The Woman I Loved
The Woman I Loved8 mins 291 8 mins 291
It was the 27th of May 2019. I swiftly walked towards the elevator of my thirty-storied office building as the big, round dial on my right wrist flashed 8:30 AM. My boss, Mr. Swaminathan, had declared today to be a special one for the team. So, I sought help from my lovely wife, who willingly took up the task to dress me appropriately for the day. I had no shame in admitting to her about my rather poor sense of style and selection, especially when it came to clothing. She knew they were thrash. After all, it had been twelve years since I had tied the sacred thread around her neck. She ought to have figured it out on her own. My admission of guilt in this matter couldn't have come as anything of a surprise to her. Wearing a sublime red tie upon a flashy matte black suit as prescribed by the missus, I made my way up to the 15th floor of this glossy, glass structure situated in suburban Chennai. Once again, I walked out of the jam-packed weightlifter like I'd been doing on almost every day, for the past decade or so.
As I rushed into the main lobby of my lavish workplace, I received a hearty smile from the young receptionist seated a few meters away. She was flawlessly dressed in black, yet noticeably adhering to the etiquette of her workplace. "They're waiting for you." she said, expecting me to understand the context. I directly marched towards Mr. Swaminathan's cabin, which was arguably the largest one on the entire floor. He was the managing director of the firm, making him the leader of our cult. I went and gathered with my colleagues waiting outside his den, which we were prompted to enter. Eager to know as to why the day was deemed special, us troops, all dressed pompously, made our way inside. Apart from the thick fragrance of lavender which the man cherished, the managing director of Midas Investments had an excellent ambiance to his cabin. "So, there you are." he stated, as the seven of us slowly immersed ourselves into the chairs placed in front of us, giving him an awkward grin the entire time. "Do you know why we've assembled here today?" he questioned. Not knowing anything but the dress code to be present in, neither of us budged, indicating him to answer the query himself. "It has been a great year that we've had as a company. Today we plan to extend to our valuable employees a vote of thanks by felicitating them with awards. You are the ones that will be presented with the honors." he proudly declared. The adrenaline in my torso rushed upon receiving the news. Unlike other corporates in town, Midas had neither a quarterly nor any annual meet to celebrate the efficiency of their workforce. They hadn't adopted the practice of giving away honors for the sheer sake of a routine. Hence, these awards were of great value to the candidates on their receiving end, who also, in turn, ended up in the company's grand portfolio. I was going to be one of them.
Later that day, Mr. Swaminathan, who had kept the plot suspense to almost everyone, called for a meeting of his entire workforce in the main lobby at about 3 PM. Intrigued by his announcement, a horde of investment bankers made their way to the venue and gathered around him. Geared up with a microphone in his hands, his voice resonated across the crowd as he explained the preamble of the occasion. Gratifying our presence in the recent success of his ventures, he recited a few thankful words which received applause from our audience. Duly, he called our names in an orderly fashion as an assistant brought him a tray of shiny mementos with our names engraved on top. Giving out our prizes, he wanted us each to speak a fulfilling share of our adventures being a part of his club. The men with accolades narrated their experiences spanning from how they had joined as an intern to how they gave their wives petty excuses all the time. Presuming the stage to be too casual, one of them had even taken the liberty to joke about our managing director. The crowd was going wild with laughter as the men were letting it all out. While some of them cheekily spoke about their time as a 'banker' who had never actually worked at a people's bank, others felt rather emotional and were thankful to the people who had supported them all along their journey. Words were spoken about their wives, their wonderful children, and how much they were loved. It all felt beautiful. It was going to be my turn to be up on that stage soon. As I sat there and thought about how to address the gathering, I reminisced. My thoughts probed into the different memories that flashed across my head, and I had something of a realization. It felt like a thought that laid astray deep inside me, had urged for its acknowledgment. I had overlooked this certain figment of my journey that had a huge play in getting me to the place I presently sat in. This 'figment' was rather a person. It was a woman. I had finally decided what I was going to speak about. I was going to speak about the woman who had endured so much for me yet showed so less. The woman who only admired, but never complained. I was going to speak about the same woman, who kissed me goodbye that very morning and wished me all the luck in the world. I was going to speak about the woman I loved.
A tap on my shoulder pulled me out of the trance as Mr. Swaminathan's voice had distinctively called out for me. He handed over the mic after giving me the esteem I was to receive. "Sitting on the couch there, I remembered it was her birthday today..." I began. A flood of emotions hit me as I thought of the sequences of my life that would've been incomplete without this woman. "I'd loved her ever since I knew her. I'd loved her before my marriage and even after it. But I couldn't show it to her. I feel handicapped when I think about it. Not being able to show enough love to the person who only loved me more." I burst out further. There was a sheer moment of silence from the audience. I continued, "Telling someone that you love them isn't always enough. Show them how much they mean to you. Show them how they're loved by you. That is, in reality, the best way to let them know."
I went ahead and spoke some more about her, describing her as a perseverant woman, with bold choices and selfless sacrifices. Some of them even had their phones pointed at me the entire time. They were probably going to make an internet sensation out of the mid-life crisis of a forty-year-old man. I didn't mind. I got off the stage after a sinister outbreak. I had nearly wept in front of a hundred people. All I longed, for now, was to go see her. I wanted her to embrace me in her arms and assure me that everything was alright. As I was about to head out of the lobby, Mr. Swaminathan congratulated me once again and remarked, "Poornima must be proud," referring to my wife. I gave him a decent smile and left towards the elevator. I wanted to get home and like always, tell my wife all about my day.
I reached home about an hour later and directly walked into my bedroom. Poornima wasn't there. Restless, I went to look in the kitchen and found her seated on a chair at the corner. She immediately rose from her seat upon seeing me. I could evidently make out that she had been crying even after her futile attempt to rub off the tears that still rolled down her cheeks. It made sense to me now. I realized she had already seen my video from today, which someone from my office had probably sent her. Seeing her that way, I couldn't keep it to myself anymore. It took me just about three seconds to shed tears from my eyes. I plainly stood my ground and wept bitterly like the emotional wreck I was. She didn't budge. She knew it needed to happen. I had to let it out. Trying my best to get myself back up together, I lifted my head to look at her. She gave me a sincere smile. It felt like she knew what I wanted. Like I thought, Poornima always understood me. She knew it wasn't her that I had spoken about on stage today. Poornima knew who I'd meant it for. She knew about the woman I loved.
I walked past Poornima as she patted my shoulder. Going towards the room on the farther end of the apartment, I worked up my pace and ran towards the door. As I slowly pushed it open with a creek, I saw her. Resting on an armchair, she was fast asleep. I walked up to her and woke her up with a gentle kiss, caressing her hair. She opened her eyes to look at me and uttered my name in a soft voice. She was glad to have me back home. Though I felt triggered upon seeing her, I didn't want to cry. Watching me cry would only give her sorrow. I had given her enough of it for a lifetime. Wanting to be strong, I decided to never recollect the times when I hurt her. I had to abandon the thought that I'd failed her. She would want to see my content in life. That's all she would ever want.
They say there is always a woman's role behind every man's success. Which woman they don't say. Well, I had finally found mine. Once again, I looked into her eyes as she stared back at mine with compassion. Leaning forward, I softly whispered to her, "Happy birthday amma. I wish you a very happy birthday."