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TWO TO TANGO
written by: Dilip Mohapatra
It was a Sunday. Rahul got up late as is his habit and headed for the washroom. Someone rang the door bell.
'I'll get it,' volunteered Ruhi. Rahul and Ruhi were married for five years and stayed in a two bedroom apartment in Mulund, a Mumbai suburb. Rahul was working in a bank and Ruhi taught in a primary school near their society.
Ruhi opened the door and found a visibly upset girl in her early twenties who seemed to be in a hurry to barge in.
'Hello, how can I help you?,' asked Ruhi.
'I want to speak to Rahul, it's really important', spoke the girl with a sense of urgency.
'Sorry, but who are you?,' asked Ruhi.
'Look it's something very personal. Please let me in. I have to speak to Rahul right away,' urged the girl.
'Who is it honey?,' Rahul appeared at the door.
'Roma! What the hell are you doing here?,' Rahul asked the girl almost in a whisper and with suppressed annoyance.
'Rahul, we need to talk,' implored Roma.
'Talk about what Rahul?,' interjected Ruhi.
'Give me couple of minutes darling. I will sort it out,' Rahul stepped out and tried to lead Roma away.
'No Rahul, let's not play any games no more. I am really tired of playing hide and seek,' shouted Roma.
'Rahul, will you please tell me what she's talking about?,' shrieked Ruhi.
'Rahul, will you tell her or shall I?,' asked Roma with a finality in her voice.
'Will someone please tell me what's going on?,' burst out Ruhi.
'Look Mrs Jain, I don't want to upset you. But the fact is that Rahul and I have been seeing each other for the last couple of months. I am his junior colleague at the bank,' Roma spoke out.
'What? How could you do this to me Rahul?,' challenged Ruhi.
'Hey honey, don't listen to her. She's out of her mind,' Rahul protested weakly, and said to Roma, 'Just hold on Roma, let's go outside and talk.'
'No Rahul, this is the end of the road. I want her to hear it too. I am with your baby and I can't hide it anymore,' Roma was almost in tears.
'I just don't believe this. Rahul, how could you cheat on me? Only yesterday you professed eternal love to me and promised that come what may you would never let me down. And now this!,' Ruhi was crying.
'Are you serious Roma? Are you sure you are carrying my baby? Oh my God, finally I am going to be a father?,' Rahul suddenly sounded joyful, almost oblivious of Ruhi, and went ahead to take Roma in his arms and comfort her.
'OK. Congratulations for your fatherhood. You be happy with her. I would not like to hang around here anymore. I am moving out tomorrow to my mother's place.,' Ruhi spoke between sobs.
'Just hang on, Ruhi, we will have an adult to adult talk in the evening and find a solution,' said Rahul rather in a matter-of-fact tone and called for an Uber for Roma, consoling her, 'Don't worry my dear, you have made me the happiest man today. My mom always longed for an heir to the family which we could not give her for the last four years and the poor lady breathed her last finally but with her desire unfulfilled. I am sure she would bless you from the heavens. You go home and relax, we shall find a way out soon.'
Ruhi went into her bedroom, locked the door from inside and was sobbing uncontrollably on her pillow. Rahul was pacing up and down in the living room lost in his thoughts. Later in the evening, both sat down across the dining table over some packed dinner delivered by Swiggy, but the food remained untouched on the plates.
'Look Ruhi, now that you know the truth, let's handle this maturely,' started Rahul as he downed a stiff whiskey on the rocks.
'Yes, let me hear you, what you have to say,' Ruhi responded.
'Ruhi, you know how much I wanted us to have a kid. We had been trying but unfortunately destiny never smiled at us. Yesterday when you told me that you had missed your periods I was so hopeful. But the test results showed otherwise. Yes, when you broke down, I did promise to stand by you come what may, but in my heart of heart, I was really disappointed and I had run out of my patience. I would have told you one day about my affairs with Roma but I still had a sliver of hope that one day you would give me the pleasure of being the father to your baby. But God has decided to give that honour to Roma. So let's part our ways amicably and let me make room for Roma and our kid in my life,' Rahul proposed, while avoiding to look straight into Ruhi's eyes.
'So this is it! After five years of being together we had to end it this way!', Ruhi's voice choked.
Ruhi didn't utter a single word after that though she had a lot of questions to ask. She quietly got up and started packing her suitcase.
The next day Ruhi left for Kandivili to live with her mother. And soon enough Roma moved in with Rahul. Days ticked by while they weaved their future dreams with the most colourful yarns, as they waited for the baby to arrive. Finally the day came when the stork visited their household, and Roma delivered a healthy baby boy. Rahul's joys knew no bounds but was rather short lived. When he held the baby wrapped in the hospital linen, and he took a close look he felt he was holding someone else's baby. The baby looked very different from him, having not even an iota of resemblance with him. He suppressed this feeling and greeted Roma with a faint smile, his euphoria slowly melting away and finally replaced with suspicion. He quietly requested for a DNA test to confirm his paternity. He waited with bated breath till the report arrived. His life fell apart when he found the verdict appended at the bottom of the report, 'negative'. He threw the report on Roma's face and walked away leaving her in the hospital and the next day sent all her belongings to her, with a goodbye note. In the following months he was seen frequenting a bar close to his bank and coming home late, dead drunk sometimes assisted by some friends. He also started putting on weight and soon his athletic six pack body took the shape of a flabby blubbery rotund lump of fat. Gradually he had stopped meeting people and preferred to stay aloof.
One Saturday morning he found his refrigerator empty and wanted to replenish the stock of fresh provisions and went to the super market in the nearby mall. While he was pushing his cart along the aisle absentmindedly he collided with a pram carrying a child who cried out loud at the impact. His mother who was picking up some baby food, turned around cursing him silently and their eyes met. Rahul was pleasantly surprised to find Ruhi in a bright pink dress, sprightly and fresh, exuding happiness all around, while Ruhi took sometime to realise it was Rahul. A pot bellied man with thinning hair and with an unkempt stubble, very unlike the Rahul she was used to.
Rahul managed to force a smile and asked, 'Hi, How are things with you? Your child?'
'Yes, I am fine. He is Rohit, today is his first birthday,' said Ruhi.
'Oh, when did you marry?,' Rahul asked.
'Let me introduce you to my husband Rajan,' Ruhi paused and called, 'Hey Rajan, come here, I have a surprise for you.'
Rajan emerged from another aisle and extended his hand to Rahul.
'Meet my Ex Rahul. And Rahul this is Rajan, my husband. We tied the knot last month,’ said Ruhi while introducing Rajan to Rahul.
When Rahul looked at the child quizzically, Ruhi smiled and said nonchalantly, 'Oh, you must be wondering where did the kid drop from if we got married only last month. By the way, the kid is ours, yours and mine.'
'But what about the pregnancy report that was negative?' Rahul queried.
'Oh, there was a mix up of reports,' Ruhi explained unemotionally and pushed the pram away holding Rajan's hand while Rahul stood there dumbstruck.
Currently his latest, a Professional book titled Campus to Corporate which is a career navigation manual for the students aspiring for a successful corporate career and for newcomers to the industry to survive and succeed has become a best seller with more than 10000 copies sold.
He lives with his wife at Pune, India.