Dariya was seated in front of the mirror doing her hair while her husband, Rishi, waited for her on the comfy leather sofa with an air of apparent calm.
It was like a silent game between Dariya and Rishi. Any sign of restlessness from Rishi would make Dariya slower than she already was. Inside Rishi was fuming because the movie that they had planned to watch was about to start in less than 10 minutes and the multiplex was 30 minutes away from their home.
Dariya could smell the angst in her husband and she secretly felt very happy. Her shade of lipstick seemed to match perfectly with the highlights in her hair but she suddenly wanted to erase it off and apply a new shade that went well with her scarlet outfit.
Some very rude words almost flew out of Rishi's lips but with extreme restraint he shut his mouth. Pleased, Dariya applied the new colour quickly and presented herself in front of Rishi.
“How do I look?” she asked him.
“Like a princess out of an exotic fairy tale.” Rishi answered truthfully as he sprayed a musky perfume all over himself.
Dariya was not happy with the answer. But she could not fight a technically correct answer so they both had to settle for a draw that day.
Dariya and Rishi had started off as a happy couple who got married out of their own will. But they now got pleasure only from enraging each other and in proving each other wrong. It was a marriage that had started with heavy duty passion and none of them had any idea that things would go so wrong one day.
Dariya used to be the class queen in her college days. She was the girl everyone wanted to be with. A hand-picked bunch of tall and sculpted boys had been allowed by Dariya to be a part of her friend circle. Many of them had come to realize that it was just too much work to have Dariya as a girlfriend and had given up on that dream. But there was one, El Kay, who became Dariya’s boyfriend. His original name was Lokesh Kumar but he conveniently abbreviated it to make it sound cooler.
El Kay and Dariya made quite an adorable couple and for a long time they were very much in love. Rishi also went to the same college but he was a year senior and also studied in a different department. So, they were unaware of each other’s presence.
Rishi and Dariya first met in the crowded college canteen. The students were scattered in random bunches all over the place. Some were humming new tunes while some were playing cards. Others were quite content with being aimlessly loud and boisterous.
Dariya entered the canteen and looked around for her friends. None of the known faces were present. Feeling off Dariya walked up to the middle of the canteen. She never loved corners. She had this unquenchable need to be at the centre point of everything. A boy was writing something at the corner of a rather long table. Dariya looked around for an empty table but all the other tables were already taken by other groups who were now casting appreciative glances at her. Pleased with the attention Dariya sat herself at the long table and pretended to be aloof to the very palpable excitement in the air caused by her presence.
But a cursory glance around told her that she had gotten the attention of all but one. The one boy with whom she was sharing the table was still focused on his exercise copy.
He was Rishi. Now Rishi was an average guy in all respects. He looked average, thought average and even aimed to blend into the multitudes of average. The thought of standing out in a crowd made him panic and unlike many others he was quite happy by the mediocrity allotted to him by nature.
He was trying to write a poem for Manisha. Manisha had been his friend for around a year and throughout this whole year they had both tried to pretend that they were not interested in exploring anything that cannot be termed as platonic. But then came a point when they both just gave in to human physiology and admitted their feelings for each other.
Rishi often composed songs and poetry for Manisha. She too was an average looking girl with average ambitions out of life. When she found Rishi, her senses experienced perfection for the first time in the effortless blending of their personalities.
Dariya’s first emotion at seeing Rishi was probably the truest. His refusal to be stunned by her presence enraged her. She inched closer to him seeking a suitable moment to start a conversation. But Rishi never looked up from his exercise copy. Forgetting all her manners she started to read the poem. It was beautiful one comparing the beauty of a river to an unnamed woman. She was in the middle of the second stanza when Rishi audibly cleared his throat.
Dariya looked up and found Rishi looking at her with an offended countenance.
“I’m sorry…I just love poetry and soI peeped over without asking,” Dariya decided to become a poetry lover instantly. “You write really well. Actually I’m not sorry that I read your poem. I’m glad that I did.” Dariya said with a voice that sounded the musical bells of a temple.
Rishi thanked her in an uncomfortable tone. He also added that he was trying to write a poem for his girlfriend. This was the point where he truly managed to capture Dariya’s fancy.
