Written as a fun exercise based on the original story, to explore the other side. Reading the original not necessary but recommended before you proceed. (this will not form a part II of the original, hence posting in a new thread)
Reunion - The other Side
I knew my wife Preeti would rise early in the morning. Last night Rajendra had told us about the early morning walks he needs to take for his diabetes. The guy bores me to death with his endless talk about years past, but this info I was grateful about. He had also told me (boasted rather) about his business of supplying computer hardware and software to government departments, including the Home and Foreign ministries. I pulled the quilt over my head and pretended to sleep, as Preeti got up and prepared herself for their rendezvous.
It had been a year since this reunion thing had started to bother me. I remembered the days just after our arranged marriage. Preeti would freely boast of her conquests. How she used to be the heartthrob of hundreds of boys in her school and college. And how she used to make a fool of every single one of them. She apparently thought I would be pleased to hear that she did not fall for any boy, until she married me. I used to laugh with her, letting her think I enjoyed her tales. She had even shown me that love letter as if it were a trophy. The letter that was sent to her by a boy but which in fact had been written by another one, she had told me with that glint in her eyes. The glint that gullible men usually took for mischief, admiration, love or lust; as it suited them.
Men fell for her, that I was sure of, even in those early days of our marriage. It was much later that I learned of something else. Her work for the NGO took her to odd places. My scientist’s job at ISRO kept me moored. She often traveled alone. She would look different when she returned from those trips. Like a cat that has polished off all the milk in the fridge on the sly, she would come back to me purring. Slowly, I began to doubt her. I began seeing beyond her phony smiles and the false glints in her eyes. I noticed the eagerness with which she opened her mail in the home PC, late every night when she thought I was fast asleep.
Hacking into anyone’s mailbox is child’s play for me, an acknowledged scientist in Artificial Intelligence. When she left for her next trip, I did just that. The shock on seeing all those pictures in her mail was quite rude, even though I had suspected her since long. The mails were from some guy named Rahul. Four of her last tours were with that guy, it seemed. There were lot of pictures with both of them holding hands and worse. Apparently Rahul had shot the pictures with his digicam and mailed them to Preeti. I fought the urge to vomit on the keyboard.
Rahul’s mails contained references to their college days. So they had been classmates in college! It had been two years since they had renewed their contact, after they met at her NGO’s office. Apparently, Rahul’s company supplied materials to the NGO. In the mails, they had talked about some fool in their college whom Rahul had used as messenger boy for delivering his love letter. Rajendra was his name. Rahul and Preeti both had made cruel fun of the poor guy, in their mails to each other.
I had shut down the computer in disgust. That whole night, I had stayed awake and thought of my life. No, I could not think of murdering Preeti and then committing suicide. Or divorce either. Our two sweet kids prevented me from taking that course.
I had restarted the computer and hacked into Rahul’s mailbox this time. There were mails from his employers and friends and some ‘lady friends’ besides Preeti’s mail in his box. The guy worked in a firm that I recognized as one of contractors to Indian Air Force. Working at ISRO has its perks. Then I went into stealth mode. Using chained proxies, I retrieved some old but still classified data about Indian Air Force from ISRO servers and placed it in Rahul’s mailbox, making it look as if it were a copy of a message he had sent to someone in Islamabad. Then I sent an anonymous alert message to Military Intelligence. They will check the recipient’s mail address and draw a blank, I had made it sure. I also erased all of Preeti’s mails from Rahul’s mailbox as also the copies of mails he had sent to Preeti.
Then I had patiently waited for Preeti’s return. She had returned the next morning, acting like a coy bride and coming on to me as if she had been sex starved for the four days of her tour. I knew better. That evening, the news was all over the TV channels. Rahul Khanna, an officer of a company that supplied material to Indian Air Force, had been held on treason charges. They had picked him that morning when he had returned from a trip to the hills. I had watched Preeti’s dropped jaw with concealed amusement, as she watched the news on TV.
I pretended to be asleep as Preeti slipped out of the cottage. When I heard the two of them walk away, I got up. I watched them from the slit in the window. Talking and giggling, she was being the perfect whore she was, I thought. But this was no time for anger. Time to implement the plan! Kids were still asleep when I got out and ambled over to the next cottage and tapped on its door.
A sleepy eyed Jaya, his wife, opened the door. “Water in our cottage has run out. Can I use the toilet in yours?” I asked her. “Yes of course” she answered as she let me in and then closed the door before she went back to sleep.
The wife is not bad at all, I found myself thinking. Doesn’t talk much like her husband or my wife does. She minds her son and does what her husband asks of her. A good wife. I rather felt bad about what I was going to do next. Probably it will ruin her life too, along with his. But I had no choice.
I remembered the agony her husband Rajendra and my wife Preeti had caused me this last year; ever since that chance meeting (I have a doubt about the chance part too) at the wedding. She had deliberately insulted me by not introducing me to her ‘school days friend’ as she had went on talking to him. Then the two had decided to arrange this rotten reunion of their classmates. Their planned reunion became the excuse for his frequent visits to our home. I don’t actually know what happened during his visits to my home, because I was always away working my ass off at ISRO. But knowing her past record, I could easily guess.
Then at the reunion itself, I had kept my smile pasted on my face with some effort, even though I had watched two of them act like illicit lovers they were. The knowing glances, the half smiles, the way he rushed in to help her when she had choked on her words. You can’t fool an Artificial Intelligence scientist!
Then, as expected, Preeti had invited her ‘school friend’ to join us on this trip with his family. I am watching him. The way he observes every little detail about my wife, keeps close to her and tries to speak to her but stops when he sees me near by, these are all the indications of the affair they are having, I know. I laugh silently at the ‘secret’ of these two lovers! I know they are planning their next trip, without the kids and me and his wife. But I am prepared.
I spend the necessary time in their toilet, operate the flush and come out. Jaya has fallen asleep again. I make sure that her son too is still sleeping. The pills in that last cold drink of the previous night are still working! Methodically, I pick the locks on Rajendra’s suitcase and open it, take out all the clothes, and with a knife in my hand, make a cut in bottom lining of the suitcase . Just a slit will do. Then I take out the wad of papers from my pocket and insert it in the slit. I seal the cut with cellophane tape. It is hardly noticeable. Then I place all his clothes back in the same order they were before. Lastly, I lock the suitcase as it was.
Nobody, not at least dumb Rajendra –the phony school days friend of my wife- will know that photocopies of tad old but still highly classified papers related to national security are nesting at the bottom of his suitcase. I have not yet decided whether to call CBI or RAW this time. I will decide that when we return home tonight.
Silently, I let myself out of their cottage and walk back to mine. I am back in time to watch from the window slit. The lovers are walking back towards the cottage, hand in hand, with a glow of their sinful affair on their smiling faces. I climb back into the bed and pull the quilt over my head, as I pretend to be still sleeping.
Preeti is shaking me awake. She probably thinks the glow on my face is from some dream. Yes, it is a beautiful dream, of revenge! For calling me “baldy” too, among other things!
(c) Rajendra Pradhan