s shoulders, she said, “Don’t cry beta, men will be men.” Anu asked with a ray of hope ,“ Mummyji, you won’t let Tara live here with us, will you?”. And the lady said,”Beta, she was his first choice, you took her place. If he loves her, how can we stop him, especially when she is giving him a son?”
Anu pushed the lady’s hand away. She couldn’t describe how much she loathed them all. She didn’t come out of her room, she heard Sumit going to office, kids being sent to school. Neither Sumit nor her in-laws came to check upon her. Anu opened the room, went to the kitchen, made herself some tea and sat at the window.
And today, watching the rains from her room, she thought, “My husband doesn’t need me, the man I loved and trusted, says I was a compromise. Nobody even cares if I live or die. I spent so many years loving him, serving him, being a perfect wife and he judges me with the gender of my kids. He wants me to leave me, Akanksha and Amisha so easily, just like that.”
Her phone rang , she saw it was her mother. Amidst all the confusion, she had totally forgotten about her own mother. She didn’t want to attend the call, she didn’t want to burden her mom, but then reluctantly she picked up the call and as soon as she heard her mother’s voice, unknowingly she wept and blurted out everything.
Her mother calmly said, “Let’s meet in your favorite restaurant, what’s it, CCD something?” Anu agreed to meet her in half an hour at Cafe Coffee Day, she somehow didn’t know what to do, she wanted to hug her mother and cry.
And there she was, sipping her coffee at CCD, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her mother would come now , all tensed up, and like everybody else, advising her to compromise and live in that house for the sake of saving her marriage and her daughters.
Her mother entered soon, cursing the rains and the coffee rates. Anu started crying gain, but her mother stopped her mid way, took her hand and said, “See ,it’s simple. That man is an idiot. He doesn’t know how lonely he will be in his life, now that you , Akanksha and Amisha are moving in with us. He will regret what he said to you all his life, when he wouldn’t have you and your two angels waiting for him at home.”
Anu opened her mouth to tell that Tara would take her place, but her mother cut in, “He is marrying her only for a baby boy. Just imagine how shallow their love is, and how sad that girl would be when she comes to know of it.”
Anu smiled, she couldn’t believe her mother was so strong. And that one statement from her made everything fall so much in place. But she said,” After all these years, how can I burden you with me and my kids?”
Her mother looked at her angrily and said,” I always told you, be independent. Not that it would have changed Sumit, but you would have had the confidence to tell him that he doesn’t need to take care of you. In any case, now you will listen to me. You will join again as a teacher, we will talk to your ex-colleagues. I will cook for you and the kids. We will get a good tuition teacher to teach them. They will go to their music classes with you, because you too were a good singer and now you will continue your lessons. As for everything else, either we will help, or we will outsource. But you will not give up your career, just to be a perfect mother. Wonder who writes the rules for perfection these days.”
Anu wept now, with joy. Everything looked so sorted. Her mother had always been there for her, but Anu had drifted away, been angry with her and had hidden things from her. But now that they were back together, nothing else mattered. Anu was going home.. ***