Written by Nandini Sethi
Today I discovered that my husband is having an affair. I should have seen it coming, what with the constant sneaking around and the obvious lies, it was as if he wasn’t even trying to keep the secret from me. But I was naïve, and too trusting, and all I could do after finding out was ponder. Ponder over me, my past, my future, and my kids.
When word got out in the neighborhood, thanks to Mrs. Verma, I became the center of attention. Pity baskets and sorry hampers came ringing at my doorbell every hour, and the meaningless longing looks of the other wives on the street only brought down my mood. Because the truth is, everyone knew, everyone suspected, but no one had any ground to confirm it.
Unlike any other event in my life, this time I wasn’t prepared on how to defend my husband and protect our name and riches. Nothing could be done except to accept everyone’s grief but my own and protect my kids from the consequences of someone else’s actions.
“So when are you going to divorce him?” Asked our neighbor, Mrs. Roy, taking a long, loud sip of her tea, her pinky out and everything.
I had been consoled a lot over the past few days, but no one had dared to ask such a direct question; one that was on everyone’s minds.
I put on a polite smile and told her nothing had been decided or finalized.
The next day, I got my kids ready, asking the head chef to prepare an extra lavish breakfast and take out the most expensive car to drop them to school. Once they had left the house, I got dressed – picked out my favourite Givenchy handbag, applied a coat of a limited-edition lipstick, and got into my husband’s most cherished sports car.
I asked the driver to take me where I felt at ease, where reality ceases to exist for me, where I felt at one with the world: the shopping mall.
No holds barred, I went on an extravagant spree, spending money on things I didn’t even want. This was not my way of rebelling; this was just how I vented out my anger. And my husband knew that; that is why he didn’t call me or get angry when I saw him back at home, almost one week after he had been caught.
Things were not weird between us even after that. We had dinner with the kids like a normal couple, followed by a glass of exquisite red wine, and a cordial conversation. We even slept on the same bed. I wasn’t in the mood to cause a stir, and after 15 years of marriage, I knew him well enough to conclude that he didn’t care for a brawl either.
If things were so hospitable between us, what gave others the right to feel and emote on our behalf? When Mrs. Verma came over once again to give me her ‘condolences’, I wanted her to have a taste of the truth.
“Mrs. Verma, when your husband goes on businesses trips to Ukraine and Turkey, what exactly does he do there? I didn’t know the Indian spices business was such a hit in those countries?” This was enough to bewilder her.
“Let me get set something straight”, I began, “I don’t pity my life, so neither should you.”
“No, I didn’t mean it that way-”
“Yes, my husband cheated on me, and yes there’s nothing I can do about. Let’s be honest with each other – if I really wanted to leave my husband for having an extramarital affair, I would have done it years ago.”
“I have no shame in admitting that I am used to a certain lifestyle. What would you do if you were in my place? Leave with your kids and stay in a one-bedroom apartment after living in a mansion all these years?” I retorted.
She left, apologizing profusely.
That night, sleeping on our shared bed, I looked at my husband’s calm face as he slept peacefully. I admired his eyes, his perfect hairline, his protruding nose, and thin lips. The exact same features adorned the miniature version of him, my son, our son.
As I found little Veer in his father’s features, I realized I had a long way to go in raising my children. But not my son. I had to focus on my daughter, to educate her, teach her about the wickedness of the world, the dependency that is expected of girls. I had to teach her that if she doesn’t want her own daughters to end up like me someday, she would have to stop nitpicking on the flaws of the world, and focus on putting herself first.