Story: The Batter Half by Divya Mathur

Having been married to Goldie for two years, India is still not sure whether he is serious about their relationship. Goldie’s secretary, Rachel, has warned her several times that he is an incorrigible flirt, who at present is romancing with the new auditor Leena Iyre. India generally laughs her friends off thinking that they are just jealous of her handsome and charming husband. Most of them have problems with their own relationships; they are constantly bickering and breaking up with their partners. Anyway, what can India do? Follow Goldie everywhere?
‘Why won’t you accept, India, that he is a pukka flirt?’ Rachel asks her often and in heart of hearts India knows that she is not entirely wrong. Goldie flirts with every woman who comes his way, especially women with big boobs and Leena does have a buxom chest. But then, to call a spade a spade, India stands to lose so much. May be he just can’t help himself being charming to girls; he means no harm.
‘India, is it enough that he comes back to you every evening, insisting on your accompanying him everywhere and then flirting with the next girl?’ Fortunately or unfortunately, Rachel is one of India’s oldest friends, who is a self-appointed well-wisher and considers it her solemn duty to inform India about his whereabouts.
‘India dear, I saw them together in Westfield hand in hand, would you now believe me?’ Rachel’s eyes popped out of their sockets while she whispered in India’s ear yesterday. India knows that ‘hand in hand’ was Rachel’s own concoction but her heart still ached; what was Goldie doing with Leena in Westfield? Is their married life truly over and done with? It is obviously doomed. What will she do if Goldie leaves her for Leena? In spite of his irritating her constantly, she still loves him. India wanted to interrogate him about Leena but for all she knows, Rachel may be instigating her. She had heard on the grapevine that Rachel herself used to have soft feelings for Goldie.
‘Meet my better half,’ Goldie introduced India to his new collegue, Henry Cox, who extended his hand towards India and then kissed her on the cheek. She felt like a ‘battered wife,’ at that moment especially when she saw their colleagues exchange a smile at Goldie’s introducing his wife as ‘my better half’. All India could do was to cringe which she does every single time he uses this term but she does not have the courage to object. India often wonders whether rumours about Goldie’s affairs are for real. How can a husband, who introduces his wife as ‘my better half’, is not serious about his marrige? Or has she been stupid to give Goldie benefit of the doubt for the past year, to be precise.
Until their first marriage anniversary, everything was hunky dory. When her friends and colleagues drew her attention towards Goldie’s rudeness and flirtatious behavior, India laughed them off as she was in head over heels in love with him. So what, if girls follow him everywhere, he is hers alone. So what if he doesn’t say ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’, and ‘excuse me’ etc, Indians don’t believe in formalities. So what if eats his soup with a slurp; he appreciates her cooking, so what if he is never been serious about anything, he is an easy-going guy, etc etc. She tried hard to discover traces on Goldie’s person for a clue but nothing; there remains an innocence on his face which makes her feel guilty that she listened to her friends, specially Rachel, the chatterbox.
Actually, things began to get sour after their first visit to Baroda, Goldie’s hometown, where everyone was talking about his philanderings. India had a certain amount of prejudices and clichés that most Westerners get reading Kipling and Tintin, watching Slum dog Millionaire, etc but once India fell in love with an Indian man, everything about India and Indians seemed rosy. The moment she stepped in India, that too in Baroda, she felt that not only she had anything much in common with the city and its people; Goldie too was a far cry from what he had come across at first sight.
Goldie’s mother, Santosh, called her golden boy, Goldie, in his childhood and he also preferred everyone calling him Goldie in the UK too. Goldie’s parents came for his wedding and stayed with them for over a month. Santosh suddenly began calling Goldie by his proper name, Gopal.
‘Now, I declare my son truly grown up,’ Santosh delcared grudgingly but kept treating him like a boy, ‘What will my Gopal like to eat for breakfast today?’ and before he even replied she will start frying potato bhajias for everyone.
‘India beta, you must learn to cook his favorite foods.He does not like pizzas and pastas. You can win your husband’s heart with food, you know,’
‘What about India’s likes and dislikes,’ His father dared mention.
