Abstract Drama Thriller
‘As they say - at forty, men get naughty. Believe me, there is something going on with your beloved hubby,' said the mother of Nupur, suspecting the possibility of adultery of his son-in-law, Akash.
Nupur smirked, shook her head in disagreement and continued to fold the clean, dry clothes from the laundry tub. Nupur's mother, Anupama was helping her to fold and organize the clothes in the closet.
Anupama was visiting her daughter after six months, along with Nupur's father Shantanu.
'And ma, are you concluding this because Akki and my relationship is better than ever before? Your mind is so polluted!' Nupur dismissed her mother’s theory with a stern voice.
‘Polluted? Call it the wisdom beta. As they say - Wisdom is the daughter of experience. Look at these facts,’ responded Anupama, and started to count the evidence on her finger, ‘One, you both are married since fifteen years and all of a sudden he has started to behave romantically with you. Two, you guys used to fight so frequently and all of that disappeared in a flash. Three, forget about you, he has been extra nice to me as well. He complimented me on my Saree’s border’s design and color. Have you ever seen him doing that in past fifteen years?’
Nupur remained silent for a few minutes. Anupama picked up the folded clothes and organized them in the closet. The bedroom was smelling fresh because of the aromatic fragrance of the clean, washed clothes.
Anupama broke the awkward silence.
‘Look beta, I am not saying that he is up to something. All I am trying to say is, keep your eyes and ears open. As they say, - Prevention is better than cure.’ Nupur’s mother persuaded further as both of them picked up a long Saree to fold.
‘Ma, stop quoting stupid proverbs,’ said Nupur, ‘You appear like one of those evil mother-in –law characters from Hindi soap opera, who poisons a happy family. Akki is my first love; what do you know about first love, haan? It always has the power to come back and make things right. Yes, we had gone through some rough patches but that doesn’t mean, things wouldn’t improve miraculously.’ Said Nupur but her voice was less convincing than earlier.
‘Tell me one reason why Akash would start treating you like a queen, all of a sudden? Definitely not because of your looks,’ said Anupama
From the corner of her eyes, Nupur checked herself in the mirror opposite to her. She was beautiful but over the period of time, she had gained a considerable amount of weight. The dark circles caused by her late night work habit were not helping either. Being a professional online reviewer, she had to spend a lot of time in front of the computer, late night. The only thing that was thin in her personality was her self-esteem.
When Anupama saw that her daughter was lost, she decided to end the conversation.
‘Okay dear, warning you is my duty and now it is up to you whether to take the matter seriously or not. As they say – I can take the horse to the water but I cannot make it drink,’ said Anupama and walked towards the bedroom’s door. She unlatched the closed door and just before stepping out, she mentioned – ‘Remember, Akash might be your first love, but you are not his.’
Anupama was successful in churning the rational wheels in Nupur’s head. Though she meant well for her daughter, the conversation had made Nupur unhappy. She threw away the last piece of cloth she wanted to fold and crossed her arms, breathing briskly. She started to think – ‘Is her mother right? Is Akash really hiding something or cheating on me? After fifteen years of marriage and one adorable daughter, can Akash really do it to me!?’
Akash had always been a charmer. A flamboyant person combined with good wit and smooth hair. Even at the age of thirty-nine, he had not lost any of those charming traits.
Off late, he has been buying her gifts, helping her in the kitchen, giving her compliments, talking about repechage, whose meaning she understood only after googling. The closest meaning of repechage was “the second chance”. He had constantly talked about his new found love and respect towards life. Akash had proven many times in the past that he was good in pulling out surprises.
He had also bought expensive tickets to the grand show on upcoming Valentine day’s eve, which was a customary competition and had huge fan followers in their town. They used to watch the show every year on television but for the first time, both Nupur and Akash were going to witness it live inside the auditorium. Nupur was exuberant about enjoying the live show of Valentine’s day, where the participating couples would walk the ramp, answer funny, silly questions and also turn watery-eyed in the winning moments. Nupur was a huge fan of that event, and the participants of that event would usually become a mini celebrity. However, her excitement was cut short by her mother with a seed of doubt on her husband’s infidelity.
