Two sides to every story
Vikramaditya Chatwal. Vikram's liked the sound of his name when it was announced in the courtroom. But when it came to meeting a beautiful girl, especially one who was almost a decade younger than him, the name felt old, ancient even.
But she didn't seemed to mind. In fact she did not mind anything about him- the extra pounds around his waist, his 70s music taste, his not-so-modern sense of fashion, his salt and pepper hair ( he preferred referring to his hair in that way, rather than the more honest 'grey hair'). She found it all sweet, alluring even.
It's not like it sounds. I know what you are thinking. I am sure terms like midlife crisis are crossing your mind. I know you will find it difficult to believe, but most of these things are not planned. They just happen. And you are powerless in the presence of the force of nature that we call fate.
Because it had to be fated. My meeting Sana. It was in the cards. And I was only playing the hand I was dealt.
I am not much of a reader. My wife Mishka is. Now, now don't jump to any conclusions. Am sure terms like cheating a-hole are crossing your mind. But as I mentioned before, its not planned. It just happened. I beseech you to hear me out.
So as I was saying, I am not much of a reader. But for a certain case of mine, I needed to refer to this book called 'Not without my daughter', a true story about an American woman whose daughter was taken from her by her husband in Iran. I asked Mishka if she had read it, and her response was the usual eye roll which basically meant 'who hasn't', knowing fully well that I had not. I hated it when she acted like that. If you read books it does not give you a moral right of superiority over non-readers. But Mishka judged me for not being a reader. She never said so, but I knew she did.
But Mishka was a doer. She liked to take control of things. So she told me she will get me the book. And true to her word, in 2 days she passed me an old worn out copy of the book, "I had to get it from the second hand book store, as there were no new copies available at this time" she explained. I did not really mind, as it was merely a reference I needed. But when I started reading it, I was hooked. And the fact that it was a true story, made it even more appealing for me.
I was reading it one Saturday morning when Mishka was scheduled to teach her cooking class. I was glad she was further pursuing her passion for cooking, but having 5 chatty housewives at home on a Saturday morning, drove me up the wall.
So I took the book and left home to sit at my favourite cafe. A quiet place, which was not very popular, and hence I liked it very much. I ordered my usual club sandwich and black coffee and I continued with my reading.
I looked up nearly half an hour later, to find a pretty young girl on the opposite table. Now usually I would ignore/ politely smile depending on how beautiful she was- forgive me, I am a man, somethings are just in our DNA. But with her I could not bear to look away. It's not like she was a stunning beauty, she was pretty enough for one to give a second glance, but it was because of her eyes. Yes I know you would think 'eyes' are so cliche. But she was crying, her big, beautiful, brown almond shaped eyes were moist with tears. And tears are my weakness. I cannot bear to see any girl cry. My friends tease me that I consider myself a knight in shinning armour out to rescue the damsels in distress- to be honest, I kinda do that, being a family and criminal lawyer.
So back to that moment. The moment which if I would have let slide, my story would not be today what it is. But the moment did not simply pass. It was in that moment that I went up to her table, and asked her if she was OK. She looked up but hesitated slightly and then haltingly said "No I am not OK".
Now I have not met many woman who admit such things honestly. Mishka had the annoying habit of always saying she was fine, when it was evident she was not. I was the expected to cajole information out of her and only after that could I console her. It gets rather tiring after a while.
So when this lovely girl opposite me with teary eyes admits to me that she is not OK, what else can I do, but sit down and ask her of she wanted to talk about it.
And that is how Sana entered my life. As I said. It was not planned. It simply happened.
I always believed I was different. When I saw movies orTV soaps about adulterous affairs, I always blamed the husband, and not the 'other woman'. As he owes loyalty to his wife- she is just a stranger. A stranger with loose morals, but a stranger none the less. But like my mum used to say, it's easy to be idealistic when it's not your life.
We had been married three years. I met Vikram when I needed legal advice as my business was being sued. I can't say it was love at first sight, but I was a smitten-kitten. Vikram's was, actually still is, very handsome and exceedingly charming. So after a year of courtship, we got married.
And after three years, he fell in love, again. Or may be it is for the first time. May be he never really loved me. Trip- my assistant and good friend (Tripti)- keeps reminding me to not dwell in self pity. She wants me divorce him on grounds of infidelity, take half of his property in alimony, and his future earnings in maintenance and take in a toy-boy for good measure. She even has a short-list ready. Now the thought does seem attractive, but at that point I was incapable of any action.
So I cried. A lot. I have not been much of a crier. I am the 'get off your ass and do something' kind of person. But I felt cheated! Yes I know I was cheated on. So it's right to feel cheated. But I felt cheated because the thought of separating came to me many times over the past few years, but I did not act on it. I persevered,as I believed marriage is for keeps. So I tried, till I guess I stopped trying. But went through the motions. So I felt cheated by fate as fate intervened in his life and got him to leave. Why could something not have happened to me which made me leave?
