Wednesday, 20 April 2016


This is a short story I had written over a year ago, hoping that I would include it in my book of short stories. I think I've changed my mind on the ever-elusive book (that's what I'm going to permanently refer to it as) so here it is, making its debut on my blog. Do let me know what you think (and apologies if there are any errors).

She lay on her side, with her back facing him. She had been lying still for almost an hour, waiting for his breath to normalise. When she finally heard his soft snores, she shifted her weight to get a little comfortable. Aria always needed her space in bed. She was a sprawler.

Just as she was dozing off, she felt his hand on her waist. Jolted out of her slumber, she lay still again, hoping he would back off, thinking she was asleep. A few moments passed and his hand slid around her waist to her stomach, slowly caressing it. He slipped his hand under her t-shirt and worked his way up to her breast. Aria lay deathly still, hoping he would stop. But tonight it seemed like he was determined to wake her up to fulfil his needs.

He slowly started kissing her back and pushing her hair away to get to her neck. Aria opened her eyes to look at the clock. 3:35am. 

Slowly Anand turned Aria towards him. He started kissing her neck, while his hands explored the rest of her body. Though Aria could feel herself getting aroused and his hardness against her thigh, she remained frigid. Just as he was about to kiss her lips, Anand lifted his head to look at Aria’s face. Aria averted her eyes, turned her head away, as if to say, “Have your way and let’s get this over with.”

Anand looked at her for a moment, his expression darkening. Swiftly, he rolled off of her and threw off the covers. He looked at her one last time before getting out of bed with a huff, walking towards the bathroom and slamming the door shut.

Aria turned back on her side and lay still. A lone tear escaped her eyes, running down her nose and wetting her pillow. It had been three months of this misery and she had a lifetime of it ahead of her. This is not how Aria had envisioned her life.

Anand and Aria had an arranged marriage three months ago. They were of the same religion and the same caste—everyone who looked at her said she was lucky to have found Anand. He was an Ivy-educated corporate lawyer settled in Delhi, who was always on the move, globetrotting. 

While finalising the wedding, Aria mom had told her, “Beta, you should be thrilled at this proposal. You’ve always wanted to travel. Now you can travel with him all over the world!”

“And what about my job, my career, my friends, my life?”

“Oh ho, baby. Priorities change once you get married. Everyone will understand.”

“Well I don’t want to get married. At least not to him.”

“The one you wanted to marry wasn’t good enough for you and wasn’t willing to prove himself either. So what’s the point?”

That hit home. Aria and Dev had been seeing each other for almost four years. She had always imagined that they would get married someday and live happily ever after. But Dev’s un-ambitious nature had put an end to all her dreams. At 28, Dev was a nobody. He would call himself a creative professional, and yet could not stick to a single job for more than three months. He lived off his parents and Aria. Sometimes, he would even take money from their friends. His father, who ran a successful bottling plant business, was keen on his only son taking over, but Dev wasn’t interested. Frustrated and constantly worried, but unable to give up on Dev, his father had developed a weak heart.

Three years into their relationship, Aria’s folks started pressuring her to get married. Though she had never overtly admitted to seeing Dev, they were fully aware of their relationship. Unable to wait and ward off the incoming proposals any longer, Aria’s father one day had a chat with her.

“Tell the boy to either buck up, get a job and stick with it, or else take over his father’s business. As long as he is wasting his life, he’s marrying no daughter of mine.”

The finality of her father’s words had struck her. Although she loved Dev, she knew he was right. As opposed to Aria’s ambitious, career-oriented and vibrant personality, Dev was irresponsible, flippant and frankly, selfish. He did love Aria, but when she told him of her father’s warning, Dev had barely protested.

“I’m not taking over Dad’s business just to please your father. And if I get a job I enjoy enough, I’ll stick with it. But there are no guarantees.”

“So you’re fine with me marrying someone else?”

“I want you to be happy. Maybe being with me isn’t a good idea after all.”

Aria had exploded. After years of trying to get through to Dev and steer him towards the right path, discovering that he didn’t care much about losing her, broke her heart. In anger, she told her parents to go ahead and look for someone for her. And promptly, within three months she was married off to Anand.


It’s not that Aria didn’t like Anand. He was smart, sensitive, funny and seemed to really care about her. But she just didn’t feel a connection with him. She had literally married him on the rebound and now regretted it every moment of every day.

It was as early as their honeymoon that Anand noticed Aria’s disinterest in the marriage. Every time he had tried to touch, even just to hold her hand or put his arm around his wife’s shoulder, she had stiffened, as if repulsed. The night before they were to fly back to Delhi, he finally got the nerve to ask her.

“Aria, were you forced into this marriage?”


“Do you not like me?”


“Look, if you’re not happy then talk to me about it. Maybe we can work a way around it.”