‘We all fake dad, and believe me, we all have to do it,’ Akash was preaching philosophy to his father-in-law, Shantanu, sitting across the dining table. Both of them were sipping their glasses of whiskey. He was intensely making a point about being fake.
Nupur, along with her mother, was cooking a snack in the kitchen. She was unable to get over the uneasiness caused by the imaginary thought sowed by her mother. She glanced out of the kitchen window. She could see how happily Akash and her father were sipping whiskey and having a great time. She told herself not to delve too much into her mother’s advice. Overthinking is a disease, which makes us imagine all the non-existing things and destroys the happiness.
‘Yes Akash beta, but all of it cannot be fake, you see,’ Shantanu argued and continued his discussion with Akash.
‘See dad, I would quote you an example,’ he pulled his chair closer to Shantanu, looked both sides and spoke in low decibels, ‘Imagine you had a big fight with your wife,’ he paused and said, ‘I am sure, you don’t have to try too hard to imagine that,’ and both of them laughed, quietly and high-fived.
‘So imagine that you had a fight and you are extremely angry. But, next day you would still go to work, put on a happy-faced mask and perform your job as if nothing has happened. In that moment, you are faking, you are not being yourself…’
‘But,’ Shantanu interrupted Akash, ‘it is called professionalism,’
‘Professionalism? Okay, so the definition of professionalism is “acting” that you are okay, when you are really not okay, correct?’
Their conversation was interrupted when Nupur and Anupama entered the dining hall with a couple of trays full of snacks.
‘So what are you guys talking about?’ asked Nupur, placing the freshly fried Onion Bhajjis and Papadam on the table in front of the men.
‘Ah! Now, that’s the reason I love you more darling,’ said Akash as his eyes lit up seeing the hot Bhajjis.
‘Here,’ said he and poured a glass of orange juice each to Nupur and Anupama.
‘Let us raise a toast to all the beautiful people in my life!’
All of them raised their glasses.
After sipping her glass, Anupama couldn’t hold back her curiosity as she said - ‘So Akash beta, Nupur told me that you guys are going to that Valentine’s Day’s event next week; any special reason?’ with an interrogative tone.
Nupur gave a harsh look to her mother for being openly suspicious.
‘Reason?’ said Akash and laughed out loud. ‘Is love not good enough reason, mom?’
‘Yes, it is beta, but you don’t go every year, so I was just curious.’
‘Well,’ said Akash and emptied his whiskey glass, put it on the table and continued –
‘Well, a lot of people believe that the real celebration of love is marriage but,’ said Akash and paused. Pointing his forefinger in the air, he continued, ‘but, I believe that the true celebration is love in spite of marriage, you know what I mean?’ said he, as he placed his arm around Nupur’s shoulder.
‘Wow! Well said Akash beta,’ said Shantanu, repeating Akash’s words, ‘true celebration is love in spite of marriage, - many of us must learn how to do that,’ pointing an ironical look towards his wife.
Everyone had a wry smile on their faces.
‘So,’ said Nupur, holding her husband’s arm tighter, ‘to celebrate our love in spite of marriage, we are going. Any more questions on this topic, ma?’ Nupur’s proud feeling about her relationship with her husband was back.
Before Anupama could answer, Nupur’s phone rang. An unknown number was flashing on her screen. She picked her phone up and walked away to talk. Others continued to munch the snacks and enjoy their drinks.
After five minutes, Nupur asked animatedly as she came back to the dining table.
‘Guess who had called?!’
All three of them turned towards her.
‘Deepika Padukone?’ asked Akash, jokingly.
‘Well,’ said Nupur, tilting her head, establishing an extended, naughty eye contact with Akash, ‘may be better.’
Akash looked puzzled.
‘It was Suman!’ announced Nupur.
