Hope and Survival


ANAHITA
Anahita was sitting quietly in her room all alone. The board meeting had just gotten over and the flowers and congratulatory cards were strewn on the table. The board had unanimously selected her as the MD of the organization. She was still trying to make sense of all the hype around her promotion. The last five years had been work, work and work without a pause or did she choose to work without a pause! She got up and peered through the window and could see the entire life playing in front of her like a movie.

“Dadda! Dadda! Where are you? Samta has just had a baby girl. Come here and have a look at her. She is white like a lily and her hair is as black as coal and curly. Dadda !!!!.” Ashok and Samta had two sons and were hoping that goddess Lakshmi would grace their home this time. He heard this news and quickly ran to hug his sister.  
The first look at his daughter and he was awestruck. Milky white complexion, a thick mop of hair on the head and pink lips. “I am blessed!”, Said Ashok to himself.
In a couple of days Samta was home with the little princess and the entire household was celebrating the arrival of the little princess or Lakshmi in their house hold. In the days to come they aptly named her ANAHITA which means immaculate.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into years and before everyone knew Anahita had turned 18. Beautiful and majestic yet so decent and unassuming in her behavior. Is it possible for some to be such an amalgam of grace and beauty and before Ashok knew it there were proposals raining in their backyard. “Daddy! Daddy! Why do you want to send me away too? As it is Raju bhaiyya is in USA. And Biren is also studying in a hostel.”
Ashok’s eyes welled up and he gave Anahita a big hug and said , “Darling no one is sending you anywhere… You are my princess and you are going to be with me forever.”
Anahita had hardly turned 18 that she got a proposal from Aditya, son a retired judge who had just joined the IAS.
Any father worth his salt dreams of getting an IAS as a son-in-law. Anahita’s friends and cousins were turning green with envy. “You must have done something really nice in your last birth otherwise even those who give a lot of dowry can’t think of such proposals!!!!”
Anahita watched the entire brouhaha silently. She wanted to scream at everybody and tell them to just get lost. “I am not interested!!!  This is not what I want. I want to carve my own destiny. I want an identity. I don’t want to live as someone’s wife.”
Son of a retired Judge and an IAS officer, Aditya could have married anyone from a much better background but his father had seen Anahita at the college function and he immediately decided that she is the one for his son. Aditya looked like a Greek god with his sharp features and curly hair. Even Anahita couldn’t but fall for his charms when she met him. He was extremely articulate and charmed the entire family with his witty words.
The wedding day arrived. Anahita looked like a goddess in her red and golden lehanga. Although initially Anahita was not happy with idea of marriage but after she met Aditya and the way everyone envied her, she accepted the proposal and started dreaming of a life with Aditya. Aditya’s family had agreed that Anahita would continue her education.
It was almost 11:30 and Aditya had still not come in the room. Anahita was tired of waiting for Aditya. She had all romantic dreams about the first night and remembered the scenes in the movies how the groom lifts the veil of the bride. A tremor ran down her spine at the thought of Aditya lifting her veil. How handsome he looked in while sherwani and red pagadi! All the young girls were so jealous. Her cheeks turned red at the thought of him. She looked at the watch. It was 12 :30 now. Where is he? What has kept him so long….. Suddenly she heard the door open. She stood up nervously. They had hardly interacted before the wedding so there was a lot of hesitation.  He gestured her to sit down She sat on the edge of the bed. He sat next to her. Anahita’s heart was beating loud and clear. Probably Aditya can also hear it. She thought of what is going to happen next and felt even more nervous.
Aditya stood up and finally spoke with a heavy voice, “ Look at me Anahita” she looked up. Her big eyes full of nervousness and excitement. “Ahhh you are so beautiful. Any man would be so lucky to have you.” Anahita rose up with a jerk. Any man, why is he talking about any man! What about him? Aditya continued, “I don’t know how to say, I married you only because my parents emotionally blackmailed me into marrying you. I am in love with a colleague of mine. She is also an IAS officer. She doesn’t belong to our caste and that is why my parents were against the wedding. But I cannot accept you as my wife. I love her too much. I cannot think of anyone else. I am sorry I didn’t tell you earlier I did not have the courage……”Aditya kept on speaking, explaining but Anahita couldn’t comprehend a word. Her room was whirring around her and she was too shocked to utter a word. She just looked at Aditya: no tears, no words, no questions to be asked and no answers to be heard. That night itself in the same bridal attire she walked out of Aditya’s home and life.
