Ajitha went out to the balcony and picked up the rubber slippers she had left to dry there.
This was one of the many habits in Rajiv that disgusted her to no end. He was a senior level executive who traveled by air and stayed in five star hotels on his frequent business trips. But he always insisted on packing his rubber bathroom slippers in plastic bags whenever he traveled. She had tried in vain to convince him to buy a pair and discard it each time, “Its just going to cost you two hundred rupees Rajiv, this is so disgusting”
But like a security blanket, he always carried the ones he used at home, packed in several layers of plastic bags and then wrapped in a newspaper, lovingly tucked into a corner of his suitcase.
“I can’t understand why you have to travel today” she said to her husband who was lounging around lazily in the bedroom while she packed his bags for him. “I’m sure your clients aren’t workaholics like you to hold meetings on Saturday”
Rajiv looked at her with irritation, “I need some time for unofficial networking before the meeting on Monday, and it is not something that you will understand, so please….”
She grabbed his toiletries and threw them into the suitcase angrily.
“Yes, I don’t understand, but you know what, I don’t care” she said to herself silently.
She slammed the suitcase shut.
He didn’t look up from his laptop. “Careful, don’t break it”, he said, taunting her.
She stormed out of the room, seething with anger. “Chill Rajiv, I am not in a mood to pick a fight.” She knew what he wanted, and would not give it to him.
They had been married for two years now and they didn’t even pretend to be in love. Her parents had guilt tripped her over the years about her marriage, and one day she just gave in to their pressure.
Rajiv had brought his laptop to their wedding bed and attended a conference call with some clients as she fell asleep on the rose petals dressed in her bridal finery. She was more amused than hurt then, hoping that he would apologize the next day with flowers and a romantic surprise. But he didn’t. They consummated their marriage without any fireworks sometime the next week during the obligatory honeymoon and he had returned to work the next Monday.
Ajitha had tried at first to make the marriage work, but soon, it became obvious that both of them had married each other purely due to the pressures of society and their parents’ wishes. They just settled into marriage like pebbles settling into sand.
They both had their respective careers to concentrate on and in the two years both of them got the promotions and increments they deserved at their workplaces. Lifestyles became more hectic and they were living as roommates who saw each other on weekends.
Ajitha had initially slowed down her career aspirations and tried to make herself a good homemaker, taking time to cook good food and keep house. But in a couple of months she realized that all her efforts went unappreciated and she began to devote more time to her office again. At least there her efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
Two years had sped past them and nowadays they remained cordial companions in the same house. They went out together for family functions as a happily married couple, answering the dreaded question “When are you going to give us good news?” with a smile. It was not something they even needed to discuss with each other. They were not ready to start a family, and Ajitha sometimes felt that they never would be family ever. Just roommates. That was the most they could be.
They had friends over sometimes and were the perfect hosts, but they never projected themselves as the loving couple. Anyway, most of their friends too weren’t.
It was difficult being together in a loveless marriage. But there was no hate either, just a companionship that kept both of them going. They were resigned to this and had settled into this arrangement comfortably.
Rajiv entered the aircraft and looked around.
Shilpa was sitting at the very back. 32A.
She greeted him with her eyes. He acknowledged with the sparkle in his.
He scanned the seats again.
No known faces.
“Good” he thought to himself.
He sunk into 32 B. “We will speak to the person who comes here if this seat is taken”, he said.
“I hope you have brought my other bag,” he said “Otherwise I will look like a dork in business suits on the beach”
She smiled and nodded. “Mmm. I have checked in my entire luggage.”
He ran his hand suggestively down her thigh.
She pushed it away. “Enough Rajiv. We will have plenty of that when we get there” she said quietly.
The plane was taking off. In three hours they would be in sunny Goa,
The maid had just finished her work.
“Has Sir gone away again this week?” she asked Ajitha.
“Yes, business trip to Delhi” she replied.
She looked up at her mistress wanting to say something.
“You need not come for the next two days Kanamma,” Ajitha said. “There will not be much work anyway since he is also not there”
An unexpected vacation. It was like a bonus for the maid. The maid expressed her thanks the way she felt was best, with sympathy.
“Paavam ma neenga. So sad…But what to do? It is each one’s fate. He was married to his office even before he married you. My husband… he is married to the arrack shop… we women really are an ill fated breed… But I really pity you…you are such a nice woman…..you deserve more….”she stood by the door pouring out her feelings to her mistress.
Ajitha smiled and cut her off. She closed the door.
She went to the bedroom and picked up the phone and dialed.
“All clear Arun. What is your plan now? Are you coming here tonight or shall I come there?”