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Bhattacharya Tuli Indrani



Bhattacharya Tuli Indrani


The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh

12 mins

The table was beautifully laid. Maya spent her day in the kitchen preparing the favourite dishes of Ritesh, on the eve of their marriage anniversary. Ritesh didn't remember the day as usual. He was in a hurry to attend the special meeting with the foreign delegates to enter into a joint venture, he was tensed too. Maya didn't mind, she wanted to surprise him. The only invitee to celebrate and share their happiness was Sanjay, Ritesh's closest friend… a confirmed bachelor. The only child of her parents, Maya found a true brother in him. He was always there to join them, be it a happy occasion or a sad…

…All three of them were there for a coffee session.

'Maya, would you mind doing the interior of my pub?' Sanjay asked. Are you mad Sanjay?' snapped Ritesh. 'Maya and pub! Why don't you hire some professional?'

'She is a professional Ritesh. Have you forgotten, she used to work for the 'INTESIGNERS', the best one in the city. You shouldn't have left your job Maya. I have been fortunate enough to see some of your work, in a few prestigious offices. It was not known to me then… it's the same Maya.' Maya smiled at Sanjay and entered the kitchen quietly to prepare the cold coffee, Sanjay liked… with extra cream.

Sanjay forced Maya to plan the interior of his new pub, to be opened shortly. Maya was going out after such a long time. She didn't have any friends in the city as she had come to this city on an assignment. It was completely an unknown place for her. She met Ritesh in a party arranged by her employers, he was an invitee there to represent his office, a client. Ritesh was introduced to her by the Technical Secretary to the Managing Director, Mr. Purohit. Maya was in charge of the guest entertainment. She was looking stunning in her black chiffon, off the shoulder evening gown. Ritesh was not able to take his eyes off her. Maya could read those eager eyes… there were many more admirers there but Maya too liked Ritesh, the tall, dark and handsome guy. She recalled the heroes of the novels, she used to gobble up during her school days. Both of them exchanged glances in sly.

Ritesh came forward and offered his hand to Maya for a dance. Maya couldn't refuse. She loved dancing with Ritesh, loved his appreciating look and of course the closeness… she blushed like a teenager, her heart started beating in her throat.

'Oh God! Let it be the last night of my life, I don't think I am going to live without this man.'

Ritesh was in a hurry, he proposed to her on that dance floor. He knelt down, took her sweaty hand in his strong one and said, 'Look, I guarantee there will be tough time, I guarantee that at some point both or one of us would want to get out of this, but I also guarantee that if I don't ask you to be mine, just now… I will regret it for the rest of my life. Please be mine.'

'Is it real love, should we hurry in taking such an important decision of life…' thought Maya but at the same time, she liked the romantic attitude of Ritesh. Everyone present there rejoiced and changed the occasion into their engagement party. They started planning for the marriage celebration. No one realized that Maya didn't even give her consent to the proposal. They had given her no chance to refuse.

'Maya, we have reached… let's go in…' said Ritesh. 'You start your work, I am coming.'  

Maya came back to reality.

'Ritesh is not close to me anymore…' Her feminine sixth sense conveyed to her about the presence of another woman in his life. 'If I could give him a child… Ritesh is so fond of children.'

Maya remembered the day when she had informed Ritesh about her missed period…

'I think you are going to be a father.'

'Oh Maya! I can't even express my happiness. I have been waiting for this day for such a long time… I know she's a girl and she is going to be as beautiful as you.' Ritesh hugged her. She also remembered the disappointment Ritesh had when the doctor declared, 'I am afraid madame, you are not pregnant… you are diagnosed with a tumor in your uterus and it has to be removed.'

It was a bolt from the blue. Ritesh started acting weirdly. Instead of being supportive of Maya, he withdrew himself. Maya thought, she would not let Ritesh feel the hollow, but quietly observed the increasing gap between them.

One day, Ritesh returned home late… he was in a happy mood. Ritesh went on describing the appointment procedure of his private secretary.

'Oh hell! The personnel department didn't screen the applications and biodata properly, it was just like a walk in interview. Candidates went on pouring in. Oh Maya, you should have been there… most of them were unable even to speak properly. You would have admired the dressing sense of some of them… but, but the one I have selected,' he chuckled, 'Is a gem. She is an angel. I am so very happy Maya that she's going to be there and work for me.'

Maya was busy serving the food and didn't show any interest.

'What happened, jealous! Aha, you women… you are really stupid. Arrey! She is my secretary and you are my wife. Don't be upset.'

Really, why should she be? Ritesh was not interested in her anymore. It had been a long time since they have made love. They had stopped going to movies or dine out as they used to, even a year back.

'I should not have left my job,' thought Maya. 'At least I could have kept myself busy, so these nonsense thoughts wouldn't have entered my mind.'

'What happened Maya, where are you? I am going on talking to you, but you are lost somewhere. What's the matter, are you alright… feeling sick? We can go back.'

'No Sanjay, I am fine. Let's have a look at the place to be done. You must be having a blueprint of your pub… I will chalk out the plan at home.'

'What! What do you say, you won't come to the spot?'

'Of course, I will. Let me observe it nicely today and plan properly. Come forward with your wish and ideas too.' Maya was quite impressed with the layout design of the pub. 

Sanjay and Maya wanted to have coffee while returning home. Maya pulled the glass door of the café and froze over there. She turned back and looked into Sanjay's eyes. Sanjay too became uneasy, finding Ritesh and Neela seated very close to each other, unaware of the outside world.