In her experience men usually looked up when she was in close proximity. Secondly, whenever she had introduced herself to a man, she had always found them claiming to be single. Dariya could not get her thoughts off Rishi ever since their first meeting. The first whiff of challenge made Dariya’s primal hunting instincts come alive.
Rishi, on the other hand, forgot completely about Dariya the moment she left. To him she was a very beautiful and somewhat weird girl who was most definitely out of his league. Moreover, he was truly happy with Manisha. But he had no idea what being happier felt like…
Dariya turned up at the most unexpected moments to catch up with Rishi and despite his best efforts to resist the invasion, Rishi started to enjoy her company. Then a day came when Dariya sadly confessed to Rishi that no one has ever written a poem for her. Rishi stayed up that night writing the most beautiful poem for Dariya. There is nothing quite intoxicating as the hint of new love and that night Rishi let his feelings pour freely into the cast of poetry.
The next day Rishi waited for Dariya in the desolate lane behind their college. A gentle breeze seemed to soothe Rishi’s nerves as Dariya joined him. The fragrance of some unknown flowers combined with the mellow wintry sun to cast a spell on Rishi. He forgot all about his commitment to Manisha and told Dariya that he loved her.
In reply Dariya stared at him for a long while without a word. And then she guided Rishi through the meandering lane to a pond and sat him down on an abandoned log. She herself then sat by his legs and rested her head on his lap and uttered just one word, “Yes.”
The joy that Rishi felt at that moment was incomparable to anything else in the whole world.
El Kay and Manisha were broken up with the very next day. El Kay was rude and sore about the episode while Manisha reserved her tears for the hours beyond midnight. El Kay was actually an honest guy with a good heart but a frail ego. Within a week of the unceremonious dumping he used his family contacts and got himself engaged to a beautiful coy maiden which promptly erased the potential tarnish on his social image.
Manisha was an introvert woman who never let anyone know what the snub felt like to her. She did not keep in touch with Rishi and he was kind of relieved to know that he would not have to deal with the burden guilt over and over again.
Rishi and Dariya were quite jubilant as a couple. Rishi realized that he could achieve so much more than just the average with Dariya by his side. May be it was the lack of motivation that made him lead a lack lustre existence. His career path shone and he went on to bag one of the most prestigious jobs. Dariya too was elated to be with Rishi. His love was something that she had to fight and earn for herself. Everything else had come to her too easily except for Rishi’s adulation. That she had to work for and that brought the maximum pleasure to her.
Years passed and Dariya and Rishi had gotten married too. Problems started when Dariya’s high from acquiring Rishi started to wear off. She needed the next challenge and Rishi failed to provide one. Rishi too was unhappy in certain ways. Yes, he had won a trophy wife who pulled him out of his comfort zone and pushed him beyond it but there were times when he wished to be pampered as well. But Dariya could never understand that need.
Whenever Rishi complained of an illness Dariya talked about another illness of her own; whenever he suggested a trip to somewhere Dariya managed to edit her preferences into it and whenever he suggested a new position Dariya certainly decided against it due to some kind of life threatening risk. Resentment started to build up although they kept on pretending that nothing was amiss.
Then one day Rishi came back from work unhappy and sullen. The promotion due for him had been given over to the guy he hated the most.
And all Dariya could offer was a hug and the words, “I will always be there for you.”
The right answer was, “You are so much better than him.”
And from that point onward Rishi too decided to stop fuelling her ego. He cut off his doses of compliments and decided to be truthful all the time.
Honesty can be quite a dreadful thing for a marriage. And when the little compulsory lies went missing from their marriage, Rishi and Dariya slowly turned into foes who fought mind games day and night.
It was at this point of time that Rishi happened to run into Manisha. He walking upto his office on a cool and bright morning when an attractive face caught his eyes. Within a few seconds he got a big shock to realize that it was Manisha. She was dressed in a pair of trendy jeans and a cold-shoulder top. The streaks of red in her hair gave her a fancy appeal that Rishi could not trace back to the past. Manisha seemed to look straight at him from behind her photochromatic glasses.