‘She has been eating pizzas and roast all her life, you know. Let her try the real food now. Indian food is the best, you know. I am told that our chicken tikka masala is declared the British dish of the year,’
Before Santosh left London, she saw to it that India had learnt to cook all sorts of curries, chapatis, paranthas, savories and sweets. India could not be disrespecful to her so called doting mother-in-law and say no, who seemed to be cooking day in and day out. India ate sandwiches and chips at office to keep sane.
It happened only twice during the stay of her in-laws in London that India was delayed in office, Santosh was quick to check on her.
‘India beta, marriage is no guarantee that a boy will not stray. Our Gopal is a Krishan Kanhaiya, you know,’ Santosh warned her. On India’s enquiry about ‘Krishan Kanhaiya’, Santosh had explained.
‘Gopal is another name for Lord Krishna, who was a Don Juan, you know. According to our Indian mythology, Krishna made love to hundreds of girls including the beautiful lass, Radha, you know. Krishna and Radha were eternal lovers, who are still worshipped all over India.’
India knew it to be true as far as Goldie is concerned. He is quite a charmer. If someone asked her mum, she will perhaps say the same about India, who has had no dearth of boys, who announced their lasting love for her but she only fell for Goldie who once was mad about her. She rues the day, they got married.
‘Girls used to line up for our Gopal since school days, you know?’ Santosh laughed. She seemed rather proud of Goldie’s messing around with girls in Baroda. She also told India that before Goldie came to London, he had a serious affair with a local girl from school days. Incidentally, she is also called Radha.
‘You know, India beta, Gopal and Radha were very close. Her parents approved, you know, so they were together day and night. We all thought, actually everyone in Baroda took it for granted that they were made for each other, you know,’ Santosh will begin their love story whenever she found India at hand.
‘We couldn’t believe when Gopal told us about you. First we thought that it was just a fling but when he told us that he is planning to get married, we had to inform Radha’s parents, you know. They were devastated and we felt bad,’
‘How can Gopal do this to our Radha?’ Radha’s mother moaned constantly. The whole town was buzzing; how can Goldie abandon Radha after a life-long friendship? The fables relating to Krishna and Radha were the hot topic in the neighborhood.
‘Lord Krishna also abandoned Radha when he left his hometown and went to live in Mathura,’ Radha’s grandmother philosophized and said that history was repeating itself. Her parents forbade Radha to go out in day light, you know. Such a big shame for the family! Who is going to marry her now?’
‘Why, why won’t anyone marry her?’ India was horrified.
‘In India, girls are not allowed to roam around with boys before they are married, you know. Everyone blamed Radha’s parents for allowing her to go out with Gopal unashamedly. You know, what womenfolk in Baroda thought?’
‘No, I don’t want to know what they thought,’ thought India but Santosh would carry on regardless.
‘That you have put a charm on our Gopal. Is it true that Angrez girls are charmed by our Indian boys?’ She asked a bewildered India.
‘You prefer our dark boys to your fair ones?’ Before India could reply, she asked again.
‘But Goldie is quite fair,’ India resisted.
‘Not as fair as your boys,’ Santosh snubbed her. India introspected whether Goldie’s complexion was ever in question when she fell in love.
Although Santosh seemed to have warmed up to India quickly, she constantly worried about poor Radha.
‘Let aside Gujarat, no one in the whole of our country will dare marry her, you know,’
‘With such a splotch on her character, she is destined to remain single,’ her husband was quick to add.
‘For what bad karmas, she suffers so?’ Santosh pensively looked to the skies. The weird thing was that Goldie, who was sometimes present during these conversations, kept quiet as if it didn’t concern him.
India was actually glad when her in-laws left for Baroda. She began to set her house right under constant inspection of Goldie, who preferred everything his mother had kept. He constantly criticized India, especially her cooking. Old habits die hard and India kept going back to arrangements she grew up with.
When Goldie and India visited Baroda after their marriage, he proposed to take India to meet Radha and her family. Radha was still unmarried, her mother and grandmother have been telling their neighbours that she has vowed to celibacy. Obviously, a lot was on stake as far as Radha and her family was concerned but Goldie was adamant to take India to meet them.
