Reading Time: 16 minutes
A flawless beauty, a trophy wife, the Porcelain Beauty to her husband. What was it that tore her despite material comforts and diamond necklace? Here’s a story of love, passion, deceit and more from Atrayee, exclusively for Different Truths.
Paint the truth nimbly under the sun and let the dark night be a canvas for your dreams.
That was my mother’s artistic charm, her endearing thought throughout her life. Huh! Neither my truth bore any beauty, nor was there any dream to craft. Canvas of dreams, my foot! Cusps of these dark nights seemed much eager to squash my desire to even live.
The street lights were far enough not to blaze through my bedroom window on the eighth floor. Nevertheless, their feeble remnants seeped through the curtains. I stared at the ceiling fan. It hung still, as motionless and lifeless as I lay on my bed. A wintry night of December, being all alone in a 3 BHK condominium, an uncanny silence was bound to ensconce me. It prowled over my skin and gnawed at my innards. I was fastened by that jinx of life where all my questions seemed united to its answers, and yet I was muddled in my head to take the right call.
If only I were more than the porcelain pulchritude for him. If only I was considered as a woman and not a glorified trophy.
I heard my own heartbeat sinking in the air. As I lent my ears, the silence around me deepened further and that steady rhythm from within bothered me even more. Could I be unseen? Just existing for myself? A kind of hatred uncoiled, much primeval, alike a collective despair breaking out of its dormancy. Whatever I could never utter to Vijay over his shameless confessions, I wished to spit out now. But to whom could I do so? To Radha, who had happily bargained over her morality in exchange for luxury or to Raju, whose love for his own wife was amorphous enough to let another man in? Or should I not needle my own husband? Actually, I could. If only I were more than the porcelain pulchritude for him. If only I was considered as a woman and not a glorified trophy. If only!
I threw away the blanket, sat up and looked around. Everything was closed and perhaps that was adding to my suffocation. I got up and opened one window. A mild breeze wove its way in.
My life had always been a free reign of my imaginations where I flew without fear, where I lived to love and where I breathed in courage. Two years of MBA, and there, my love story unravelled faster than a string from a ball of yarn. Vijay and I were classmates and our story was no less than a beautiful fable of the riches. He was gorgeous and his noticeable resemblance with the Bollywood star, Hrithik Roshan, could make any woman weak at her knees. I too, like many others, had nurtured a crush on him. However, never in my most tempestuous of dreams could I think of him proposing to me. Yes, Vijay proposed to me, that too directly for marriage.
The lanes inside our complex were all windswept. Those hedges, with bright yellow-bell flowers demarcating the in and out routes, were huddled together.
I looked down from my window. The lanes inside our complex were all windswept. Those hedges, with bright yellow-bell flowers demarcating the in and out routes, were huddled together. Raju would have tied them, I presumed. A big hefty branch dangled over the lane and Mrs. Singh of the fifth floor literally blew him off that evening for his negligence to tend to it. Afar, right on the fly-over connecting the airport with the suburbs, I saw a pother brewing. Same I could sense in Raju’s hut too. Lights were on. Raju came out in a hurry, tried to call someone over the phone and again went inside in a flash. That evening, I had overheard him lamenting about his son’s health. Poor child, just a year old and was suffering from a severe respiratory infection. I grabbed my mobile and dialled Radha’s number. Did they need any help? However, the malice that reared its head a week ago pulled me back. I cut the call immediately and threw my phone. Why should I help them? Hell or high-water, there was no way I was going to lend a smidgeon of help to that family.
I felt the storm of my antipathy slowly ebbing into nothingness as I gazed wistfully at the star-studded night sky.
