“Ever wondered how you ended up here when you could be anywhere, you could live the life you have always wanted but why here? It’s only a joke that God played on me. Every day I wake up and I wish I could just go back to sleep and pretend that my whole life has been a dream and I can start all over again being who I want to be and people won’t judge me for that; you won’t understand how I feel Rishabh, you aren’t me,” Avantika said in disgrace, she stormed out of the room after uttering the words. Rishabh could do nothing but gaze the doorway; all he wanted was to make her feel comfortable. He sat on the foot of the bed holding a picture frame which had his and Avantika’s wedding picture in it; both smiling in bliss.
Rishabh and Avantika had been married for almost two years leading a ‘happy married life’ as referred by all of their close friends and relatives but all of a sudden their lives had become nothing but a misery and it did love company; with Avantika’s excellent hospitality skills misery had decided to stay a little longer; perhaps had overstayed its welcome.
After a while Rishabh got out of the room and saw Avantika serving dinner; after noticing him she said “I was going to call out, it’s getting late; we have work tomorrow so let’s just eat” Rishabh said nothing in reply. As they sat facing each other over the dinner-table, both kept quiet and barely looked at each other to avoid eye-contact. To break the silence Rishabh opened up “Let me do the dishes tonight, you go get some sleep.”
Avantika smiled grimly in reply.
Rishabh had no plans to do the dishes that night but he was almost desperate to give Avantika all the freedom that she required. As he approached the sink all the memories started displaying over his eyes, it was a flash back of the past.
Rishabh met Avantika on a matrimonial website. They were both from New Delhi and had most things in common as mentioned in their profiles; even the site thought they were perfect for each other, almost everyone thought the same. They decided to meet each other one Sunday afternoon, after a whole month of chatting and talking over the phone; they mostly agreed on each other’s views. Most people would say ‘adjusting is a part of marriage’ but not for them, they didn’t have to adjust anything. They were merely puzzle pieces which fit each other perfectly. They got married within six months of their first meeting and the ceremony was a felicitous one.
Avantika had been working as a columnist for a national news-paper, she had several degrees in Literature and in her free time she worked on her beloved Blog titled ‘Avantika’s Imperfectly Perfect Life’. Her Blog was one thing that she nurtured maternally; it was mostly about ‘Love’ and the ‘Nature of Love’. She posted poems by her favorite poets and sometimes articles or poems by her own. Rishabh had been a fan of her work and so were her thousands of readers.
Rishabh had his own travel agency and the business was good. A 3BHK apartment in South Delhi, 3 mid-ranged cars; he had done well for himself. Most people would raise their eyebrows on the fact that Rishabh needed the help of a matrimonial site to choose a life partner; in all cases the proposals from the opposite sex would have just poured in; they did too; Rishabh was a wanted bachelor in town and women wanted to win him over not because they wanted to fall in love with him but they wanted to spend his fortune; he didn’t want someone to fall in love with him over his success and money; that’s why he hid his actual profession on the site. Avantika was the woman who couldn’t care any less about his bank-balance or the number of cars that he had, she married Rishabh Paul the person not the rich guy.
They went to Tokyo for their honeymoon. Avantika had picked the place, she always wanted to visit Japan; it was on her bucket list. They had some fun time there together; the pictures of them wearing ‘Kimonos’ were all over the refrigerator. Rishabh was looking at the pictures dreamily thinking about that time. He moved his way over to the sink to wash the dishes. He smiled a bit remembering how Avantika won his heart over when she said “I don’t believe in having servants, we’re going to be on our own; if you don’t agree then we cannot be together” Rishabh agreed and there they were together but still so far away from each other. Something distracted him; it was his cell-phone which was ringing on the dinner-table. Rishabh went to pick it up but decided against it when he saw the caller-ID; ‘Rita is calling’. For some reasons he didn’t want to talk to Rita. His expression changed and it was quite clear that he didn’t like that particular person as he seemed disturbed. Rita had been Rishabh’s friend for quite a long time. He introduced her to Avantika as well and they also became quite close. Rishabh switched off his cell-phone and went to bed. Avantika was sound asleep. Rishabh felt in peace seeing her innocent face.