Anahita was sitting in her room quietly when her father walked in. Beta, Why do you keep so quiet? Why don’t you talk to us? What happened? Why did you come back? “Papa I want a divorce.” She said and walked out of the room.
Ashok sat silently for some time and then called his wife and said, “ Anahita wants a divorce from Aditya.” “What are you saying? Divorce? How can she do that? What will people say? What’s wrong with her?” Samta started crying. Ashok quietly got up, held Samta by her shoulders and said ,  “ Samta, you know Anahita would have never taken the bold step of coming back to her home if there wasn’t something majorly wrong with her marriage. She is a very mature girl. Has she ever opposed our decisions? If she says she wants the marriage to end I am sure there might be a reason for that.”
Anahita was sitting and looking at the mehandi on her hands which still looked so beautiful. Suddenly she got up and started washing her hands vigorously like a woman possessed. She kept on washing her hands and then suddenly broke down and stated crying loudly like a little child. Her mother and father came rushing to her. They all wept holding on to each other.
Divorce formalities didn’t take much time. Aditya agreed to have divorce with mutual consent.
Anahita resumed her education and joined an MBA course.
Ashok was worried about Anahita’s future and fed up of people gossiping about her daughter. He thought of looking around for a good suitable boy and get her married again. “This time I will be very particular and do a proper background check before I say a yes”, he thought to himself.
Anahita just wanted to pursue her career and be independent and fee. She finished her post graduation and started looking for a job.
Ashok was approached by a gentleman named Rajeev. Rajeev was son of a businessman and had a decent business of his own. He got to know about Anahita and showed interest in marrying her.
Anahita made all the attempts to reason out with Ashok but in vain. Ashok was stuck in the age old cultural belief that a daughter’s home is where her husband is. Anahita and Rajeev were married in a simple ceremony. Rajeev was no match to Anahita’s beauty, grace and education. He had somehow finished his basic education. In fact, when you saw them together you couldn’t help pitying Anahita. He was so ordinary that if he were in a crowd you wouldn’t know where he was.
Something had died within Anahita after her divorce with Aditya. She mechanically did all her duties after her marriage. They went out as a couple because she was supposed to be doing this. Anahita lived a robotic life looking after family and husband. And within two years of her wedding she was blessed with a daughter. Anahita named her Fiza. The birth of her daughter was a turning point in her life. In her daughter she saw herself. For the first time after her divorce with Aditya she felt a new life within her. The happiness that had always eluded her was finally there.
Anahita embraced motherhood with and immersed herself in bringing up her daughter. Fiza was almost four and started school. Anahita again started feeling a vacuum inside of her. She was not interested in shopping for jewelry and designer wear. Nor was she the kitty party types. Finally, she told Rajeev that since Fiza was anyways going to school and she would like to work to keep herself busy. Rajeev was initially not happy with the idea of his wife working for someone else but eventually agreed to it. Anahita spoke to a few friends about her desire to take up a job. One of her old school mates gave her a number of his friend who ran a small time business and needed someone to help him with it. Anahita took the number and thought of giving it a try.
Anahita had been called at 10 in the morning to meet the owner of the firm. She waited in the lobby till almost 11 but no one even offered a glass of water.  She was very angry with her friend for sending her to such a horrible work place. Just as she got up to leave, “Anahita!” she heard someone call out her name. She turned and her dark brown eyes met the gaze of a pair of light brown eyes. The eyes held her gaze for a moment and then she heard the person muttering an apology and asking her to follow into the room. Anahita just couldn’t comprehend what had happened to her the moment she looked into the light brown eyes. It was as if she has seen an oasis in a desert.
The man introduced himself as Sumit. Sumit was an engineer from IIT, who had started his own engineering unit. He desperately needed someone to help him with the administrative work. He quickly shook hands with Anahita and asked her, “How soon can you join? Anahita was taken aback for a minute, “How soon….” Her voice trailed off. She quickly regained her composure and said,” Whenever you say.” “I would say right now, but I know that’s not practical.” And then he smiled. There was something in that smile. Her heart almost stopped for a second. “I think coming Monday should be good”, he said looking into Anahita’s eyes. Anahita just nodded her head and took his leave. She was still so dazed. “What the hell is wrong with me”, she thought to herself. “Why am I behaving like a silly teenager.” Whatever it was, Anahita just loved the feeling. She was almost 28 now but had never felt this emotion till now. Married at 18 and dumped even before the fact could sink in doesn’t happen to everybody. And then remarried because everyone thought that was the right thing to do. Till now she had lived life as per other’s likes and dislikes. For the first time in life she felt an emotion which was her own. She liked that feeling. It didn’t matter to her if anyone else didn’t.  Lost in her thoughts she came home and at dinner time asked Rajeev, if she could join Sumit’s company. Rajeev knew Sumit and agreed. The only condition was that home shouldn’t be neglected at any cost.
