15th November 2014
The cold November wind sliced through Sanjay’s face as he stared out the open glass window of the office cabin on the 23rd floor of Ambitions Complex where he and Maya met often.
‘What the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?’ Maya’s patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.
Sanjay knew that she was serious. ‘Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.’
‘Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .’ she rolled her eyes in disgust. ‘That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man.
Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extra marital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.’ She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, ‘Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?’
Sanjay was taken aback, although the thought had crossed his mind a couple of times too. Binata and Roshan got along well but they ensured that their liaison was never too obvious. Roshan took exceptionally good care of his public appearances and behaviours. How could this thought have crossed Maya’s mind then?
He was short of words unable to decide what to say and how much to say to Maya.
“Your silence is giving Roshan away Sanjay. I knew it! I knew it this would happen with her too! It always happens with every woman he meets.”
Come on Maya. Don’t bring up a past that never existed, you have no proof that those events ever happened!”
“How much more proof do I need Sanjay? When a man returns home smelling fresh as a flower at 11pm in the night, when he brings his wife gifts without any occasion, when he takes her out for dinner the night before and then gets particularly busy for 12 hours straight , presumably in office , the very next day ! What do these things indicate?” She fumed.
“When he came home smelling fresh, it was your anniversary, the gift was because he had gotten a fabulous opportunity at work and wanted to share the joy with you, and he took you out for dinner because he wanted the evening to be romantic and the night to be sensual for you and with you. Getting busy at work is not a crime Maya. It happens with all of us once in a while.”
“Oh yes, I am wrong. Not in my thoughts and opinions but definitely in having shared them with you! I should have known, you are Roshan’s friend now. What we were is a thing of the past” Maya glared at him crossly.
“I wouldn’t mind if you want it to be a thing of the present” Sanjay muttered under his breath.
“I heard that”. She said with a smile. “Well honestly speaking. I wouldn’t mind that happening either considering how lonely I feel at times. May be I should try having an extramarital affair or two. Just to see how it feels”. Maya seemed relaxed as she took a smoke of the cigar.
“Doesn’t feel very different from a pre-marriage relationship. The only difference is, in your single days, you are free to experiment without any official tags and emotional burdens.”
“And how do you know all that my ‘friend’ ”? Maya looked at him with a familiar grin as she left the room and the very statement made Sanjay go back a decade in time.
10th March 2004
All of 25 years then, Sanjay were a carefree soul and had a secure and high status job with an international bank. Binata, an ambitious financial advisor was amongst the few to be on company payrolls in that profile. That’s where the two of them had met. Handling client calls together, going on field visits, discussing HNI Accounts and sharing occasional cups of coffee. As their careers progressed, so did their relationship from client calls to casual coffee to deliberate and welcome dates. Binata and Sanjay became two names synonymous to each other. It did not take long before Binata popped the big question to Sanjay and they decided to commit to each other. Things were going very well, but Sanjay’s heart felt something amiss all the time. His best moments were when he scribbled words onto the ever inviting blank pages of his journal.
Roshan was a dual major gold medallist in finance and marketing from a premiere B-School at Bangalore and Maya held a Masters in communication management from Mumbai. Roshan, a high flying business honcho and Maya, a beautiful gray eyed woman with a hard to understand mystery around her, made an interesting pair of contrasts. Together they ran a business solutions firm that provided financial, management and communications consulting to new and aspiring business ventures. They were partners in Axelon Business Solutions and partners in life.
It was during a meeting at the bank at the time of their search for venture capital for their new business that they met Binata and Sanjay. Sanjay with his firm yet approachable persona and Binata with her sophisticated yet outspoken personality, made a fantastic pair in all ways. Roshan was instantly impressed with Binata and her ability to sense business potential and her impeccable sense of style. The two of them exchanged phone numbers and decided to stay in touch as Maya looked on with a thoughtful expression.
16th November 2014
The phone rang. “Hi it’s Me. Any idea where Maya is ?”
Sanjay chose to not answer that question and instead asked whether Binata and Roshan were together.
A wife asking her husband for the wife of a man she was so frequently with, should ideally have been a point of contention but Sanjay knew Binata better. Extremely ambitious, his wife, according to him, was an open minded and flexible, crude and crafty individual, possibly not adulterous.
“Yes, we had some important points to discuss regarding the loan and..”
Sanjay barely heard the rest of Binata’s chatter as he saw Maya walk into the room wearing the most sensual black dress, ready for the evening.
“How do I look? Do you think he will like this?”
“Well I believe Mr. Mathews will look more at the proposal you are submitting than at the outfit and how sexy you look in it”.
“Hmm. Some fuel is always helpful for the fire. Who knows, Mathews just might be another Roshan who can easily be two.. ?” Maya stopped her sentence abruptly and adjusted the pearl necklace Roshan had gifted her that date night.
Today’s meeting was important. Sanjay knew what the game was. Roshan needed the money to expand his fully flourishing venture and Joy Mathews, President of a fund raising company, enjoyed the company of beautiful middle aged women to fill the emotional void in his life. Such deals worked just fine. Binata and he had had several discussions on what looked like an absolutely professional arrangement that Roshan and Maya may have agreed upon. The conflict between values and greed never failed to amaze Sanjay. Although knowing Roshan who believed “Money can buy everything and green bills justify all evil”, Sanjay was not surprised.
What perplexed Sanjay was how Maya had accepted the bridge role she played in making these deals happen? Did she really think Roshan let her spend all this time with Sanjay because he knew they were childhood friends or was it because Roshan was well aware of the money that lay in the line of his secret partnership with Sanjay? Did Maya never question Roshan on the amount of time he spent alone with Binata? Why did she accept his obvious conducts of infidelity so easily?
Come to think of it, he and Binata had also gotten into some sort of an arrangement over the years. Binata enjoyed maintaining relations with important clients and Sanjay did his bit by bringing 2 to 3 high profile clients every year. The rest of the time he spent in his world of fiction and with Maya. He never questioned Binata on her whereabouts and had accepted Roshan’s extended hand of friendship so he could be close to Roshan’s wife and his childhood fantasy, Maya.
Maya was Sanjay’s classmate, friend and secret crush in school days, a beautifully innocent lass who had grown up to be a pampered and an outwardly happy, married woman. Maya had always surprised Sanjay with her ways and sometimes scared him with her risk taking abilities and swindles as a kid in school. Yet there was something about her that made Sanjay’s heart skip a beat even today. When they met at the bank after years of school, Sanjay could still feel the same stupor in his eyes when he saw her.
Maya and Sanjay waited for Mathews at the coffee shop. It was nearly 6:30pm when Joy Mathews got down from the pristine BMW with a lady in stark white official attire. That lady was Binata .
“Hi Binata , So good to see you here”. Maya said with a familiar smile. The women were not surprised to see each other at all and the scandalous look on both their faces seemed to give something else away.
“Mr.Mathews, meet Mr. Sanjay, our business alliance partner. Mr. Sanjay this is Mr. Joy Mathews. He needs no introductions I believe.” Binata said in her charismatic finesse as she looked Sanjay in the eye with a dense yet disarming expression.
Sanjay wondered whether it was Maya who was playing the bridge or was it an unaware Roshan or may be Sanjay himself getting bridged in the mosaic.
*passage from Ravi Subramanian’s The Best Seller She Wrote”.
**Short story originally written for and submitted to the Write India Contest by Times of India, October 2015.