High up in a sixth floor apartment of a suburban town near Delhi, Simran scrolled down the mouse up and down. A post on her social media grabbed her eyes. She clicked it open. It read: …has changed her profile picture.
“Hmm, the bitch must be forty now, but she refuses to believe that her beauty days are well over. Idiot, first get your fucking teeth cleaned, then dare to grit them.” She clicked opened her album. “She never had any dress sense. As if wearing this long, frilled skirt with a clown-like hat would make her a beauty queen,” Simran fumed, scrolling down, stopping to see who had liked it. “What does she want to show? Is she the most glamorous among all? She has not seen real beauty. And her low IQ fan number one Alpana has to like it. Even if she goes for an ovaries transplant, her helper Alpana would “Like” it.”
The woman that made her furious was her childhood friend Leena, who had moved to Delhi a couple of years ago. Leena was actually a friend of Simran’s elder sister. Leena in childhood was committed to showing off her dolls and jewellary. In college, she flaunted her figure and cloths and now her husband’s wealth in the form of holidays, parties and celebrity connections. She was married to the lone offspring of a family business house that lived and thrived in Delhi since the days of partition. Her husband now owned the business while her father-in-law worked as political grease that helped the ruling party and the corporate to remain in perfect mesh.
To make matters worse, Simran’s husband Jai worked in the company that was partner to the business owned by Leena’s husband.
Simran found another post by Leena.
This was a set of photos tagged as “Trip to Paris.”
Simran felt like a girl whose boyfriend was kissed by another girl. For a moment, she forgot the world around her, she felt weak, fragile and brittle. Unknown to her, her hand had already clicked the album.
Her eyes fell on the photos of sunglasses covered Leena and her plump, squishy husband who could be none other than a descendent to the Oranges. In front of Eiffel tower, Leena was kissing him hard on his shaven, porous cheeks.
Paris, she thought. How much Paris had intrigued her ever since she was a child. When will I go there?
She threw the wireless mouse. In a violent impact, it bounced off the glass tabletop before landing on the sofa. The batteries crashed to the floor and steered in different corners. After rolling for a while, one settled below the dining table, the other struck the glass door. The maid stopped wiping the balcony door, picked it up and without uttering a single word, returned it to Simran.
“Why do some people have such wonderful lives?”
Lately Leena had started writing prose on social media that irked Simran beyond control. Each photo had a caption too. Romancing the Seine, Kiss at heights… Simran felt her blood was boiling.
With a murderous shove, she closed the notebook and went to the bedroom. She unpinned her long, straight hair. For a minute, she watched herself in the mirror, checking her skin for any new blemishes. “Thank God,” she exhaled. Satisfied with the look, she turned sideways to scan her hips and the waist.
She walked to the living room again. The maid had brought the morning coffee. She coiled up on the sofa with the newspaper, which had an eye grabbing half page advertisement for a new mall opening up shortly. Simran never spent more than two minutes on the news but today something caught her attention. She brushed her eyebrow.
She moved her eyes over the nuggets of stories that filled the metro news section. After reading the entire section, she threw the newspaper away and walked up the balcony with her coffee mug clutched in her left hand.
She stood at the balcony of her tenth floor apartment, watching the azure pool below – mostly calm except when an occasional whiff of wind moved the lucid water. As she sipped her coffee in a white mug, her mind flashed a face in several forms – a moment it was frozen, the next flowing, a moment the she saw an enticing lip line, the next it was drooping; she saw a female figure that would be curvy or distorted at the same moment. She pursed her lips, curled in her eyebrows and stole a glance at her nails. Her eyes kept moving in the wet water. She then turned sideways and smiled to her neighbor, who went inside as soon as she had came out, but the smile on Simran’s face stayed. She stood for another minute, occasionally, she would shake her head to approve or reject an idea. She was watching her plan taking shape.
She sprung back and flipped open her notebook. For the next ten minutes or so, she downloaded pictures with abandon. She then searched for a Bollywood actor and studied her face closely. Pursing her lips, she picked up a magazine and spread another picture of that actor to match the two. After a minute of shuttling her eyes over the two pictures, she lay back.
Her eyes fell on the wall in front. It had a painting that depicted Punjabi festival “Lohri”. A group of men and girls in colorful costumes was dancing around bonfire that had swelled to huge colors dipped in red, orange and yellow. She had hated it since the day Jai had brought it from a local gallery. She wanted to have a work from a European painter. Below it stood a sculpture of dancing girls from ancient India brought from a trip from Southern India. Beside that, lay a carved table brought from a small town in UP.
Simran scoffed at the décor and got up.
Thirty minutes later, she was at a software store in a mall nearby her building.