‘Gopal beta, why do you want to meet them? Her parents are still very annoyed with you,’ Santosh was equally baffled.
‘Why not, mummy, if we don’t go to meet them, they would certainly mind. Radha and I have been childhood chums. Radha has phoned me several times that we must visit her.’
From what India had heard, this sounded strange because after what Goldie did to her and family, why would she be interested in meeting him? At least, Goldie was frank about his affair but if she has vowed to remain single, why she keeps calling him? India was perplexed.
Santosh insisted that India dresses up nicely in an expensive Indian dress and matching jewellery so that everyone would realize why Goldie chose India over Radha. India felt uncomfortable but like in London, here too, she was supposed to follow instructions; no one bothered to ask her opinion.
‘Meet my better half,’ Goldie had chuckled introducing India to his ex-girl friend. India felt as if he poked fun at their relationship but she was eagerly looking forward to meeting Radha. Someone as smart and educated as India, who has just arrived from the West, she obviously thought that she will have an upper hand as far as Radha was concerned but Radha’s laser like gaze pierced through her body. Radha was not the shy damsel India had in mind. The girls weighed each other at close quarters. India found her quite unabashed for an Indian girl.
Radha knew everything about Goldie and India. Has he been telling Radha everything about his married life? Was something still going on between them? India felt pretty insecure. Radha was chatting with Goldie as if nothing had happened. They were constantly talking about their college days and friends for hours at end ignoring India completely. They really must have been very close or was she showing off to topple India over?
Actually, no one in the household spoke to India and she didn’t understand a word of what went on there. She picked up a magazine and sat on a swing outside in the courtyard until she was summoned for tea, which was an elaborate affair. India had only seen such variety of snacks at Neasden Temple in London, where they were celebrating Lord Krishna’s birthday. Santosh had insisted that, if they can’t do the puja at home, they must go to the temple.
‘Why are they celebrating Krishna, the philanderer?’ India asked sarcastically. Goldie almost stopped her there and then. He told her to address ‘Krishna’ as Krishnji.
‘First, you should always address our Gods with a suffix ‘ji’. India suddenly remembered that while praying to her Gods, Santosh used to address Jesus as Jesus ji’.
‘More than a divine lover, Krishnji was a hero, a Supreme being. On the battlefield, when Arjun preferred to renounce his kingdom than to fight his kith and kin, Krishnji advised him that fighting was his dharma,’
‘I know, everything is fair in love and war,’
‘No, not exactly, he extended a discourse which is compiled as the Bhagavad Gita, if you care to read.’ Talking about Krishnji, India found Goldie serious for once and wondered why.
As is customary with Indians, women attended to each and every whim of their men. In spite of Goldie’s telling them that India does not take sugar, Radha served her tea with sugar, India felt like vomiting. Did Radha do it on purpose?
When they came back home, India was quite sick. Santosh was sure that Radha’s grandmother had put something in India’s snacks. Taking some salt in her palm, Santosh moved it around India’s face and then threw it in the sink, ‘Nothing can hurt you now.’
‘Why don’t you have a baby quickly, India beti? That will keep Gopal busy,’ In spite of all her little crazy quips, India liked Santosh.
‘Is that a good idea, mum? I will be changing nappies while Goldie chats up some more girls,’ India laughed.
‘I was telling his father the other day that Gopal’s wife will have to be on her toes day in and day out,’ Santosh seemed to be right. Her life in London revolved around Goldie, who just sweet-talked her into doing almost everything while he is useless around the house, he can’t hoover, he can’t put the washing out, he can’t cook; he slurps his tea and soup and makes noise while eating and above all, he is miserly. It is becoming more and more embarassing for India; why did she fall for him?
While they were in Baroda, Radha seemed to be free to join them anywhere, everywhere and at any hour. India’s holidays were completely ruined. She wanted to enjoy Gujarat’s art and architecture but her attention was constantly drawn towards Goldie and Radha, who talked and laughed showing little interest in their surroundings or for her. India wanted to be left alone while they went their separate ways but Goldie would not hear of it. They had to tag along wherever India wanted to go.
