Lady in Red! ( a heart-warming tale of a young couple)

Back profile of a spanish lady wearing red dress

I was driving through the western express highway for my office at the Bandra Kurla complex. It was morning rush hour but I found the traffic was less today. I did not have breakfast.  And the reason being I again had a fight with my wife Anjali. This has become a sort of routine now i.e. having fights and missing breakfast. We would fight for any stupid reason and then she would bicker on my family and my salary. My blood boils when I hear those nasty comments. I believe Anjali understood that perfectly as she used it as her weapon to degrade me and make me feel miserable.

We got married a year ago. It was an arranged marriage in the sense that our families got in touch through a marriage platform. We liked each other’s picture along with the short resume and decided to take it to the next level. The phone conversations were short initially but once the ice was broken, we started talking really long. We would just talk and talk…the talks would never end. I am twenty-eight and never had a girlfriend. It used to annoy me a lot when I saw young boys and girls always talking over the phone all the time. I thought…hell, what they must be talking all the time every day! But now I realize that when you are in love, talking to your partner is all that it matters. When in love, you become silly and stupid! And stupid we were as we got married in the very next month!

I realized that I have touched the Bandra signal. In the next ten minutes, I’ll be at my desk doing the mundane work that I do daily working with the same people with the same fake smiles and same artificial talks. Can’t we make life a little more interesting?

Make Life interesting? No way! I just married into a week and I realized the grave mistake I committed! My life turned topsy-turvy. Before marriage, I stayed alone as a bachelor in Mumbai following a certain way of habitat. Anjali stayed with her family and could not digest my way of living! From waste bin to water filter to the shoe rack, everything to Anjali was out-dated. I was told bluntly on my face that I was not maintaining personal hygiene properly. And then the family also came into the picture. Anjali would be giving a running commentary to her mother as to what was happening in our house. Commenting on the small packet of Bournvita, condition of the gas stove window curtains and so on. Nothing was left un-discussed including even our bedroom endeavors. And for each update provided by Anjali to her mother, the mother would provide some weird advice or suggestion which would further make my life complicated.

It all started with my way of living and the substandard things that I was using. Then it spilled over to my family. Anjali’s mother had a specific grouse that my mother did not give them good quality saris or designer ornaments matching the beauty of their beloved daughter. I chose not to revert as it will only aggravate the nastiness of her barbs. This all started within three months of our marriage and got worse. But sometimes I too would react aggressively and it only worsened the situation. But one thing, there was no physical violence from either side.

I parked my car in the basement parking area of my office and proceeded towards the lift bay. While waiting for the lift, I remembered our honeymoon trip which was a complete disaster. I always wished an exotic locale for my honeymoon and as a result, I chose the destination as Singapore. This was the only foreign exotic locale that I could afford in terms of flight tickets and a week’s boarding and lodging. Luckily, I got a loan from the bank for the same.  I worked out the expenses and was satisfied that everything fell under my budget. But I was a fool. I included only flight, boarding and lodging charges. Any experienced married man would tell you that I missed out on an important expense head: WIFE’s SHOPPING!!

On the trip, we had massive fights all through our stay. It was mainly to do with dominance over one another. The fights were mainly on what to eat, what dress she would wear, how many times she would call home to give running commentary on how we were ‘enjoying’ and lastly with regards to her shopping. She wanted to buy things for everyone – for her parents, brother, two cousin sisters, her maternal aunt and uncle, her other maternal bachelor uncle and for the rest of her clan. There was no mention of anything to be bought for my parents though! I was so disgusted with our constant bickering that while on the return flight, I removed the wedding ring from my ring finger and put it in my pocket. I thought of sending Anjali to her parent’s house directly from the airport.

’13th floor’ I heard someone calling out. Yes, my office was on the 13tth floor. The lift door opened and I stepped out. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I did not notice Neha, who was my subordinate. We exchanged a smile and pleasantries and proceeded towards our respective areas. I liked Neha. She was always smartly dressed in her business suits. On top of it, she always had a charming smile on her face throughout the day. As I settled at my desk, I checked on my emails. There was one mail from my best friend Kaushik who was from my home town. It read ‘Happy First Marriage Anniversary!’

Gosh!! How can I forget the date?