Anand had sighed deeply and gone to bed. Aria’s cold behaviour confused him, because she had seemed normal, almost pleased during their courtship period. This drastic change in her personality, confused, frightened and angered him, all at the same time.

Soon after returning to Delhi, Anand was scheduled to head to Singapore for a six-month project, with Aria in tow. Before their departure, there were many relatives to meet and they both put on a show of being happy and in love.

One night, just days before they were to leave, Anand had gone out drinking with his buddies. He staggered home drunk, well after 2am. He came into their bedroom and saw Aria asleep on her side, her back facing his side of the bed and her arms covering her eyes. Seething with frustration and anger, yet uncontrollably attracted to her, Anand strode across the room and climbed onto Aria. 

Surprised by his sudden move, Aria tried to sit up, but Anand pinned her arms down. He savagely started rubbing his face on her face, her neck, her breast, biting and kissing his way down. Aria tried to push him off, but he was far heavier and stronger than she was. Anand tore off his shirt and undid his pants. He pushed up Aria’s nighty and pulled down her panties to her ankle. Before she realised what was going on, he pushed his hardness into her and started thrusting. With the combined effect of Aria’s frigidness and Anand inebriated state, the deed was done in less than two minutes. Satiated and tired, Anand had rolled off Aria and dozed off.

Feeling violated and humiliated, Aria had gathered herself and rushed into the bathroom. She stripped naked and turned on the shower, allowing the cold Delhi winter water run over her body, her tears mixing with the jet sprays.

The next morning, Anand had a blurry memory of the night before. The terrible hangover he had did not help things. But he was ashamed of himself. He went to Aria and touched her gently on the shoulder, while she was sitting blankly in front of the mirror.

“I’m sorry, Aria. I don’t know what came over me yesterday. Please forgive me. I’ll never touch you again without your permission.”

Aria sat still and then slowly looked at his hand on her shoulder.

Surprised at her coldness, Anand jerked it off, and stood for a few minutes waiting for a response. Getting none, he exhaled deeply and walked into the bathroom.

Three months later, things were just the same. They had moved to Singapore, were living like strangers and spoke only when necessary. 


For all practical purposes, Aria was a good wife. She cooked for Anand, kept the house clean, washed his clothes, entertained his guests and pretended to the outside world that they were perfectly happy. However, this seemed to frustrate Anand even more. He was an honest man, if not anything else, and putting up this farce, especially to his family and Aria’s, made him physically uncomfortable.

The following week, Anand had to go on a month-long project to Malaysia. Though initially Aria was meant to travel with him, Anand decided that some time apart would help him clear his head. When he told Aria this, she didn’t protest. The concept of being in Singapore on her own for a month was rather appealing.

In the three months since their move, Aria had already made a set of friends. She had a friend from school, Roshni, who was living and working in Singapore, so after she went out with her a few times, she became a part of the gang. Having worked pretty hard on her career as a sales professional in Delhi for years, Aria was in no rush to look for a job in Singapore. She wanted to kick back and relax for a while.

Aria’s new friends loved to party and undoubtedly, Singapore had a super nightlife. She went to a new club every weekend while Anand was in town, so after he left, she had no reason to stay home every night. She would go shopping, go out for lunches and coffee with friends and they would hit the nightspots till the wee hours every morning.


One night, about 10 days after Anand had left for Malaysia, she went out as usual. Except that on this day, she was feeling particularly bad about the way her life had shaped up. She missed Dev, she felt guilty for the way she treated Anand and she regretted not looking for a job. So like most others, she turned to alcohol. Starting to drink at lunch, by the time they entered the club for the night, she was already pretty hammered. Robert, one of the boys in the gang, stayed close to her all night.

Since the day they had met, Robert was intensely attracted to Aria. He knew she was married, but he wasn’t sure how happy she was, considering she kept going out with them sans her husband. But he didn’t really care. He was in Singapore just for a few weeks and then would head back to the US. But Aria was really something. Those eyes, the full lips, the firm breasts, and the long, smooth legs... he knew he had to have her.   

By about 2am that night, Aria could no longer stand on her feet. Her head was buzzing and her legs were giving way. Roshni wanted to take her home, but Robert insisted that she continue her night and allow him to drop her back. Though Roshni wasn’t too comfortable with this idea, she didn’t protest much—after all, Aria was a big girl and Robert seemed nice.

Half an hour later, Robert and Aria were back at her apartment. Without wasting any time, Robert grabbed her by the waist and planted a kiss on her mouth. A little surprised at first, Aria moved away to look at Robert. But the alcohol soon took over any semblance of logic and before she knew it, they were tearing each other’s clothes off.


Robert carried Aria’s inebriated naked body into the bedroom. He lay her down gently on the bed and started working his way down Aria’s body. Aria’s senses had dulled and she was a little confused—was this Dev or Anand? But she didn’t care; all she knew was that it felt good. For the next hour, Robert and Aria ravaged each other’s bodies—Aria satiating months of deprivation.

