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The Business Woman

THE BUSINESS WOMAN



Radhika had been upset since morning; her mind was not with her in whatever she did. Last night Neeraj had come home late from work and then he went to bed straight away, complaining of a bad headache. His dinner was lying uneaten on the dining table. During the night he slept peacefully, while Radhika had tossed and turned all night watching her husband sleep like a baby.


Baby – yes this indeed was the sore point in her life. They had been married now for over four years and yet they had no child. Neeraj was not too interested and usually he kept late nights and then he was just too fatigued. The other family members were now openly blaming her for not having presented the family heir as yet. For the last fortnight or so her mother in law had stepped up her tirade and she had crossed all limits of decency. With no support forthcoming from her husband she was frustrated and had become apprehensive of all relatives, particularly the woman folk.


She had now walked into her mother in laws room at five in the evening. The old lady had enjoyed a hearty siesta. In her hands she carried a tray of tea and pakoras. She said,

“Ma I have made some pakoras for tea, please have some before they get cold, ……….”. The old lady opened her eyes just a bit and said with disdain,” Haan bete, it is not pakoras that I wanted, I expect a Pota (grandson) from you” Having said that she stuffed her mouth with the well made Pakoras. She had perhaps made it her mission to rub Radhika till either the grandson arrived or perhaps she decided to run away and pave way for some one else who would be more obliging. Faint battle lines were already being drawn. For some time there was silence and her tea was already tepid. Her head bent low, Radhika said, “Ma, we have been to the doctors and so many tests have been run. Each time the doctors have assured that soon I should conceive, but, perhaps, God is not willing. Please bear with him and may be soon……………..” her voice had trailed off in reverence to the lady. Tears began to roll from her eyes again. She wiped them off with the pallu of her sari, “Here, please have tea”.

“Yes keep feeding me tea; do you have any concern for the family future?” The mother in law had snapped. Then she added in a low voice,”perhaps I will shut my eyes without seeing the face of a grandchild ……..”


Radhika did not wait to hear the rest, she rushed out of the room, tears welling up in her eyes. She fell to her bed and with her face down she burst into uncontrolled sobbing. She had provoked her mother in law by her act of leaving the room without her consent and now she did not notice when the lady had entered her privacy, through hazy eyes she caught her silhouette in the door. She was yelling, top of her shrill voice,”If there is nothing that you can do then let me think of a remarriage for Neeraj. I don’t much care for your daily dramas” Her sarcasm was indeed hurting. Radhika could do nothing and she cried even more and to keep company the old lady kept up her soliloquy.


When she got over her crying, she got up and changed her clothes. She began to wait for Neeraj to get home. But, as usual, Neeraj was late again in coming home.


The call bell rang sharply at around seven, she ran to open the door so as to do that before her mother in law could poison her son’s mind on the days happenings. But to her surprise it was not Neeraj who stood in the open doorway. It was Vikram, a colleague of Neeraj. Vikram greeted her with folded hands. He volunteered,”Bhabhiji, today Neeraj is tied down with Auditors and will be late”. Then he noticed that she was all dressed up and had sorrow written all over Radhika’s face. He paused,” …by the way, if you had some outside work in mind, I will be happy to be of service”. He smiled. She was well aware of his carefree ways. She knew he was a bachelor and most probably had nothing else to do for the rest of the evening. Unsure of what he must say he added, “If you need to go out someplace then I could drop you there.” Then to console her he said,” Due to the Audits, every one in the accounts department was getting late, soon this will be over and there will be normal times ahead.”


Radhika knew the hollowness of the words. She knew that audit or no audit, Neeraj seldom came home on time. Earlier he would offer excuses and try to justify his late coming, but now he does not bother with even an apology. He had liked to chit-chat with his friends sitting at the Chaiwalla shop. Sensing that Radhika was too quiet today he turned to go, then he felt Radhikas hand on his shoulder. He turned around sharply. She simply said,” Its nice to talk to you, please come more often when he is around. Namaste”


Now, waiting for Neeraj in their room she began to reflect about her own condition. She was aware that despite every thing being normal they had not been blessed with a child. Perhaps even the mother in law was aware of this, but she was rough on her alone. As for Neeraj, he was not interested in this or anything else concerning the house. To him it was always his work and office and if time permitted, his friends. She could not see any way of solving the situation. The more she tried to solve the tangle, the more depressed she became. Every day now the Mother in law would pour acid words into her, morning, noon and evening. Even some of friends were raising the concern that she should start a family soon. Yesterday Mrs. Sharma had said obliquely referring to her, “Couples, these days tended to have children late or not at all as they were not willing to take the added responsibility. Those who did take the step always stopped at one child”. She could not hide her emotions that time.


