Thursday 1 September 2016

Short Story 2016 Featured Jaseena Backer


The itinerary of the adventurous trip to Goa was routed to be exploratory which included alcohol and sex for those of us who had their vices virginity intact. We called it our dare bare expedition and it did justice to the name. Audacity was nothing new in my life though for the other three it was; and that’s what they carried away from the trip. That memorable day when we parted from college life, we took an oath to meet in Goa after we were all settled.

It took LILY six years to get together. I was looking to drown in the alcoholic pleasures and treasures of my friends. The biggest decision of my life was to be made on this land. I walked on the beach and let my feet sink in the sand; I swam in the sea and let my thoughts drown in the water; I sipped several pegs of whiskey and let my feelings be intoxicated but the rumination was too crucial for any distraction. The ball was in my court. Sidharth said he would not ask me to stay nor leave. He better not, because now it was my call if I want him. When the intemperance didn’t give me the euphoria for decision making I reminisced about my friends. 

I was sure that they have their lives going on better than me. Ishara was the first to get married and now has a four year old daughter in Dubai. Lekha was settled in Goa with her narrow minded joint family. Lyra was flying in from Johannesburg for this get together with a five month old foetus in her womb. Yanvi, that’s me came in from Chennai.

Ishara checked in to the cottage at mid night with a cranky child. Lyra came at dawn complaining about swollen feet and Ishara was fussing over her. I was witnessing two stages of motherhood before me and this was the major decision of my life at the moment. The local girl Lekha joined only late morning.

Sitting on the open wooden balcony, sipping on intoxicants overlooking the gushing water we reminisced the college days. From past we flew into the present. Ishara got up with her life story first, having begun her marital journey first. She was the most enthusiastic and focused among us, unanimously chosen as the leader of LILY. She never uttered a wrong word nor made a fallacious decision, very dependable and reliable for being a lawyer. Ishu had changed beyond understaning. Her high volume spoke volume about her dauntlessness. After having a daughter she took up working as a legal consultant was the gist of her story till we met her. The second part of her story had only one small sentence "Aman has a second wife."

As soon as we heard the word ‘second’ all the intoxication cleared way for curses for the other lady. "Who the hell is that bitch?" I spat at Ishu raging in anger. Ishu didn't answer; she just stood there holding Vodka in hands There was more silence in our room than water in the sea.. Then she pointed out to the child sleeping on the bed and said "she is from Aman's second marriage.”
"Ishu, are you out of your senses? You walk around with the bitch's daughter while that bastard honeymoons in Dubai?” I was never the one to mince words.

The typical lawyer that she was, she didn’t talk further but kept sipping at her vodka. She didn’t sob like woman in this situation was expected to when they are with friends. There was another woman in her marriage and she was so composed? I walked up to her and pulled at her collars shaking Goa from its vacation mode from within her and said "tell me more about that jezebel, I want to kill her.”
Ishu smirked and asked “Gun or knife? Be my guest. I am that bitch, Aman’s second wife. I am the other woman who spoiled a marriage." I left her collars like I lightning struck me. Lyra wobbled her way through the pillows that was holding her swollen feet and reached Ishu “what the hell do you mean you are the second wife? You had a pompous marriage in public; one of the big fat Indian weddings I have ever attended and so how do you become the second wife?”

Ishu was a co-wife? With a contumelious smile she went on "apparently Aman was married to a Phillipina four years before marrying me. But that marriage was not acceptable to his orthodox family due to difference in faith, culture and professional status. They couldn’t accept their US educated son’s marriage to a mere secretary. So they forced Aman to marry a lawyer keeping his first marriage in place, complying with his only condition for second marriage. And in Islam that is allowed.”

Ishu didn't know she entered her marriage through the second door. It was only when her daughter was a years old the skeleton came out of the closet. The first thing she did was to get a job as a legal consultant. She planned to file a suit for fraudulence against Aman and his family. She earns more than Aman now and she is buying her own apartment in her desert city and settling there. Aman was repenting and had asked her to stay in the second marriage as there was no child from the first marriage. But Ishu didn’t want to be a marriage breaker nor be the second option in her marital life.
I saw boldness oozing out of my placid friend. This is what breach of trust can do to the meekest of heart. And then she uttered “I wonder how the first wife took it when she came to know that her husband was marrying someone else to comply with the family’s conditions. One day I would say sorry to her despite it not being my fault. I want exclusivity in relationship. And Aman played the dual husband’s role pretty well till I busted his heaven. He was having best of both worlds. Husbands aren’t siblings to be sharing them with some else.” Not a tear came out of Ishu’s eyes. I didn’t know if that was chutzpah or it was indifference.