Anahita started working with Sumit and within no time became an indispensable part of his office. She started loving everything about Sumit. The perfume he wore, the way he talked, the way he smiled, the way he slept in his chair after a tiring day at work. And the more she was attracted to Sumit the more she grew detached from Rajeev. She kept on comparing Rajeev with Sumit and always found Rajeev to be so ordinary and boring, and Sumit so dynamic and interesting.
It was almost a year since she had been working for Sumit. Although she was hopelessly in love with him she never betrayed her feelings. She didn’t want to spoil her relationship with Sumit. Also, he was a much married man with two teenaged sons. She had heard about his marriage not being great, but that was none of her business.
The end of the year is very hectic for any company and same was the case with Sumit’s company too. It was one of those days and everybody was working at breakneck speed. There was so much work pressure that Anahita had no time to have her lunch also. She just had a sandwich and between endless cups of coffee, she did not realize when it was past 9. She looked and around and realized that almost everybody had left except for Sumit who was in his cabin and the peon. She got up and asked the peon to call a cab for her. She peeped into Sumit’s office to check what he was doing. Sumit was resting on his chair eyes closed, perhaps asleep. She gazed at him for a moment and then went close to him and touched his forehead with her fingers. When he didn’t wakeup she couldn’t resist running her fingers on his face and on an impulse touched his lips with her fingers. As she touched his lips with her fingers, she felt a deep sensation in the pit of her stomach and she quickly withdrew her hand. The moment she moved her hand, Sumit caught hold of it and whispered, “Don’t, Please don’t.” Anahita was taken aback for a second. She looked at Sumit and tried to pull her hand out of his grip but couldn’t or didn’t want to. All of a sudden nothing else mattered but Sumit and her own feelings. She was over powered by the surge of feeling. Sumit and she, she and Sumit. Sumit stood up without once leaving her hand or his eye contact with Anahita. He whispered into her years, “Anahita” and Anahita’s feet turned into water. She loved the way he called out her name and she bent forward and kissed him. Lightly first and then completely surrendered to him. Both of them were discovering each other and for Anahita it was a realization of a part of her that she didn’t know existed. She kissed him again and again reveling in the sensations and emotions that she had not known earlier. Sumit put her on the couch and it was like a sea wave which would stop at nothing. She felt new and complete.
She went home flying, felt like a leaf floating in the air. She quietly stepped into the bedroom not wanting to wake Rajeev up. As she slipped into the bed, Rajeev turned and asked about her being late. Anahita mumbled something about work pressure.
Anahita was alive again. She laughed a lot, walked with a spring in her step. The world suddenly seemed so much better place.
Anahita and Sumit couldn’t stay away from each other any longer. It soon became evident to everyone at office. The chemistry between them was too strong and palpable. Initially there were murmurs but soon enough their affair became the hot topic for discussion in social circles too. Anahita had absolutely no guilt feeling as far as her relationship with Sumit was concerned. However, she didn’t like that Rajeev was getting drawn into this negativity for no fault of his. She knew that it was time for her to take a decision. The decision had already been taken. She just had to implement it. She had no guilt or remorse. Relationship with Rajiv was long dead. Divorce only seemed to be the final rites for the dead relationship. Anahita did not ask for a single penny as alimony. All she wanted was her daughter, Fiza’s custody.
Anahita held the divorce papers in her hand second time over. She smiled at the irony of her fate. For a second she thought that perhaps she was never meant to be married. She quickly shut that thought up and decided to leave the past and look ahead. Ahead looked more promising and beautiful in Sumit’s arms. So what if he is married. He has promised that he would file for divorce soon.
