Savi caught her husband Manu cheating on her – these things happen. Enraged, she packed a bag and checked into a hotel with her six-year-old daughter. Word got out fast – these things don’t happen very often in towns like Jodhpur. Certainly not with the son of the top administrator of the city. The streets were rife with gossip.
Damage had to be controlled, and only one person could do it: Manu’s chachi, an aunt by marriage to the youngest brother of Manu’s father. A generation senior, she was younger to Manu and Savi. She flew in from Mumbai via Delhi the same evening. And went straight to the suite Savi was luxuriating in. Why should distress come in the way of booking a spa and enjoying wine, vegetable cutlets and a chocolate sundae? Yes, the woman had obnoxious taste. The aunt could see that.
What happened, asked the aunt. She knew, but wanted to match hearsay with what came out of the horse’s mouth. He is having an affair with a junior in office, said Savi. She did not offer any more information; nor was the aunt interested. She was just looking at the sack of potatoes who passed herself off as a woman, and wanted to shake her head as if to say: what else do you expect a man to do?
The aunt, and everyone else, tried but could not think highly of the daughter-in-law of the head of their extended family. Savi was short, grossly overweight and dark-skinned. She was lazy, not moving all day, passing orders to the servants – mostly about feeding her. She must have found it tiring to even play with dolls as a child. She had been a dull student, incapable of earning even a rupee with her lack of qualifications – and brains. What was the family smoking when they said yes to such a match for Manu?
Most would not share such a harsh opinion of Savi – if they did, they would not express it. Chachi spoke her mind first and, before reflecting upon what she had uttered, would move onto the next opinion. Despite her strong biases, she was still the go-to person for any crisis in the family – only because everyone knew she was right.
So what do you want to do, she asked. I want a divorce, replied Savi. Have you spoken to Manu? What is there to speak, said Savi. He has admitted to the affair, and there is no forgiveness or going back.
Ok, no problem, said the aunt. Go ahead. But let me illustrate what will happen. You will get a divorce, and the judge would probably grant you half of Manu’s income as alimony and child maintenance. You will go back to your hometown, Ajmer, where you are valued only when you visit bearing gifts. Your own parents could not wait for someone to take you away, your brothers don’t care about you and their wives despise you. You will just languish as an unwanted cow in that house, inviting further scorn and a toxic environment for your daughter.
How dare you judge my family like that, snapped Savi.
Am I wrong, asked chachi.
Savi went quiet, looking down at the glass of wine in her hand, not speaking a word. She could resent the truth, but not deny it. I do not need to go back home, she finally said. I could live somewhere else.
Sure you can, said the aunt, but let’s play out the scenario. You are going to be on your own, with no friends – you and I both know you have none who would be by your side in support. You are going to get very lonely, more so as your daughter gets busy with her own life as she grows older. You are unlikely to attract any man – they all have expectations after a certain age. No woman likes to hear it, but you have to: you are not good looking, your weight makes you looks worse and I am sure you take your inertia in the living room to the bedroom. I am not surprised Manu was drawn to someone else. I am not condoning his actions, but what do you expect the man in him to do?
Savi was feeling humiliated with such barbs, but she had nothing to counter them with. The aunt pressed on with the advantage. Whatever you decide, I am with you, she said. Let me present an alternate to you. Go home, talk to Manu. Understand his issues, and assure him you are still by his side. Show yourself to be one who can share his stresses. And then stand in front of the mirror. Promise to lose weight, and be a sprightly partner to your husband – socially and in bed. Understand the R of responsibility, and take charge of things at home while he tackles the world to provide for the family.
What about the other woman, asked Savi.
Don’t worry about her. Such infatuations don’t last. If you do what I say, they will break-up tonight itself. So finish your drink, pack up, and get going. And one last piece of advice: it is good to take a stand in life, to not tolerate any wrong and injustice. But you also have to be willing to stand on your own feet then. It’s not easy being out there earning a living, being on your own with no family – and certainly not for women. So go to your husband, and be the woman he does not want to look away from.
P.S. Savi, Manu and their daughter went on a holiday, kissed, had sex and made up. The office colleague picked another job, never to be caught again with Manu. The chachi felt bad – her nephew had a golden chance to escape from Savi and get someone more his style but she spoilt his future party. But she had to – the family pride and social status was paramount, the happiness of individuals be damned.