A Surprise

by Dr. Pran Rangan


The story relates to the issue of extra-marital affairs, which are on the rise in every society for different reasons. The exact statistics of extra-marital affairs are difficult to obtain as they are shrouded in the veil of secrecy. However, people who indulge in them have their own views and reasons. When such clandestine affairs come to the knowledge of their victims, they are likely to undergo emotional turmoil, which may or may not change their outlook about the cheating partner, depending on their individual circumstances. That is why the story ends abruptly, leaving it to the readers to form their own conclusions according to their views on the issue.

The plane, carrying Rakesh Sharma, has just landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. He gets a phone call from his daughter while waiting for his luggage to arrive. Suddenly, there is an expression of exhilaration on his face as Neha informs him that she has passed Higher Secondary exams with 96% marks. He had been a bit worried for sometime regarding her percentage of marks though she had been a very good student. As she has an aspiration to enter IIT, now his skepticism has gone after knowing her percentage.

Rakesh Sharma is a high flying Vice President of an American MNC, stationed at New Delhi. He always looks dapper even at 45 years of age, having an amiable personality, which can easily impress anyone. He can sometimes be quite pushy, exasperating others but he has a knack of making them come around, which makes him a very good negotiator.

Due to his dynamic personality, he has been able to climb up the corporate ladder of hierarchy quite fast.

He frequently travels a lot within and outside India on account of official work. He has a small family that includes his wife - Avanti and daughter - Neha. They have been living in New Delhi in an upscale colony for the last fifteen years.

Avanti is an efficient housewife, being a post-graduate in sociology. She has been more or less totally responsible for bringing up Neha as Rakesh used to be mostly away from home. Neha has always been academically brilliant in school and college, for which she gives full credit to her mom.

The relation between Rakesh and Avanti has always been extremely cordial based on the foundation of mutual respect and trustworthiness for each other. Rakesh holds a great sway over Neha, who considers him to be his ideal. Sometimes, she jokes with him, telling that she would marry a man who would be like him.

It happened once that Avanti picked up the phone call of Rakesh when he was not there to answer, there was the voice of a lady, who abruptly disconnected it on hearing her voice. This happened with her a couple of times when the call was abruptly disconnected at the other end. Ostensibly being the same voice every time, it raised a suspicion in the mind of Avanti if Rakesh has been having an affair with someone. She couldn't believe it as she trusts him above all else because where there is total trust, such doubts don't arise.

It happens to be the birthday of Neha tomorrow. She wishes to hold a small get-together of her close friends in her home and she wants her parents to be present there. When she tells her father, he expresses his inability because he has to attend an important meeting. His father's engagement on such a special occasion makes her sulk and she decides to drop the plan. Seeing her dear daughter in a huff, Avanti decides that they both will go for a dinner to the restaurant of a famous 5-star hotel. Somehow, this could make her sulkiness go away.

Next morning, her parents hug her lovingly as soon as she gets up, wishing her many happy returns of the day. A warm hug from Rakesh works to remove her sadness and she returns to her original self.

Avanti and Neha take meticulous care to dress up for going to dinner as this is a very special occasion for them. Neha prefers to drive to the place herself.

After parking the car, they both walk a short distance to enter the foyer of the hotel. No sooner have they entered, they see Rakesh walking down the stairs with an attractive young lady hand in hand. Sudden embarrassment overtakes all four as no one had ever expected it to be this way. After reaching down the stairs, Rakesh introduces his wife and daughter, waiting near the foot of the stairs, to Rhea, who also exchanges pleasantries with them with awkwardness.

Rakesh wishes them to have a nice time and awkwardly moves out soon with Rhea, leaving them there. The whole situation occurs so fast that it knocks Avanti and Neha out of their senses, who take some time to recover. They look at each other with disbelief without uttering a single word. Neha carefully guides her Mom to a nearby sofa and they both sit, taking some time so as to be able to say something.

Avanti says with tears in eyes, "Neha, I had a pre-monition about it. It's too much for me to handle for now."

Neha hugs mom, patting consolingly and says, "Calm down Mom; have courage; things will change for the better."

When Avanti recovers, they both leave for home without having a dinner. None of them utters a single word on way to home. The incidence has virtually broken their spirit.

Reaching home, they go to Avanti's room. She is still in foul mood and Neha hugs her a few times so as to help her overcome it. Neha decides to sleep with Mom today because it may lessen their misery to some extent.

Both of them try to sleep, which evades them but, one way or another, they manage to fall into a fitful sleep. Avanti gets up first with splitting headache and swallows up a tablet of aspirin. Then she heads to kitchen to prepare tea for both. While sipping tea, they both are quiet as the incidence of last night still has effect over them.

All of a sudden, Avanti speaks out, "Neha, surprises keep on springing up in everyone's life but I had never expected such a surprise."

Neha agrees saying, "I also never expected it from my darling Papa, who had been my ideal. But Mom it is the way life goes on."

Avanti agrees too and feels that her daughter has become quite mature. Gradually, their foul mood begins to change.

At last, Avanti gives vent to her feelings by saying, "Neha, some surprises can be so devastating that they leave a permanent scar in your psyche!"

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