Back to London and Goldie wanted India to constantly accompany him to meet his colleagues and friends, specially Leena. India is so busy at her work that she is always late in getting to the pub, where they meet more often than not. He wants her to be friends with Leena but India does not want to start a new friendship which she can’t keep. Leena keeps calling her to go to a picnic or a film, making India really uncomfortable. On India’s polite refusal, Goldie gets annoyed.
‘Honey, why can’t you be cordial with my friends?’
‘Darling, I don’t have the time for my own friends and colleagues, how could you expect me to befriend your friends and colleagues too?’ India blurted out what she had in her mind for a long time. She was fed up with his constant pleas to accompany him to his useless parties.
‘You are so unsociable,’
‘Sorry, I just have too much going on at the moment,’
‘Mind you I work in the same company so I know how busy you are,’
‘We may be working in the same company but our jobs are entirely different,’ India knew she should not have mentioned that. She was recently promoted while Goldie was ignored.
‘How can I forget that?’ Goldie scowled. As far as he is concerned, she got promoted because she is a pretty white woman and that the bosses are racist, ‘How can they let an Indian be their boss?’ The truth was that she passed all her Actuarial exams and he didn’t. She was a full-fledged Actuary now while he still has to clear three more modules.
India has been trying to find a job in a different company so that she doesn’t have to listen to the gossip about Goldie. He is a charming person for everyone here and they judge her as Goldie’s wife. She has come to realise that behind his initial charm, there is no substance. She was the one who took pity on him when he newly arrived. She taught him the ways of the financial world – what shirt goes with which suit, matching ties and cufflinks. He used to buy his suits from Moss Bros like all Indians do but he was working for Lloyds of London now and he must follow their rules. What the CEO wears, his juniors can’t, what auditors wear, actuaries can’t and what actuaries wear, trainees can’t. She took him to TM Lewin to buy shirts and Roderick Charles to buy suits. Now, if someone asks, he pretends to know everything; for him, India is like his countless friends, who like looking pretty.

On their first marriage anniversary, while India bought him a Citizen watch, Goldie gifted her a blanket, which he bought from the Sunday Market in Wembley. Even then, India was over the moon; kept telling everyone how considerate he was – only last week she had mentioned that she liked a soft blanket over her knees while watching TV in the lounge.

Not once Goldie appreciated her expensive gift, nor did he mention it to any of his friends or colleagues. India keeps all this in her heart and thinks that it is her own fault that he does not know how she feels but these things are too mean to be told. If she starts doing this, it will be bickering like most couples do and India is not like that and so the distance between them grows by the minute.

They were so happy before they got married. Once he moved in with India, Goldie entered a world, which his Indian friends called ‘gora ghetto’. They generally made fun of his gori wife and their life style. India too came to know the Indian society from close quarters. They both were not impressed what they found out as they had preconceived concepts. Their marriage could not remain a novelty for long because they were not comfortable in each other’s company any more. Goldie felt awkward at India’s parents’ house and India, although she liked his family, was puzzled about his Indian friends, who mostly did not mean what they said. With a lot of understanding and effort, she tried to get along with her in-laws well enough but Goldie never ever bothered to at least be on cordial terms with her family; resulting in India’s making excuses and then completely stopped to visit them.

Things between them went bad to worse when Rachel told India that Goldie keeps chatting with a girl in India. He even asked Rachel to help that girl settle in the UK. India’s heart sank. Goldie never mentioned this to her. India thought that bringing someone to the UK is not all that easy; let him find out for himself.
At dinner, India mentioned this to him in passing.
‘Yes, Radha is very unhappy in Baroda. I want to help her settle down here.’ Where does he find time for all this? She doesn’t get time to even call her parents for weeks and he is arranging to bring people from India and settle down in this country. No wonder, he has a reputation for not being fully committed to his job.
‘You never said anything about it,’ India wanted to know more.
‘What is there to tell?’ Goldie counter questioned.
