Saturday Story 15: Balancing Act
It had been a tough day. The third day of negotiations with the Japanese consortium. The buggers simply wouldn’t give an inch.
“We need to compromise, or the deal will fall through,” was the view of the legal counsel.
But Shalini stood firm. She knew these were just tactics to strong arm. The original deal was fair and the other side needed it as much as she did.
“Give it another day,” she said. The rest of the team was taking the delegation for a lavish dinner at the Taj. Followed by… whatever it was the Japanese wanted. But Shalini had excused herself.
“I have an important family dinner,” she said. The men nodded understandingly.
And you guys can crack all the bawdy jokes you want without me, she thought to herself.
On the way home there was a terrific traffic jam. Shalini could feel the start of a tension headache.
Ujjayi breathing will help, her yoga instructor said.
As she drew in a long breath and felt the air whoosh into her throat, the phone rang. It was Sarita.
“Madam… sab taiyyar hai. Aap kitne baje pahunch rahe ho? Guest log aa gaye hain.”
“Traffic hai… aadha ghanta aur lagega,” replied Shalini. The bile rising in her throat. She had told Sudhir that entertaining on weekdays was stressful.
“It’s okay if you can’t make it, darling,” he replied. “I will manage.”
But she knew him better than that. This was his childhood friend from America, they went back a long way. Manage toh ho jayega but ek hafte tak sulk bhi to karega.
The therapist she had consulted in the early years of their marriage even had a name for it: passive-aggressive behaviour.
Some men use their fists, others simply use words…
The car pulled up into the porch and Shalini hurried out. It was 8.30 pm – not that late, really.
“Ah welcome, welcome madam CEO,” said a booming voice, as she stepped into the house.
“Aap hi ka intezaar ho raha hai.”
It was Sudhir, with a drink in hand. Was it her imagination, or was there a tinge of sarcasm?
Sameer and his elegant wife Radhika stood up to greet her.
“It’s been so long… too long!” said Radhika warmly. “Ooh, I love your sari!”
What… this uniform I wear to work every day… all plain silk with just a border!
“It’s so wonderful to have you guys over,” said Shalini, in all sincerity. “Just let me freshen up.”
FIfteen minutes later, Shalini emerged dressed in a casual top and jeans. At last… she felt relaxed.
“What will you have to drink bhabhi,” said Sameer. The ever-solicitous Punjabi insisted on calling her that. Actually, every friend’s wife is a bhabhi coz you know, we are like that only.
“I’m sure Sudhir has been taking good care of you,” said Shalini, as she sipped her vodka with lime cordial. She knew her husband loved a word of praise.
But today, he smirked and said,”Haan ji. Behind every successful woman… is a man.”
“Not just any man…” said Shalini, placing her hand on Sudhir’s shoulder.
An hour later the loving couple was asleep – in separate rooms.
In the distance the clinking of bartans could be heard. It was Sarita, in the kitchen, at the end of yet another successful dinner party.
What would this house be, without her?
The next morning
The curtains were drawn but light was trickling in to the room.
“Madam, saat baj gaye hain,” said a gentle voice. The scent of lemongrass wafted up to her nose. Ah! Sarita ke haath ki chai. The perfect antidote.
Shalini stirred in her sleep. Someday, when she wrote her biography, there would be a chapter.
Behind every successful woman is another woman.
Standing like a rock.