It was all wonderful, initially, for Layla. Horace used to be so depressed earlier. Now, all of a sudden, it felt like he had become a changed man. Her husband had suddenly become happy. Not just that, there were tremendous inflow of gifts for her – mostly clothes. Every so often, he would get her some amazing clothes. And she loved the attention, although the clothes, at times, felt like they were one size too small. But she ignored them. After all, how would Horace know the proper size of women’s wear?
But it didn’t take long for her to start wondering. It is, of course, a common knowledge among married women that when their husbands suddenly starts showering them with gifts, it meant that the husbands are up to something wrong. And the most common “up to something” is another woman.
Now, it was not like Layla and Horace had an unhappy marriage. Although they were married for about 10 years, Horace looked much younger than his late 40s, working out regularly and keeping himself slim and fit. Layla also frequently joined Horace in his workout and that ensured she also remained fit, but she had a slightly hefty body structure. Because of this, no matter how much she would work out, she never looked slim. And that remained a sensitive spot for her, no matter how much Horace ensured he loved her the way she was.
And this insecurity was cropping up in Layla’s mind now. She also started noticing a slight lilac perfume on the clothes her husband was gifting her. There were other signs too. His working hours started extending. At times, she felt she smelled the same lilac perfume on her husband too. Worry started gnawing in her mind. She did not want to lose Horace. At the same time, she was angry on him for cheating on her.
Layla decided to act. But she needed proof before she could confront Horace. She wanted her argument to be fool-proof. She was yet to decide, though, on what she would do once he accepted it. He would beg for forgiveness. He would cry too, she knew. But her own actions, she was still unsure of. She decided to leave it till that moment to decide on future actions.
Hiring a Private Investigator would mean the issue getting out, as she would need to contact her friends for references and she did not want people to know of this, yet. She decided she, herself, would follow him. This was also difficult. She knew most of Horace’s co-workers and friends. So she had to ensure that no one even around Horace should spot her following him.
It took her some days and a hell lot of patience to find out that her husband has started frequenting a club which can only be described by decent people as “Gentleman’s club”. Layla was shocked beyond words. If it would have been a pretty co-worker or a mutual friend, she could have understood the attraction. But this is intentional. Horace wanted this. There was no other way. She went home and cried a lot. She thought of various possibilities – She would leave him immediately and go, without any explanations. But that option did not give her any satisfaction. She would confront him. But he can easily get away with her not having any proof.
Layla decided to collect some proof first. She thought it better to confront him at the club. So the next day, she brought herself to go to the club one last time. It took her a lot of courage to enter the club. But what she saw shocked her beyond words. She had not, even in her wildest dreams, expected her Horace to be like this. The moment her eyes met Horace, the shock and embarrassment was mirrored in Horace’s eyes as well. But before he could call out to her, she ran.
She ran with no destination in mind. After a while, she started just mindlessly wandering around. She did not know what to do. The scene which she just saw was etched in her mind. She did not know if she could ever erase it. She did not know if she could ever forgive him. What will their parents think? How will their friends react? Oh God! What was she going to do? After a long walk, she decided to talk to him first, and started the walk back home. She knew Horace would be waiting for her at home. This talk felt long overdue.
That night, they talked. They talked like they had never talked before. There was a lot of crying, a lot of argument and later on, a lot of hugging and some more crying. Horace was, after all, the man Layla had loved and married. Everyone has their flaws. Marriage is all about accepting each other’s flaws – no matter how odd they are. They would be together. She would support him and he would not keep any more secrets from her.
As long as she kept on getting his dresses, she was fine, even if it was worn once. And she liked her Horace’s choice of Lilac perfume as well. She felt it suited him well. Horace can, finally, be himself and this would only strengthen their bonding. He could be happier and she would be supportive. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of. Horace was, after all, just a cross dresser.
Mark could not just easily take off the wedding ring. After all, it was on his finger for 10 long years. Some might say it is just a very short duration. But was it truly? Did 10 years really amount to nothing? Yesterday’s conversation with Jill was playing on in his mind.
Mark: You should go. That is the life you should have had. You deserve it.
Jill: It was just a thought, Mark. I do not want to leave you. How will you manage without me?
Mark: I have been selfish. This is not right.. (turning away to leave, grief clearly visible on his face)
Jill: (now crying) Please Mark, don’t leave. We should not be having this conversation today.
Mark: Why should we not, Jill? In fact, we should have had this conversation when you first met Alex. I was blind… I was…
Jill: Stop. Please stop, Mark. What I have with you is much more important than what I have with Alex.
Mark: Please do not make it more difficult, Jill. Let us just end this discussion now. (Thus saying, Mark left from home leaving Jill crying in the hall)
Since then, Mark has not gone back home. He was sitting by the river, in his car and playing with his wedding ring. All those years were flashing in front of his eyes. He had first met her when she had come to visit his parents. They had a mutual friend who had made their acquaintance. His parents had immediately liked her and since then, she had been frequenting his house.
