|Looks are deceptive!
In my previous story ‘Inside Out’ I had told you that Aman, a bachelor tenant, had vacated the house in Reena’s neighborhood. And only last month a couple came to occupy that house on rent -- Manu and Maya. Reena often sees them in the lane, mostly together, and she thought they were a cool couple. Her maid had already given her some brief information which she got from her circle that they are so friendly and nice, and both of them are working.
One evening Reena was walking in her vegetable garden admiring and occasionally inspecting the fruits of her labor. Suddenly she heard a loud giggle and when she looked around, she saw Manu and Maya walking down the lane with their hands full of shopping bags. Maya was petite and faircomplexoned and Manu was literally “tall, dark, and handsome”.
“Lovely couple! Looks like newly married! She is very pretty.. and how thick is his moustache..but it looks cool and adds to his manliness”, Reena mumbled as they walked past her house talking and giggling and occasionally giving a glance at each other. They seemed so much in love. At this time, Reena’s phone rang, and she went inside the house talking to the caller.
A week later, on a Sunday mid morning, Reena went to the nearby mall to buy some nice kurtis and a couple of sarees. Normally she wears western clothes and thus has limited stock of traditional clothing with her. She is planning to attend a marriage of her close cousin in her village and is even planning to take a month long vacation for this, so she must have some traditional attire.
She got into the famous saree shop ‘Mangalya’ and started looking at and feeling some elegant Pashmina and kancheevaram sarees displayed there, and was clearing her doubts with the salesman about the borders and fabric. She was so engrossed in her ‘selection process’ she did’nt bother about what is going around as there were so customers coming in. Suddenly someone patted her on the arm. Reena looked back inquisitively only to find Maya standing behind.
“Oh, hi! I have seen you guys many times in my lane. I am Reena”, Reena said smilingly.
"Hi. Err.. I’m Maya. I live just one house apart yours, but never got an opportunity to meet anyone in the locality as I am not at home on week days and Sundays are soooo preoccupied with miscellaneous work”. Maya smiled at her and said.
“I understand. We are in the same boat”. Reena replied and asked “Err Sarees?”
Yeah, I want to buy a saree for my mother in law for her birthday, but not sure which one to buy. I am not good at it, not good at shopping only”- Maya grumbled.
“Arrey, don’t worry. I will help you with it though I am no expert in this”, Reena said with a giggle.
They hit it off instantly and continued chit chatting while selecting sarees for them.
“I must say, you guys make a lovely pair, Maya! You both look so much in love…. Love marriage, or what?”
“Thanks Reena. Not at all, it was purely an arranged marriage. I left it to my parents to find a suitable match for me, you know, because I am not good at making any choice—be it a saree or a life partner”
Both of them laughed at it.
“So why did you come for shopping alone? Why, your husband doest like shopping?”
“Exactly, Reena, he doesn’t like shopping. Also, he is not in town today. He is gone for some work matters. Atleast one week in a month he is out, that includes atleast one Sunday. So now I think I have good company in his absence?” – Maya said looking at her inquisitively.
“Sure, why not.” – Reena responded, while she zeroed in on a soft Pashmina saree for Maya’s mother in law.
“How is this? I think going by your description of your mother in law, this grey and black Pashmina saree will suit her , and you said she wears lots of pearls and pearls will look awesome with these Pashminas”.
Maya liked her choice instantly.
Reena selected two more kancheevaram silk sarees, for herself, with golden borders and nice designs very apt for wedding functions. One was a nice yellowish and the other a very tempting brown and gold combination.
She told the sales person – ‘Bhaiya, isska fall beading karake iss address pe delivery karna”.
And then looked at Maya - “should I give my address for all three? You can collect yours from my house, is that fine? “
Maya readily agreed as she found it more convenient.
They left the saree shop and ended up spending more time together as Maya stayed back with Reena for shopping Kurtis and also had lunch together at ‘Meeras- the food court’.
By the time they got home, they felt they have known each other for decades. And as the time passed by, both became good friends.
Months later, one evening Maya came to Reena’s home unexpectedly. Her face said she was so sad and bothered. Reena sat her down and asked her if she could be of any help.
Maya broke down and soflty said to Reena –
“Reena, I feel cheated and my life is wasted”.
“Arrey, but tell me what happened?, whats wrong?”
“You know, I had told you Manu goes out for a week every month for official work.
No Reena , its not ONLY for work purpose.
Then????? Tell me clearly. Whats wrong.” , Reena exclaimed impatiently.
“He has some other AFFAIR also”. She was sobbing uncontrollably..
What?!!! , Reena couldn’t believe her ears and she asked again – “what are you saying, Maya?..., Are you sure about it??”
“Its true, Reena, he has an extra marital affair. I have solid proof with me of their chats and calls and meetings.. He was cheating on me…. Now everything is clear to me…. Till this time, I have not told anyone a secret… that even though its one year of our marriage, we have been living a platonic life... Every time I prodded him on this topic, he said he was taking medication for his problems and things will be OK soon... I believed him, and never bothered him for this because I loved him and just wanted to be with him, no matter what…. and nothing was more important for me than being with him…”
Reena didn’t know how to console and comfort her friend. She just sat there beside her completely clueless. Maya went on and on … She was going really mad.
“You know Reena, he was not supposed to marry me... He just wasn’t! ..Because you know who he is involved with..??.. you want to know…”
“Its another man, Reena…. can you believe it?... But it is true… as true as I am alive…. Why did he spoil my life… why didn’t he tell me this before…Oh God, how would I bear this pain…”
Maya wailed and sobbed…
Reena almost froze. And the first thing that crossed her numb mind was the saying
“looks are deceptive”. She mumbled -- “Yes…. it really is!”