The next morning the sky decided to get a bit moody. The Sun didn’t want to expose itself so it stayed hidden behind the clouds. The gloomy weather affected everyone including Rishabh and Avantika. It was a day begging for some laziness at home. But eventually they had to go out to finish the day’s work.
“I don’t know what she wants from me, why does she keep calling me?” Rishabh murmured seeing Rita was not in the mood to leave him alone. He put her number in the reject-list. After a while Rita texted him “Meet me at the Plaza at 4pm, we need to talk. It’s about Avantika” Rishabh couldn’t ignore the last word. Rita knew his kryptonite. He decided to go.
Sitting at the Café Plaza Rishabh was growing impatient. Rita was late. Rishabh couldn’t wait a second more so he dialed her number “Where the heck are you,” he uttered as soon as she picked up.
“Sorry bad traffic, give me 5 more minutes and I’ll be there”
Rishabh disconnected the phone without a reply and started looking around him. It was a pleasant place to hang out; the place reminded him of the old times spent with his wife. The café was where they met for the very first time. Soon he saw Rita making her way through the crowd wearing a Black laced sharee with a pair of red colored heels; that was her usual sense of dressing. Her long dark hair was tied in a tight bun and she carried a small red purse which matched her shoes. She took the seat right next to Rishabh.
“So what is it?” Rishabh couldn’t wait to get over with it so he started the conversation
“Aren’t you going to ask what I’d like to have?”
“This isn’t a date Rita and I don’t really care”
“Well someone’s had a bad day,” pang of sarcasm felt in her tone.
“I think we’re done here, goodbye,” Rishabh got up to leave.
“Hold on there; sit down, how is she?”
Rishabh sat on the chair unwillingly.
“Fine,” he said.
“Come on; she’s not fine, you’re not fine; it’s on your face. Look whatever happened we didn’t intend that to happen,” Rita said politely.
“I don’t care, it’s ruined. Whatever we had is gone and I’ve lost her” Rishabh said being disheartened.
“Not yet, you can still get her back; I’ll help you” Rita held his hand in hers and tried to make him feel comfortable.
“How can you undo the past?”
“No I can’t but I can mend the present. Look, before I leave I want to fix things; now go home and do as I say; receive my calls and reply to my texts from time to time”
“What if she gets to know about this?”
“Well it’s your responsibility that she doesn’t. It’s your job to take care of that.”
Rishabh nodded his head. From the look on his face it was clear that all he needed was a boost up and he could use pretty much anything to believe in as long as it involved the matter of getting Avantika back.
Rishabh didn’t feel like going back to his office so he went home and decided to do something special for his Wife. Nothing said love more than a home-baked chocolate cake. Although Rishabh never baked anything in his life before but he was ready to take that risk for the love of his life; he opened up his laptop and searched for “Chocolate cake recipes” on Google. He followed the most voted recipe on a cookery website step by step and the result wasn’t too bad. Rishabh himself was quite surprised. By the time he could make a chocolate dip to go with it someone rang the doorbell and Rishabh was sure of it being Avantika; it was about time. He was so excited that he couldn’t wait to open the door and so he did.
“Who ordered pizza? I didn’t…” Rishabh was quite surprised seeing the delivery boy from the ‘Pizza Hut’.
“She did? From her office? Let me check on that,” Rishabh took out his phone and called Avantika
“Did you order pizza?”
“Yeah, I texted you”
Rishabh forgot to check the notifications in excitement and felt ashamed of himself for going too far with the cake and thinking about the dip. He hanged up and paid the delivery boy. He had lost all hope. “Maybe we’re never getting back to normal,” he said in a deep voice. He threw the chocolate cake in the dustbin and waited on Avantika to get back home.