I sat for a while and got nostalgic for no reason. We were fighting continuously for the last one week. I opened my drawer and pulled out our wedding card. I had distributed my wedding card in the office last year and this was the only one left which I had kept with all care in my personal folder. The cover of the card read’ Aditya weds Anjali’…well, a year has passed! How time flies! I reached out for the phone to call up Anjali but considering what all happened in the morning made me paused for a minute. I somehow did not feel comfortable calling her.  Throughout the day I was in this melancholy mood which somehow generated a miserable feeling in me along with some amount of contempt.  Throughout the day I thought of giving her a call but something inside me stopped me doing so.

I wound up early that day knowing that Anjali normally reaches home by seven in the evening. She too was working for a private financial company. On my way home I stopped at the Flower’s shop and handpicked some flowers. She loved flowers especially the white coloured lily flowers. I then stopped at the bakery house and packed a half kg Belgium chocolate cake with cream topping that read’ Happy First Marriage Anniversary’. From the same shop, I also picked up a peach coloured bone china mug which had an imprint ‘Together Always’. I was feeling very romantic. This feeling ran through me after a long time! Reaching home I parked the car in the building compound and collected all the special items that I had bought for the occasion. With slow steps, I started moving towards the building lobby. I don’t know why but suddenly I was having a sinking feeling in my heart as to how Anjali would react? What if she was still angry and if she shows no warmth, then?  ‘You will not react. That’s it.’ I heard a voice inside me. The lift arrived by then and I entered it.

I put the keys inside the door lock and opened it. The lights were not on. Oh, she has not returned till now. It was almost eight p.m. I switched on the lights and kept the things that I bought on the dining table. There was a yellow post-it pasted on the flower vase. It read’ I am going to my mom’s place and would be staying there. Dinner is kept in the fridge, warm it. I have made a special Rajma curry, your favourite as the date is 16th Sep’. I was stunned and my mouth went dry.  Not sure of what to do, I sank on the sofa. I felt as if there was no energy left in my body. I lay on the sofa blank and motionless for almost half an hour. There was anger and remorse inside me. I realized that it’s difficult to read a girl’s mind. Despite our fights, she remembered our anniversary day and made a special dish for me. At the same time, she also had the ego to have not informed me of her decision to leave for her mother’s house. Or maybe it was her self-respect that made her to take this decision as I did not wish her on our anniversary day. I was not sure what it was but I had not imagined that she would be taking such a step.

After freshening up, I decided to call her. She did not take the call. Feeling dejected, I decided I will not call her up again…at least not today. I lay down in the living room couch with lights at a dim level; I was battling all sorts of thoughts in my mind. Did I not take care of her? Did I not treat her well? Did I take her for granted? Agree, we were having daily fights but was it all my fault? Deep inside, I felt very lonely and felt pain too heavy for my heart to bear. But something was preventing me to call her again. Was it my ego, alter ego, anger, feeling of let-down…I could not make it.

I did not go to the office the next day and neither did Anjali called. In the afternoon her mother called up and said she was very upset about my behaviour and she would like to stay at her place for some days. I did not say anything and just hung the phone. In the afternoon as I lay on the bed, I was thinking about Anjali. I was missing her. All the fights and the bickering, her sarcastic comments about my salary seems too trivial to me now. Why did I react to all those nonsense? I asked myself in dismay. I got up from the bed and went to the dining table picking up a bar of dark chocolate I had bought yesterday. Looking outside the living room window, I finished the whole bar. It was a somewhat cloudy sky with a strong westerly breeze blowing across. It might rain if the breeze stops, I thought. Exactly at that moment, I decided to meet Anjali! I decided to go to her house without informing her over the phone.

I was out on the road. I was charged up again as I was yesterday evening while buying all those Anniversary gifts. I had worn my best blue jeans with a maroon and black check shirt on top. I wanted her back today. I wanted my Anjali back in our house.

Their maid opened the door and gave a shout to Anjali’s mother. Her mother came to the living room area and was slightly surprised to see me. I thought the way I responded to her last evening on the phone she was not expecting me so soon. Anyways, after making me comfortable and completing other formalities she conveyed that Anjali was not at home. Her cousins have come from the US and she had gone with them to a nearby shopping mall. I did not know how to react to that. Also, I noticed a sly smile on her face. I might have interpreted it wrong but I decided to leave the place immediately. I left the place without having any further discussion on what happened between me and Anjali.

