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Sunday, October 13, 2002

Life Ties

A reason to rediscover oneself after divorce at fifty
Taru Bahl

"WHAT exactly is your relationship with Mr Gaur" asked Velu of his wife Geetan. Before she could launch into a mile-long explanation, she pinched herself, admonishing herself inwardly for her old habit of turning to jelly in front of her husband. She no longer owed him any explanations. He was free to make his own deductions. So long as she knew what she was doing and it met with her approval, what he thought mattered precious little. Besides, where was he when she was alone, miserable and yes suicidal too? He had been travelling all over the world with his new wife when for four long and painful years she had tried desperately to pick up the pieces of her life, trying to make sense of what had happened to her. He had, in one single stroke, destroyed the cocoon that was her home and sanctum sanctorum of her existence. But more than that he had shattered her self-esteem and everything on which hinged her existence.

The day Velu told her that he wanted a divorce so he could marry his colleague, a fellow consultant, in one of the countryís top league chartered accountancy firms, she had absolutely no idea of what had been going on under her nose. It was not the shock of the pronouncement but the realisation that she had been made such a fool of. How long had the affair carried on ? She had known the colleague who was 15 years younger than Velu and had hosted her on various occasions with absolutely no inkling of their intimacy. She had just recently done up their getaway cottage in Solan, keeping in mind every little whim and fancy of Veluís. Was that not their shared dream house? Why had he not stopped her from embarking on what would now always be a torturous memory? When he told her that he had talked to their daughters and that they were willing to be with him, allowing him to shoulder the responsibility of their future education and marriage, it did not make her feel relieved. She felt even more cheated and betrayed. So much had happened and like the action re-play of a Hindi masala film, she, the wife had been the last one to know.

 


A gameplan had been auctioned and she as the least dispensable commodity in the whole fracas had been eliminated right at the end. What made the disbelief and the subsequent sequence of events so unreal was her own confusions. There had been nothing wrong with their marriage. They were a perfectly normal couple. In fact, all their friends sought them out, citing their example as one representing the ideal contemporary Indian family. They made a pretty picture who were into fitness, traveling, reading and partying. They enjoyed spending time with each other. Communication, sharing, an informal bon homie and transparency had always been the binding glue, cementing their bonds. Then how had something like an affair, a reasonably long drawn out one, continued and thrived to the extent that the existing marital bond had become meaningless ? It just did not make sense.

Reality had to sink in. There was no choice. Once the pronouncement was made things happened at a break neck speed. Geetan was handed the keys and papers of their flat in Delhi and Solan. Their elder daughter found a job in Mumbai and the younger one was ready to fly to the USA for an advanced doctorate. Velu told Geetan not to worry about them. He would take care of everything. Geetan had a sneaking suspicion that the girls were already chummy with the new woman in their fatherís lives. Of course, they sympathised with their mother but on the whole maintained a stoic distance, keeping their feelings to themselves.

Geetan who was an artist had worked out of a studio which she shared with a friend. That arrangement would remain unchanged thankfully, simply because it had never got in the way of the family. It was independent of them. Velu had an overseas assignment for a year and he would be taking his girlfriend with him after which, hopefully, the divorce would be through and they would be legally wed. As he outlined the nitty-gritty of the new parameters defining their relationship, it sounded so clinical to Geetan. According to him, their marriage had been over a long time ago, only Geetan had insisted on living in a state of denial. He almost advised her by saying, that a time comes in oneís life when one has to think for himself and though he was being very selfish vis-a-vis his feelings he would never be found wanting where any of his responsibilities and duties were concerned.

Within a month everybody was gone. The girls and Velu left, in different directions. Only Geetan was left behind in an environment which was familiar but which she did not identify with. For more than six months she did not see anybody. She refused to think about her future. And then one day at the gym she met Rajeev Gaur. He was a businessman with an artistic bent of mind. He had some land in Faridabad which he had always wanted to develop by setting up a book shop, cafť and art gallery. It was a dream project for him. Having met her he felt she would be the perfect person to conceptualise it, give it shape and run it eventually.

Geetan liked the idea enormously. It meant relocation from a familiar place and entrusting her future in the hands of a person she barely knew. As she tried arriving at a conclusive decision, she reasoned with herself, "had she not blindly trusted the most familiar people in her life only to find that she hadnít known how their minds ticked after all ? Here, a partial stranger appeared sincere, gave out good positive vibes, had no ulterior motive, was allowing her to whet his proposal, take her time to draw out her own terms and conditions, was giving her a complete free hand, so why should she not take things at face value?

Geetan ended up going to Faridabad. Gaur got the architect to build her a small cottage within the premises of what would hopefully become the cultural hub of the township. There still is a lot of work to be done but she can see herself happily working for the next ten years. She has become extremely close to the Gaur family. Their work entails a lot of movement together which is how Velu saw her a few times with him prompting him to question the nature of their relationship. New alliances along the way had got formed on their own and she was ready to surrender to His will.

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