Three years ago, I decided to leave the hubbub of the corporate world behind and got married to Vijay. Thereupon, I was encased in a cocoon of his ceaseless love and affection. I never did harbour any great ambitions to begin with, so the decision was an easy one to take. Many eyebrows furled up on my decision to be a homemaker and I happily pushed all their concerns into an abyss. My in-laws belonged to a different clique. They never wished to indulge their outlook on us and let us live separately at our own comfort. This behemoth of a penthouse in such a posh locality was Vijay’s wedding gift to me. Right from day one of my conjugal life, I was bestowed with luxuries from all over the world. After all, my husband was the national marketing head of a multinational cosmetic brand. And as he deferred to me, I was his hourglass figurine of porcelain, where he could read the synopsis of Cleopatra. He could trudge over anything to preserve my beauty.
Vijay had painted every feather of my womanly desires excepting one. He did never wish to impregnate me, lest my beauty be blemished, which he could not bear to see.
My eyes turned moist. Was I nothing more than a decorated piece of blood and flesh? Vijay had painted every feather of my womanly desires excepting one. He did never wish to impregnate me, lest my beauty be blemished, which he could not bear to see. Strange! Wasn’t it?
My mobile phone rang. It was Radha. Perhaps she had noticed my missed call. In a fix whether to pick up or not, I answered the call with a piddling interest.
“Didi, you called? Sorry… Actually, Bittu is running fever… He was crying too much… I couldn’t leave him!” Radha spoke everything in a single breath. Her voice, which I had always loved for its unusual sweetness, was sounding venomous these days.
“Okay… Stop talking and listen… Did you inform the milkman to deliver an extra packet tomorrow?” I asked. My words were wrapped in utter insolence. Even Radha was taken aback by my attitude, for I was someone who had run behind the doctors at the time of her son’s ill-health. Sans the bliss of motherhood, I had always been concerned for Bittu’s well-being. And now, all of sudden I was busy chomping on the vanity of a rich master.
“Yes Didi.” She paused for a while and asked again. “Anything wrong Didi? You sound very angry these days.”
I smirked and replied, “Nothing… Anyway, I am sleepy… Don’t disturb me now.”
I peeped from behind the curtains. Radha stood outside her hut looking perplexed. I wondered how she gathered the courage to face me so freely every single day after what all had happened.
A year ago, when the management decided to have an all-time caretaker, Raju was appointed. Four families stayed in our block and Raju was paid to take care of the daily odd jobs.
A year ago, when the management decided to have an all-time caretaker, Raju was appointed. Four families stayed in our block and Raju was paid to take care of the daily odd jobs. Cleaning the cars, clearing the bins, managing the newspaper delivery, milkman, so on and so forth. Having a little working knowledge of plumbing and electricity, Raju earned some extra money from the residents by doing those odd jobs too. Earlier, Mani used to help me in my household errands, but soon things turned backbreaking when she left for her village permanently. That evening, Raju delivered our laundry and I sought his help to find me a maidservant. He was prompt enough to suggest his own wife, Radha. Like a spirited salesperson, he harped on Radha’s abilities without a lull. Wasn’t I blessed? I agreed for Radha’s appointment from the very next day, without even seeing her in person.
The next morning, my door bell rang at 7a.m. sharp. Sleep still glued to my eyes, I lolled at the opened door. There stood a beautiful young woman smiling at me. Her disjointed teeth added a strange beauty to her smile. She must have been in her early twenties at most. All my sleep was snatched unawares as she spoke without a pause. She was Radha; all set for her new role.
Vijay somehow, did not like any servant roaming around when he was at home. For him, this house was a nest, snuggled down only for both of us. Vijay (when in town) would leave for work by 9 and would come back by 6 or 7 in the evening. Thus, that was the slot prescribed for any worker. I asked Radha to ring the bell only after she saw our car leaving. Henceforth, my days were again set on routine. Radha used to keep a watch on our car and knocked my door only after Vijay left. She had once mocked this rule to be like an illicit affair and I remembered how much I laughed the whole day.
I wrapped my shawl around and closed the window, keeping it ajar by a sliver for some ventilation.
