I have to start off this one by profusely apologizing to all the readers who have been patiently waiting for the next update. I was taken ill for a couple weeks, followed by planned international travel that I am still on. I have not been able to make a lot of headway into writing the story further while I'm traveling but I thought it would only be fair to at least post the next chapter that I have ready.
I am out for another couple weeks so updates will be delayed, but I promise to pick this back up with rigor and improved frequency soon as I am back from traveling.
Until then, stay with me....and thank you for your patience and love for this story!!
Whatever this meeting was about, Imlie wanted to quickly be done with it and work on her assignment. She didn’t know what Aparna wanted, but knowing her, it wasn’t anything Imlie would look forward to. With a desire to get straight to the point, Imlie decided to put the niceties aside and nudge her to the purpose of the meeting.
“So, why did you want to meet me, Maa?”
“Does a mother need a reason to meet with her daughter?”, Aparna droned, doing a very shoddy job at pretending to mean what she was saying.
Imlie gave Aparna an uncomfortable smile. Aparna knew she was fooling no one. Giving a resigned sigh, she decided to get to the point.
“Beta, I have come to you with a request”
Here we go.
“Please come back, Imlie. Please forgive Aditya and come back to him”.
Imlie stared at Aparna in disbelief.
She was almost certain that she had misheard Aparna. Did she really suggest that Imlie should get back with Aditya? After everything he had done.
“Beta, I know you would find what I am saying really odd. My Adi was really unfair to you.”
Unfair? That doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Imlie wasn’t going to let her draw that narrative.
“He cheated on me, Maa. He betrayed our marriage. Broke every single one of our marital vows.”
Aparna looked like she’d been punched in the face. She scrunched her nose, as if in discomfort at having to truly face her son’s actions for what they were. Imlie couldn’t help but feel a tinge of satisfaction at her state.
Neither Aparna, not any of the other family members had acknowledged Aditya’s infidelity out loud, let alone raise a finger at him. Imlie had taken their silence at her announcement of separation from Aditya as the most acknowledgement she would get out of them.
Clearly, nothing had changed in the last 2 months since she left home. Aparna still had trouble verbalizing her son’s mistakes.
“Men make mistakes”, Aparna tried to reason.
Imlie’s scoff was scathing, making Aparna flinch again.
“Do you really want me to be the cliché and ask you what you would have done if your daughter-in-law had committed the same mistake?”
Silence. Aparna lowered her gaze, unable to meet Imlie’s.
“That’s what I thought”, Imlie bit out.
She hated how she was talking to Aparna. This is not what Amma and Dadda had taught her. They had taught her to respect elders, always treat them with regard. But Imlie couldn’t even muster mock respect for a woman who didn’t stand up for another woman. Respect is earned, not demanded, after all.
Aparna took Imlie’s hands in hers again and gave her a beseeching look.
“Child, you must understand. The circumstances in which you and Aditya got married were so unusual. It was a forced marriage. He was never able to fully accept you as his wife. Can you blame him? He realizes his mistake now. He misses you. Please give him a chance!”
Imlie blinked away angry tears that had started to form in the corner of her eyes, willing herself to calm down. Blaming Aditya was still a matter of personal choice for this woman? Disgusting.
Aparna looked at her puzzled, like Imlie had raised the most unusual question.
“Why do you want me to get back with him now?”
“Marriages aren’t meant to be broken this way, Imlie”
“And you came to this realization now?”
Imlie decided to continue, resolute on saying everything she always wanted to say to this family but never did. For nothing else but her own satisfaction.
“You did not think your son should have regarded the said marriage with the same reverence that you expect of me? Did you even call him out for being found with Malini in….”, Imlie choked, unable to finish the sentence.
The memory of finding Aditya with his supposed best friend, Malini, in their bed was still excruciatingly painful. In that moment, Imlie had felt like someone had dropped her off a high cliff into a never-ending freefall.
“I did beta, of course! I scolded Adi so much after you left! What he did was very wrong. He knows it now. I hope you can forgi….”
“Why should I forgive him?”, Imlie didn’t let Aparna finish this time.
She wasn’t so naïve to believe Aparna had even raised her voice at her precious son who could do no wrong in her eyes. It was all lies, but she didn’t know the motive behind them.
“Tell me, Maa. Why do you want me to forgive him and come back?”
Aparna looked constipated at that point, making it clear that she did not have a good answer for Imlie’s insistent questioning.
