Read the previous chapter here: Life’s game – Prologue
Tara Dutta combed her short hair for the second time, pinned the brooch to her cream-colored jacket and straightened her already straight pencil-skirt. She painted her eyebrows, lips and cheeks and looked in the mirror. The executive officer of Lucky One TV channel was ready for her usual day in the office. I look beautiful, she thought with a smile.
She rechecked her appearance and walked out to be greeted by the distracted face of her husband. He didn’t lift his head to smile at her or say a hello, but this was not an unusual sight in their household and Tara didn’t care, not anymore.
“Hi.” She sat there in front of him with a blank look that had become her mask these days. Sometimes, she wondered why she had married this man. Of course, he was good-looking and had a kind heart, but he lacked substance. There was something sordidly unpleasant about him – whether it was his endless smile or his simple tastes, Tara would never know and she never even wanted to know.
Tara had many things to worry about, but her husband was not one of them. She worked 24/7 and when she was free, she had to plot and plan for the next day and for their future and this made her sullen and tired. It was as if she was the only one trying to better their life and keep it at the same pace; this made her angry with her husband.
“Hi, Sushmitha.” Shekhar greeted her with a half-hearted smile and stood up when she glared at him. They were married for seven long years and still, he called her with whatever names that came to his mind.
Of course, Tara hated Shekhar’s women, the women who would haunt him and keep him with them, as they please, but she couldn’t do anything about them. Those women, they didn’t exist in this world for Tara to search them and kill them all. No, they lived in her husband’s imagination and his stories. Oh, the stupidity of her life!
“Eh, I mean, hi Tara. You look beautiful.” He stuttered as she stared at him. His eyes wandered everywhere and then finally he looked at her with a hesitant smile.
“When will you remember my name? Will it take another ten years? If I die tomorrow, you will call everyone and tell them that Sushmitha or Dina or whoever died and no one will come to my funeral.” She really hated ranting, but then, her husband was the only one who could force the cool and collected boss lady to lose her façade. He was the only one who could make her mad.
“Roohi, I made your favorite – sunny side up.” Shekar called out to Roohi in an attempt to ignore Tara. She let him. Really, there was nothing she could do. Roohi gave a scream as she ran to the living room and launched herself on her father. He deftly caught her and carried her to her seat.
Tara wondered how these two had created an unbreakable bond. Shekhar… he wasn’t even… But Tara’s questions didn’t have answers, not all the time, not related to her personal affairs. Her life was like scattered tress without a common ground, completely unconnected and she had no idea how to bring them altogether.
She rubbed her head.
These thoughts always give me a headache. She thought with a tired sigh as she pulled her plate close to her.
“Dad, pray to God that my Math teacher will be absent today. I haven’t studied for the test.” Roohi commented as she ate her food. Her smile was bright as usual with a naughty twinkle in her eyes.
“Roohi…” Tara warned with a scowl – the same scowl that put all the employees at work in place – but Roohi was impervious to it. Roohi gave her a crooked smile and threw her hands above her head with a giggle.
“Okay, okay. I will not pray to God to make anyone sick, because I was irresponsible. Also, I will, never again, forget to learn for the test.” Roohi chanted her mother’s usual rules and Shekhar laughed louder, but they both stopped when Tara gave them a stern look.
Tara knew that this family was something she wanted. Tara also knew that her life would go downhill if this family collapsed.
I will not let this fail. She whispered as she bit into her toast. She vowed that she would do everything to make her life stable.
The small seedling that stayed in the same place, would one day grow into a massive tree, and Tara, she wasn’t one of the weeds that grew and then die. She was a solid oak tree and she had roots and she would do everything and anything to keep those roots firmly in place.
When Tara’s driver arrived, she left for work. As the car crawled in the heavy Mumbai traffic, she let her mind wander. Some of these spots were familiar to her and she could walk around with her eye closed. And these places brought so many beautiful memories. The very memories she had carefully locked in her mind.
The wind was fierce and the sun was even fiercer. She hated it when her hair became messy, so she raised the window pane up and continued to stare at the passing scenarios.
She could see herself and Shekhar sitting at the café, talking over a cup of coffee topped with cream. She could see herself laughing out loud at everything he said. She could see her hair flying in disarray and Shekhar pushing her curls behind her ear. They were good friends once, but then it all became chaotic and cluttered.
She wondered what had happened to their love. She had loved him once, more than anyone in this world. She had cherished him and treasured their marriage, but somewhere along the way, she had realized a truth. Love is a biased feeling. Susceptible to change. Now, all that remained was a painful reminder of their love, their happy days and a ticking bomb hanging overhead. If and when it fall, Tara’s life would become barren.
When the car crossed the Juhu beach road, she closed her eyes with a wistful sigh.
‘I can’t marry you.’ The woman was young and was in her mid-twenties. The man, who was kneeling in front of her had a big bright smile that died as soon as he heard her talk.
‘But why? I know you like me. I know we make a perfect pair. I know that I can start the conversation from where you left and you can do it, as well. So why?’ The smile he wore like precious jewel had now vanished.
The woman looked into his black eyes and found herself wishing for a miracle. She wanted to marry this man – this man who could make her smile, no matter what. But life and fate… they are not always easy.
‘I can’t. That’s all I can say.’ Her words were choked. She looked ready to run away and cry herself to sleep.
‘Don’t you like me? I am not looking for love. I know it is hard to find it these days. But I love you. It’s enough. If you marry me, I can make you love me back. I will work hard to make you love me.’
The woman smiled and then laughed. The laughter merged with the roars of the sea as tears leaked down her cheeks in a hurry.
‘Please, tell me why? I will help you. Don’t cry.’ The man stood up and took a step towards her, but she backed away.
‘I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. Please, don’t bother me anymore.’
“Ma’am, we are here.” Tara gave a jerk before she looked up at her driver.
“Ah, yes. Thank you.” She gave him a fake smile and walked out of the comfort of the car. When she walked inside the workplace, she let those memories fade away.
Now, she looked like the Chief executive officer, who planned her life —both personal and professional —with meticulous care, every single day. Now, she was the woman whose face and voice reflected in the media and who was powerful in the society.
“Bring the new agenda to my room. Oh, and I want green tea. No sugar.” She raised her head high as she entered her office.
Once she had loved her coffee with plenty of sugar and cream, but now, she always counted calories before she ate anything. It was tiring, but if she wanted to keep up the physical appearance, she had to be careful. She needed to fit into the shining pages of the magazines, or she would become simply another woman. And that won’t do!
As she sat in her chair, she let the warmth of the cushion soothe her nerves.
‘Tara. Past is past. Don’t let it hinder your progress. Don’t let it be your pitfall.’ She whispered to herself and then lost herself inside the heaps of the files, charts and binders at her table and forgot everything else.
Read the next chapter here: Life’s Game – Chapter 2