My thoughts were disrupted by a clinking noise. I looked around to find it coming from the small Ganesa idol that rested over the chest of drawers. The flush of cool breeze oozing through that open window was making the curtain hit those metal hangings around the idol. Suddenly, I was grappled by the cold. I wrapped my shawl around and closed the window, keeping it ajar by a sliver for some ventilation. I gazed at the idol. It was Radha’s gift to me for my birthday; baby Ganesa relaxing on a decorated swing. I tickled the small bell that hung on the sides of the swing.
“Didi… Next year you must bring a small chubby-chubby baby like this Ganesa.” Radha uttered while mopping the floor.
“Thank you, Radha, for this gift… But you shouldn’t waste money.” I replied as I placed the idol on my chest of drawers.
Radha giggled. She always did that whenever I asked her to save money. She carried a kind of chirpiness, so contagious. She would sweep, she would mop, and she would talk; non-stop that too. Stories of her childhood, how she was loved by all, how she hated going to school and everything. Raju was her distant relative and much older to her. It seemed her parents did not want her to get married to Raju, but the young girls were not finding it safe in her village. A remote area, somewhere in the border of Nepal and Bihar, girls were vulnerable to flesh trade. Raju was a known face with a decent job, which in turn served the purpose. There was a different adage in their village, Radha boasted. There, the dowry system was reversed. A girl’s father would receive a lump sum of money to give his daughter. She often flaunted that her beauty could make her parents rich. Poor woman! Couldn’t she realise that she was apparently sold?
Radha was a happy girl. I couldn’t actually surmise how she always carried that joy.
Whatever may have been the circumstances, Radha was a happy girl. I couldn’t actually surmise how she always carried that joy. Was it for the limited grasp she had on the worldly affairs or for the love Raju showered on her? Yes! Raju was a loving husband, whose hymns Radha chanted the whole day. Initially, it felt good to listen to their mediocre love-life but gradually it started nettling me. How come Raju seemed to be at Radha’s beck and call? He would help her in the chores. He would wait for her to eat. They both would dress up well in the evening and would go till the market together. I, on the other hand, would watch their blooming love from my window. Wasn’t I jealous? Yes, I was; indeed. I never missed my work-life. The additive that went missing in my palatial life was a child. I always wanted to be a mother while Vijay, he was hooked up with a big NO. Some or the other rationale would always be in the saddle.
Sleep-robbed and raking up scattered musings, I was once again flustered. This time, an auto rickshaw did the job. What happened? I scurried towards the window. No matter how furious I was, my senses were crumpled worrying about Bittu. I peeked down and saw Radha embracing her child and getting inside the auto. Raju might already be inside. Bittu was certainly serious. I should have gone for help that time itself; I mulled, as I fidgeted with my diamond pendant.
“Thirty diamonds for your 30th birthday!” Vijay whispered in my ears as he tied the gold chain on my neck.
“Thirty diamonds for your 30th birthday!” Vijay whispered in my ears as he tied the gold chain on my neck.
“Beautiful!” I echoed, as my eyes were dazzled by the minute glitters on my neck. Under the soothing yellow light of our bedroom, it seemed like a cluster of stars from the faraway sky had sought refuge in my bosom. Vijay snuggled in the nape of my neck. He had come home after a ten-day trip to Paris. More than his expensive gifts, his presence on my birthday seemed more rewarding. A week-long sideshow of Raju and Radha’s happy conjugal life had fomented my carnal desires and I surrendered my body and soul to Vijay. He never faltered in giving me pleasures; be it materialistic or physical. He literally worshipped my body and given a chance, he would make love every minute he was bestowed with. Both our passions concurred, and we knew no bounds of inhibition.
“Vijay…Vijay…Are you listening?”
“Hmm! I am all ears…Just taking a break.” Vijay chuckled. He was lying on his belly. Tired, he sounded. Quite obvious!
“Can I ask you for something?”