Akash’s face was clueless whereas his in-laws’ face had an expression of bewilderment on their faces.
‘Akki, it was Suman, our college Suman ya, she is in our town for some business,’ Nupur was still excited whereas Akash’s face gestured as if he was slowly recollecting who Suman was.
‘Oh! Suman Vohra, hmm,’ said Akash.
‘Aha ha, as if you had forgotten her,’ said Nupur and pinched Akash’s arm, playfully and laughed out loud.
Akash, Suman, and Nupur were college mates and close friends. Everyone in college knew how madly Akash was in love with Suman. Suman too was fond of Akash.
Nupur had pinched Akash’s arm to troll him, but hearing Suman’s name Akash’s cheeks turned red. He tried to look away and hide his feeling but he couldn’t. Nupur’s laughter slowly subdued when she observed Akash’s expression closely. His expressions resembled of a teenager, trying to hide something.
As the silence extended, Shantanu sensed the awkward situation and jumped to the rescue. Even Nupur’s parents were aware of the college stories of Akash and Suman.
‘Oh! Is it? It has been so long. How is she doing?’ said Shantanu.
Nupur didn’t answer. She was still lost in guessing the feeling behind those red cheeks of Akash. Red cheeks at the age of thirty-nine for a fifteen-year-old affair!
‘Nupur!’ said Shantanu.
‘Haan dad, she is fine, she asked me if I can meet her tomorrow,’ said Nupur. The excitement from her face had vanished. Akash was carefully avoiding the eye contact with her.
‘That is wonderful,’ said Anupama, ‘Invite her to our home tomorrow for the dinner. It would be good if you could invite her husband too, as they say – the more, the merrier.’
Nupur turned her gaze away from Akash and looked at her mom and said.
‘No, I am meeting her tomorrow at her apartment, alone,’ said she and started to walk away, and as if she remembered something, she turned back and said, ‘and ma, she is still unmarried,’
Nupur was turning and tossing in her bed. It had already past midnight and sleep was eluding her. She knew that she was being silly to think that Akash might be having an affair and that too with their decade-old friend. What were her evidence – her mother’s pep talk and Suman’s phone call followed by red-cheeked husband? She told herself that, she is overthinking and better surrender to sleep.
However, her restless mind started to recollect memories from her college days when three of them were best of friends.
During college days, Nupur very well knew that both Akash and Suman had mutual admiration and attraction. The love birds had owed to the world that come-what-may, they would love each other.
First love is always special. People go a great distance to make it work. Some defy the odds of disagreeing parents, whereas some fight the communal difference. Some lovers face the rift of destiny whereas some overcome the ultimate test of time.
Nupur, being close to both Akash and Suman had offered sincere help in setting up their love story. Many of the others had thought that poor Nupur was used by both of them.
As it happens, more often than not, fate had written bitterness all over their love story. There was no apparent reason but Akash and Suman’s love story fell apart.
Vulnerable Akash needed support during his heartbreak and Nupur was there for him. She slowly started to like him and it was only a matter of time that Akash’s vulnerability was transformed and he reciprocated Nupur’s love.
Nupur got lucky when their parents accepted their love without any questions. Nupur’s first love succeeded but Akash and Suman’s didn’t. Suman moved out of the city and eventually out of their lives. She couldn’t even bear the fact of Akash marrying Nupur and didn’t bother to attend their wedding as well.
But now, almost fifteen years later, she had contacted her old friends.
When Nupur could not sleep until 03:00 AM in the morning, her tired mind started to ask stupid questions again.
‘Is it a coincidence that Suman contacted them on the same day when I was doubting Akki’s unfaithfulness?’
‘The woman who had not contacted us since fifteen years, why suddenly calls me to meet up?’
‘Does universe trying to tell me something?’
‘Should I confront Akki? If yes, then what should I ask? - Why did his cheeks turn so red hearing Suman’s name?’