She decided that Neeraj will never take interest in her predicament and she alone will have to do something. Something? Like what? There was no immediate solution.


It was getting dark now, she got up and put on the lights and drew the curtains close. She could hear the TV playing at high volume and she pictured her mother in law sitting vacantly and watching a senseless serial. She had no inclination to go down and entertain her smitten mind. She new the old lady will start off once again


She just had to avoid confrontation. Her mind descended down on Vikram, could he help?


The thought crossed her mind that her being childless and Vikram can some how work out. She cursed herself for such a cheap and vulgar idea. To shake it off she decided to call her mother over the ‘phone and talked to her about this and that. This put her at ease and put her in a more comfortable frame of mind.


It was dinner time for the old lady. She arranged her meal in a tray and put it on a coffee table. She pulled the table close to her mother in law. The lady ate the meal in silence while still watching the serial. Meal and serial ended almost same time. She drained the glass of water and retired to her room with a word. Radhika knew now she will emerge only next day. She clicked the telly shut and settled on a chair close to the window. She could see people passing outside and she expected Neeraj’s scooter to also take the same route. From across the road and above the din outside she could hear film songs from the Paanwala shop. She stared into the busy street and her own thoughts drifted wildly. Vikram?


Neeraj came home around 11PM. and complained of the usual headache as he entered the house. He quickly went to his room, changed and in a jiffy went to sleep Radhika could do nothing of her own pain. Now she was hurt that dinner lay on the table uneaten. She became aware of almost two hours wait for Neeraj when she could have sought some solace from him. All in vain. She did not eat too and put away the dishes into the fridge. She was painfully reminded of her solitary existence. Neeraj would not share her concerns and perhaps he would never care that they ever had a baby or not. More depression gripped her.


The urge to be a mother was made severe by the constant mental hammering of the mother in law. She was hounded by the society for something as personal as motherhood. She felt like a trapped doe looking at sure death in the face. She felt badly let down by her husband. What could she possibly do to gain respect of the society and even normal behaviour from the family? She treaded heavily back to her room feeling very sad and morose. She switched of the lamp and hardly slept at all. All night she kept listening to the drawing room clock strike hour after hour. She thought of artificial insemination, but last time around Neeraj had pooh-poohed the idea. This time she thought of doing it on the quiet with a donor’s semen. But she had no idea how to go about it without the family coming to know of it and the dust it would kick up if it came to light otherwise. As always the result of all her brooding was dejection.


By morning she decided that Vikram will have to help her. To gain something she had to make an investment and without investment there would be no gain. Mentally she thought of the pros and cones of the baby’s features not resembling Neeraj. That, she told herself would come later. Though the thought was not a welcome thought ethically yet it never completely left her- rather it gained momentum. She knew that once the baby was born all dust would settle. As a poser to her pain there would be no consideration of ethics, profit & loss or plus or minus. Her only concern was to become a mother any how.


X X X


A few days later she heard her mother in law talk to some one in the drawing room. She came to the banister and saw it was Vikram. He was very comfortable talking to the lady. Radhika decided to make her move. She came down and joined them on the pretext of getting them tea. The servant came in and left tea and snacks on the table. She poured the tea and handed over cups. She started showing great interest in his small talk. Guilt and coyness were crossing her mind time and again because of her own thoughts. As Vikram got up to go she asked the mother in law, ”Ma, I have work in the market, if it is not inconvenient then Vikram can drop me there.” The lady could not object


Purposely Radhika began to urge Vikram to be with her for some time. She laughed at his small jokes and let him win all arguments. Vikram began to like her company. They spent some time in the market and Vikram was happy to get her company. At the end of the days outing she had roped him for a meeting again. The affair had started. Whenever Vikram came home, she welcomed him heartily. Neeraj was neither concerned nor cared for all this; he lived in a virtual world of his own. Mother in law had not toned down her tirade, but she was less sensitive to it now. Often she would laugh it off as a joke. She had set the stage and now waited for Vikram to make the first move.


