“Can a day get any worse?” wondered Priya, sitting in her recently purchased air-conditioned Maruti SX4, one of the thousands of cars standing still on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road, which as usual was totally clogged with office-returning traffic, being 8 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. Of course, she had gotten used to this horrible traffic by now, and had given up even feeling sorry, and she continued with her usual routine- changing the FM channels randomly and eventually, gave up as there was nothing interesting on any of them.
All this couldn’t, however, take her mind off the events of the day. It had started like any other typical office day, the same events that had characterized her life for the past 5 years playing out as if on a recording machine playing a film on infinite loop. Getting up at 7 in the morning, taking a quick look at Akash who was still sleeping soundly- his job as a writer allowed him that liberty, much to Priya’s envy- getting ready for office, trying to wake him up which of course he ignored and kept on sleeping, quickly having her regular breakfast of corn flakes and milk, taking a quick glance at the papers, and rushing off to work, attired in her most impressive black suit. After all, today was a special day, when Priya Singh, the youngest vice president in the investment bank she was in for last 5 years, was to give a presentation to a top-notch institutional client for an upcoming merger deal. It was the sort of opportunity Priya had in her dreams ever since she had passed out of her premier B-school. Always the ambitious girl, she had her sights set on the plum I-bank jobs on campus, studied hard for it and being the topper as well as having an excellent profile, she had charmed her way through her interview, and had bagged the most prestigious & high-paying job on campus. She was the type of girl guys fell for in a flash- tall, slim and extremely attractive, she was naturally the target of quite a few advances and proposals, however she always handled herself with dignity and demonstrated a certain coldness which eventually used to lead the guys to give up.
Priya had prepared her slides with great attention and care, going through each point multiple number of times, and having all her bases covered as to the queries that might come her way. Having stayed up at office till late nights for last 2 weeks, working on the presentation, she was quietly confident of getting the deal through. “Hi Priya! Good Morning” greeted her boss, who had developed quite a liking for this ambitious and aggressive girl, and depended on her for most of his targets. He knew this was a big day, and if they could crack this deal, this would take care of his targets for the quarter and beyond, by a margin. What he liked most about Priya was her extremely high focus on her work and ability to put work before family, which many women often grapple with. But Priya was sure in her mind what she wanted, and had this single-minded dedication towards that.
The clients had arrived 45 minutes late, owing to a flight delay and subsequent heavy traffic, and were in a foul mood. However this didn’t deter Priya, as she was confident of her abilities. She quickly welcomed them, made them feel at ease and started off with the PPT. However, she sensed something was wrong today. The clients seemed to be in an aggressive mood, and started to shoot down her points. At one point one of them made a derogatory remark about her and the accuracy of the market data she was presenting, she felt a flash of anger but maintained her cool, knowing the importance of this deal. She saw her boss from the corner of her eye, his features getting sterner by the minute. However he didn’t intervene. The PPT was going haywire, and some among the clients had stopped listening. Priya felt tears welling up in her eyes, but she kept on at it. Eventually the CFO of the client stood up, “I am extremely disappointed at you bringing us down from Mumbai, and then presenting this shit. A waste of time!” And all of them got up, and left the room. Priya was shattered, feeling her entire world crumbling around her. Everything that she had worked for had come to naught. Her boss got up, looked at her angrily and shouted “You have let me down! You have just undone all your good work over the last few years. You are worthless!” and stormed out of the meeting room. Priya felt numb, not being able to comprehend what was happening, how everything had come apart in the last half an hour. Slowly she closed her laptop, picked it up and left the room.
She was jolted back to the present by the incessant horns bellowing around her, she couldn’t see ahead, seemed a little blurry- then she realized she was crying silently in the car. The signal had changed, and cars lurched ahead around her, forcing her to move ahead, towards her apartment in the swanky new residential colony that they had purchased last year.