‘This is not something you forget to mention like you invite friends for dinner without mentioning it to me,’ India sounded like a bickering wife she never meant to be.
‘Good, you remind me, Dicky and his new wife Sara are coming for dinner this Saturday,’ Goldie took the conversation to a complete new level.
‘What? How can you forget that papa has invited us for theatre and dinner this Saturday,’
‘Sweetheart, we can always visit them next weekend.’ Goldie looked annoyed; who is going to cook for his guests?
‘But next weekend, your boss and his sister are coming. That’s why I told papa to book the theatre tickets for this Saturday. We have not met them in months,’
‘For God’s sake, you have lived your life with them…,’ Goldie started to loose his temper. He knew that she will back down but for India it would be too rude not to go even if he does not come along.
‘Darling, I am sorry. Pa has booked tickets much in advance. If you like, you can take your friends out for dinner.’ India knew that Goldie cannot cook if his life depended on it.
India knows that her papa knows his daughter’s predicament. She used to be so close to him throughout her younger years. How she wished that her husband could share a pint of beer sometimes with her father! Goldie doesn’t say anything but she knows that he feels intimidated by her father.
‘I have invited them for dinner at home not at a restaurant,’
‘Sorry darling, I wish I could stay and cook for them but…,’ India was surprised at herself for standing tall.
‘Then why don’t you go and enjoy with your parents, I can manage,’ Goldie emphasized on the words – ‘your parents.’
‘You too,’ This was the first time in last two years that India accompanied her parents for a late night out, on her own. They had to sell Goldie’s ticket.
‘Doesn’t Goldie like our company,’ India’s mother had enquired several times.
‘Mum, don’t bother. Goldie has such a lot of friends that…’ India was so exasparated that she could not even complete her sentence.
Not even a month had passed that, and to India’s great surprise, Radha suddenly arrived in London. She got admission in the City University for MBA as a private student. Did Goldie forget to mention this to ‘his better half’?
Goldie insised that India went with him to meet Radha, whose aunt Susheela and uncle Jayesh have a palacial house in Harrow. Goldie looked quite impressed by them, their house in a posh area and glittering objects all over their lounge, the whole arrangement to India, on the other hand, was a bit cheesy. There were marble tiles all over the house and tube-lights in every room.
They were just leaving, when suddenly Susheela whispered in Goldie’s ear whether he would help them find a suitable boy for Radha.
‘I thought she has come here to study.’ India said Goldie seemed to be lost for words.
‘Her parents want us to get her settled quickly,’ Jayesh blurted out.
‘What’s the hurry? She can get married after completing her studies,’ Goldie went into the lounge where Radha sat and asked her directly, ‘isn’t that what you want, Radha?’
For a change, Radha looked a little lost, may be she was jetlegged, she kept quiet. They made their excuses and left immediately.
‘These side table lamps do not give enough light to read at night,’ Goldie said before going to bed. India was horrified when Goldie suggested that they too should consider putting tube-lights in their lounge and bedrooms.
‘You will have to sleep in the spare room if you want a tube light in your bedroom,’ India was quick to stop him there and then. Enough is enough, she thought. When they were in Baroda, Goldie’s relatives gave them bright glass and metal objects as wedding gifts. India tried to leave most of them behind saying that they cannot take so much weight. Goldie insisted to carry some of them to London. He was quite annoyed when India kept them in their spare bedroom.
‘If you don’t like them, we can gift them to friends on special occasions,’
‘Honey, you can sure gift them to your friends,’ Goldie got the idea that these gifts are not prevalent in this country.
Whether they were about her marriage or studies, India was fed up with the constant phone calls between Goldie and Radha. They were chatting at odd hours. India had no clue what conspired between them. India could hear Radha’s agitated mumble while Goldie tried to coax her down. Not once, he apologized to India for getting up and walking over to the balcony or lounge while breakfasts went limp and dinners got cold.
India was almost at her wit’s end that one evening, she returned home to find Radha sitting in their front garden waiting for Goldie to return, who has obviously been delayed in the office. India served her tea but Radha didn’t say much to her. As soon as Goldie returned, she didn’t stop talking. She was fed up with her aunt and uncle who forbade her wearing western clothes, going out in the evenings and returning home late, etc.