One night Vikram invited Neeraj and Radhika to the movies. After dinner they entered the hall and feeling their way they were shown to their seats. Neeraj was seated in between the two and began to snore, as he always did in movie halls. Both Radhika and Vikram constantly kept passing comments across from him to each other. Neeraj preferred to sleep during interval too. Vikram led her outside for a coke and popcorns. On return they did not find Neeraj in his seat. Perhaps he was visiting the toilet. The picture had started again and on screen the hero was kissing the heroine. Radhika discretely put her hand over Vikram’s for a fleeting moment and withdrew it as if she was embarrassed. Vikram gave due reply to this; for a moment their eyes were not on the screen and in the darkness of the hall they were searching for confirmation As their eyes met in the dim light they were convinced that they both liked the touch of newfound friendship. The act was sufficient to lead him on. Neeraj came in, groping in the dark to reach his seat, occupied it and promptly dozed off again. Both Radhika and Vikram were self-assured that the contact was equally welcome by the other; with silence they began to feel each others presence on a higher plane. Neeraj kept on dozing


Vikram began to be more eager to meet Radhika since the moment they shared emotions through the innocence of the touch in the Cinema hall. He always walked in freely to the house on the pretext of meeting the old lady and nearly always was rewarded with some favours from Radhika. They began to meet more often on the quiet in the market and sit over a coffee for long hours at isolated public places. In the good old days, most restaurants had a separate area for families; this was usually screened from public. In the comfort of the isolation one day Vikram told her,”Ever since the movie I had wanted to meet with you like this”. She feigned shyness and replied softly, “I too am very happy in your company and I love talking to you”. When the waiter entered, she ordered for both, then as he left she continued, ….and how are you keeping these days, I mean how do you pass your spare time…”, she left it at that. Vikram was a master at talking and he began to keep her engaged with non stop narration of funny instances in his life. He had innocuously kept his hand over hers and noticed that she had made no attempt to withdraw it. Taking it as an encouragement he gently squeezed it and she rewarded him instantly with artificial anger and in the very next second she smiled. Vikram was now well assured.


Tea time meetings turned into matinee time meetings and they became free with each other. One day Vikram had invited her to his one room apartment and she willingly went there. In fact on the way she picked up some flowers to decorate the place. Once there, she went to the kitchen and prepared two cups of tea. Then with the tray in one hand she took it to the bed as there was no chair or tables. They both sat on the same bed and chatted for some time, and then Vikram placed his arm across her shoulder and pulled her to himself. With no offensive reaction from her side, he gently kissed her on the cheek. Time stood still.


There after, they dropped the formality of meeting elsewhere and Radhika would often take the small auto ride to his flat. Days, weeks and a month passed and it appeared to Radhika that she was about to become a mother. She began to distance herself from Vikram. Vikram was not looking for permanent relationship and he took the hint. Gradually they both drifted apart; she had achieved her target and Vikram had had his fun. They both let the past slip out very professionally; Vikram began to build distance from Neeraj and his family members.


Back home the mother in law was beside her self at Radhika’s good news. She began to look after her daughter in law as her full time job. All her caustic utterances were over and she was extra sweet. She had informed her friends in the locality and now strutted about with her head held high. To most, she had already declared that her Grand son was on the way. Peace and harmony had descended on the household. Neeraj had stayed busy with his job, but was pleased to note the new relationship shared by his mother and wife.. He was happy to see portraits of infants lining up all the walls and it particularly pleased him to see his mother busy with knitting and making baby frocks.


On the due date Radhika delivered a baby-boy. All day the proud grand mother held the child in her arms and peace settled all-round. Radhika had reserved a position for herself that she had only dreamed of earlier. She thought to herself one day, “ To buy happiness you need to trade your unhappiness”.



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