Shruti was jolted out of her thoughts by Sameer’s voice. She hadn’t noticed when he had come out in the balcony. He placed his hand on her shoulder gently and wished her good morning. She smiled at him and went inside to make tea for him.
Sameer was reading the newspaper as Shruti handed Sameer the cup of tea. He didn’t look up and continued reading. She watched him as he sipped his tea. Sameer’s indifference did not seem to match their passionate love making the previous night. There was very little trace of intimacy in the morning, very different from the affection he had shown last night. Sameer had always been good in bed and she always felt complete being with him. Yet she longed for some intimacy outside their bedroom. It is not that Sameer wasn’t a good husband. He always took care of all the small things that husbands are supposed to take care of. He was a gentleman and a caring person. So why did Shruti feel the distance between them?
“We need to go to Jagdeep’s party tonight” Sameer said softly without looking up from his paper.
“Oh no, I just don’t like these parties you take me to. Specially Jagdeep’s party. You know his father, he is such a creep always trying to come close to me.” Shruti groaned.
“Just touch his feet and move away. You know how important their family is to us. They are financing our new project, so please don’t make a scene.”
‘I never make a scene’, Shruti thought and decided not to say anything. Jagdeep was Sameer’s childhood friend and from a very rich family. Jagdeep’s father was 70 years old but very active socializer. He showed great affection towards Shruti, not missing any opportunity to touch her. Shruti hated it but didn’t want to jeopardize their new project. She knew she could handle him but just hoped that Sameer would show some empathy and understand what a creep the old man was.
“Wear that yellow sari of yours, the one with sleeveless blouse” Sameer said.
Shruti gave him the look.
“You look good in it, that’s all” Sameer said.
She knew she looked good in that sari. Sameer had told her umpteen times, as had her colleagues at work.
Sameer was already at home when Shruti returned from work. As she started to get ready, she noticed him wearing his most expensive suit.
“Who all are going to be there?” she asked
“Mr. Sinha has invited some officials from the ministry. These guys are the ones who will clear our projects.”
‘Mr. Sinha, the creep’ she thought. Jagdeep’s father Mr. Sinha always seemed to have the right contacts. Must be something to do with his 30 years in the government service.
As Sameer and Shruti stepped into the party, Jagdeep came forward to meet them. He gave Sameer a bear hug, an indication of old friendships and they laughed loudly at something that Shruti didn’t quite catch. Jagdeep welcomed her with a gentle handshake, maintaining his distance as they walked in. Mr. Sinha was standing with his old cronies when they walked up to him. She bent down slightly to touch his feet. Mr. Sinha immediately took her arm and hugged her, preventing the ritual.
“Arre beta, yeah sab ki zaroorat nahin hain. Ab to tum gale mila karo.” he said not letting go of her. “Come let me know introduce you to my friends.”
He introduced Sameer as his second son and Shruti as his bahu.
‘Heck, why doesn’t he hug his second son damnit’, Shruti thought as she wriggled out of Mr. Sinha’s grip. She greeted the others in the group with a nameste and excused herself saying she had to help Ritu, Jagdeep’s wife.
Mr. Sinha’s disappointment almost showed on his face but he knew he couldn’t prevent her from going. Shruti felt his eyes trailing her watching her walk by. She quickly turned into the crowd trying to find Ritu.
Ritu was a boisterous, happy go lucky person. Shruti found her surrounded by a gaggle of ladies in designer saris, laden with jewellery looking like advertisements for jewellery shops. Ritu had a glass in one hand and a cigarette dangled lightly from her fingers. She hugged Shruti.
“Girl, how do you maintain such a figure? You could look at any man and he would follow you anywhere darling.” Ritu said as Shruti blushed. Shruti always thought of herself as just another middle-class girl and felt uncomfortable with Ritu’s frankness. Even after years of going to parties like these with Sameer, she still felt out of place.
Ritu waved at the waiter for a drink. She handed a Bloody Mary to Shruti.
“Zyada strong to nahin hai na?” Shruti said as she took the glass.
“Arre itna nahin sochte, abhi to pehla hi drink hai” Ritu said as she diverted her attention to a new set of ladies that had just arrived.
Shruti moved away from the crowd, sipping her drink, trying to find a quiet corner. Just then Ritu called her back and introduced her to Rachna and Sanjay. Rachna was plump and looked even more like a jewellery shop, giving Ritu competition in being boisterous and loud. The group moved away leaving Shruti and Sanjay in their awkward togetherness.