Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas by media professional Madhuri Banerjee is the fictional story of Kaveri, a 30-year-old interpreter by profession whose aim is to 'figure out the language of love'.
By way of an excerpt, we bring you Chapter 21:
I was wrong. Her life wasn't about to change. Mine was.
He didn't SMS till the next afternoon. I had seriously started thinking the worst. But the worst was yet to come, when we met that night. He took me to a lounge where we could see the sea and listen to some nice jazz music, and the atmosphere was lovely. But the tension between us was unsettling.
I was wearing my Fendi jeans again, and a nice sleeveless white top with some long beads. My diamond studs in place, I felt I looked fresh enough for him not to even think about his wife anymore and cool enough for me not to be bothered even if he did mention her.
He looked great too with his two-day-old stubble and his casual chic grey pants and a striped black shirt.
As soon as we ordered drinks and starters, he started, 'Babe, I am so sorry about yesterday.'
'Don't worry about it,' I said, trying to act cool and mature. 'I'm perfectly okay, so let's plan another night. I mean, we should, na?'
He paused for a second. 'Of course, we can. I want to. I want to actually plan a holiday with you.' This came out of the blue. I would have thought he would have the courage to explain why he had dumped me yesterday and why he hadn't called all morning. But instead of sounding like a colossal crib-oid, I just went all giggly and teenager on him. 'A holiday? Really? That would be great. Where should we go?' I said straying from the topic.
'Anywhere you want.' The bearer came and gave us our drinks and we toasted to 'Greece in the summer!' The wife matter was like an elephant under the table that neither of us was willing to notice.
I was dying to ask the question, but since I didn't want to bring up the 'wife' topic I said instead, 'For how long should we go?' I know our conversation was veering towards the absurd, but I didn't care what we spoke about as long as it wasn't his marriage.
'We can go for four-five days. I mean, with both our work and all, I don't think we'll get more time than a few days off including the weekend, and with Maria at home in...' he trailed off.
I stopped drinking. There it was. A slip of the tongue or intentional I would not know, but finally it was out. Something was not right. He seemed unsure and yet eager to please. This was not like him. The man I knew was supremely confident, took charge, and would tell me if we were going on a holiday, where we were going, when and for how long. He would have made bookings and paid up and let me just pack my clothes. He wouldn't be hesitating and pausing. So I kept quiet. The waiter brought our order of food. I picked it up and offered it to him. He picked up a fork and a knife and gently cut it into four pieces and then offered the fork back to me. His manners were impeccable. Something that proved that he was nervous since he was generally a klutz. It was also a sign that he was playing for time. I waited for him to say something while I sipped my drink.
He had said her name. It was only right that I waited for him to elaborate or apologise. We had made a pact that we wouldn't say her name. We would only use 'her', 'she' or 'Mrs'. So it had slipped out.
'Kaveri, I need to tell you something.' I kept chewing. 'I want you to know that I love you,' he said with great conviction, though I could see he was holding his breath.
I felt better. Marginally. That was a nice thought. He loved me. I loved him. Whatever it was then, could be fixed.
'Maria is pregnant,' he blurted out.
At first I thought I hadn't heard right, so I wanted to say 'what?', but then I knew I had and didn't want to hear the name or that forbidden word in a sentence again, so I kept quiet.
I stopped eating. I couldn't swallow. I couldn't move. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit him. But what I really felt was a wave of sadness pouring over me. I still wanted to act cool.
'I need a cigarette,' I said finally looking around. 'People in such situations feel better when they smoke.'
'But you don't smoke,' he interjected.
'So?' I retorted. I knew he was against smoking and secretly felt happy that I was going against his ideology. A rebellious act which seemed absurd compared to his. Yes. That's what I thought, I'll make him cringe like he had just made me cringe with his announcement. The comparison was stupid but it felt right at the time.
He remained quiet for some time till the bearer brought us a pack of cigarettes. I took one and the bearer lit it and left.
Arjun started speaking all at once, as if he was in a debate and was given only two minutes, after which the bell would go off ending his turn.
'This happened five months ago. She didn't tell me and she herself didn't know. It was on our trip to Paris, our last trip together where we decided that our relationship was not working -- our last night together, for old times' sake. And I promise you I haven't slept with her since then. I have been faithful to you for these last four and a half months. When we came back, she left for her parents' place and I thought she would come back to take her things and say it's finally over. She never once mentioned this even on the phone...' He trailed off.