‘I think we should wind up, Akki must be arriving soon to pick me up,’ said Nupur to Suman, finishing her second cup of coffee. The meeting between the two old friends had already lasted beyond two hours. They were meeting at Suman’s apartment.
Though Suman was in the town for a short time, she had rented a large, posh flat. Her company could afford such luxuries.
Earlier, when Suman walked down the stairs wearing a long, red colored gown to welcome Nupur, Nupur had an instant feeling of insecurity looking at perfectly shaped, insanely hot looking Suman.
Nupur was unable to digest the fact that Suman is also of the same age as her but managed to look 7-8 years younger than her actual age where as Nupur looked five years older than her actual age.
However, after spending a couple of hours, she realized that, underneath those expensive, top branded outfit, Suman was still the same person from college. She was humble and expressed her genuine happiness at meeting Nupur.
Though Suman’s event management career was far more interesting than Nupur’s online review website, she showed genuine interest in Nupur’s work. Nupur wanted to show her website and also the number of views she gets on her YouTube channel.
‘Do you have a Wifi? Let me show my recent review which has got almost hundred thousand hits,’ said Nupur and took out her smartphone.
‘Let me enter the password, give me here,’ said Suman and was about to enter the Wifi password but the phone rang.
It was Akash’s call.
Nupur answered and guided him towards Suman’s apartment. He took a while to follow the instructions and finally arrived. Though Nupur had overcome the thought of any ongoing chemistry between her husband and Suman, she was still curious to check if there is any observable old vibe between them.
Akash arrived in his usual business attire - white shirt, a thin, blue tie, and a dark, black suit. His face was clean shaven and hair was carefully combed to appear messy.
‘Hello miss big shot event manager!’ Akash greeted Suman, with a short, customary embrace and air kisses, as he entered the house.
‘Event manager – Yes but not sure about being a big shot,’ said Suman and hugged him. Nupur noticed that Suman closed her eyes as she hugged Akash.
Nupur curiously, silently observed for next few seconds and it appeared as normal as two best friends meeting after a long time.
She felt slightly relieved and a little guilty at the same time.
‘So, let’s have a small drink before we leave,’ said Nupur and all of them occupied the wide sofas in the living room.
As the conversation progressed towards careers, Nupur continued her description of how her last assignment required her to study the screen sizes of the phone and she was demonstrating using Akash’s and her phones to make a point. As she casually put the phones down, she observed that Akash’s phone had connected to the Wifi!
She was shocked.
If he was here for the first time, how could his phone connect to Wifi without entering a password? All the negative thoughts, insecure feelings came back to her, this time very strongly and with a valid evidence. The beautiful world she had built for herself had come crashing down.
One week had passed and finally, the Valentine’s Day’s evening had arrived. Nupur was in no mood to attend the Valentine’s day’s event. She had not confronted Akash yet on how did he got connected to Suman’s Wifi. She meant to confront him but just couldn’t muster the courage to be so upfront. Even her mother had gone back to her home so she hadn’t discussed this with anyone. Suman had tried to call Nupur a few times but she didn’t bother to attend her calls.
Though Nupur was not keen to attend this event, she still accompanied Akash when he insisted that there will be surprises for her. She wore a bronze-colored Saree with a matching blouse but she was far from her best looks.
As they entered the auditorium, they were astonished by the sheer amount of efforts put in by the management to build such a grand stage, beautiful flashlights, and delicious food. The Auditorium was large and they had set up four huge projection screens as well for the people to get a closer look of the on-stage action. The auditorium had multi-levelled seating arrangement which could accommodate nearly five thousand people. The people were dressed in gorgeous outfits. Since this show was covered by television broadcasters, one could see the fancy cameras with big tripods fitted right in front of the stage.
Nupur and Akash sat down on the first level, which was closer to the central stage. When the audience settled down, a female voice preceded the function, Akash whispered in Nupur’s ears – ‘look, there is your first surprise,’ and pointed to the right corner of the stage.
