Priya stood at the brinks of the open water teasing the waves that crashed along the shoreline, with each tide inching closer for a taste of her bare feet. With her sandals dangling on her index finger Priya had her arms crossed and loosely cuddled below her breasts as she tried gazing beyond the gradient depths of the blue water. There was magic in the aroma of this liquid and Priya drank it willingly spurring into a whirlpool of thoughts that was inevitably inscribed in her mental diary.
"Five years has brought with it a wealth of changes. People seem distorted in the process of learning to adapt to new changes that life has hurled at them. Some were strong, hitting whatever was pitched start out the park, while others surrendered to their shortcomings. But one thing stayed the same, this life or what I like to call destiny's game. If you were to ask me who I am I would not have the same answer as 5 years ago. But one thing is for certain and I would tell you with my head held high that I am the sum of my past and the product of my unforeseen future. A sister, daughter, daughter in law, cousin and a friend are just a few of the ways the naked eye would define me. But above all I am a mother, an overall complete woman and I have the greatest man in the world to thank for bringing out this side of me. Unfortunately, this year I stand alone, partaking in a custom that a wife made with her businessman husband 5 years ago on an auspicious night that neither one of them would allow themselves to forget. The time has changed along with people but one-thing remains, memories, all of which stems from a timeless bond. Crystal clear water streaked with white waves kissing the golden sand beneath my feet. Candles of aromas covered in the satin red lanterns, which hung on golden hooks that shone in all its majestic glory. Red and pink petals created a mosaic pattern on the skinny canvas of sand leading up to the holy altar that had a beauty of it's own. The altar was hoisted on a solid red base that was evenly squared in shape with four white pedestals in each corner to uphold the semi-round, golden crown top. Ram weds Priya, written boldly in the sand with each letter lit with candles was the first thing that caught my eyes when Ram took the blindfolds (his tie) off. That night we got married on this very same beach and it easily became one of the most beautiful nights of my entire life. My papa lied to me, he told me that Ayesha and Sid had got into a fight. I later found out that he panicked upon hearing my voice on the other end of the line. Ram was supposed to answer the phone so he could be notified that the wedding preparations were complete. No wonder he kept telling me not to worry. But one thing baffles me to this day and Ram refuses to let out the mystery of just how he managed to articulate this plan when he was with me the whole time. Well I can't blame him; the best surprises are those that have some element of wonder wrapped in the bounds of uncertainty even after it is exposed."
She shivered slightly as the waves relished in the accomplishment of coating her feet with its brisk, cool and replenishing composure. Priya rubbed her soft palms gently up the length of her delicate arms when she felt someone firmly grasping her from behind. The touch and associated sensations was unmistakably familiar but her heart paced in fear knowing that it could not possibly be whom she wanted it to be. "Let go of me," her voice finally formed in her fear-stricken mind and scorched furiously out of her. The wide spanned arm gripped her body tighter in response to her struggle. Clive Christian No 1, the scent was affluently distinct but because of Ram all she needed was a whiff from a distance to pin point the rich elements of this luxurious aroma. Her man was amongst a few in Mumbai who had taste in this department and the financial resources to sustain this collection. It had to be him�and if there was an ounce of cheap doubt that dared to mingle in their prestige surrounding, the shape of his lips on the side of her neck made her a believer.
Ram: How did you know it was me?
His grip loosened and she turned around to face her fascinated husband.
Priya: Does that really matter? You nearly scared me to death� (She punched him lightly on his arm) I was this close to killing you�(she faced the pads of her index finger and thumb approximately an inch parallel to each other in order to illustrate her point)
Ram: (In an exaggerated action Ram swept his palm across his forehead) Phew�Thank god�Today my ass would have been beaten black and blue and the strange thing is I might have enjoyed it because the punishment was coming from you.
Priya: Ram� (She looked around and tugged her bottom lip between her teeth) You are so naughty�
Ram: You should have thought about that before you agreed to marry me 5 years ago. Now it's too late�I was a final sale� no refund or exchange�(he grinned widely and winked)
Priya: I thought it all through when I married you� And besides�(she blushed) I wasn't complaining, I was just stating a point�
Priya thrust herself into his arms concealing her flush red cheeks as best as she could in his broad chest. Resting his head forward on her shoulder Ram kissed it several times propping her body securely against his, he whispered, "Happy Anniversary my jaan�"
Priya: (she spoke while fiddling with a loose button on his vest) Happy Anniversary baby� (she paused and than pondered) But Ram, didn't you have important meetings this entire week in San Antonio? And weren't you supposed to come home tomorrow?