Ten days later...
Aria was sitting in front of the mirror combing her hair. She had put on a sari, a first since the move to Singapore. She had put on some make-up and sprayed on the perfume Anand had given her. After a little over a month, Anand was set to return home. And for the first time since she met him, she couldn’t wait to see him.

Aria’s memory of her night with Robert was blurry, but what she could clearly recall was the feeling of repulsion she felt the next morning. Seeing Robert lying next to her, with his arm around her waist, Aria had felt nauseated. She had shaken him awake, quickly got dressed and bid him a quick, unceremonious goodbye.

She cut Robert out of her life completely and had stopped going out with the gang, too. Roshni would come over once in a while to ask her what was wrong, but Aria had sworn herself to secrecy. She felt dirty and could never forgive herself for this indiscretion. 

That’s when she had decided that she would do everything in her power to make things work with Anand. She was, after all, married to him. She spent the next 10 days cleaning the house, downloading recipes to cook him his favourite food, and pulling out her saris and salwar suits.
Sitting in front of the mirror the day Anand was to arrive—moments before he would be there—Aria could not get images of her lustful night with Robert out of her mind. Every time she’d blink, she could see them—bodies, sweaty and entwined.


Aria snapped herself back to the present. No, she was determined to win Anand over. She knew he liked, maybe even loved, her—he would forgive her for sure.

Unfortunately, Anand was tougher to break than Aria expected. For days after he returned from Malaysia, he barely spoke to her. In fact, he stayed out of the house for as long as he could, only coming home to crash. Sometimes, not even that. Aria cooked for him, but he wouldn’t eat; she dressed up for him, but he wouldn’t even look at her; she tried talking to him, but he was always too tired or not interested. She even tried making a move in bed, but he simply stiffened and moved further away.

Two weeks later...
Aria was at her wits’ end; she didn’t know how to make the situation better. Just when she was about to lose all hope in her marriage, she received a text from Anand one day after he had left for work.

“Need to talk. Will be home by 7.”

“Sure. What would you like for dinner?”

No reply.

Aria decided to cook up a storm anyway. She called her mother in India and got the recipes for spicy vegetable pulao, kali daal and chicken curry, just the way Anand liked it. She wasn’t feeling too well that day but she still pushed herself to lay out an impressive spread for her husband.

In the middle of her cooking though, Aria felt nauseas more than once and had to rush to the bathroom to throw up. Attributing it to stress, she kept going back to the kitchen to finish cooking. However, an hour and a half later, when she felt dizzy and faint, she turned off the stove and went to lie down.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a fear gripped her stomach and shook her whole being. She checked the date on her phone. She had missed her period. Her date had passed two weeks ago and she hadn’t even realised it. Her little ‘mistake’ with Robert had happened about a month ago. No, this could not be happening.

Still feeling faint, Aria gathered herself and rushed to the medical store below her building. She quickly bought three pregnancy kits, just to be on the safe side. She knew that she was supposed to take the test only in the morning, but she couldn’t wait that long. No matter what the test said now, she would take it again the next day.

Half an hour later...
Aria sat on her bathroom floor, head in her hands. Her worst fear had come true. The little strip had turned pink. She tried to recollect the sequence of events of that night. Did Robert use a condom? Was he even carrying one? Try as she might, she couldn’t remember anything about that night coherently. And no matter how much she hoped, she knew it couldn’t be Anand’s; their last time was when he was drunk and that was over three months ago.

This couldn’t be happening. She was trying to repair her marriage—she was falling in love with Anand. And after days, he said he wanted to talk. Not today, not now. This problem would have to wait. She would deal with it tomorrow. For today, she was going to be the perfect wife. She got up to wear the sari he had given her on their wedding day.

Three hours later...
Aria was back on the bathroom floor—this time with the positive pregnancy test in one hand and divorce papers in the other. Anand wanted a divorce. He had already signed the papers and just needed her to sign them. She was then free to go back to India to her parents’. Aria had tried to beg and plead with him to give her one more chance, but he had remained stoic.

“My ex had cheated on me. That’s why I didn’t marry her. You’re no different.”

“But I’ll make it up to you. I’ll be a good wife, I promise.”

“Good luck being a good wife to someone else. Please sign the papers and give them to me as soon as possible.”

And with that, he had walked out of the house.


Aria lost track of how long she had been sitting on that bathroom floor, sometimes clutching her stomach and at others retching her guts out. She stared at the divorce papers for a long time. It was just as well. She hadn’t even had to tell Anand about her infidelity. According to him, she was guilty either way. She was a cheat; yes she was.

In the matter of a year, Aria had loved, lost, loved again and lost again. And now she was pregnant. Aria smiled and signed the papers, before retching into the toilet bowl one more time.