Lyra’s sobs started resonating in the room. She married her cousin who was her childhood love. It was a norm in her Kerala family culture to marry uncle’s children and that's where her love bloomed from. I thought Lyra was crying for Ishu, but she proved me wrong within the next hour.
“What Aman did to Ishu I am doing to Arjun.” She had our undivided attention and I asked her. “You are having an affair?” She nodded and continued, “I have cheated my husband in a different manner. I have emptied our investment and hid the truth from him. I know I have no rights on my side to give explanation but as my best friends I wish you all to hear me out. Arjun and I fell into the old school of marriage where they say married life becomes like air, taken for granted. The flavour of our love fell off the second week I landed in Jo-berg as Arjun got busy with work. I guess we have been in love for two decades and the romance and fervour went missing. The equation between us changed. I had a group of rich housewives who had a card club where I joined as a regular member. Being a novice in the game I loss all the time. It ate into all my pocket money. Since I wasn’t working I couldn’t pay off my debts to these ladies. It accumulated and then I realised that these ladies have dangerous backgrounds. They were professional gamblers who trapped innocent women into playing and then loot them. They blackmailed me into a huge ransom under the threat of gun. So I unlocked all our savings from the bank that Arjun had put in my name. Arjun doesn’t know that we are wiped out. I am in a trap as these women will continue blackmailing me.”

I couldn’t believe that Lyra was involved in dangerous gambling. Ishu immediately took to her lawyer demeanour “why did you opt to deal it without Arjun? You stirred a hornet’s nest?” Lyra responded lying on the couch looking at the open sky, “those ladies have managed some nude pictures of me in a compromising position. They drugged me and then had a man on the bed with me. I didn’t even know when all these happened. Could even be a morphed photo as they won’t give it to me to analyse. I know the face and clothes are mine. So what do I tell Arjun that I gambled, lost money, I was drugged and nudity in some camera?”

I wanted to pluck the living daylight out of Lyra’s happiness but I tied my tongue with an iron chain. “Lyra, happiness is not a 24x7 thing in marriage. Couldn’t you give Arjun some time to settle in married life before you went running to buy happiness? You waited all your life to live with this man and as soon as you got married you started looking elsewhere for happiness?” asked Ishu. “And now you have this baby, do you know you live a dangerous life?”
“Lyra, what have you contributed towards your happiness? Did gambling give you happiness? I asked her
Lekha said from a quiet corner “confess to Arjun. Arjun may not accept this deliberate mistake of yours but better to be honest to everyone including you.” I always knew Lekha would never make a convincing lawyer but she surprised me. “Lyra, you are a lawyer and how come you didn’t know the law of the land? Gambling could just land you in prison anywhere.” Lekha went on...

Studying law was Lekha’s liberation from her traditions and culture but she got chained back into traditional life after her marriage. She was the wrong person in the right place. She walked the Goan streets in fully clad saree. She spent the weekends in Goa without a drop of alcohol. She ushered in every New Year without a bash by the beach. While in college she would enter the college gate and shed her salwar suit like the onion peel and get into sleeveless tops and short skirts. Till the vacation her demure Indian culture would gather dust in the wooden cupboards of the hostel while she floated like a butterfly in the college canteen and library in skimpy clothes. She stored freedom in her mind like camel stored water in its hood. She said she needed enough freedom to last her a lifetime as she knew she would only marry within her family tradition and live a secluded life. So in college Lekha was all about drinks, movies and one night stands. She mastered the art of bed hopping and we had to educate her on sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. I always wondered what was so restricting about the salwars and sarees Lekha wore; why did she associate only western clothes with freedom? Why couldn’t she free her mind and thinking in traditional dupattas and saree pallus.

“Happy married life is an oxymoron Lyra. People will call you a superwoman when you wear the confidence robe but do they know the layers of emotional clothing under the robe? Find happiness in yourself. Tonight you will have to decide about your life. Going back without telling Arjun about your plight is dangerous especially since you have used up all the savings.” said Ishu
“When the baby will be born all will be fine, I will find happiness with the baby,” replied Lyra

“What about people who can’t have children? From which source do they derive happiness?” Asked Lekha.  “Remember the two abortions I had in college? Now looks like God is finally working Karma on me. Adharv won’t have children according to the medical reports. His mother isn’t patient with the treatment’s pace. She says that her son was perfectly normal and marrying me made him impotent because I am a possessed woman who wants to go out and work. Thus God is punishing Adharv. Respect; the main ingredient in life is missing in my marriage. The daughter-in-law isn’t a part of the house. She is only a womb” started Lekha with her story.

Why is parenthood the most important pillar for a long-term marriage? Lekha’s college life and her lifestyle had nothing to do with Adharv’s infertility so why was she shifting the onus of the parenthood to karma? One look at Lekha’s comfort in her sleeveless top and torn jeans will give you an answer to the question Ishu was about to ask.
“Lekha, you were the college topper. You can still take up a job. Besides you are not the one with the medical problem. Why are you putting up with the mudslinging of your mother-in-law? What is it that you want in life girl?”

