The phrase struck him like lightning while he was sitting in the church awaiting Anita’s arrival. “Yes, that’s it,” James said aloud. NO DIVORCE EVER.
Anita, the bride was an impulsive character; often made rash statements and resorted to silly actions. During their love days, while in a restaurant, she suddenly rushed out when James refused to order ice cream because of her heavy running nose. He too had to follow suit depriving himself his favourite strawberry ice cream
All tantrums apart, she had many good points. She was a good social mixer and an excellent singer. One had to just say, “Anita, a song , please” and she would render a melodious classical number mesmerizing every listener.
By the time they entered their room in the hotel, after the solemnization of the wedding followed by the usual reception, the time was 11 p.m. “Oh, at last…” sighed Anita and ran into her husband’s arms.
Seating her on the bed, James announced a short prayer. Anita bowed her head. “Lord Jesus, thank you for uniting us after three years of courting. Help us to live for hundred years. In Lord Jesus’s name. Amen.” Anita also said, ‘Amen’.
Then James fired his salvo. “Anita, give your word that you would never ask for a Divorce…” Taken aback, Anita felt like laughing. “No, I am serious,” James repeated. Anita accepted the demand, slapped his palm and said, “No, I will never …”
“Good. I will never too, not in one hundred years,” James reiterated and hugged her tight. “Another thing, my love…”
Anita cocked up her ears not quite knowing what wise-crack she would hear this time. “Say, you will never remarry …?”
“Shall never remarry.”
James, a confident person now, knew that the First night’s assurances were sacred and one never violated them. He sincerely wished that Anita won’t play a spoil sport . He feared that she might if she got into one of her defiant moods. Therefore he had extracted out the promises right from her mouth.
Honeymoon over, they settled down in James’s parental home in Chennai. James joined his father as his partner in his manufacturing industry despite his M.A English qualification.
Within three weeks, Anita had captured the mother-in-law’s heart wholesale.
“Listen Anita,” her mother started a couple of months back, “You may be deeply in love with James all right and that’s not enough. Don’t take your culture to that house. Merge with theirs. What they do is right. Never criticize and never make faces at anything. Finally, trap them with your cooking. OK?”
It was news to James that Anita was a first class cook. The result was that Anita was given the house running responsibility even before a month had elapsed.
James suggested one morning that Anita visit the factory so that she got to know exactly what he and his father were doing there. She showed a lot of interest in many manufacturing processes, being a Science graduate herself. On their way back to the office, something caught Anita’s attention. “Who is she?” she asked.
James turned to see. “Oh, she is an office assistant.”
“You know her name?”
In course of time, the father handed over the ‘Motor parts industry’ to James and started a tyre manufacturing unit under his command.
All workers in the two factories were extremely happy and contented; they worshipped the Thiagaraj family members like they were demigods.
Anita asked of her husband that morning, “I believe you have a new Secretary now?”
“Yes. Priya Darshini. “
After a week or so, Anita enquired “ Is Priya Darshini still your secretary?” James confirmed and added, “ A committed worker.”
“A committed worker, my foot ,” Anita cried and commanded him bluntly, “Sack her.”
“You heard me all right, James. Sack her and fast.”
“But, why Anita? “
A Beauty Queen walking in and out of her husband’s office could become a dynamite one day and sabotage her own marriage …?” So, she had to take some precautionary measures at the earliest.
A patient James had lost his cool now and for the first time as well. “It’s impossible Anita. Priya is IN..” His words were firm and resolute.
“In that case, I am OUT.” Anita started packing up a suitcase. James wondered if she was leaving him. Tried his best to stop her. Nothing doing. She was out of the house within ten minutes.
On returning from an outing that evening and noticing a kind of vacuum in the mansion, mother Mona asked, “Where’s Anita?”
James gave no reply and dashed into his bedroom.
Way back in her Adayar house, Anita gave a different story to her parents: James was having an affair with his Secretary and was planning to divorce her. “I shall teach him a lesson,” Anita roared.