The day he told his parents that he and Jill wanted to get married, they had been so happy. His parents’ happiness had mattered so much to him. Their marriage was a grand celebration. He was their only son.
From that day till then, Jill had been nothing but a perfect partner to him. Then Alex came and everything turned upside down. He was clearly besotted by Jill. She had also liked him. But being a true partner, she had never expressed that to anyone, not even to Mark. But Mark could see. Yes, he could see very clearly. After all, she was his wife. He knew her very well.
Following this realization, he had arranged for a subtle background check on Alex. His sources ensured that he got all the required information. Today, he could proudly say that he knew Alex almost as much as Alex knew himself. But that realization only stung further. Alex was a very genuine person. He was self-made and rich, kind-hearted, friendly and sophisticated. He would keep Jill very happy. He could give Jill everything she needed, everything that Mark could not give.
She deserved it, he knew. But he also knew that he wouldn’t be able to go one step ahead without her. In his own way, he had loved her and he was sure she knew. She had loved him much more than he deserved.
Finally he came to a decision. He went home to Jill and hugged her. “You know I love you. And I shall never stop doing that. But now it is time for you to live your life. Even after knowing everything, you have stood by me for my needs right from the start. You knew it was my selfishness but you still never wavered. This is my gift to you for all that you had gone through because of me. There is no other word for this now. Today I want to set you free. I have already called Alex. He is understandably confused. Please go to him. Explain everything to him or don’t, I leave that decision to you. But I know for sure that he will keep you happy. Or else he will have me to answer to. Go, Jill, go and be happy. You deserved it long time back and now you shall have it.”
So saying, he placed his wedding ring in Jill’s hands and hugged her tight for one last time. He had been living a false life for so long and Jill had been covering for him. Now, it was time for him to come out of the closet. Now it was time for him, too, to be free.
He was always afraid of the quiet. Silence around him meant that the voices in his head would come out. He was suffering from depression and had been taking medications since a long period of time. But so far none of the drugs had helped quieten the voices in his head. Anything he used to do, the voices used to tell him that he would never be good at it.
Even when he got married, the voices used to convince him that he was a terrible husband and that his wife hates him. He used to increase his medications in those times, but it would be of little help to him.
And then she got pregnant. The voices got even stronger. They used to tell him everyday that he would be a horrible father and the kid would hate him and wish him dead. He started getting scared of the unborn child. The tiny clothes his parents brought for the unborn child used to haunt him at night. The toys used to be his nightmares.
The day his wife went into labour, he could not dare go with her to the hospital. He stayed at refusing to go to the hospital. The voices threatened that the baby will hate him too, just like how his wife hates him. After a lot of heavy medications and self cajoling, he finally made it to the hospital. His wife had delivered a baby girl and was very excited for him to meet the baby. It took all of his will power to go towards the baby.
However, nothing could prepare him for what he experienced on holding his baby for the first time. The moment he held his daughter in his hands, all he could see was her tiny eyes transfixed on him, the small toothless smile building up and all he could hear was the rapid fluttering of her tiny heart.
That night, lying next to the newborn’s cradle, he slept peacefully for the first time in ages, the sound of her heart beat being his lullaby of peace. The voices gone forever. Quiet no longer scared him.
Every day Trishala used to get a call on her office landline. The call used to come at the same time each day and there used to be an old lady at the other end of the line asking for Puneet. Trishala had no idea who Puneet was and every day she used to tell the lady that it was a wrong number. Since she was an old lady, Trishala didn’t have the heart to be rude with her for calling everyday.
At night, during her daily calls to her mom, she used to tell about this call. Then they used to discuss about the plights of abandoned parents and the children who do so.
That day it was slightly different. The call was unexpected. When the phone rang, Trishala picked it up to tell the old lady there was no Puneet here. But instead there was a younger one at the other side – a sterner one. The old lady had heard a phone ring. She ran to the phone thinking it was Puneet finally. The running did not go well. She tumbled down the stairs and is now critical in the hospital. If at all there was a Puneet there, please tell him his mother has very little chance of recovery.
The phone froze in Trishala’s hands. It was a few moments before she could speak. And then it was the address of the hospital that she asked for. Puneet might not understand. He might not even care. But at that moment, Trishala saw her mom in that old lady. She did not wish for her to die alone.
That day, those persistent phone calls gave an old lady a companion during her last days.
Nilay and Niyala never liked the way their parents celebrated their birthday. Every year they used to go to an orphanage and spend the entire day there helping the kids and arranging food and school stationery for them. They wanted to spend their birthday like their friends did by going to shopping malls and buying clothes and gifts. Of course their parents did that too, later in the day. But the day always started with a visit to the orphanage.