Anahita moved into her own small pad. She and Fiza,her small beautiful world. Meanwhile she also decided to start her own consultancy. Life had taught her a few lessons; one of them was financial independence was a woman’s way to freedom. Sumit would visit her every morning and evening at her place. Everything was perfect. Anahita finally had the freedom she always wanted and a man who she loved. Once Sumit gets his divorce, they would get married or so she thought. Days turned to months and months to years, Anahita was much more settled in her profession as well as relationship. However, one thing irked her constantly. Sumit would make no mention of divorcing his wife. Every time she broached the subject, he would talk about parental pressure or about his sons who were teenagers. Initially Anahita let the matters be. But as time elapsed she became impatient and wanted a legal status. She was looked at as the “other woman”. Her parents had to deal with barbs all the time. She hated going to any social functions for she could see the discomfort her presence brought to the people.
“where is the Sumit I fell in love with?”, she would ask herself. He would be irritable, distracted and impatient. Even when he was with her, he seemed to be elsewhere mentally. Anahita felt distraught at Sumit’s behavior. He would often be the phone with someone and disconnect as soon as he saw Anahita. They were together and yet not together. The more Sumit tried to run away from Anahita the more she clung to him. Sumit started feeling claustrophobic in Anahita’s presence. The beauty that captivated him a few years ago was now like a snake around his neck. He wanted to throw it away. But didn’t have the guts to. He derided her, mocked her belittled her at the smallest pretext but Anahita couldn’t bear to be separated from Sumit. She wanted to save this relationship at any cost. He hit her self-esteem. She tolerated that also.
One day Sumit’s phone was lying on the bed and he had gone to take a shower. Curiosity got the better of Anahita. She picked up the phone and started looking at the messages etc. She checked a few more messages and to her horror saw the most intimate text messages. Scrolled further and saw nude and seminude photographs of a female office colleague. She just couldn’t breathe. For a second she thought she would collapse there only. She somehow collected herself when she saw Sumit. She mumbled some apology about being unwell and feeling uneasy and wanting to rest for a while. Sumit was only to relieved to get her off her head.
The chasm between Sumit and Anahita only widened with time. She became insecure and extremely suspicious and Sumit became defiant and uncaring. He would very cruelly comment on everything about Anahita. The same Anahita who he wouldn’t stop raving about. Anahita also realized that he was an incorrigible womanizer almost bordering on perversion.
Anahita in an attempt to salvage the relationship moved in with Sumit. Her mission in life was to somehow keep the relationship going. She soon became a pale shadow of herself. Low on self-esteem she lost interest in everything including her daughter Fiza. One day while she was in the kitchen, she heard the doorbell ring. Rushing out to open the door, she saw Sumit walk in with a woman. He walked in without even giving a glance in her direction. Anahita stood dumbstruck and humiliated. She felt as if someone has shot through her chest. She could hear the sound of laughter coming from the living room. Through the night she couldn’t sleep a wink. In the middle of the night she got up and looked at her reflection. She was unable to recognize the woman in the mirror. “Is this woman me?” She stared long and hard at the reflection and said aloud, “I leave you here in the mirror, the part of me that loved Sumit is no longer alive. It is dead and rotting now. What is left is just a reflection and reflections are not real.” She felt as if someone lifted a heavy weight from her chest. The weight of a dead and rotting relationship, the weight of her own humiliation that had been crushing her.

She got up in the morning with a determination to take charge of her life. “I will have an open dialogue before I take the final decision of leaving him. Enough said and done. I will live life on my terms now”, she said to herself. She replayed the scene of her confrontation with Sumit a million times in her head. and waited for Sumit to come home from office. Every minute was like an hour as she waited for the final show down. Tring Tring, the shrill sound of the phone rang. “Who would call at this time? “She rushed towards the phone with multiple thoughts in her head. “Hello”, she said with a little impatience. “Hello am I speaking to Ms Anahita?” “Yes” she said, wanting to close the call as quickly as possible. “Madam I am calling from Sumit Sir’s office. Sir was on his way to factory; a tractor rammed his car from behind. I am very sorry to say madam but Sumit Sir died in the spot.
The deafening silence, a voice calling her name from a deep well; nothing mattered. She just sat mumbling, “How could you do this to me Sumit? How could you do that? How could you walk out on me….”
How could you!!!! Anahita heard herself say aloud. Suddenly broke from her reverie and looked around. Fiza would be back from college any moment. She wanted to be home before Fiza reached home to share the news of her promotion. The two of them would perhaps raise a toast to their life and success. The Song “ Jodi tore dak shune keu na ashe tobe ekla cholo re.. ( If no one responds to your call, walk alone…)”  played in the background as Anahita stood up and stepped out to take on life…. Once again…..

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