This wasn’t going as she had planned at all. She’d assumed that Imlie would see the fault in her decision by now and would jump at this opportunity to reinstate her marriage with Aditya. After all, it wasn’t easy for a lone woman to survive in this world. She had it good in the Tripathi house. She must miss it.
Aparna had expected some push back, but the glowering, self-confident woman in front of her, questioning her motives wasn’t something she was prepared for.
Imlie continued to glare at her, adamant.
Aparna decided to stop beating around the bush and show the girl some reason.
“Imlie, you are upset. I get it. But think about it. It’s only best for you if you come back to Aditya too. He is more than you could ever manage to dream of, and you know that. He made a mistake, and he realizes it. Men in our generation did not even acknowledge their wrongdoings. You should be thankful that he is with the times and ready to apologize”.
Imlie felt a sudden surge of nausea and pushed her chair back forcefully, standing up with a jerk.
“Are you even hearing yourself…?” she tried to append her statement with 'Maa', but she couldn’t. Not anymore.
She was appalled that the entity sitting in front of her, speaking the words she was speaking, was a woman herself. She was no mother. She wasn’t her mother, for sure.
Imlie could not take this anymore. Hot tears threatened to roll down her cheeks, but she did not care.
Aparna looked up at her in alarm, visibly scared at the sight of the girl in front of her shaking in anger.
Before she could say anything further, Imlie held up her palm to stop her.
"This....was a mistake"
Folding her hands in respect for a fleeting moment, she stormed out of the café.
Aparna sat there for several minutes, dumbstruck, staring at the door through which Imlie had exited.
This was a complete failure. What would she tell Aditya and his father!
Imlie ran out of the café, sprinting down the handful of steps as she blinked away the deluge of tears furiously. She needed air.
Clasping the strap of her bag tightly, she ran a few blocks, trying to put as much distance between her and the café as she could. She slowed down when she reached an intersection, coming to a gradual halt, trying to calm her labored breathing that was accompanied by little sobs building in her chest.
Looking in one direction, then another, she felt bewildered at how to deal with the torrent of emotions going through her. Anger, hate, hurt, disgust, pain, disappointment, incredulity…. ANGER!
How could one woman say those words to another? Aren’t women supposed to lift each other in this patriarchal society? Would Aditya’s mother have expected the same kind of flexibility had I been her own daughter? What was this double standard between sons and daughters-in-law? What kind of people were I living with!
Imlie took a deep breath that came out more ragged than she intended it to.
The hurt of Aditya’s infidelity had been soul crushing. It had made her question every single day of her one year of marriage with the man. His deceit had made a huge dent on her self-respect and made her question what was so wrong with her that she was so unworthy of her husband’s love.
The suggestion to dismiss that hurt like it was a mere inconvenience, for no real reason no less, had felt like she’d been stabbed in the chest and the knife twisted to make sure it inflicted the maximum amount of pain possible. She could feel actual, physical pain in her chest.
Imlie swiped the dampness on her cheeks with the back of her hand, bringing her palms to rest on her hips, still looking around the street as if someone would appear and help her make sense of this insensitivity and selfishness.
Am I supposed to forgive a man who never respected the love I had for him? The man who didn’t even have the spine to come and apologize to me himself?
Sending his mother to speak on his behalf!
Imlie scoffed again. She had been doing it a lot today.
She had really tried to make the marriage work, hadn’t she?
She’d given it her all. She’d cared for him deeply, even started falling for him. Aditya was a charming and attractive man. It wasn’t hard to like him. A little attention from him was enough to make her go giddy. That feeling of a new love blossoming.
Even though he had misbehaved with her a few times, lashing out at odd instances, Imlie had brushed those instances aside thinking he was just a short-tempered man.
He had put up a convincing façade of starting to like Imlie, even being attracted to her. Naïve as she was, she’d thought she’d win over his anger as their relationship progressed. She’d truly believed he was as invested in making the best of their union as she was.
But now she knew, he’d never loved her back. It had all been a play, to an extent for his family and the remainder for the eyes of the society.
Imlie wiped another stream of tears with her palm, which she then brought back to her side, clenching it into a fist.
She might have made grave errors in reading Aditya Kumar Tripathi for the man he was while she was married to him, but the last 6 months had clarified beyond doubt that the guy couldn’t care less about Imlie and their marriage.
His half-hearted attempts at placating Imlie after her devastating discovery of him with Malini in a more than compromising state had been insulting, to say the least.
The only thing to be done was to respect herself where others won’t, and end the sorry excuse of a marriage that tied her to him. With much effort, she had picked herself again, gathered the pieces of her broken heart and made the devastating decision to end the marriage she’d put her heart and soul into.