Vijay turned to me, kissed my forehead and said. “Even my life darling!”
“I want a child.”
Vijay got up with a start and sat with a frown furrowing his handsome face. He looked annoyed. I failed to understand why he never wished for our child. It wasn’t like he disliked children. Every month, a handsome amount was donated to an orphanage and yet he was inscrutably intractable when it came to have a child of our own.
“What’s bothering you?” I draped myself and got up from the bed. I wanted an answer. Yes, I was adamant this time.
The black chiffon of the chemise clung to every curve of my nearly perfect body. I stared at Vijay through the mirror.
Vijay lit a cigarette and thought for some time. And I stared back at him, waiting for a response. He held my hand and pushed me in front of the mirror. The black chiffon of the chemise clung to every curve of my nearly perfect body. I stared at Vijay through the mirror. He let out a few puffs and his eyes lustily ran through my body. I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable. He was my husband, love of my life. He had that right to gape at me. Still, at that very moment, it all seemed so foul.
“What?” I raised my voice.
Vijay caught hold of my love handles and muttered in my ear. “Why do you want to spoil this beautiful figure?” His fingers pranced on my well-endowed bosom and his thin stubble pricked my shoulders. What I lusted for, just moments ago, seemed to choke me down.
“What’s wrong with you?” I pushed him back.
“Whattt! I love you. Isn’t it enough? Vijay retorted. And before I could keep my share of thoughts, he spat his gall. “I can give you anything but not a child…I cannot bear to see you with a protruding belly, stretch marks and all that.”
Vijay spoke nonetheless, without even an iota of shame. The gist boiled down to the fact that his passion was more of lust than love.
I froze on hearing this from him. A tempest of hatred, anger and what not, brewed from within. And Vijay spoke nonetheless, without even an iota of shame. The gist boiled down to the fact that his passion was more of lust than love. That night I couldn’t utter anything. Drenched in tears, I asked if I could adopt a child. He hugged me tight and asked me to sleep over the topic. Cooped up in a raging turmoil, I wondered the whole night if there was a way to conceive Vijay’s blood within me.
The following week, Vijay left for Mumbai. I too needed a break and planned to catch up with my old friends. Instead of staying alone and pondering on Raju-Radha stories I decided to go and pay a visit to my parents. Vijay was returning on Friday night. So, I planned to come back on Thursday. Somehow, since that birthday incident, I had limited my interactions with Vijay and perhaps he took it as a respite from any unnecessary arguments. Well and good! Life moved on and neither had I shared my plan with Vijay, nor did I stutter for partying with my friends.
I heard Radha’s giggling from our bedroom accompanied by the deep basso of Vijay’s voice. The door was ajar, and the flanking curtains billowed out with the wind.
Thursday afternoon, when I reached home, I was upset to see the door unlocked. Radha had a spare key but only for an emergency. Just because I was amiable, she did not have a nod to enter any time. I pushed the door to scold her but stumbled upon something hard. It was Vijay’s boot. Had he come back? And before I could frame any further sentences, I heard Radha’s giggling from our bedroom accompanied by the deep basso of Vijay’s voice. The door was ajar, and the flanking curtains billowed out with the wind. My sanity crumpled then and there, as I witnessed their amorous silhouettes. I puked. What did I just see? I clasped my mouth shut and ran out of my own house. At the mezzanine lobby, I saw Raju. Holding Bittu in his arms, he was murmuring a lullaby. He looked perplexed on seeing me all huffing and puffing. Did he know of the illicit happenings? Should be! I glowered at him and drove back to my parents.
Behind the closed doors, amidst my mother’s doubts, my disgust reaped like a spider web. I could not spare Vijay. And there, on Friday morning I received an innocent message. ‘I am home. Where are you?’ I was about to throw the phone when it beeped again; another message from Vijay. ‘Got something for you. Missing your hug. Come soon baby.’