All I was interested in knowing was WHY. Was she prettier than me? Younger? Heard she was. But that can't be the reason alone can it? Was she more interesting? More fun? Better in bed? What was the damn reason!? That's all what I wanted to know.
Trip advised me that obsessing about her won't get me anywhere. We always used 'her' and 'she' when we referred to her. Like taking her name would make her real. Except she was real. She was the real reason my husband was leaving me.
Mishka wants to meet Sana. Seriously! I don't understand it. I have told her kindly, yet firmly that I could not continue living with her. I offered to pay her the rightful alimony and maintenance. All I wanted was a fuss-free divorce. It's ironic, being a family lawyer myself, I know there is nothing like a fuss-free divorce. It always gets messy as emotions are involved. But usually it's about the kid's custody the joint property, the monies. Never in my experience about the wife wanting to meet the girl. Sorry I cannot refer to Sana as the 'other woman'.
Things had started to unravel slowly between Mishka and I, once the first year of marriage was over. May be even before that. You can never remember the exact time can you? Was it because we had different interests? She loved to read and I loved to hike. She never owned a pair of trainers till she met me. I barely managed to get her to walk to the cr park, let alone climb mountains. Or was it because I kept late hours? I had recently left a firm and was starting on my own, so what did she expect? I reach home everyday by 7 pm and we have the dinner that she had lovingly prepared together? She was a wonderful cook. It's no wonder as she is the culinary business. But sometimes it felt like I was the one she experimented her new creations on, rather than the husband who simply wanted his favourite sabzi and dal for dinner.
As I was saying, I don't know when things went sour. Actually they never really went sour. We did not argue or fight too much. But we stopped talking. We spoke to each other more in public, than we did when we were alone together. We drifted apart. I guess, it's the simplest way to explain it.
And Sana walked into my life like the proverbial breath of fresh air. She enjoyed listening to me, she liked sharing stories about herself. Enjoying someone's company...is that too much to expect from the person you are sharing your life with?
May be its because she is younger than I am, but Sana looks up to me. Not in an idolising way. Just in the simple way that my opinions matter to her. She wants to involve me in her decisions- big and small ones. It was all very new to me...and I realised I liked these feelings very much. Her vulnerability was attractive to me. I wanted to protect her from all the bad and evil things in the world.
We slowly gravitated towards each other. And before I knew it, I had fallen for her.
Coming back to the present...I don't know what to do with Mishka's insistence on meeting Sana. Sana says we should get it over and done with. I am still uncertain and frankly, rather apprehensive.
So finally Vikram got around to letting me meet with her. We are meeting next week at coffee shop, a neutral environment that no one feels threatened in.
The day seemed to drag on. Tired of moping around the house, I decided to go to the mall. I am not really a mall kind of person, but that day I felt like being a in crowd of people so I can walk about aimlessly and not be alone.
And then I saw them. Vikram and Her. She was driving the car and he was siting in the passenger seat. She seemed like a pretty confident driver, and was driving slightly faster than the speed limit. They got pulled over by a traffic cop. I know it's silly, but I parked my car on the side, away from sight, and watched them. It was Vikram who got out of the car and apologised to the cop. He discreetly pulled out 200 rupees and handed in to the cop. They were then let go.
It may seem like an ordinary scene to you all. But it shook me. If it were us, and I was driving, I would have managed it all on my own. I would have looked at any help from Vikram as an insult, like I am not capable of managing a situation. I don't know why, but I am sure that Sana was more than capable of managing too, but she preferred to let him do it.
After that I could not help myself. Like a car crash that you can't look away from, I could not look away from them. I had to know what happened next. I followed their car, and finally walked behind them as they entered the mall.
Unlike us, they did not split and went different ways to do their own stuff and met 20 minutes before leaving the mall for a coffee. They walked together hand in hand, and stopped at various places, some which Vikram would have wanted- like the ice-cream stall where she did not even take an ice-cream. And some which were obviously what she liked, like the accessory store. Here he indulged her patiently, letting her try different earrings, keep them back, pick them up again. She sort his opinion for every little purchase and he was enjoying the process.
At the food court, he was the one who found the seat, made sure she was comfortable, asked her what she wanted and then got her all that, and more. She was enjoying the attention, but what amazed me more, was that he was loving giving it to her.
And it then struck me. The plain truth. Vikram needed to be needed. And she enjoyed letting him feel needed.
He wanted to take care of her. And I never let him take care of me.
I was surprised (and relieved) to get a call from Mishka saying she did not want to meet Sana anymore. She was willing to sign the divorce papers too.
I don't know what happened for her to change her mind, but I did not want to dwell on it.
I went over and told Sana the good news. When she rushed into my arms, her eyes brimming with tears, I held her tight. I wiped her tears, kissed her forehead lightly and promised to take care of her forever. She said she could not think of anything she could want more.
There are 2 sides to every story, but there usually is one truth. And here the truth was that Mishka never really needed Vikram. And Vikram wanted to be with someone who did.