He hadn’t made much attempt to change her mind then either.
Nothing had happened between then and now for him to suddenly start caring for Imlie and willing her back in his life.
So then…. Why now?
Imlie held her head in her hands and squeezed, trying to soothe the agonizing headache that had enveloped her. Pushing strands of hair away from her damp face and tucking them behind her ears, she briefly closed her eyes and gulped some air.
When she opened her eyes again, they shone with tenacity and determination.
She was not going to go back to that disrespectful marriage and unempathetic family.
Amma and Dadda had big dreams for her, and she was going to focus on fulfilling them. She was not going to let anyone undo the progress she’d made for her future.
As she resolved to move on with her life, a song she’d heard a few weeks ago came rushing back to her. How appropriately it fit her, she mused ruefully.
Lose you to love me – Selena Gomez
You promised the world and I fell for it
I put you first and you adored it
Set fires to my forest
And you let it burn
Sang off-key in my chorus
'Cause it wasn't yours
I saw the signs and I ignored it
Rose-colored glasses all distorted
Set fire to my purpose
And I let it burn
You got off on the hurtin'
When it wasn't yours, yeah
We'd always go into it blindly
I needed to lose you to find me
This dancing was killing me softly
I needed to hate you to love me, yeah
To love, love, yeah
To love, love, yeah
To love, yeah
I needed to lose you to love me, yeah
I gave my all and they all know it
You turned me down and now it's showing
And now the chapter is closed and done
To love, love, yeah
To love, love, yeah
To love, yeah
And now it's goodbye, it's goodbye for us
It was a goodbye from Imlie, and she was going to keep it like that.
Adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder one more time, she started moving in the direction of the Bhaskar Times office. She had an opinion paper to write, and she wasn’t going to waste precious time mulling over Aditya Kumar Tripathi and his family.
Aryan ran a hand through his hair, leaning back in his chair and tilting his chin up to stare at the ceiling. It was late in the evening and the rest of the office had practically emptied.
He had had a busy day, still trying to go over the mountain of information he needed to review to figure out the biggest gaps in Bhaskar Times operations and accounting. There had been much mishandling of funds in the past, and he had already discovered several blatantly poor decisions made related to marketing and news coverage strategies.
His main concern was making some significant changes in the management panel of the media house. Mr. Sharma, the former President, had been asked to step down with immediate effect after the press conference announcing the buyout. Aryan, however, knew that further modifications needed to be made.
If there was someone he trusted in the current management, it was the editor-in-chief, Sushant Tiwari. Aryan had only observed the man for a couple days but could tell already that the editor was astute in his judgment of stories that should take the center stage in Bhaskar Times’ reporting and was a solid leader and mentor for the reporters and interns of the newspaper.
The previous management, however, had not given Sushant Tiwari the autonomy an editor-in-chief commanded, overriding his recommendations about the newspaper content as well as how to structure the organization.
Aryan was not going to make the same mistake. One of the reasons Aryan was the successful tycoon he was in such a short period of time was his ability to evaluate talent and determine who he could or couldn’t trust. He had built a reliable network of leadership around him, and he leaned on them to help him run the many businesses under the Rathore Group of Industries (RGI).
Arvind Jiju topped that list.
Correction, Aryan thought.
Arvind Jiju wasn’t a part of that list. He was as much an owner of RGI as Aryan was, even though her sister’s husband never acceded to that fact. That was testament to his humility and integrity.
For Aryan, Arvind Jiju was the only man he could call his mentor since he’d lost Paa. He was the one who ran the company when Paa died. He was the one who taught Aryan everything there was to know about the business, supporting him through his growth as he took over the empire as the CEO.
Whatever Aryan knew, he’d learnt from Arvind Jiju.
Arvind would say it was Aryan’s natural aptitude for business that helped him build his reputation in the market faster than anyone had in the business, and Aryan knew it wasn’t his nature to ever take credit for his contribution.
Aryan continued to lean on Arvind for any major decisions he took and trusted him with the empire like he trusted no one else. Arvind continued to insist that he was happy supporting Aryan in the background, but that Aryan remained the face of RGI and the true owner.
An endless tussle of granting credit, Aryan mused, a small smile appearing on the corners of his lips.
With a loud exhale, Aryan prepared to go back to reviewing the file that outlined the last 6 months of Bhaskar Times Board decisions when the screen of his phone lit up.
He picked it up and swiped open the text notification.
More info on Dubey. Please call on the secure line when you can.
The smile on his face disappeared as he punched the private number that he knew to call in response.