Suman was standing on the podium making announcements about the ten couples who are going to participate in the event, that evening. Suman was the host for the evening and she was clad in a classy blue dress with a flared skirt, displaying her slender arms and legs.
Nupur was surprised but was unsure of her feelings to see Suman on the podium. She looked at Akash with a blank face.
Suman started to announce the names of the couples and they arrived on the altar amidst huge roar to bow down and introduce themselves. They were all dressed in a party wear and wore heavy makeup so that they would look good on the television. Suman announced nine couples and paused.
‘The tenth couple is a special couple. The beautiful lady in this couple is not even aware that she is participating in the event. Her husband wanted to surprise her, so let me announce their names,’ announced Suman, in a typically excited voice.
Nupur sensed the real surprise now and her jaw dropped. She was utterly scared of being the participant. Akash slowly whispered in her ears – ‘This is your real surprise, which was planned since months. I know how you are feeling about Suman and me. Also for your information, we took your mom’s help to seed the doubt and whip out this plan, I love you,’
Nupur’s heart was beating out of her chest. This was the biggest moment of her life. She had never felt the range of emotions that were erupting within her.
She was confused whether to be happy that his husband is not cheating on her or she should be worried that she has to walk the ramp in front of thousands of people. She was not sure whether she should be feeling insanely guilty for doubting her husband or be worried that she has to appear on television, without proper dress and makeup. She might become the healthiest woman ever to walk a ramp.
‘Please welcome the tenth couple of the night, Nupur and Akash,’ announced the ever exuberant Suman.
A huge applause echoed the hall as the spotlight was flashing on Nupur and big screens were showing her baffled face. An expression which had made them earn a lead in this best couples’ competition. Akash bent on his knees and asked Nupur to accompany him to the podium. She was blushing and shying away. Akash forcefully tried to hold her hands, but she retracted and hid her face in her palms. He started to chant ‘Nupur, Nupur’ and the crowd followed the chants.
When she still refused to come with him, without any hints, he slid his right hand below her knees and picked her in his arms. The crowd went mad to witness such a filmy act and they continued with the chants. Some sections of the crowd even gave them a standing ovation. He nonchalantly carried his beautiful but over weighing wife till the stage. After slowly putting her down on the stage, he dramatically wiped his forehead, and the crowd burst into laughter.
Once the event was over, Nupur hugged Akash and apologized for suspecting him, but Akash said that she was manipulated to do that, so there was no need to be sorry. Though they did not win the contest, Nupur was happy beyond imagination to participate that night.
‘I have to apologise to Suman as well,’ said Nupur, as her phone rang again. She was continuously receiving the phone calls. She was a local celebrity now. She was too busy answering the phone calls.
‘Nups, don’t worry, I will talk to Suman, you can wait in the car and answer your calls, I will be back shortly,’ said Akash and walked towards the backstage to meet Suman.
Suman was sitting in her makeup chair and the makeup assistant was helping to take out her makeup.
‘Great show Suman ji, it is a super hit, congratulations,’ said Akash.
‘Thank you, Akash Ji,’ said Suman and turned to his assistant.
Makeup assistant understood and walked out, closing the door behind him.
They both looked at each other intensely, without uttering a word.
Their breathing got heavier as they moved closer.
As if on a cue, both jumped towards each other, hungrily and embraced in a deep kiss. They were kissing as if the world is coming to an end the next day. They couldn’t have enough of each other as their hands moved freely, exploring each other’s bodies. The room was echoing with the moans and they didn’t care and continued to nibble on each other’s tongues.
After a few minutes, finally, when they stopped making out, to catch a breath, Akash said -
‘As I always say, love in spite of marriage is the true celebration Sumi, Now Nupur is buried in guilt and served with so much love and attention that she would never doubt us in her wildest dreams,’
‘Things we do for love!’ said Suman, quoting Jaime Lannister.
‘No. Things we do for our first love Sumi, there is not a man born, who has a stronger bond than his first love,’ said Akash and they went back to kissing.