Ram: (unfastening his hold on her upper body he clamped her hands and kissed it) Did you really think I would let you celebrate the most special day of our lives alone?
Priya: I know Ram but your work and�
Ram: (lets go of her hands and turns his body sideways with the cutest pouting expression drawn on his face) Kya Priya? I made night and day into one working on that stupid San Antonio project just so I could leave early in the week to get to you on this day and you are not even the least bit happy.
Priya leapt so that she was standing in front of Ram but he simply sidestepped her gaze. Aware that he was in no mood to see or listen to a justification, Priya took his hand and planted it in between her breasts so that he could feel just how happy she was with his presence.
Priya: (Ram gulped, now fully alert) Ram do you feel that? My heart is practically doing jumping jacks because you are here. Not because I have seen you�Baby just the thought of you is enough to set me off my rocker. I am crazy about you�It makes me feel so proud that my man not only remembered our anniversary but he finished his work early just to spend some time with me. Ram I am happy�I am so happy but try and understand, there is only a few things I can do right now to show you how thrilled I am to see you (she winked at him and kissed his cheek hearing him gulp as she did) Now shall we go?
Ram: (he stammered in sheer disbelief with her bold presentation) W-where�
Priya: (Ram was like a deer caught in the headlights, his mind had stopped working at this level of seduction) To a hotel� Do you know of any nearby? (she exclaimed sarcastically, amused as he gaped at her in awe) Ram� (she whined and nudged his mouth shut with her fingers) Have you forgotten that now we are not alone? It's 2:45 we have to pick up Pihu, you know our 5-year-old daughter. Ring any bells?
Ram: (he mocked her smile) I know�Thanks� By the way, you will have to pay for getting me all worked up like that.
Priya: Baas, Baas. Dhamke dena baand kijiye�Apke dhamke kay chaakar mein we will be late� Chale?
Ram: haan Chalo
Giving the destination instructions to his driver, Ram got into the backseat of his luxury sedan and cuddled close his doting wife. The AC blasted inevitably and if you hadn't known Ram you would assume that it was just a ploy to wrap his arms around Priya creating a cozy seal around them. Priya loved this car more than the others in Ram's collection simply due to the privacy glass, which was conveniently wedged between the front and back seat compartments.
Priya: Kya baat hain Mr. Kapoor?�(she palmed his face and planted a subtle kiss on his forehead) You're tremendously affectionate this afternoon�
Ram: Of course Ms. Kapoor� (Smooching her palms he held it in his hands, massaging fates' creases with his thumbs) It's my wedding anniversary today and all I want is a trailer of the heated romance that will ensue later.
Securing her head in place Ram etched a path with his kisses from her chin to her lips where he dwindled savoring the taste of her ecstasy and vowing not to bow down until he got his daily fix. The conversations that followed were breathless outtakes of a passionate fusion.
Ram: God I missed you so much� (He tugged relentlessly but she followed in complete synchronization)
Priya: We video chatted every night� (She nibbled at his upper lip, inching away and teasing)
Ram: I know but I missed your moans (he nose-dived into an aggressive kiss. Her moan was her mercy signal), your taste (he pecked the assaulted region of her lips gently), your scent (he nuzzled along the length of her neck and she began stretching out on the seat)
Priya: Ram we are going to pick Pihu up from school, don't start something that you can't finish�
Ram: (he continued, now shifting down the length of her arms) It's a 30-minute trip that gives me time for 2 rounds�
Priya: (she blushed, barely able to protest as she riddled the exoticness in the idea of making love in a car) Ram� please stop� the driver�
Ram: Can't see or hear us� (he finished her sentence, peeling her bangles off one by one, purposely going dreadfully slow)
Priya: Pihu�(she had her eyes shut leaning against the door)
Ram: is not here right now�
He proceeded to shedding the bangles on her other arm and than paused and smiled� God he missed seeing this blend of expressions that lingered on the border of vulnerability and want. Capturing it to his heart's content he tugged her upright and she watched him reach into the rectangular compartment of the car door pulling out a unique set of the most pristine glass bangles that was patterned to match perfectly with her saree.
Ram: you found part 1 of my anniversary gift�(he examined her from head to toe)
Priya: (regaining her composure) Every year you leave it in the same spot of the wardrobe and you always miss something that you give me later on. Last year it was the necklace set that matched the green saree and this year, the bangles for this saree.