Maya didn't talk on their way back. She switched on the TV for Sanjay and entered the kitchen to make coffee.

'Which one would you like, hot or cold?' Sanjay looked at Maya. Her face was red with anger and depression. He had never ever found Maya losing her temper but…

'I think a cold one will be able to change your mood. Don't get agitated Maya. Neela is Ritesh's secretary… they must have taken a break after a busy schedule…'

Maya came out of the kitchen and sat to face Sanjay.

'What do you think Sanjay, what the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?'

Maya's patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.

Sanjay knew that she was serious.

'Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I'd say.'

'Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay…' She rolled her eyes in disgust.

'That's what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, not for a married man. Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital alliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.' She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, 'Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?'

'I don't have any idea Maya. What made you think so?'

'I am sure, he had…' grumbled Maya. 'Now coming home late, is in his regular routine. I could smell different perfumes when he returns. I am sorry to tell you Sanjay, he didn’t even touch me for a long time, he is getting his needs satisfied elsewhere. Now, tell me… if I go for a healthy flirting too, will it be alright for your friend?'

Sanjay was speechless. He loved Maya like his own sister. Ritesh was close to him too. He had seen Ritesh and Neela together several times. He never did dare inform it to Maya but the woman-intuition… nothing could be kept secret from a wife about her husband's extramarital relationship. Sanjay was sad. 'Who had cursed such a wonderful couple? Oh, God! Save them.' He thought of talking to Ritesh but it was such a delicate matter.

Time passed, Maya had done a wonderful job at Sanjay's pub. Maya and Ritesh were there for the inauguration, they looked normal. Maya invited Sanjay for their marriage anniversary… she asked him to keep it a secret. She wanted to surprise Ritesh.

Maya and Sanjay waited patiently for Ritesh as they knew he would be late, but it was already 10 o' clock. Sanjay looked at Maya's eager face and her beautiful dress, she had specially bought for the occasion. 'Maya, let it be. I will come some other day. Ritesh will return tired… it's better, you two celebrate the auspicious night together. I don't want to be the 'kebab mein haddi…' Maya could manage a faint smile… she was at the verge of crying. 

Sanjay approached the door and the doorbell rang. Ritesh entered, looked at the two of them suspiciously. Maya came closer, 'You are so late Ritu… the delegates were there till …?'

Ritesh snapped, 'That's none of your business, you mind your own… and what have you worn? Always trying to seduce people by looking younger… you are looking ugly.'

Sanjay couldn't bare anymore, but he didn't have a choice. He left quietly.

Ritesh went straight to the bedroom. Maya waited at the dining table, looking deserted.

'Let him freshen up, I will bring him to the table. I will not argue with him.' Maya could hear the locking of the bathroom door, she went in. Ritesh was already in bed. 'Ritesh,' she put her palm on his forehead… 'What happened, very tired? Come, have something… I have prepared all your favourite dishes.'

'I have had my dinner. Don't disturb. Just switch off the light and leave me alone.'

Maya cleaned the table but did not touch the cake. She had baked and decorated it…Ritesh liked chocolate cake. She made herself a mug of coffee, though she was hungry… she didn't feel like eating. She went to her favourite place, the balcony and dumped herself on a cane chair. Her mind was not working. She couldn't decide her next step. Should she go back to her parents, who didn't like her to marry a guy about whom nothing was known…she would be a loser. Talking to Ritesh would just be like 'crying over the spilt milk.'

Ritesh woke up early in the morning. As he came out of the bedroom, he saw the nicely decorated cake on the table. He looked at the table calendar… 'Shit, I have missed it again.'

He remembered his ill behavior, that too in the presence of Sanjay. He felt ashamed and afraid too, to face Maya. He approached the kitchen, Maya was on phone. She looked very happy. Ritesh was relieved, he entered the kitchen.

'Good morning dear! The breakfast is ready, you have to have it alone today… I have an urgent appointment.' 

Maya got ready, she was looking beautiful. Maya was again on phone… whispering to someone. Now Ritesh became suspicious. He went to the balcony to get an idea. '….Yes, yes I will be right on time.' Ritesh couldn't hear anything more. Maya was giggling.

'Who might be there, on the other side… it has to be Sanjay! He is a traitor, he keeps on saying… "Maya is my sister," and see…what is he up to!'

Maya entered the bedroom. Ritesh was ready too.

'Bye, have a nice day…' Maya was in a hurry. Ritesh hurried after her to the parking lot. Maya drove away with the car. Ritesh ran for a cab and followed her. Maya reached the posh restaurant, they used to visit frequently even a year back. She took a seat at the table, already reserved for two. Ritesh hid himself behind a pillar and found Maya talking on her cell phone again. She was in a very good mood. Ritesh was eager to see her companion and catch them red handed… but the waiters there were known to him… he had to be cautious. A beautifully decorated black forest cake was brought to the table… a candle was fixed there too.

'Oh, God! What does she want to celebrate?' He craned his neck to see what was written on the cake…

'Oh Sir! You are there… madame is waiting for you. Please be comfortable…'

An attendant escorted him to the table. Maya left her seat and hugged him…

'Happy anniversary, my dear hubby.'

Ritesh was bewildered. He eyed the cake to find a flag, which said "Happy Marriage Anniversary RITESH & MAYA… wish you many more years of happy togetherness.

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