As I checked my messages, I saw one from Diksha. It read please come in the evening.
I sat like that for long just staring at the message.
Diksha and me share a special relationship. We are sisters and yet not. My mother used to work as a clerk in the estates of the Mistry’s. Diksha was an only child and a lonely one too. So her parents encouraged my mother to drop me at their place.
And that is how we became sisters. We went to the same school and played with the same toys. The only difference being that I had to work harder at my studies and then for professional entrance exams, while she had everything easy. She was encouraged to study and learn the tricks of their business but she was least interested in all that. She preferred going to a finishing school in Switzerland.
And so while she skated in the Alps I struggled through engineering. No studies were not a problem with me. Tuition fees was. Yes the Mistry’s would have funded me but I preferred to win a scholarship and did the odd jobs for some additional money. Odd jobs meaning giving tuitions to kids whose parents were too busy to teach them.
Meanwhile the Mistry’s were worried as to whom to pass on their legacy. Their daughter seemed to have no interest in running their various businesses.
Nikhil Awasthi was my classmate. We often confided in each other. No we were not in love but were in similar circumstances. He too was in constant need of money being the son of an ordinary ‘kiranawallah’. Their shop was rented and whats more they were heavily in debt. Nikhil used to dream of making it big, closing down the shop and of giving a good life to his siblings.
Once when we were discussing Thermodynamics, it so happened that Mrs. Mistry dropped in and took a liking to the young chap. But then Nikhil was handsome and quite brilliant intellectually too.
And it so happened that exactly a year after that the very next week that we graduated, Nikhil and Diksha got married.
Yes, Nikhil’s father retired and became the PA of the Director. The Director of course being his son Nikhil. His three siblings were sent to posh private schools while Nikhil himself immersed himself in learning the tricks of the trade.
While I struggled through jobs and juggled with a home. Yes, I too got married to a guy chosen by my parents. And eventually we had a son.
Diksha and Nikhil had three kids. Diksha wanted some more as she didn’t want her kids to be as lonely as she had been but nature saw to it that she didn’t.
TRING the mobile rang. I bent my head to see a message from Nikhil. Can you meet me at 3 p.m.,it read.
Nikhil decided to leave Diksha after 27 years of marriage. The reason he cited was incompatibility. I mean after 27 years and three kids… don’t you just get used to each other??
I knew my day was ruined. I just called up my Secretary and told her that I was taking it easy that day.
As I lay with a cold compress on my forehead, my son walked in. ‘what’s the matter ma, all’s well?’, he asked.
I just uttered, ‘Diksha’
He said, ‘oh’ and walked off after drawing the curtains.
Diksha has been on a self-pity trip since Nikhil deserted her. She has been moaning so much that her own kids have taken refuge in posh Hotels. And for that she pities some more. Every day for the past twenty-one days, I have been called to be with her and listen to her monologues.
But it was the first time Nikhil had called me.
And so we met at one of the cafes in the other side of town.
‘What is it Nikhil, please be quick and brief. I have to go and visit Diksha too’, I said
Oh, so she has caught hold of you now, is it?’, he said
‘You discovered that you were incompatible after 27 years Nikhil? Isn’t it a bit too much?’, I asked.
He took a long deep breath.
‘You know Anu when we got married, How the situation was? I needed money and I got ample of it. True Mr. Mistry taught me everything. And Dikha taught me everything else, like how to dress in formals, how to speak effectively, hell she taught me how to hold a knife and fork. But is that the only thing required in a marriage. What about love, companionship, understanding. For Diksha I was always a puppet which she wanted to mould and possess. She never took me as an individual’.
‘IS there any other woman in your life Nikhil’, I asked point-blank.
‘After Diksha, Mrs. Mistry and my daughter, I don’t need any other women in my life Anu’, he said.
‘So is there any man in your life’, I asked. I mean you never knew nowadays.
‘Shut up Anu, it is not about THAT. It is about understanding and companionship and……
‘I know, I know’, I said and walked off.
Diksha sat in a dark room with her hair all strewn and eyes swollen. Somehow she reminded me of Kaikayi in her ‘kop bhavan’. Only that there was no Dasaratha to listen to her demands
I was sick of both of them.
‘Till when you have decided to be like this Dikshu, ‘ I asked.
‘Come on Anu’, she said, ‘How can you be so heartless. my husband of 27 years has left me. The person whom my father groomed, the one whom I taught to hold a knife and fork has left me’.
‘So you are mourning the graduation of your student?’, I said, ‘He has moved on, you move on too’.
‘Anu’, she screamed.
‘For God sake, Diksha, there is a business to be taken care of. Three children who are yet to be settled. And here you are rolling in self-pity. Maybe you smothered Nikhil so much that he didn’t have any breathing space. Maybe you never were fit for each other…wahtever it be. Stop moaning and start living’, I said.
‘Everyone is ungrateful. You forget that it is my father who had paid your school fees, it was my house that you grew up in and….’, she said
‘Yes it was your father that paid my school fees but it was my hard work which brought me where I am now. Yes, I grew up in your house because you were lonely’, I said and then picked my bag and moved out.
I knew Diksha had some more fodder to moan about. I do not know who was right but I knew it was time for me to move on.