Avantika used her key to the apartment to enter while Rishabh devoted himself to the sweet melodious voice of Alicia Keys in the bedroom. She could overhear the lyrics and it did sooth her heart as well, “I keep on fallin’ in… in love with you…”
“So what’s the story with the cake?” Avantika asked Rishabh while entering the bedroom.
“When did you come?”
“A while ago”
“I made it”
“You made a cake? Why?”
“Just felt like it”
“Why did you throw it away then? Didn’t it taste alright?”
“You ordered Pizza”
“I’d have preferred the cake over pizza you know; why didn’t you tell me?”
“Avantika can you be honest with me?”
“Have I been anything but honest with you?”
“What happened to us? Can we fix it, are we broken? Is it me? Because if it’s me I’m ready to do anything to fix it”
Avantika said nothing in return. Rishabh had never seen her eyes so lifeless; dull as if someone had sucked all the happiness out of her. She remained still; gradually she turned to Rishabh and asked “Have you ever been in love Rishabh?”
“What kind of question is this? Of course I’ve been in love; I am in love with you,” Rishabh answered promptly.
“How does it feel?”
Rishabh wanted to answer her question but decided against it and turned his head away from her towards the balcony. A perfect moonlit night without any clouds; the moonbeams entered their bedroom as the balcony door was open. The stars never looked so bright or perhaps Rishabh had never looked at them the way he was that night. It all felt so empty as if someone had taken away all the pieces of his heart and he was only left there all by himself; alone searching for answers of Avantika’s childlike questions. He prepared a well-thought answer in his head and was ready to express it; turning his head back to Avantika he saw her crying silently looking right back at him. That look almost pierced through his heart; those cold eyes filled with tears running down her cheeks. Rishabh held her in his arms; as tightly as if he never wanted to let her go.
The next morning the sky remained clear just as the night before but their hearts were filled with an obscure feeling. They both went to work as they used to. Spent the day losing track of time; trying to keep themselves busy in work so that they would not have to deal with emotions for the day. When it was time to head back home, Avantika was quite early; she had reached before Rishabh. The clock struck 7’O clock as she started preparing dinner. She wasn’t paying much attention to the time but it had been quite a while and Rishabh hadn’t reached home. It was half past 10 and Avantika started getting a bit worried so she dialed up his number but the phone was switched off.
A mild sound woke Avantika up; she fell asleep on the couch; the TV was on mute so she looked around and saw Rishabh dragging his way to the bedroom.
“Rishabh are you all right?”
Rishabh was in no mood for a conversation so he didn’t say anything in return.
“Rishabh are you drunk,” Avantika shook him up. As he opened his mouth to speak, his breath reeked of alcohol which assured her of his state of being inebriated. She put Rishabh to bed taking his shoes off afterwards. That night Avantika cried herself to sleep.
“God I feel like my head was hit by a hammer,” Rishabh murmured while opening his eyes. Avantika was sitting right next to him. After coming to his senses he realized what exactly happened the night before and being terribly ashamed of himself, he couldn’t look her into the eyes.
“I am so sorry,” Rishabh got up fixing his hair.
“Yeah me too,” Avantika said looking right into his eyes; she also added “Look, I don’t know what you want exactly but this isn’t what I signed up for”
“Signed up for? What do you think Avantika marriage is only a deal that you sign up for?” Rishabh raised his voice.
“Don’t shout please, I don’t want to make a scene. I’m getting late for work and I think you are too so get up and try to make yourself look at least presentable”
As the days passed Rishabh and Avantika grew apart from each other; they barely talked or made love; not even an embrace or an affectionate kiss on the lips. Their relationship was on the edge of being broken.
It was a regular day just like any other; while Rishabh was getting ready for office his phone rang; Avantika stopped herself from picking it up; seeing the name on the screen her whole body shivered; Rita was calling.