I didn't know what to say so I kept quiet.
He looked at me and took my hand. I recoiled
'Baby,' he started, 'I love you...'
'I don't see how,' I interrupted softly.
'Don't say that. I didn't know.'
'Is that why you cancelled on me yesterday?' I asked trying to make sense of this new development.
'Well, she came back early and I realised she was pregnant...'
'Obviously,' I said sarcastically. My maid's words came back to me. She had warned me that he was talking to his wife. Obviously he must have known or suspected something but didn't say anything to me.
He continued in the background while my mind was racing towards where my life would be headed now. 'Then when I was leaving, she tripped and cut her lip on the kitchen counter. I took her to the hospital and while the doc was asking her some questions as to what meds to give, she confirmed that she was pregnant for about five...' he trailed off again.
'Please stop saying it,' I said quietly. I wish I could have raved and ranted. Or at least thrown the drink on his face and walked out. That would have been what Aditi would have done. But I wasn't her. And I didn't know how to react. All I wanted was the pounding in my head to stop and for him to take back his words.
'Okay, I'm sorry.' He stopped talking for a while and we sat there in silence. Then he cleared his throat and learned over to speak, 'But I have a plan. So please hear me out.'
I started stuffing my mouth with food so I wouldn't start sobbing.
'I didn't know about this. She tricked me. I have been completely yours since we've met. I want to have you in my life because I can't see myself without you. So please tell me what you want after hearing me out okay?'
I desperately wanted to say okay and hear him out, but I couldn't. 'I don't know,' I heard myself saying. I could have just left. This man was going to have a child with another woman, his wife, in fact. Where did I fit into any of this anyway? Wasn't having a family a deal breaker in relationships?
The little voice in my head started again: who made these rules anyway? What does your heart say?
Should I ask him to leave her and be with me? A moral voice in my head said it was wrong. He was the Father. He had to do the Right Thing. Would his parents help her? Maybe, maybe not. How could I do this to her? What kind of an unscrupulous human being would I be?
But I knew I could not be with him either. Well, that's what I thought for now. 'I think we should break up,' I said. Though my heart was breaking just saying it.
'Please Kaveri. Please don't do that. We can work this out together.'
'How?' I said, almost in tears now.
'Please give me some time before I can be with you. Right now, I suppose I'll be around when she needs me and once the baby is three or four months and she is more settled I'll find her a place of her own, get her a good maid who can look after the baby, set the infrastructure up, and then I can be with you.'
It was logical. And less heartless.
'But wouldn't you want to be part of the baby's life? Her life?' I asked trying to blink away my tears and my shattered dreams.
'I don't feel a part of this baby. It was one night in Paris where she tricked me to save this marriage. I had specifically told her that it was the last time, as a goodbye and thank you for spending so many years together. I didn't know this was going to happen. Hell, she even said it was the "safe" time.'
He began to make sense in some odd way. Or had I completely lost my sense of self worth?
'And since five months are already up, it's only a matter of a few more. I'll be free of her and be yours completely. Kaveri, you have to believe me, I've never felt this way about anyone. After all, it has only been four months since we've known each other and I'm already "committed" to you. I was with her for twelve years and there was never anyone after her. Until I met you.' He pleaded. He was almost begging me not to leave. I had never seen a guy like this before.
I did love him. He was the first man I had slept with. The only man I ever wanted to be with. If he was genuine about what he was saying, I could have a future with him.
He saw a ray of hope in my eyes and continued, 'Please trust me. I want to do the right thing for all of us.'
He was a good man. Maybe I could wait. After all, what were a few more months? It was just a little more than half a year. And half a year slips by so quickly that even gym memberships would get over before you could actually attend the gym. My head was swimming in a sea of confusion and pain.
'I don't know, Arjun. I really don't know. I need time to think. I need to be alone right now,' saying that, I got up and left the place. He tried to run after me. But I was too far gone. I had got into a cab and left. I needed to breathe. I needed to cry. I needed to call Aditi and tell her that she had been right.
And I had been so wrong.
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Excerpted from Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas (Rs 150) by Madhuri Banerjee, with the permission of publishers Penguin Books India.