Ram: (he chuckled as he spoke adorning her bare arms with the bangles) What can I say? I always want to be the one to complete you�
Priya: And I always trust that you will� (she glanced at her decorated arms and than up at Ram) These are so beautiful�Thank you�
Ram: Thank you? This is your right� And as your husband it is my privileged duty to shower my queen with all that she deserves.
Priya: I-I (she stammered)
Ram: Kya? (His question extended to his expression)
Priya: (she let out in one breath) I got you something too.
Ram: why? I told you I don't need anything�
Priya: ufff� (she covered her ears briefly) I know baba but as your wife�
Ram: (knowing that she was going to use his very lines against him he gave up, as usual) Okay okay�Fine! What did you get me?
Priya: Give me your hand�
Ram: Kya? (he laughed) You got me bangles too�
Priya: (she kissed her teeth and whined) Ram�
Ram: Alright, sorry� (he put his hand in hers)
Priya: Now close your eyes�Ram I don't want hear any arguments just�close your eyes. (once she was reassured that his eyes were closed Priya placed Ram's hand on bare belly moving her saree slightly to the side.) Now open your eyes and guess what my gift is� (he did as he was told staring blankly at the positioning of his hand and than back up at Priya.)
Ram: This can't be� (he stared at her abdomen as if he had seen a ghost with Priya's past pregnancy replaying in his mind.)
Priya: It's true Ram... I am pregnant with your baby� (She tried cheering him up but to no avail) A tiny little mister is coming into our lives. Pihu is going to be a big sister and we are going to be parents again�Ram?
Ram: (Pulling his hand back) No Priya�This can't be�And I won't let it�Remember the last time�
Priya: (with tears in her eyes) How can you say that Ram� Didn't we always plan on having a whole cricket team? Wasn't that your wish? (She stroked his face but he brushed her hand aside)
Ram: That was before�Things have changed�With Pihu�I almost lost you, I am not going to run the risk of losing you again�
What doctor? I am pregnant�
Doctor: Yes Mrs. Kapoor. But like I said there are a lot of complications with your pregnancy and I would advise you not go forward at this stage.
Priya: That's not an option� Is my baby going to be okay?
Doctor: It hasn't been half a year since the accident that caused your miscarriage� The greater risk is to you, as the mother...I am afraid as the pregnancy progress' your body won't be able to handle it. The baby can be delivered through a Caesarian section and has a good chance even while being premature but for you�
Priya: Than it's fine. As long as my baby will be okay� (she rubbed her belly) I want to give him or her a fair chance at life�
Doctor: Your sacrifice is commendable� But Mrs. Kapoor this is something that you should discuss with your husband first. A lot things can change in the coming months, it's better to be prepared� And also since the pregnancy is fragile and complicated couples in this predicament need to abstain from sex, sometimes even up until the delivery�These are some of the things that should be taken into consideration when making a decision and as you can see both parties input is valuable.
Priya: (thinking: No I can't tell Ram� I know once the baby is born he will be a great parent with or without me. Moreover, he really wants a child, we both do� No sweety, [she stroked her belly in thought], no one will harm you� I will not lose you again�) [sighs in disbelief] C'mon doctor, I know my husband�he would say the same thing. After the accident we both really just want a baby to fill any future void in our lives. And I am ready to sign any paper that I need in order to state that I approve of this pregnancy despite any risk that may come my way�
Doctor: Okay�As you wish�
She printed her name on the paper and signed on the designated dotted line. Handing it over to the doctor she caught the first rickshaw and headed straight to Ram's office. The overwhelming joy that came with the news of the pregnancy was just enough to roll over the rough patches that came along with that message. Priya was ecstatic and she knew for a fact that Ram would be just as overjoyed as she was. But the guilt of hiding a life altering truth from him was always lingering in the shadows of her happiness and she knew that the only way to shun this discomfort was by exposing it; a solution that she was the least bit eager in employing especially so early in the pregnancy when it mattered the most. So that day Priya made the conscious decision of lying to Ram justifying her action with the belief that the end results would be worth it. A lie is a lie no matter what the reason is behind telling it. There is always an assumption that if a lie is told to benefit a person in the long run than that lie once exposed would be easily forgiven. But sometimes the far-reaching consequences of a so-called 'good' lie are more detrimental than the truth of the same nature. In layman's terms it's better to die instantly than being tortured only to reach the same conclusion. This was the bitter realization that had been planted when Priya decided to lie, little did she know that it would grandly back fire on her.
