She sat down at one corner of the large hall. She hoped that everybody around would give her a miss. The media that had gathered there though, spotted her almost immediately. Their cameras were constantly hovering around her face. She could feel miscellaneous eyes invading her rudely while she struggled to keep a straight face.
They were seeing her in public after almost five years, that too after a full blown controversy; they were naturally curious. The press cannot be blamed.
As the Ganpati Aarti started, she looked at the idol and muttered under her breath, “God I made a mistake. A lot of mistakes followed that one mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. I am entitled to mine. Let this not be my last mistake. Please help me to overcome this.” Not sure whether Ganpati Bappa heard her prayers. She felt uneasy.
It was difficult to keep the emotions in check as a thousand images were passing through her brain like a film scroll. She waited, giving herself time to adapt to this sudden rush of anxiety. “Maybe it is God’s way of reminding me what I have done.” She let her tired mind give up; no point hunting for false assurance. But the past won’t leave her alone.
It was a private party, few years back. The man standing opposite to her was a dashing young man. He was in his late thirties, a sports professional, that too a star player in the national team. He had hordes of followers who treated him like God. Known to have a roving eye, he took no time to come and shake hands with her. The handshake was only the start. The player spoke to her briefly but he took at least five minutes to let her hand go. He was holding on as he continued speaking to her. It seemed like a casual conversation, but it wasn’t. It was a mating call.
The Ganesh Vandana started. Media cameras finally panned out to focus on the God. The drumbeats got intense; so intense that it felt like heartbeats. Her ex-boyfriend – a Bollywood superstar – stood in silence, watching at the aarti. He was hosting the Pooja as he did every year. The press loved to cover this event. In fact, coverage of the Ganpati Utsav was not complete till they visited the superstar’s house. As usual, the superstar remained incommunicado to everybody and his security knew their job well.
Those images interrupted again. She remembered how she instantly felt a strong attraction towards the player. Then she had just broken up with her superstar boyfriend. The superstar had cheated on her. No big deal though. The superstar cheated on most of his girlfriends. But she was left heartbroken. Somehow she was under the impression that the superstar loved her for real. It took her some time to come to terms with the fact that she was just the superstar’s girlfriend and was destined to be cheated upon.
The player came into her life just at that opportune moment. A rebound was the most obvious massacre written on the cards. She shot an ad with him soon. It was whirlwind romance there with lots of sex at their hotel at a picturesque hill station where the advertisement was being shot.
The beatings of the drums got louder now. Too loud in fact. Chants of Ganpati Bappa Maurya filled the air. The sound seemed to hurt her, sarcastically asking questions for which she had no answers.
The player was already married; he had two sons. She knew all along what she was doing. But she didn’t stop herself. She wanted to deprive a woman of her man because another woman snatched her boyfriend away from her. She thought that she would have an affair with the married man, heal her heart and move on.
But that didn’t happen. The man fell in love with her and wouldn’t leave her. He left his wife and sons instead. The affair that started as a short term fling didn’t end with the shooting of an ad. The player decided to marry her. It was easy because the player didn’t have any social constraints but he had enough money to make things happen the way he wanted.
Everybody around her seemed deep in devotion. The beats played at horrible decibels and everybody around was in a trance-like state. Nobody was looking at her any further. She was feeling good about it. She was finally left alone in the crowd.
The phone call came soon after their marriage ceremony was over. “Your soulmate was somebody else’s spouse. You destroyed my life just because you wanted some diversion after your break-up. You will never be happy.” The player’s first wife had a sweet voice; she never screamed. For somebody who lost her husband and father of the children to her, she was uncannily calm. But her words were strong. They dug into her heart like sharp-edged claws.
Tears started rolling down her cheeks as the Aarti was nearing its end.
The marriage turned out to be just that — a marriage, a social ceremony. The player stayed with her for two years and then started dating another younger girl again. She was supposed to grin and bear it just like the player’s first wife did.
Only this time, she refused to do it. She refused to accept the fact that her husband was dating somebody else, something another woman had done just two years back. She picked up the phone and called her superstar ex-boyfriend. The actor assured to help her and asked her to come to Mumbai again. The same boyfriend had now changed considerably, fighting the demons he created with his own misdeeds. Hence, he had become more humane. She left the player and came to Mumbai. The superstar ex-boyfriend offered everything he could — money, sent a word around to producers and of course, emotional support. His family too rallied around her and took her out for shopping trips to make her feel better.
They also asked her to join the family for Ganesh Poojan.
The Aarti ended.
Her life began again too, right where it had stopped few years back.