Breathing fire, I drove back, breaking a thousand traffic rules along the way. Radha greeted me with a smile and wished to talk but refrained herself seeing my frowning face.
Vijay hugged me as soon as he opened the door. His caress poked me. Should I not question him? He had cheated on me. He released me from his clasp and asked, “Angry? I did not mean for it to happen this way baby. But I had no other choice.”
I was adrift in a miasma of doubts…. Taking a deep breath, he spoke. “You wanted a child… You will get a child.”
Huh! So, he knew that he was caught that day. Still, how could he be so casual? How? I was adrift in a miasma of doubts. Vijay lit a cigarette and sat down on the sofa. His handsome face had turned pensive. Taking a deep breath, he spoke. “You wanted a child… You will get a child.”
My stomach churned, not knowing whether to be happy or to be offended. He continued. “Don’t worry… It will be my child… Just as you always wanted!”
Nothing made sense to me and my eyes remained glued to Vijay, as he stood in front, clasping the cigarette between his lips. His hands reached my waist and his eyes looked straight into my eyes. “I cannot bear to lose this porcelain hourglass figure.” He ran his finger on my lips and kissed me tight. His mouth reeked with whisky and tobacco smoke and I pushed him back out of revulsion. I wanted to hit him across the face. Every bit of mine screamed to do so. Instead, I just replied in one harsh emphatic sentence. “I wanted the baby to be OURS, Vijay. Not only yours.”
Vijay was taken aback at the forcefulness of my tone and backed off. A few days passed without us speaking to each other. I could not bear to sleep in the same bed as Vijay’s, not especially after I knew whom he had shared our bed with. I moved to another room. The day before yesterday, he left for Mumbai. I had not stopped Radha from coming to work. As I read her mind, she was paid for this surrogacy. I began adopting a cursory attitude towards her. She too, became less chatty around me. Raju did not waver from his ever-present dutifulness towards Radha.
All the while, my insides were bawling out. I desperately needed to get out of this quagmire that I had come to call as my married life. In those moments of solitude, I had even managed to procure divorce papers from my lawyer. He had assured me that our marriage pre-nuptial contract entitled me to a hefty sum. My life would be taken care of, not that I couldn’t do it myself. Still, I could not bear myself to take that final step.
My life was not worth even a single penny. The beauty that I admired before the mirror every single morning prickled me today.
I looked out. The sun was still far enough to reach me, though a faint light was becoming visible on the horizon. My life was not worth even a single penny. The beauty that I admired before the mirror every single morning prickled me today. My flawless skin and the sensual figure rebelled against my own happiness. To preserve this futile mortal body, Vijay chose Radha over me and my happiness. I cried for what seemed an eternity until no more tears flowed. I yelled my lungs out. But who would hear me?
I decided to take the dreaded step. I packed my bags, nothing but a few clothes and that hand-made photo frame of us. I signed the divorce papers and left a copy for Vijay on his work table. On top of the sheaf of divorce papers, I also left a personal note for Vijay. On my way out of the door, I took a last look at the place. No love came out and stopped me. Only revulsion and disgust pushed me out instead. I locked the door behind me and pushed off.
On the desk of Vijay’s table, the sheaf of papers fluttered ever so gently with the closing of the door. The house wore a forlorn look, with its only shard of humanity now departed. The personal note to Vijay too fluttered in the gentle breeze of the closing doors. It read:
My dear Vijay,
When I always said I wanted a child, I wanted it to be a part of you and me. As a memoir of all the love we had and shared between us. I bought nothing into this marriage and now, I am taking nothing of yours with me. I do not fault you for your actions. Maybe you never considered me as a part of your life, which is what drove you to this. The truth has been painted now. It is a dark abyss of a canvas. But this darkness will help me paint my vivid dreams. Thank you for all that you have done for me. Just a last wish, donate the divorce settlement money to Radha.
The Porcelain Beauty
Photos from the Internet