Wasn’t it obvious that Lekha wanted respect and freedom in life more than children at the moment? The question on my mind was how much Lekha was willing to let go and how much she was ready to go behind. “Go and register in the bar association and get yourself into the court. Don’t give an ear to what your mother-in-law has to say; she isn’t living your life for you. Don’t take any shit from anyone. I will only leave for Dubai after you get associated with a law firm.” Ishu concluded about Lekha’s life and held up their drinks into cheers.
It wouldn’t be as easy as Ishu makes it seem, there are intricacies of the marriage and culture that Lekha is bound by. Ishu was on the beneficial side of the marriage so she could pull the confidence. I wonder if Lekha would.
We are four friends and we each had a tragedy happening in our marriages. Was everyone’s marriage as adventurous as ours or were we the chosen ones for the adventures?

We are all attached at the hips and they could see through my lie if I told them that my life was a rock and roll. So I decided to begin my saga. “My expedition with drugs and its repercussions didn’t do a good selling for me in the marriage market. Everyone knew I was a drug addict apart from being anorexic, so I was an easy reject. I didn’t meet the requirements of the matrimonial columns. I managed into Sidharth’s final list. We met only once and he was ready for marriage. I liked my mother-in-law as she was more enthusiastic to have me home than Sid was. We had a very simple and quick marriage ceremony which was solemnised in the registrar’s office. Sid was slow in everything and he wanted to take time to know each other before we consummated the marriage. I fell in love with him after three months of togetherness. He was so tender and loving in his ways but he never encouraged any physical advances from me including a formal hug. Having fallen in love with him for accepting a drug addict I was ready to give my all in love. He wasn’t ready even after eight months of marriage and I was beginning to be restless and suspicious. He showed love, care and concern to me but he was never attracted to me physically. After marriage my anorexic look had changed and I became a voluptuous woman.

We went on a beach expedition for a week to Bali, very carefully not calling it a honeymoon. I wished to hug him and kiss him on the beach but each time I tried to hold him he would slip off. On the third day I got angry at him and asked him if he was keeping away from me because I was a drug addict. He then told me the truth of his life that acted as the flimsy wall in our marriage. Sid is a gay. He had a partner who he wanted to live with but his mother wouldn’t even live to see that. In order to save the life of his mother he ditched his partner and married me. He was in love with me but he couldn’t consummate the marriage because of his sexual orientation. He had not cheated on me after marriage. Now my marriage is at a threshold to continue or discontinue. Ishu, what advice do you have for me? Lyra, should I go looking for happiness elsewhere because my marriage is incomplete? Lekha, how can I ever have a child through a gay?”

Silence was the response to my question so I continued, “What actually completes a marriage? Sex? Children? For a month I was angry at Sid and his mother. I stopped talking to the lady who was the sweetest to me; because I knew there was a bitter intension behind those diabetic words. After a month something strange happened to me; I realised that there was no love lost for Sid. I loved him just as much; the sexual orientation didn’t matter, and those lies didn’t bother me nor did the separate rooms we slept in. If none of these mattered why am I making a decision on my marriage? All that weighed heavier on the weighing scale of my life was the support Sid was to me. The reason for my drug abuse was because I was from a broken family but my husband provided all the balm that I required to come back to a normal life. Even when he told me about his sexual orientation not once was I tempted to go back the drug way. So what more did I want from Sid?”

Lyra ate a late lunch and took a nap. Ishu played with her daughter in the beach. Lekha and I drank in silence for the next two hours. We had spent from sunrise in the cottage having open heart surgeries like conversations and we didn’t realise when the sun set on us. We were all ready for new beginnings. When we came in to the hotel we came with physical and emotional baggage but now I see clear sky for all of us. We weighed lesser on our minds and happier on our hearts. All that we did was talk and it was cathartic enough to feel lighter.

“Yanvi, I want to talk to Arjun. He might never forgive me but I can’t live with this guilt anymore. What if he helps me? Ishu, can you handle my case if I decide to file one on the ladies? ” asked Lyra
Ishu hugged and told Lyra “Arjun know all about your dangerous liaisons. He has been talking to me about the case and moving to Dubai. He has already found a job in Dubai. He and I will handle the legalities. But I told him to wait and see if you are repenting before he came open to support you. Arjun is a gem, don’t lose him.”

By night we stepped out into the beach for the first time after we checked into the hotel. It started raining heavily and it felt as if the weight was being washed off from our minds. When the weight of adulthood left us, the lightness of the childhood came back into our lives.
I was in the point of no return. Like the pilots say in aviation terms; I had travelled too far away from my origin and had not enough fuel to go back there. Whether it is coined for the aviation industry or used by Shakespear in Julius Ceaser; right now that’s where I find my life. I was at the vestibule of decision and Sid was open to whatever I desired. Everybody says that there is light at the end of the tunnel. My tunnel was too long and walking in darkness to meet the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t the option. So I decided to carry the torch in my own hands and meet Sid at the end of the tunnel. Sex is not the predominant factor in marriage and we were the proof to it as we have lived devoid of it for eight months. At this moment I love him enough to go back to him and continue living our companionship.

The next three days LILY spent without another word about our present or future. Till we met next time LILY made a decision to be blissful.
LILY- Lyra, Ishara, Lekha and Yanvi.

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