After the first few moments of hesitation they started to walk together towards a tea stall. A cup of tea and a lot of shared laughs…that was what their past was like. They talked a bit about routine stuff and Rishi found out that she was currently working in the building next to his office. Standing by her side Rishi looked around. Screeching cars, beeping phones and rushing people were seen in all directions. Amidst such chaos the presence of Manisha seemed to wash over him like waves of peace and calm. They both walked away with smiles and without exchanging numbers. Rishi was absolutely against any affairs and with her it was never going to be just friendship.
Around the same time Dariya received a friend request from El Kay, who she was surprised to learn, had been recently divorced. Dariya too was not keen on having an affair. It looked nice to have a stable marriage. But at the same time she could not resist the temptation of the potential barrage of compliments that she could get from El Kay.
A few months went by.
Rishi began to meet Manisha for lunch every day. They were obviously in love again but like earlier they pretended that they could stay just supportive friends to each other. Dariya and El Kay too talked on the phone every day and had gone out exclusively for a couple of times. Each time Dariya complained to El Kay how Rishi had changed and how he blatantly neglected his marital duties. El Kay’s shoulders were very comforting in those trying times. He too told her how wrong his past wife had been and how she could never fill the emptiness in his heart left by Dariya.
Rishi knew from the beginning that Dariya had started talking to El Kay again. After all anything started over social media is known to the whole world. It made him angry on various levels and at the same time it also empowered him to meet Manisha regularly.
Dariya too did her research about Rishi. But Rishi’s recent online searches all showed up random males. She decided that he must be networking with these men in search of new career options and went back to her life in peace. What she did not know was that these men were not random at all. They were all men from Manisha’s current friendlist.
The two parallel affairs went on for a few months till it reached the point when both Rishi and Dariya wished to end their marriage and were only searching for a plausible pretext. It came soon.
Rishi being the more informed person in this case almost pushed Dariya to create the exit-situation.
Dariya had decided to give her marriage one last chance. So one day she recreated her look from the past. Blunt cut hair with fringes at the front. A fitted black top paired with a gypsy skirt. And she truly looked like the flawless queen from years ago. Satisfied she went up to Rishi hoping to see a sparkle of surprise in his eyes. But she only saw a glare that scared her and scarred her deeply. Rishi saw his perfect looking wife and remembered the treacherous girl from his past that had willfully destroyed the peace of his life and had made him her own. He felt a seething hatred towards Dariya and the injustice done to Manisha years ago began to burn him.
That day a tearful Dariya ran to seek refuge in El Kay’s open arms and did with him what became the reason for divorce between Rishi and Dariya. It was a mutual divorce and both of them left with no regret. Dariya’s happiness stemmed from the fact that she had cuckolded Rishi successfully while Rishi’s joy came from the fact that he would not have to pay her any alimony at all. He was truly free again.
He sat in his balcony having a hearty breakfast of chicken chowmein and chilled beer. There was no Dariya to lecture him about the inappropriateness of such a meal at such a time. The view from the balcony presented an orderly array of large trees. The buds in the branches looked ready to burst into colours. The chirping birds among them looked free and content. It was the same view for the last 3 years but today they seemed to echo freedom and order at the same time. It was an unlikely and precious combination and it made Rishi very happy.
His phone started to sing the newly set ring tone in between. It was Manisha. Rishi’s face broke into a smile as he picked up the phone. There was no exchange of sugary sweet mush. They both talked about normal stuff and it still felt cuter than the tiniest pup. Before hanging up Rishi decided to alert Manisha about one important thing.
“Listen Manisha we will have to be extra careful now. I’ve just divorced from Dariya and getting caught now will simply undo the work we have done in the past few months. We need to be patient for around 5-6 months. After that we will get married.”
“And what should we do in these few months?” Manisha asked.
“Think of a viable story about how you counseled me out of depression after my wife dumped me!”
They both laughed a cunning laughter.
Manisha disconnected the call and looked back into her computer screen. Rishi had no clue how she had devoted 5 years of her life into meticulous planning. Breaking El Kay’s marriage was the hardest. Getting the job by Rishi’s office was the easiest. There were many small tasks that she had accomplished and many people that she had hired to stitch together the final story. Some of it was easy…some of it was hard. And then there was luck who had decided to be in her favour this time. She has waited years to see this happen…she would happily wait out the proposed six months too.
Manisha took a sip of coffee and proceeded to format the computer.