“I am married. I have a wonderful man as a husband. And two little beauties as kids. I am a wife and a mother”. For the uncountable-th time, Pooja spoke silently to her self. Not to herself, but to her self. A self she had not allowed to prevail over her values.
Pooja was what a college brat would have called a ‘one-piece’. As Indian a product as a reincarnating hero in a Hindi flick. She was unclear about God, but a value-driven middle class Indian woman. For her, loyalty, honesty, duty, responsibility and happiness were all one. There were no conflicts in her values. She was very clear about that. In her life, she was doing everything her conservative parents would have expected her to, and she was proud she was living up to their expectations.
A few years back, Pooja’s life had suddenly undergone a change. She had left her old, small town of Cuttack and moved on to the capital city of the Indian money and movie market, Mumbai. Here she had got married to Raja, a man who made wildlife documentaries for a living.
Busy with her working life (Pooja was a busy research fellow at a ‘me-too’ generic drug production lab) and with her unforgiving domestic pulls, she did not have time for frivolity, except when she was with her children.
She had many men looking her over every morning at work and in places she was seen, like the schools, the local restaurants and the markets. Men were taken by her incomplete beauty, and could not but keep staring at her honeyed eyes, trying to read some hope in them. Her body and her face had a common appeal, an unfailingly provoking femininity. However, she never encouraged a soul. Fidelity always figured high in her list of values.
One Tuesday, her boss called her over to his room. She would have to meet a Mr. Jay over lunch. Bummer, she thought. Jay was a representative of a US company intending to market the drug which Pooja was working on. “Just see that he has a clear idea of what we are looking to do in the coming year, so that they don’t have false expectations from us”, her boss, Dr. Krishnan, said.
Lunch was to be at the Hyatt, a hotel that had universal appeal for its hospitality and class.
Pooja went over to the restaurant called M, expecting Mr. Jay to be a young, dashing American executive with ‘brand’ screaming from every accessory. She was shown to a lonely table where she found a middle aged man examining a glass of water. Jayendra Ramaswamy was Jay to most of his American colleagues, and indifferent to it. In fact, Jay seemed to be indifferent to most things on earth. People who knew him called him an impractical dreamer, one who would never give an immediate and practical solution to a burning problem. Instead, they would say, he would rubbish the whole concept or premise that had led to the problem being discussed and offer utopian solutions that would never be possible. However, he was a hard man to argue with across the table, and had remained steady at his job as Head, International Marketing.
“Hi, I am Pooja”.
“Hmmn. Jay. Hi.”
“I hope you didn’t have to wait too long?”
“Well, actually I did, but now I think it was worth it.”
Pooja could not respond. She was transfixed with the look on Jay’s eyes. Sharp, penetrating to the entrails, and, in one word, sexy. The man himself was not impressive to look at, with a wide stubble of recently shaved hair on his head, and rimless glasses on a largish, broad nose. But the moment he started talking, he created an image of a man who was too big for the present, a concept rather than a being. His words were crisp and witty, and there was an unplanned insolence about him that captivated Pooja. She realised quickly that she was trespassing her own set limits when she noticed herself leaning towards the table, getting enticed in the joyous network of Jay’s words.
Jay was smiling and saying, “All these truths are derivative truths, like the fact that this Fried Chicken carries 800 calories as the sum of its constituents, is covered up with egg batter, and will cause intense thirst an hour after this is eaten. However, the basic truth is that if this did not have the egg or the 800 calories in it, it would not be fit to be called a Fried Chicken. So, we might then ask, ‘what gave thirst: the chicken or the egg?’ “
THE THRILL OF TOGETHERNESS
As surreal as the lunch was, it opened up a new dimension to Pooja’s life. She swam willingly in the currents of her conscious attraction for Jay, and would spend hours each day talking to him, or texting him.
It was one of those ‘Art of Living’ type lectures that opened her eyes. It is all ‘Maya’, she heard the guru say: “Grasp the conscious, and shut the door of the imagination. Thereby you shut the door of temptation, and look through the window of duty, of love, of selflessness into the material world.”
Pooja tried, but failed to resist the charm of Jay’s utopia, his careless egoism, his nonchalant attitude towards how the world saw him. It seemed that he was clear and right about most things (though he was never righteous in his attitude), and did not give a damn to anyone who thought otherwise.
Over a period of time, it became clear that she loved him, and he seemed to know it, but he did not seem to want to capitalise on that.
“How could you not love me?”, his smile seemed to say. He did reciprocate at times, like when he held her hand while laughing at his own joke, or dropping his left hand briefly on her thigh while driving with his right.
THE PREDICTABLE TURMOIL
At home, Pooja found it difficult to reciprocate to her husband when he loved her, though she played her part without trying to excuse herself. The more she thought about it, the more impractical her situation seemed to get. She felt physical pain thinking of her love and the reality of her marriage with someone else. “No, this has to stop”, she told herself.
She consciously stopped calling him. He did not ask why. He did not violate the space she had created between herself and Jay. He seemed to have accepted her sudden turning back.
Pooja, since that day, gave every waking moment to her work and to her children, subduing that part of her that seemed to want nothing more than a few moments of laughter, a few minutes of that magic that encapsulated what she felt with Jay. Strong-willed that she was, she managed to crush her love, and focus on her family values.
She was alone at home, when Jay appeared at her door.
She remembered nothing else, except that it seemed that they closed all physical space between them in just a heartbeat.
Jay said nothing. Neither did she. They simply kept the embrace on till they fell on the bed. She had never experienced such intensity in sexual intercourse. It was so much more than a physical orgasm. It was like a spiritual experience, a bhakti for her man, a love that washed out her long held values.
As she lay, clad in a thick layer of sweat, her pulse throbbing wildly, she had a flash of light, a realisation of her self, a nirvana. She was a fool not to have realised the value of her love, she thought.
“ I have wanted you since the time I saw you first. I can’t live my life without you. Don’t leave me, jaan”, she whispered out aloud.
“Uh, what, honey? I’ll never leave you!”, said Raja, her sated husband. Drained out at the unexpected pre-dawn sex , he lay over her, pleased to have made her happy, finally.