‘Radha, can’t you keep a low profile? Once you are on your two feet, you can live independently,’ Goldie tried to calm her down.
‘Then what, Goldie, do you think they would leave me alone then?’
What does Radha mean by that? What hold does she have on Goldie? Why is he so tolerant of her rants? Why wouldn’t he confide in his wife? Whenever India asked, he will shrug her off by saying, ‘These Indian girls!’ or ‘don’t worry your pretty head, I can handle this.’
India felt so left out that she rang Rachel to meet her in a nearby pub although she knew that Rachel would remind her of her consistent warnings; only if India had heeded to one of them.
‘You were dealing with catastrophes for company India, why can’t you deal with this one?’ The moment Rachel landed in the pub; she launched the attack on her.
‘What catastrophe?’ India feighned naivity as she wanted to get away from this subject.
‘Oh India, you can’t deal with a problem unless you recognise it but you choose to constantly ignore it,’ Rachel got up in a huff; she has been a good friend.
‘Rachel, dealing with a hurricane Katrina in America is not the same as dealing with Radha or Leena,’
‘Whyever not, it’s the same. You raise premiums or find ways to avoid paying for the consequences, isn’t that what you were supposed do?’ Suddenly, India’s brain seemed to have a hurricane of its own. How stupid has she been? Rachel is right. she should deal with it head on. Something will happen, if not now, later.
‘Thanks, Rachel, you are right, I should have lisened to you in the first place but then you know, I was upto my ears with my studies and work,’
‘Now, you have finished your exams, deal with him. He doesn’t deserve you for sure,’ That is exactly what India’s mum had said earlier that week.
‘Whatever happens now, I will take life easier,’
‘That exactly is your problem, India, taking life easy. Take it by its horn I would say, start this evening,’ Rachel said.
India came home to talk to Goldie as to what he intended with Radha but all was quiet. She found Radha sleeping on the sofa and Goldie in their bed; fast asleep. She lay awake for a long time. The next morning, when they left for office, Radha was still asleep.
‘Let her sleep, her uncle and aunty are making her life hell. They keep bringing one boy after the other and she does not want to get married,’ Goldie whispered in India’s ear.
‘Has she come to stay?’India wanted to ask but Goldie went out.
There was a Christmas do at Dorchester that evening. Everyone carried their change to office. India dressed up in a red number and looked so gorgeous that Goldie felt insecure; many people from their rival insurance companies were paying extra atttention to India, who was ignoring Goldie completely. She had decided to enjoy the party and not worry about Goldie or Radha so she started to drink G&T to shake off all her worries and forget all about her problems. They made a small group a little farther to where Goldie, Radha, Dick, Sara and Leena were sitting.
‘Look at Goldie, he can’t take his eyes off you,’ Rachel happily whispered in India’s ear.
‘Do I look bothered, Rachel?’ India asked.
‘That’s my girl, this is how you can keep him on his toes,’
‘I don’t want to keep him on his toes or keep myself on my toes,’
‘What? Rada has moved into your house and you don’t seem to be bothered,’ Rachel was shocked.
‘Exactly, Goldie is what he is. With him, it will always be a Radha or a Leena. He will never be happy with me alone and I can’t go on looking over my shoulder all my life so I have decided to let him be,’
‘Are you mad, India, at least take what is owed to you,’
‘It matters not, life is more than a house or money in the bank, Rachel,’ India was a little tipsy already. Rachel sat her down next to the handsome boss, Peter Hays, who bent over to kiss India. Goldie could not takeit any more. He bolted towards India.
‘What’s the matter, Darling?’
‘Nothing sweetheart, I am fine. You stay with your ‘made for each other,’ India laughed.
‘What are you talking about?’
‘You know what she is talking about.’ Rachel butted in, ‘you have made her so unhappy, Goldie, it is Christmas, you know,’
‘Darling, let’s go,’ Goldie held India in his arms and brought her outside in the lounge. He sat her down on the cozy sofa. Since India does not drink much; he ordered coffee.