But this year, they decided they had enough. 6 year old twins Nilay and Niyala were planning on having a talk with their parents. It was their birthday and they wanted to do things which they liked. So, the previous day of their birthday, when their parents started arranging things for the visit to the orphanage, they walked into the room with serious faces and declared their interests. They did not want to go to the orphanage. They wanted to go to the mall and play games all day. Their parents were initially surprised. Then their mom sat them down and said, ” My babies, I am very sorry we are forcing you to do things which you are not interested. But we feel that you should not forget your roots. Have you not wondered that you never visit your grandparents from mom’s side? That is because your mom does not have any parents. I grew up in that orphanage. Those are my roots. Today we are well to do and living comfortably. But some time long ago, your mom was living in those tiny rooms with no one to look after her. We just thought you should know that there are many children who are not getting what you are getting so easily, and that your mom was one of them.”
All this while, the kids saw tears in their mom’s eyes. Their mom was a super mom. They have always seen her strong and handling every monumental task by herself. Seeing her cry like that, broke the 6 year old kids’ hearts. Both of them hugged their mom and said, “We are sorry for saying that. We don’t want you to be sad. And please don’t feel that you don’t have Ma and Pa. We shall be your Ma and Pa from now on. And we will never complain about our trip to the orphanage.”
During that year’s visit to the ORPHANAGE, the kids saw the world with new eyes.
The day her mom got pierced, she was there. It had all started with her grandmother insisting that all the married women of the house had wear nose rings. it was apparently a tradition. Her mom did not want to do it. She was afraid of the pain.
Navya saw her mother cry out in pain just to have a shiny object plant itself on her nose. Since then, every time she saw that ring, it used to make her terribly sad.
Through the years, Navya’s mom struggled to give her a decent life. Basic things like education was a fight as their tradition did not allow women to receive education. When they did not get any support at home, her mother used to stitch clothes and sell to make money for Navya.
Today, sitting in the flight with her mom by her side, she finally feels like the Princess that her mom wanted her to feel. Of course, her mom is sitting right next to her in the Business class and made to feel like the Queen that she always was for Navya. Navya was taking her mother on a world tour and then to settle with her in Denmark, where Navya’s business has expanded. The Nose Ring rests happily on Navya’s ring finger. It no longer gives her any pain. Mother’s day had never felt better.
It was there since a long time. The dream had come to him when he was a child. And it had repeated a lot since then. He learnt painting just because of that dream. And the only painting he ever painted was that dream. He had put his heart and soul into creating it and therefore the painting had felt very real by the time he had finished it.
That scenery. He did not know where it was. He had tried to find it out. Tried a lot but failed every time. No one knew such a place. Then why was he dreaming about that place? He put up his painting in a well-known gallery and put up the title – “Where is this place?”
Anyone who would see that painting remained mesmerized by it. The waves felt so real that it was almost like a window to a beach. There were so many offers to buy it, prices increasing with every bid, but he did not want to sell it. He just wanted to know where it was. It was starting to consume all of his thoughts – it had become an obsession.
He quit his job and started travelling. He started working in odd places to get money for the next travel. He searched high and low, went from pillar to post, went everywhere, still the only thing he found was his flair for writing. So he started a travel blog with posts about every place he used to travel, and also used to paint some of the scenes he visited. Very soon he became a very famous blogger and painter. His paintings started getting enormous attention from across the world as the case with his blogs.
He got fame and money, what every one else wanted in life. But he still could not find what he wanted in life – that place. His travels started taking his age with it. Years passed and he started getting too old to be a wanderer. His travels became less and less frequent. But he still hadn’t found that place. Slowly he started accepting the fact that maybe he will never find that place. Maybe his dream will remain that – just a dream.
And along came an offer – an offer from a friend for a final travel. It was part of his friend’s bucket list to visit a remote place he had chosen. He knew it might be the last travel of his life. So he took it up and agreed to go with his friend.
The day arrived and they landed at the place. From the moment they arrived, he started feeling restless. There was a pull in the air he could not define. He let his friend rest and took up in the direction he felt a calling to come. The journey was long and it took him from a lot of varied landscapes. And just when he was about to call it quits and return home, he reached a landing to a beach.
He had reached the place of his dream, and that too at his last travel. The calling was from his subconscious. He was meant to come here. He went to the beach and sat there – sat there for a long time thinking “Now what?” He had achieved his dream which was haunting him since childhood and now he was an old man finally at the destination.
By that time he was so tired that he fell asleep right at the beach. And that is when that dream came. Another place. This time in mountains with a small stream of river flowing down. He woke up with a start. The dream was so vividly engraved in his eyes that he felt he could touch it.
And that is when he realized that life had not stopped yet, and neither should he. He had found another dream to pursue and away he should go once again. His Moby Dick is not gone yet. Thus taking up his laptop and painting kit, he goes on to find his next dream at yet another destination.