“If she can elongate her legs or trim her nose …” Simran thought, entering the lift, thinking hard, “if a woman’s clothes can be removed…” She pressed the floor number in the lift, “I can too strip my walls full of ordinary Indian stuff and pour some European color.” She checked her hair in the metallic wall of the lift, “Why not? Just because my husband thinks… his country is the best. Only me! Only I am the one in my group, who is yet to have a holiday in Paris. And the way my youth is passing by…” she eyed her bosoms and increased the exposed area of soft plump, flesh, “… I will never be able to post pictures of a trip to Paris or London.” A picture of Buckingham palace moved in her mind.
Unlocking the door, she walked into the house. It was perfect for two – comprising of a large bedroom with ample space for changing and a spiraling living hall in L shape. Simran used the guest room to keep her paintings. Ever since marriage, Jai had given her complete control to upkeep the house as per her will and Simran had a done a decent job.
Entering the living room, she stood watching the walls for thirty seconds and then turned around. Her eyes moved from the sofa to the bookshelf and finally to the wall in front.
“Here…” she breathed. She first removed the painting then the sculpture and the carved table. The wall was clear now. “No blemishes, hmm…”
After watching the wall closely for a minute, Simran sat down and turned her laptop on. On her browser, she typed Google.
“Simran, what is this? Are you fine?” Jai kept the coffee mug down as Simran pulled him to stand in front of the wall.
Simran stroked her printed silk dress, ironing out imaginary folds. She then lowered her cleavage, exposing her bright skin. She stood with her hand on her waist. Jai did not notice.
“Painting?” Jai picked up the coffee.
“Removed for cleaning,” Simran said, “Where is the camera?”
“Hmm, not bad, but why?”
“I want to go out today. Nice?” Simran twirled the dress.
“Hmm…” Jai sipped coffee. “First drawer. Can I sit?”
Simran came back as speedily as she had gone, with a camera in her hand.
“Put the mug down,” she said. Her husband obeyed. “Smile now.”
“Can I have my coffee?”
“Wait, what’s the hurry?” Simran handed him the camera. She then walked near the empty wall and stood with right hand caressing her brown hair. “Shoot.”
“What is all this?” After clicking four times, Jai sat down.
Simran took the camera. “Not what I wanted,” Shaking her head she stood up, “I need to change.”
After a few steps into her bedroom, she turned, “You also change.”
Jai kept sipping his coffee, scanning his phone at the same time.
“Since when have you become so photo savvy?”
“I told you, photography is my secret desire. I am practicing for a contest,” Simran said, holding the camera. She was watching the photos she had clicked just before leaving the house.
“I’ll have continental today,” she said.
“What? Is this also a secret desire?”
“O honey, we have not eaten out for several months.”
“That’s because I also needed to fulfill my secret desire,” Jai said, stealing a look of his lovely wife, “I needed to save.”
Simran continued to flip her phone.
He stopped at a red light, sped along and stopped again. Simran remain hooked to her phone, her eyes scanning the upward sliding screen.
Jai brought her lips near her cheeks. “Mmm,”
“Okay okay, later…you’ll crumple my saree,” Simran pushed him.
Next morning, Simran downloaded all the pictures to her notebook. After selecting some and discarding most, she opened the folder she had populated yesterday.
Her phone beeped. A new app had loaded. Her social media also had a new post.
“Dinned at heritage restaurant. Loved the vareity of chats and deserts. Dahi vades were mind-boggling. Have a look.”
Posted by Leena through her hand phone, 1 hour ago. Alpana Mhatre and 15 people like it.
Simran checked he time, it was twenty past nine. An hour ago, she was in the toilet.
She clicked open the pictures of the food with Leena pointing towards something that resembled a cousin of vanilla ice cream. “She did not know the spellings in school, and does not know even now.”
Dropping the mouse, she ran to the kitchen and gulped a bottle of cold water. Her nerves relaxed. She resumed her picture sorting.
Sometime later, she looked up. The wallclock struck 40 past 11. “Almost done.”
At five in the evening, Simran woke up. Without wasting a moment on loosening her limbs, she ran out to log on. Fifteen people already liked her post. She exhaled.
“Expected more,” she tapped on the comments.
“Nice pics, Simran, When did you go?”
“Last year,” she typed.
“Was this a secret honeymoon?” Hearts swarmed this post.
“looking gud,” the next said.
Simran scrolled up and down to read the messages again. She tapped the table and smiled. The doorbell rang.
Instead of reacting, he hugged her and held her hand. He then kneeled down.
“O my love, will you accompany me on a trip to Paris?”
“Stop it Jai.”
“This is not a joke,” she said, turning her back to him.
Jai got up. He pulled out a paper.
“Look Simran, I have worked very hard for this. I know you. You love Paris,” he said, walking towards her, “If not every year like your rich friends, at least in three years, we can go to a foreign holiday.”
“Why can’t we go to London or Hong Kong? I have already gone to Paris,” Simran said.
Simarn was crying now. Her note book was open, showing a backdrop of Eiffel tower. In the foreground stood Simran, in the same silk dress she was wearing yesterday evening.