‘Radha and I are not made for each other. Where have you got this into your pretty head?’ Goldie took her in arms and sat beside her.
‘I don’t know what is going on but I want out,’ India knew that he will chat her up now and she didn’t want that.
‘Darling, what do you mean? I accept that I am a male chauvinist pig who is too engrossed sorting out a friend…’ he whispered something in her ear.
‘What?’ This was too much for India’s drunk head.
‘Radha is a lesbian and we have known it since our school days. In India, it still is a taboo, you know. That’s why her parents agreed to send her here but her aunt and uncle are proving to be impossible, that’s all,’
‘So you did not have an affair with her since your school days,’
‘No, I was just trying to save her some embarrassment.’
‘But your mum said…’
‘I promised Radha that I won’t tell a soul. I am sorry, I should have told you,’
‘So I really am your better half,’
‘You really are,’ India laid her pounding head on Goldie’s shoulder. She so wanted to throw her anxieties away but found Radha and Rachel standing behind them.
‘What did you just say, Goldie?’ Radha pulled Goldie’s head to face her. She was trembling with anger.
‘Nothing, I just want to sort everything out nicely. You go to your friends, I will be in very soon,’ Goldie suddenly looked very vulnerable.
‘He said that you are a lesbian, Rada,’ Rachel stood with her hands on her hips. Radha and India both looked at Goldie’s face suspiciously.
‘You know what, you are all mad women, I am fed up with your accusations,’ Goldie was holding his head in his hands, trying to find a way out of this mess.
‘How dare you, My parents paid for your higher studies thinking that you will be back to marry me,’
‘Shut up Radha, you don’t know what you are saying,’ Goldie’s nostrils flared up in rage but Radha stood her ground.
‘Why did you keep quiet for so long, Radha?’ India needed to ask.
‘Why do you think? This bastard told us that he was saving someone’s reputation,’
‘Whose reputation?’ India’s heart began to sink.
‘Yours, who else?’
‘What happened to my reputation?’
‘He told us that you were tortured and raped by a thug…do you want me to give you the gory details?’ It dawned upon India only then as to why the women in Radha’s family looked down upon her with disgust. To be pregnant for an unmarried girl in a town like Baroda is a huge scandle; girls have no choice, they are either murdered or left to commit suicide. India felt disgusted; she turned her face away from Goldie to steady herself. An anger surged within her body and began to her wreck her brain.
‘Darling, don’t listen to her, she is mad, that’s why I had to run away from Baroda to make a new life for myself,’ Goldie again tried to hold India but Rachel pushed him back angrily.
‘Leave her alone, actually leave both of them alone, Goldie, your game is up, you better go hide your face somewhere dark,’ Rachel held a shaking India in her arms.
‘India darling, she just wants to ruin our marriage, listen to me before it is too late,’ Goldie fell on his knees in front of India. He was still trying to salvage his marriage.
‘You have not only ruined my life, you have also ruined my parents’ reputation. I wish to God that you suffer a hundred times for each of your bad deeds,’ Radha seemed to be in a frenzy while she cursed him.
‘How can someone lie so much?’ India was still in shock.
‘You have survived the worst, both of you. Now is the time to enjoy. Let us go in and forget about this loser.’ Rachel held both of them in her arms and led them into the noisy crowed hall.
India glanced around and found Goldie in the corner looking completely baffled. She walked up to him and for a passing moment, he thought that this is Christmas and she may have forgiven him. He half rose to receive her in his arms with a ‘sorry’ on his lips.
‘You are my better half, I meant it, honey,’
‘I never ever believed you when you kept introducing me as your better half. I am certainly better than you and don’t deserve to be battered by the likes of you. You will find your stuff in the front garden tomorrow morning, Goodbye.’ Without waiting for a response, India quickly walked towards a beaming Rachel, the savior of two wronged women.
For a moment, Radha and Rachel wondered whether India has gone back to Goldie. It was exactly 12 o’clock. They happily kissed each other and began singing, ‘Merry Christmas!’ with the crowd.

Divya Mathur