Ram was in the midst of a crucial meeting that same day and so Priya did not want to disturb him with a trip to the doctor on the basis of what she believed was food poisoning. As she waited in his office for him she felt as if the child growing inside of her was rubbing off on her. And so similarly to the trait of an anxious child Priya couldn't stomach the good news any longer. It was 5:30 in the evening and she knew his meeting was over, Ram had informed her of his schedule the night before. And so she decided to surprise him in the boardroom itself. Before Jenny could spill the beans to Ram about her presence she made her way to the boardroom. Assuming that it was empty with the exception of her man, Priya barged in only to realize that the room was packed with businessmen baking in the heated, tension filled atmosphere. Evidently the meeting had prolonged, giving off a hint of its importance. With prior frustrations of the agenda, Ram unconsciously used Priya as the outlet for his stress. Excusing himself from the room, he took Priya outside and reacted in a strange manner that was highly unlike him.
Ram: (not allowing her to speak) Have you lost your mind? You know very well that I was in a meeting today, so than to what do I owe this intrusion.
Priya: Ram I am sorry. I really thought your meeting was over. It's fi�
Ram: Obviously not� I was so close to finalizing the deal and now I don't know whether the Saxena's will... Jesus Priya, you don't have an ounce of patience. Everything has to go your way. I knew you were waiting for me, Jenny told me� (he sighed and ran his fingers through his hair) What is it? What is so important that it couldn't wait until I got home?
Priya: Nothing�Just leave it� (she turns around to leave but he grabs her arm)
Ram: So you came all the way here. Waited for 2 hours and than interrupted my meeting for nothing. Tell me what it is, I don't have time to play games.
Priya: I am in no mood to play any games either Ram�(she shrugged his hand off her arm) Sorry�I made a mistake� You said your meeting would be done at 5pm it is now 5:30...I know you're stressed Ram but that doesn't mean...never mind... (Tears stung her eyes and she cleverly tried to make her exit before the overflow but once more he objected, this time sincerely)
Ram: (realizing his over-reaction) look, Priya�please don't cry� I am the one who should be sorry.
Priya: (struggling to free her wrist) Let go of me Ram.
Any other day she would have melted in his embrace with no will or desire to resist his charm and he would have made it a task to ensure that she did just that... Maybe it was her hormones taking its first turn and making its presence known. Or perhaps it was because today was the first time that Ram chose business over her and stood by his decision. Whatever it was, there was a distant stench of devastation that could be traced in the months to come. As she requested, he let go of her hand and watched her figure retreat past the elevators and through the door leading to the staircases. She wasn't going to walk 10 flights of stairs but she needed 2 flights atleast to clear her mind and more intentionally to give him some time to catch up to her. Two hours later he came home, she called it an early night and he knew her actions were part of her ploy to avoid him. She lay in bed facing away from him and after he finished his shower, he did the same. Tossing and turning he watched with much envy as she pretended very well that she was asleep. The act of being away from her was more suffocating then swallowing his ego in this matter. That's when she felt him wiggle close to her under the sheets, wrapping his arm around her waist. Her slight shuffle notified him that she was still awake giving him an award winning silent treatment. Siding her thick lush hair Ram kissed the nape of her neck and whispered "I'm sorry darling." As if in deep sleep she tried churning out of his hold but he gripped her tighter wrapping his legs around hers, alerting her that he meant business. Slowly Ram drifted off to sleep, caressing her arm and easily whispering over a hundred apologies before his eyelids succumbed to the heavy sensation of drowsiness. In the middle of the night when he woke up he felt her absence almost instantly. Searching the obvious places within his mansion left him short of answers. The rain poured vigorously outside, with large droplets being coerced by the wind to whisk against the windows. Knowing the depth of her stubbornness when she is adamant on seeking revenge, Ram decided it would be best to check the terrace. Sure enough she stood sheltered underneath a glass mantel but on the terrace nonetheless with nothing more than her pink silk nightgown and a robe.
Ram: What the hell are you doing here?
Priya: (startled, she turned around to face her enraged husband) I just needed some fresh air.
There was truth in her claim, she had started feeling nauseous once more and thought it would be best to stand out on the terrace. Stormy weathers didn't fancy her but she needed to face the havoc that mimicked the one stirring inside her. Ram had apologized numerous times and she hadn't even once said sorry for a sin that was much greater. In that moment she wanted to tell him about the complications of her pregnancy. How in 9 months he will gain a title as a father but lose one as a husband.
