Dwaita opened her bleary eyes when the colossal ball of fluff climbed onto her belly. Squinting into the morning sunlight that streamed in from the open window of her bedroom in her posh Camac Street penthouse, she discovered that she not only had a splitting headache but at some point had managed to lose a tooth and get rid of a husband as well.
Her quandary failed to move Macaron, the pristine white Persian, as he hissed in hellish fury as a woman scorned.
“Uuuufffff,” she winced as she got up, stretching her body.
“Mmmmmeeeooooowwww!” Macaron was now fidgety.
Dwaita caught her reflection in the mirror. She grimaced as her wide Bengali eyes darted to the tiny forlorn gap ditched by her pearly tooth.
“I look like a witch,” she grumbled. Her mascara and kajal were smudged, and the inky circle around her eyes looked like the bandit’s mask of a raccoon. “If I survive this weekend without murdering anyone, I will go to Kalighat and offer a saree to Maa,” she continued to mumble. In an obscure corner of her pujo room, the aforesaid Goddess stuck out her tongue at Dwaita’s innumerable failed attempts to keep her promise.
Religion now put on the back burner, Dwaita exited her bedroom and busied herself with the arduous task of feeding Macaron, completing her morning ablutions, and brewing her favourite Earl Grey tea, in that order.
“I must think with a clear mind,” she mused, as she eased herself into the reclining chair on her balcony and brought the porcelain cup to her lips. Myriad thoughts swirled around her like a dense mist on a wintry morning, with the absent husband looming over them not so much as her missing tooth.
When the beverage started to work its magic on Dwaita, her mobile rang. With a sigh, she picked it up.
“Maa, I will call you later, okay? What? Oh, I am fine. Deb? Look. I must disconnect. I have some work to do. Promise, maa. I will call you later.”
With that, she kept her iPhone on the stool next to her, rolling her eyes.
“I should pat myself on the back for warding off questions of Deb,” Dwaita gloated. Macaron joined her on the balcony, licking his spotless fur.
The finicky Mrs Lola Chatterjee possessed that feline grace. In her seductive purring voice, she had managed to coax Deb into downing another peg of Johnny Walker the previous night. And Dwaita, sipping her Chardonnay, was busy explaining to an inebriated North Indian guest that her name was not spelt D O Y I T A, much to his amusement.
How did things go so downhill? Dwaita ran her hand over Macaron as he rubbed his body against her ankles.
“Lola di, thank you so much for the wonderful party. But we must leave now,” Dwaita pleaded with the hostess.
The elegant lady threw her head back and guffawed. Waving her manicured hand like a conjurer, she glided past Dwaita with the elegance of a ballet dancer, stopping by ask her guests if they liked the fish cutlets. If a Bengali hostess could be awarded Michelin stars, Mrs Lola Chatterjee would be the undefeatable queen.
Macaron purred, bringing Dwaita back to the present. She wondered if she should schedule an appointment with Dr Pal, the inquisitive dentist she hated to visit. Should I tell him that I tripped over Macaron?
Pursing her lips, she closed her eyes. For some weird reason, Deb had found Mrs Chatterjee’s silken tresses fascinating and made unsuccessful attempts to stroke them. Did he think it was Macaron’s fur? He waltzed around the fifty-year-old lady, like the evergreen Uttam Kumar riding his BMW bike in Saptapadi.
Was it because of the music that Dwaita failed to sense the commotion behind her? Mr Chatterjee was on the balcony, barking into his mobile. The lady in the violet jamdani saree complained about the paneer tikka and wondered how vegetarians could survive on something as bland as cottage cheese.
‘Stop!” The voice of the hostess was soft yet firm. Dwaita glanced behind her shoulder.
What happened next was a blur. Seething with anger, Dwaita rushed towards Deb and grabbed his hand before it could make its way to Mrs Chatterjee’s back again. The ladies gasped, wide-eyed, with their two palms cupped together over their mouths. Oh, Maa! Despite the chaos, Dwaita couldn’t help but wonder if melodrama flowed like blood in a Bengali’s veins.
Face red like a ripened tomato, Dwaita muttered a feeble apology and dragged her drunk husband out of the house.
“Oh, come on, babe! It was harmless,” Deb winked as they waited for the lift.
“I’m sure Lola di didn’t find it amusing,” retorted Dwaita.
A notification from her iPhone broke Dwaita’s reverie. It was an SMS from Chandrani Pearls, informing her about their latest exquisite collections at their showroom.
Macaron curled up to sleep beneath her feet. A faint smile hovered over her lips as she kept her mobile aside. I must message him.
“Where is your sense of humour, Dwaita? It was a prank. A joke, if I may say so,” Deb chuckled.
“Joke?” Dwaita spat out the word. Deb didn’t utter a word as the doors of the lift opened. Silence reigned until they reached the basement.
“Hey! Still angry?” Deb whispered to Dwaita, nudging her. “Okay, it won’t happen again. Promise.”
“I’ll not tolerate this behaviour, Deb.”
“What do you want me to do then? Drop down dead?” Deb’s tone was acerbic.
Dwaita bit her lips, as unshed tears threatened to breach the dam of her eyes.
“You know what’s your problem? You’re boring,” Deb declared as he took out the mobile from the pocket of his T-Shirt to call their driver.
“Oh really! At least I don’t grope unsuspecting men around.”
Dwaita didn’t flinch as the hand of her erstwhile French language teacher, which once traced amorous-sounding words over her naked body, hit her cheek hard. She tasted something acidic. Blood? Taking out a handkerchief from her handbag, she shook her hand. “How come I married an animal like you?”
This time the slap sent her tooth flying out until it landed on the concrete.
The memory jolted Dwaita back to the present. She grabbed her phone and typed ‘IT IS OVER’. Her decision was clear. Deb had no right to behave in that abysmal manner with her. Sighing, she pressed the SEND button.
She knew it was futile to ask Mrs Chatterjee for support. Despite her inherent charms and coquettish mannerisms, the high-flying socialite would turn into a wooden doll if she was asked to complain against Deb.
A fully contented Macaron woke up and purred. The look on Deb’s face would be forever etched in her memories. As their driver strode towards her Mercedes, she whispered to Deb, “Listen! Don’t you dare to create a scene here! I’m going home. You’re not coming with me. No, I don’t care where you’ll spend the night. You can collect your stuff later this weekend.”
With a huge smile plastered over her now-cheery face, Dwaita collected Macaron from the floor and went inside her bedroom.