I was sitting listlessly in my living-room. I had just come home from visiting Aunt Savitri after we went to church. The sermon, Compassion Like Christ was very interesting and it held my attention from beginning to end. After the service, we mingled with the minister and other church members before we left.
As we were having Indian butternut squash curry, Aunt Savitri said to me, “I spoke to Rehema last night. She told me that you went to see her and that you apologized.”
“Yes, I did.” And if her mother hadn’t called, I would have kissed her. After leaving her flat it was all I could think about. I knew that the kiss would have led to other things.
“I was very happy to hear that you did the decent thing. She said you had an honest talk and that everything should be fine now. She hopes to see us both when she comes back.”
I was about to another mouthful of the curry but I paused to look at her. “Comes back?” I repeated. “Comes back from where?”
“Nairobi. She booked a flight yesterday and flew out this morning. Her grandmother died yesterday morning.”
“Her mother called when I was there and that’s probably the reason why. I’m very sorry to hear about her grandmother.”
“She died of natural causes.”
“Did Rehema tell you how long she will be gone for?”
“She’ll be gone for about two weeks.”
Two weeks seemed like a lifetime to me. “I see.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I was thinking of sending flowers to the funeral home. Would you like me to include your name on the card?”
After we finished eating and having vegan Gulab jamun for dessert, we went into the living-room. My aunt invited me to kneel and she prayed for Rehema and her family. Then, we sat on the sofa and talked about the church service and in particular, the sermon. It was after five when I left.
An hour later, I let myself into my flat and after changing, I sat in the living-room, thinking–thinking about Rehema and what almost happened between us. If her mother hadn’t called, we would have kissed and then, what? Would we have ended up in bed? Heat raged in my loins at the mere thought and I closed my eyes. Images of us making love under the sheets flashed across my mind. Muttering under my breath, I sprang to my feet and went over to the window.
Guilt riddled me. How could I be thinking about making love to Rehema when I was supposed to be in a relationship with Sarika? Ever since we have been together, I never once looked at, let alone fantasized about another woman and here I was daydreaming about Rehema. What was she doing now? If the flight was on time, she should be in Nairobi in just over two hours. Aunt Savitri said that she had taken a direct flight on British Airways flight leaving at 10:20am and arriving in Nairobi at 9pm. She promised that she would text Aunt Savitri when she arrived.
What was she doing now? I asked myself again. Was she thinking about me and what almost happened between us or was she thinking about seeing her mother and the rest of the family? Was she thinking about her grandmother and how much she was going to miss her?
The doorbell rang. I stood there, wondering who it was and then, I remembered that Sarika was coming over to spend the evening with me. I hadn’t asked her to come but she had insisted. I went to let her in. We hugged and she kissed me on the mouth before she removed her high heel sandals. Without the heels, she was average height.
We went into the living-room and I sat in the chair I had vacated earlier while she sat on the Ottoman, with her folded arms resting on her drawn knees, looking at me. “What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Jahaira’s getting a divorce.” Jahaira was her older sister. She and her husband had been married for twenty years and had an eighteen year old daughter.
I was startled to hear that. “Why is she divorcing Daivat?”
“She found out that he had been cheating on her with a woman he met in 2018.”
“How did she find out?”
“One of her friends saw Daivat with the woman and told Jahaira. Jahaira confronted him and he admitted that he had been having the affair. Jahaira filed for a divorce.”
“What about Kaasni?”
“Kaasni is very upset and angry with her father.”
“What is going to happen now?”
“Daivat is currently staying with his brother until the divorce is finalized. The house will be sold and Jahaira and Kaasni will move into a flat.”
“I’m sorry about the divorce.”
“And I’m sorry for Jahaira. I can’t tell you how devastated she was when she found out that the man she had loved and taken care of for twenty years had been unfaithful to her. How could he do it? How could he throw away twenty years of marriage just like that?”
“I can’t explain why people do the things they do,” I said. Perhaps, Daivat had fallen out of love with Jahaira or perhaps he was never in love with her. I seem to recall that theirs had been an arranged marriage. It was what Jahaira had wanted. Like most Indians, Daivat and she preferred to have their parents choose their life partners rather than choosing for themselves. I personally, was totally against arranged marriages. My parents agreed that I should be the one to choose the woman I was going to marry.
“Maybe Jahaira should have chosen her own husband instead of letting our parents do it for her.”
“Do you think that would have made a difference?”
“I think so. She wouldn’t be getting a divorce.”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say.
“Why do men cheat?” Sarika demanded.
“Well, there are many reasons but I’ll just give you a few. He’s bored; his needs aren’t being met maybe because his wife has a low sex drive or isn’t interested in sex; the marriage is collapsing; he’s unhappy with her; she nags and tries to change him; she isn’t as attractive as before and or has gained weight; she has changed and isn’t the person she used to be; the chemistry is no longer there; sex is better with a woman who better understands him or he cheats simply because he feels compelled or entitled to. Some men feel that they aren’t designed to be monogamous.”
“They cheat because they weren’t designed to be monogamous? That’s just an excuse for them to play around. Men like that should never get married.”
“Jahaira hasn’t neglected her looks or gained weight. She isn’t a nag and her personality hasn’t changed. And she has always been a very loving and understanding wife. It can’t be boredom so it must have been selfishness which made him cheat on her. Maybe he just wanted to cheat, not caring about how much it would hurt her if she were to find out. Some men are such dogs.”
“Is he still seeing the other woman?”
“I don’t know.”
“If he ended his affair with her, would Jahaira change her mind about the divorce?”
“I don’t think so. She has made up her mind to divorce him and has already filed the papers. It would serve him right if the other woman dumped him for another man.”
I didn’t say anything.
“You wouldn’t cheat on me, would you, Trishan?”
Her question startled me and I stared at her nonplussed. I had already cheated on her–in my thoughts.
“You wouldn’t cheat on me now or when we’re married, would you, Trishan?”
There it was again–the talk of marriage. I couldn’t hide my irritation. “Sarika, we’ve been through this before.”
“Yes, I know, but everyone is wondering if or when we’re going to get married.”
“Everyone like whom?”
“My family, friends and co-workers, even my hairdresser. They’re all wondering if and when we’re going to get married and I don’t know what to tell them.”
“You don’t have to tell them anything.”
“Trishan, is there a reason why you haven’t proposed as yet?”
“Yes, Sarika. I’m not ready for marriage.”
“When do you think you will be?”
“I don’t know.”
She stared at me and it looked like there was something she wanted to ask me but then changed her mind. She stood up. “I’d better be going,” she said. “I’m not going to be much company for you because I’m very upset about Jahaira and Daivat.”
I rose to my feet. “I understand and again, I’m sorry about their marriage.” I followed her into the foyer.
After she slipped on her sandals and we kissed, she left. I locked the door and returned to the living-room. I felt bad for her sister. Twenty years of marriage gone down the drain just like that. Why did Daivat cheat on her? Maybe he was bored or disillusioned with the marriage or his needs weren’t met or felt unappreciated. Whatever the reason, it was wrong of him to cheat and he probably regrets it now. I can see how much the breakdown of her sister’s marriage has affected Sarika and I decided that l would try my best to help her through it.
Sources: BBC Good Food; Holy Cow Vegan; Cultural India; Marriage.com