Ram: (angrily) oh c'mon Priya�I know you are mad at me� And I said I was sorry�and I meant it�Why are you punishing yourself? Dadi told me that you barely ate and now you are standing out in the rain when you know very well that your health hasn't been all that great in the past few weeks. What will it take for you to forgive me?
Priya: (he went on a rant and she blurted the first chance she got) I am pregnant Ram�(he stilled with a neutral look on his face�Now was the time to tell him everything, if she didn't do it now she would never do it�) I am pregnant and the doctor said� (But before she could proceed in relieving the burden of her lie off her chest he interrupted with a smile unlike one that she had ever seen on his face before)
Ram: You're---We are--- Pregnant�(he covered his open mouth with his palm momentarily) Priya you have given me the best news in the whole wide world. You and I both know how badly we craved to have our angel back in our lives and today you�I am so so so happy � I am going to be a father� (He leaned in sporadically to embrace her when suddenly a look of panic spanned across his face) Priya you're pregnant and you are standing out here on the terrace? What if you got wet? (His expression and concern took yet another turn. The news was the sweetest kind of shock, one that left its victims in a confused, overjoyed daze.) This is what you came to tell me today? I am such an idiot� (She tried to intervene without much success) No wait! Give me a chance to make it up to my angels�Let's go back to our room, please�I am not trying to be bossy but Priya try and understand it's chilly out here. Please (Ram pleaded with the most authentic sincerity in his big brown eyes and Priya had no choice but to gesture her head as a nod of approval. They went back to their master bedroom, he made her sit on the plush mattress and she quietly adhered swallowing a couple of times in an attempt to flush the tinge of guilt building up against the walls of her throat. Ram spoke lovingly to his baby realizing for the first time what it meant to be so happy that you have no other outlet but the tear filled ducts in your eyes to liberate your feeling. She wiped the salty streaks on his cheeks and wrapped her arms around him, refusing to hear another apology. There was no power in the world that would allot her the courage to rupture his bubble by telling him the complete truth about her pregnancy. And so she lived in the shelter of a lie for 8 months until one day a cyclonic wind burst through her windows crumbling the walls of sacrifice that her conscience had safely housed her in. She had told Ram that she was uncomfortable with engaging in any sexual activities during the course of her pregnancy and he trusted her with his eyes closed, never disrespecting her wish even if it meant crushing his urges, which she witnessed him doing on many occasions. His constant pampering and bickering only to ultimately fulfill her silliest of wants on a daily basis elevated his status in her mind to an incomprehensible level. Once more Kapoor Mansion was set ablaze with grand events in anticipation for the heir to its legacy. With the delivery date on her heels Priya felt it was time to let Ram in on her sacrifice beginning to realize that there was more stress in hiding a secret from her beau in whose eyes she could no longer see her reflection through the thick, black cloudy abyss, which she crafted. But fate had already conspired a punishment for her deeds; all these days she hid the truth from Ram, keeping him at a distance and now that she wanted to bridge the gap, the grounds for proximity refused to exist. One evening she waited for his return from the office just like any other day but this time he was delayed and that too when she had so much to say. Against every ounce of strength, her eyes closed to the mess that she created and with each blink lasting longer than the last it wasn't long before the darkness engulfed her.
Ram: (hastily slid his palms across his forehead, he turned slightly to face her) Do you remember that night Priya? When I found you unconscious in our room? (she stared at him helplessly knowing that he already had an answer to a question that they delved into many times after the incident) I rushed you to the hospital with a millions thoughts running through my mind and none of them was about our baby alone. When the doctor flashed me that consent paper, with your signature on it, I didn't know what to think. All I knew was that I wanted you back, at any cost but you had already sold yourself to the devil. How could my Priya be so selfish, so stupid, so nave? And how could she deject me from having a say in a decision that I had a right to be a part of? You know what Priya ever since you had told me you were pregnant, I had dreamt of the moment when I would hold my child for the first time. I dreamt of us fighting for turns to hold our baby and ultimately Dadi would just take our bundle of joy in her arms because she had wanted to be a pardadi for the longest time. But when the nurse brought Pihu to me I felt burdened because you had so cunningly bribed me with false utopia right before your snatched the ground from underneath my feet. This time I am not going to lose you. Call me selfish or whatever but this time, the decision is not only a husbands but a fathers as well� I can't take that risk, if not for me then for Pihu's sake you have to listen. We need you!