She was standing alone at the massive canopy of the university gate at six in the evening. But the blossomed beauty of wet yellow Amaltas made her forget the pounding fear of heavy rains. She realized the rains only when the drops started ticking on the books in her hand. Nobody was in her sight. She thought of going back to the Department, but it was only for drenching. A honking car suddenly stopped behind her. The driver lowered the glass and shouted, “Get in or drain out!” She moved inside. He was Ketan Chitnis! The heartthrob of all the eligible girls on the campus, most handsome and intelligent boy in her Department. His father, the most significant drug distributor of central India, was an alumnus of the Department. He was the youngest of three brothers, a guy of high lineage and pedigree. She was mesmerized by his presence and his words into a loving union that sustained for ten years. Ten years!
“Baai, taste it once, do I need to put more sugar?” Asha’s words brought Kalindi back to her present. Asha held a bowl of kheer, waiting for Kalindi’s approval. “It’s ok. Put some more Kesar,” Kalindi brushed her off and came out in the balcony. Asha calmly went back to the kitchen.
The Amaltas blossomed in front of her balcony, rooted her mind back to the thoughts of Ketan. She sensed that there is something fishy around two years ago. Her mother was terminally ill. Kalindi had gone to Akola to look after her. She could only get fifteen days with her mother; the frailed lady died cutting down Kalindi’s last thread of contact with her home. After her mother’s death, she sold her house at Akola. Their neighbor for fifty years, Fadnis kaka, urged her, “Don’t sell your home, Kalindi. It is your only asset. After having such a good education, you kept yourself engaged at home. Please keep this support. Who knows what comes next in life?”
Ketan and Kalindi, both laughed away his suggestion.
Ketan bagged a fantastic job in the final year of college. He also managed to enroll for M.B.A., within two years and married Kalindi immediately. He was not interested in his father’s trading business. The challenges, lust, and speed of the corporate world attracted him. He climbed the ladders, and they had a beautiful life with two children. Kalindi was too happy running the happy house. Her mother-in-law was a busy lady with a large social circle in Nagpur. She paid only short visits to Hyderabad but trained Kalindi very well in housekeeping.
After Salil’s birth, she found Asha. Her neighbor, an elderly Marathi lady, sent her to Kalindi. Asha was excellent domestic help. She managed Salil’s bath, massage, and feeding with motherly care and nurse’s expertise. She hardly spoke but was a suave cook. Once Salil grew up, Kalindi retained Asha as a cook. Ketan’s growing career attracted influential visitors at home, and she needed a trained hand to serve them. Asha turned out to be very useful in managing cooking for large parties, as well. She lived in a nearby slum. Her husband was a drunkard. He never earned enough to run the house. But Asha never complained.
Kalindi came to her senses when the street lights started beaming. It was time for guests.
Kalindi felt something was wrong when she came back to Hyderabad after her mother’s death. Sudeep, Ketan’s colleague and their friend since college days, came to their place to pay condolences. After some hesitation, he said, “Kalindi, I care for both of you. Ketan is crossing his boundaries, I need to tell you that. I feel it is my duty, not to let my friend turn infidel.” Kalindi said nothing. Ketan was a lady-killer since college days. But he was a loving husband, and she never felt of his cheating all these years. “This must have come out of Sudeep’s envy of Ketan’s career growth,” she told herself.
One day, she saw Ketan and Revati in a theatre. She was in the mall with children, and Ketan was supposed to be in Delhi for a meeting. Revati was his colleague. The blossomed tree of happiness in Kalindi’s heart was burned down in a single moment.
A housewife by choice, she had two children and a long life ahead. She buried down the swindling. Sweet memories of ten years of happy marriage were enough to sustain her.
With a sigh of satisfaction, Reddy, Ketan’s boss, said, “There is no room for sweets now. But I can’t resist my temptation.” Kalindi poured kheer in the bowl, and her eyes saw the eye lock between Ketan and Revati. She immediately turned her sight, blushed by insult and shame. Asha was looking at her. For the first time, Kalindi noted the talk in Asha’s eyes.
The guests left by 9 p.m. and the rain stopped pouring. Ketan had to go to Mumbai by the late-night flight. Asha finished her cleaning, and she left as well. The children were already asleep. Kalindi could not stand the vacuum. Finally, she latched the door and started out for a walk.
She came out of society and started walking on the long road that approached the highway. It was a calm and quiet road with a dense tree cover on both sides. A bus stop on the left side was the only shade one could see on the way. Suddenly, she heard a moaning sound under the shade. Startled, she looked all around. There was nobody. She gathered courage and approached the bus stop. She recognized her old saree, and she knew Asha.
Asha was sitting in a crouching position. She looked up at Kalindi with shame and helplessness. For a moment, Kalindi did not realize what has happened. But she organized herself, and said, “ How come…you know him?” Asha murmured,” No, Baai. I was all alone walking on the road. Suddenly he came from behind and ….” She started sobbing.
Kalindi organized herself. “I will call a cab. Let us go to the hospital. I know the doctor. We will inform police from there.”
“No, no. Just give me some drugs to stop bleeding, and let me change clothes at your place. I will go home after that.”
“Are you mad? You saw him, right?”
“You need treatment, and we need to find him and get him punished. How can we let him roam free after what he did to you?” Kalindi shouted at her.
“Baai, please listen to me. If my husband and in-laws come to know of this…., only I will be blamed.”
“Asha, don’t be a fool. We are going to the hospital, and we will inform the police. Don’t worry, they will not do any harm to you. I will handle it. You should not tolerate this!” Kalindi asserted herself.
Asha looked at Kalindi. Her eyes were as talkative as they were when both of them noticed the eye-lock between Ketan and Revati. Kalindi did not avoid the stare.
“Baai, if you were me, will you complain? Will you?”
For a moment, Kalindi hesitated.
Then she gave her hand to Asha, “Yes, I will!”