“Why is she calling Rishabh? What is going on in between them,” thoughts started to gather in her mind.
Not thinking too much she asked Rishabh “Are you still seeing Rita behind my back?”
Rishabh remained silent which was a sign of acceptance. Avantika grew furious; she started throwing the things around her in rage causing a scene. A few concerned neighbors knocked on their door asking about what happened but all they were interested in was the drama. Afterwards they started spreading the rumor of Rishabh and Avantika getting a divorce; which was probable but not confirmed.
Almost a month later Avantika and Rishabh met each other in their divorce-lawyer’s tiny office-room; both didn’t want to talk to each other; they were eagerly waiting for their Lawyer to bring the papers.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Rishabh asked his better-half.
“Yes I do”
“What are you doing these days?”
“I’m going to Dubai; have got a job there and we’ll stay there together”
“So you picked her over me”
Avantika paused for a while before saying anything more “Rishabh you are lucky enough to have felt what it feels like to be in Love, I want to feel the same; she makes it easy for me when I’m with her I’m comfortable. I don’t know about others’ views and I don’t care much; I’m a grown woman and it’s time for me to think about my own happiness. You know why we got married? Because I was tired and when you introduced me to her on our 3rd date I found peace; finally someone I could share everything with, my thoughts, my body, my soul…”
“Oh stop it Avantika; I was never enough for you? You only lured me in this just so you could be with her and you could still stay protected from the society’s judgmental views; so clever of you Avantika, I never expected this from you; you only used me, you never loved me. All you ever wanted was her but you were scared to tell the world…”
“Yes I was, I admit but not anymore; I’m tired of running around and without her by my side I can’t think of even spending my life. She’s going away, I have to go away with her or else I’ll be miserable for the rest of my life. You know I wanted to believe that I could make it without her but I can’t Rishabh; I told you not to contact her anymore but you did, you brought her back in my life. I’m in love with her and I’m not ashamed to admit it.”
“Excellent! I can’t believe this, I didn’t contact her, she did; she said she could mend the present. I did it for the sake of us. You know what, if this is what you want then go with her to Dubai or wherever you want to but you need to remember one thing, you destroyed my life; you destroyed me. I truly loved you Avantika, what was my mistake in this?”
“Do you still love me Rishabh?”
“I can never stop loving you”
“Then please let me go, I’m sorry for lying to you and everything that I’ve done but I deserve to be happy too don’t I? I too want to be in love and I want to do that without feeling guilty all the time. Whenever I look at your face it just makes me feel how wrong I was to ever lie to you; you’re a good man and you deserve so much better than me.”
“Yes you do, you deserve all the happiness in the world. It’s just sad that I couldn’t make you happy. Anyways I wish you all the best for your future with Rita”
“Thanks and I don’t want anything from you other than your good wishes. When I first met you I knew you’re the man who will sacrifice his happiness for the sake of mine. I was tired of the reality and that’s why I decided to join the matrimonial site in the first place; I thought the virtual world is so much better than the real one and I found you; I am the luckiest person on Earth to have found you and Rita both…,” before she could finish her sentence the lawyer entered the room with their divorce-papers in his hand and he looked quite happy. He told them where to sign and for the last time Rishabh and Avantika looked at each other being the better-halves; they signed the papers and the lawyer said “Congratulations Ms. Avantika Moitro and Rishabh Paul, your mutual divorce is now a success; you two are free birds now.”
After coming out of the room Rishabh and Avantika shook hands and smiled at each other.
“We had a good run,” Avantika said.
“Yeah but you see I won,” Rishabh seemed enthusiastic.
“Yes Rishabh you won and I am happy that you did; no one can love me as much as you did but no one can love her as much as I did yet you’re ready to let me go; you’re the true selfless winner here whereas I’m the selfish one; once I got to know what it feels to be in love I never want to let it go”
By Anamika Dutta©