I have a problem. I just can’t handle uncomfortable truths. Or secrets. Somehow I have to tell the emperor that he’s naked. Even if I get guillotined for it.
So ever since I learnt the truth about Jyoti and Daljeet, I had been avoiding any sort of confrontation with Jyoti. No lingering around after meetings. No chais at the chaiwalla beneath the office. No casual Sunday brunches at our place. I had even postponed my blue-sky project with kindergarten kids because the only kindergarten kids I knew were Jyo’s and the only venue we could afford was her house.
But then my boss pulled out the ostrich from my desk-drawer and demanded a presentation. So I had to fix up a group at Jyo’s place. And then I tagged along Shwets to protect me from myself.
Everything was going just fine. Talking to four-year-olds can be quite tiresome, but Jyo’s daughter, Ekta was so sweet, that it made it a lot easier.
She was so sweet that it broke my heart.
After the group, the maid took the kids down to play and Jyo laid out coffees for us.
‘It’s just coffee, not veritaserum!’ Shwets quipped as I eyed the table warily.
Ok, I could do this. Only coffee and chit-chat about IPL.
‘Cheese and crackers?’ Jyo happily handed a pretty porcelain tray around. ‘Vinay got it on his trip to Switzerland this time.’
That snapped me. I mean, I knew Vinay and both my husband and I liked him. Everyone did- he was just so ‘likable’, easy going, intelligent, even good-looking. What more could a person want?
‘Jyoti,’ I burst without preamble. ‘There has been a lot of gossip about you in office.’
‘And, pop goes the weasel!’ Shweta chirped from her corner. We ignored her.
‘People have been talking about you and… Daljeet,’ I could see Jyo’s eyes harden. I hurried to make amends. ‘I mean, not that I think it’s true. You don’t have to justify anything to me.’ There goes another hard-earned and cherished friendship, I thought dully.
‘Then why ask?’ Shwets grinned sweetly. Damn! I forgot how confortable she was with uncomfortable truths.
Jyo said nothing. She just took a small sip of her coffee and looked away.
Errr…I cant handle uncomfortable silences either.
‘But, I guess you know what you’re doing,’ I stammered on. ‘I mean, you guys are just perfect- you and Vinay-I mean, and I know you would not throw that away. You have a family…’
‘Dont mind her,’ Shwets cut me off. ‘She’s the queen of the meddling moral brigade. They’re considering her for the VHP ticket next elections.’
‘What?’ I was aghast. ‘Why did you say that?’
‘Oh, Come on! You always are so judgemental, you have this clear, fixed idea of what is right and what is wrong. If we ever err on the wrong side, we would live to regret it etc etc.’
‘But it is wrong!’ I protested, turning to Jyo. ‘You have kids…’
‘So what’s right, Sandy?’ Jyo finally snapped back. ‘Staying in an unhappy home and subjecting the kids to torment everyday?’
I shut up, cornered. Shwets and Jyo were looking at me critically.
‘You guys seemed so perfect,’ I whispered.
‘Were we? Did you even know us?’
I thought back to the unspoken disjointness, the studied indifferences and the artificial PDAs. There were signs.
‘But what’s the issue? Maybe, you can get help.’
‘There is no issue,’ Jyo said with a cynical laugh. ‘I mean no abnormal issues. The same issues a lot of marriages face- his large extended demanding family, my aloofness, his ‘innocent’ flirtations, his disdain for my lack of professional income, mine for his materialism. I mean the list can go on and on.’
‘But these aren’t dealbreakers.’
‘Exactly. Why do you think we have stuck together for eight years, despite the daily fights? Because there was no ‘Oh-my-God-he’s-having-an-affair’ kind of dealbreaker. But we haven’t been happy for a long time now. The real issue is that we dont know how to handle our issues. We just dont love each other enough anymore.’
We studied her in silence.
‘ At some point, you have to give it up. You have to have the courage to say enough is enough.’ Jyo muttered more to her cup than to us.
I clicked my lips sympathetically, ‘So now what?’
Jyo took a long breath, ‘So now, I’m happy. I have found someone. I am in love,’ And a smile spread across her face.
We started at her incredulously.I pursed my lips shut, but Shwets spoke up this time, ‘With Daljeet? Isn’t it just an affair?’
Jyo looked at her dreamily, ‘No. I love…I mean, we love each other. He understands me completely. Its early days, but I’m sure we will be together someday.’
This time I gulped coffee so fast that it burnt my tongue. Daljeet? Daljeet was just 28, he was unattached, a flirt and obviously just having a good time. As Jyo went to get water for me, Shwets mumbled, ‘Love is blind. And deaf. And dumb. And just freakin’ pointless.’
But only I heard her.