“Oh welcome, maam”, Akash, her husband of four years, was sarcastic as usual. “Looks like you had a long day at office, suddenly remembered you even have a home and husband? Wonderful!” Normally Priya used to respond to all these jibes with a few of her own, but today she was too tired, both physically and mentally to even respond. Well, these days they barely acknowledged each other’s existence- things had fallen apart so much in the last 2 years. Priya still remembers the day she had met Akash- a shy, young man lost in his own train of thoughts. She was hunting for the latest crime fiction bestseller at Crosswords, mumbling the name to herself when someone called out to her from behind her shoulder “Its in the third rack to the right”, she turned around and came face-to-face with a shy, awkward looking guy holding a book in his hands. “It’s a great book, especially love the part when the wife confesses murdering her husband, oh shit, sorry!” Priya calmly put the book back, turned around and looked at him in anger, they kept looking at each other for ten seconds, then both burst out laughing. “Coffee?” asked Priya, “Sure”, and thus started the 6-month romance that culminated in an unusual marriage- that between an ambitious successful investment banker and a struggling writer. Her parents had warned her against it, saying she was thinking with her heart, but would soon realize they weren’t the right match. She had ignored them, going ahead and marrying Akash.
The first year was a dream, their lives had been full of romance and love, those long nights of chatting together, those love-filled glances, that magic touch, the laughing for no reason- it was the marriage they had wanted. However, problems started to arise soon after that, and it had come exactly as her parents had predicted. Akash started getting insecure about her being more successful, she was the one who used to pay all the bills, for the dinners and movies out, and his male ego started taking a beating. He had thought his love for her would not let anything else come into their lives, but slowly the insecurity grew in him, spearing him like an arrow. He started throwing temper tantrums, behaving roughly with Priya. She tried to overcome it through her love, but eventually started losing the love and respect she had for Akash. Meanwhile she had started climbing the ladder in her organization, and had to spend more and more time in the office, leading Akash to suspect her having an affair with her boss. This had made her extremely angry, and she had silently chosen to cut Akash out of her life, rising as she was towards the top and her corporate dreams getting fulfilled.
That evening Akash was more rough than usual, “Hey do you really want me to believe that you work all this time in office?” he shouted. “What do you mean” she yelled back. “I mean I was checking your mobile last night, and saw your boss’s SMS late night”.
“How dare you check my mobile? What I do in my office is none of your business!”
“Oh yes, it is! I am still your husband, legally at least!” “Oh really, you have lost that right long ago, you know!”
“You know something, I have realized today, I have made the biggest mistake of my life marrying you!” yelled Akash, “And another thing, you will never be happy, and neither will you make anyone happy around you, because the entire point of your existence is only for yourself and your ambitions! Your life is pointless Priya!”
The words echoed in her ear long after they were said, it just added on to her pain from the day’s events. Is he right, after all? I have stopped loving my husband, stopped feeling, laughing, I even decided not to have a child ever for that would lead to a break in my career. And all that, has come crashing down today, made pointless by the presentation failure. She suddenly had a feeling she did not ever have- the world stopped around her. Everything was an empty vacant space around her.
It was then that she made the decision. She slowly got out of her apartment, closing the door behind her, and climbed the stairs towards the roof. Once there, she went over to the edge, peered down, Gurgaon was a blinding stream of lights from the 20th floor rooftop. She felt the wind crashing into her face. She had stopped thinking, stopped feeling. Slowly, she inched forward, and suddenly her feet gave way. She was falling, towards the ground, however, she felt like she was flying, she felt light, had not felt this light for a long time……..
“Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts! We are about to land in Goa!” the sharp announcement on the PA system of the flight awoke Priya with a start, that’s when she realized she was dreaming, covered in sweat even inside the flight. She was looking forward to this vacation with Akash for a long time, as they had finally decided to work on their marriage, with Akash getting his first book published. She looked at him, sleeping soundly as usual he was, seated next to her. She leaned over, kissed him softly on the cheek, held his arm tightly, resting her head on it, and for the first time in a long time, she smiled…………………..