I did not receive any call or message from Anjali post my visit to her house. I too did not call her again. The days turned into a full week. A full week when we did not speak with each other. I tried to immerse myself in my office work working till late at night. I suppose it was the best remedy for me at that time. Weeks passed by and it was almost two months now. Somewhere I was getting the feeling that something fishy might be cooking at Anjali’s house. I knew her parents, especially her mother, were not very supportive of our marriage initially. Only after interacting with me on a few occasions did they started liking me. But that was how I comprehended the relation. What was in their mind only they would know better?

In the third month of our separation, the realization was dawning on me that I have moved out of Anjali’s life now. There were days when I would try to convince myself to at least speak with her on phone but my hurt ego and bruised self-respect prevented me to do so. And this frustration started to build more anger within me.

The date today was 12th February, Anjali’s birthday. I went to the office trying to ignore the importance of the day but at the same time continuously prodding myself to make that last one call. But the phone call never happened. As evening approached, I decided to wind up early. My mind was not into work today. Physically I was present in the office but mentally I was not. I once again checked my email and messages on all media platforms in case Anjali had tried to reach me but there was no mail or message. I pulled the bag on my shoulder with my car keys in hand proceeded towards the exit of the office premises.

I was lost sitting at the steering as I did not know where to go. Going straight home was not an option right now. I called a close friend of mine to have some beer together but he apologized citing work issues. As I drove past the Bandra Kurla complex’s main signal which connects to the western express highway, I decided to visit the restaurant ‘The Grill’. This was the same restaurant cum bar where we had celebrated Anjali’s first birthday post marriage last year. I still have fresh memories of that day! Anjali had worn a beautiful red coloured dress when we had gone to ‘The Grill’ where we had dinner together. 

I parked the car and entered the cafe. There was a couple sitting in the cafe when I walked in. As the light was low, I didn’t know who they were until the woman turned around, and I saw it was my wife. Yes, it was HER! My Anjali! In the same red dress that she had worn last year this day. And then my eyes fell on the guy sitting with her. I felt a lump got stuck in my throat. My voice got choked, it was not coming out. The reality hit me very hard. So I have lost my Anjali. I felt the same embarrassment as a man would feel when made to stand on a pedestal and pronounced a thief. But why was I to feel embarrassed? She was still my wife… Forget about the embarrassment, the pain of seeing her with someone else was much more to bear. I looked at Anjali again. She was beautiful as ever and especially in this red dress. As I gazed through her eyes, I could see a glint of affection mixed with a shadow of hurt.  She was not surprised to see me there. In fact, I just felt that she was expecting me to be there. I don’t know what but suddenly it woke me up from my momentary grief and sense of loss and without saying anything, I just turned around to leave the place.

“Aditya!” I heard Anjali’s voice when my back was towards her.

I turned again facing her.

“At least say Happy Birthday” Anjali spoke in a low tone.

“Aahh..mmm” I heard me muttering something before she spoke again.

“I am your wife and I still…” she did not complete the sentence. Still perplexed, I was about to open my mouth but was hindered by the gentleman who was with Anjali. He, who looked younger to Anjali and shorter in height too, now got up and walked towards me with an extended hand.

“Hi…I am Rishab. Anjali and I were together in our CA articleship and had been friends since then. Though we lost touch post our articleship, it was only recently that we meet again. Actually, we hit two weeks back accidentally at a shopping mall. Today, she insisted that we visit this place.” he continued for some more time but I was not interested now. I interrupted and straightway shot at Anjali;

“Why you did not call me all this while?” I said in a loud and clear voice.

“And why you did not call?” she still spoke softly.

“I had called your home. I even visited your home for that matter.”

“Was that enough? Your ego did not allow you to go further than that. You never loved me Aditya…” now even her voice was loud and sharp.

“You are too self-centered. You don’t care about others. You never thought it appropriate to meet me and understand what was bothering me. I felt so lonely all this while…” now her voice started quivering and it appeared that she would break down. Before she could continue any further I extended my arms and pulled her close to me.  “I always loved you Anjali and only you…you know that. But you hurt me time and again with your comments and behaviour…” I spoke gently getting emotional.

Tears started flowing down as she gently sobbed with her face tightly clamped to my chest. I had never felt such warmth before.

A song was playing in the background “Lady in red…” by Chris de burgh. Ah! This same song was played last year too upon my request for my lady in RED!