Early next morning, James’s mother asked, if Anita had telephoned and when she was returning home? No, she didn’t phone nor did she do that in the next five days.
Time didn’t sort out anything. “I have always held a very high opinion about Anita,” Mona observed at the dinner table that evening.
James cut in. “She could be as stubborn as a mule, Mamma.”
Mona’s view was different and she missed that most charming face. “When will Anita come back?” was her refrain. But she never expressed her anguish in words.
In the Adayar house, the story had taken a different turn. She had told her parents, “I want to teach James a lesson, Ma. Shall send him a Divorce notice shortly.”
On the following morning as she walked towards the telephone to call her lawyer, she heard a voice which asked, “Listen crack pot, you have given a promise never to divorce nor remarry. What are you trying to do?”
A few seconds later another voice whispered, “Are you sure James is in love with his secretary? Could it be your own imagination…?”
Anita scratched her head. Indeed she had no idea on it at all. She was all confusion.
All at once she started missing James. She was still in love with him. The secretary dare not grab him. “Who does she think she is. I am his wedded wife, understand?”
James missed Anita a lot. A voice suggested, “ James, why don’t you surprise her by a telephone call, dash it? The MD deliberated on this novelty. Then the Rebel in him objected and said, “No, no. She left the house and she must ring me up, she must …. ring me… “ Sleep overtook him.
It was after 3 days and six attempts that Anita made up her mind to touch the telephone today. James wouldn’t be in the house then. Who would answer the phone in his office. The secretary. naturally. What’s the name …? Yes, Priya Darshini …. Priya..? That home breaker…? A wretch?
Anita heard the ring back tone. A female voice announced, “Motor parts industry.”
With her heartbeats suddenly revving up, she said , “This is … Anita .. here…”
“Is it Missus Anita Thiagaraj? Is it really Missus Thiagaraj …? Are you really …..?” cried Priya inflating her lungs a couple of times. “Am I speaking with Missus Anita …?”
There was a thunder burst in Anita’s heart instantly. Was the person speaking Priya Darshini? Was it really her voice and words? “Are you Priya Darshini?” she repeated.
“Yes, Madam. MD’s secretary”.
Anita felt a big lump in her throat. “Never … had … talked to … you …. before… Priya ?”
Priya surely didn’t sound like ‘the other woman’. Had she misunderstood this young secretary? Anita heard no hint of jealousy or bitterness in Priya’s tone. She couldn’t have been possibly in love with Jamesy.
“Are you keeping all right, Madam..?” Priya imagined that all employees of Thiagaraj industries would celebrate this wonderful day at Anita’s Home coming.
“OF COURSE” Anita cried out excitedly when the secretary offered to connect her to the MD. A click and hushing sound. No thrill whatever. Anita expected a kind of tremor from Jamesy’s mouth. Alas! No.
“It’s me, Jamesy?” she stammered. Though she tried to sound like a koel, James answered curtly, “Yes.”
Then throwing away all her pride and ego she said, “Won’t you take me back Jamsey? A prodigal wife? An undivorceable wife?”
Though touched, James responded coldly. There was a long pause. Then James came out alive. “If you are in my office in the next hour with a kilo of strawberry ice cream, I can consider it.”
Anita became a jumping jack now. “Oh, he is ready to accept me back. He is ready ….” Without even telling her mother she dressed up at top speed and charged out of her Adyar house.
James had to exercise considerable restraint to conceal his exhilaration when he spoke to Anita.
It had taken Anita nearly 45 minutes to reach the Guindy factory in a hired auto rickxhaw. It was Priya who received her with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. “Please go right in, Madam. Right in…”
Word had gone around in both the industries that Anita madame had returned. James and Anita were locked in for nearly 2 hours. In the Thiagaraj mansion, the atmosphere was charged with high voltage. Tears welling up in her eyes, Mona had spread out her arms wide beckoning her daughter. Anita charged into them crying, “ I am…. sorry Mamma. Sorry.”
“You have come back. That’s enough, my child” Mona acknowledged and held her tight.
Later that night in their bedroom, Anita sat down James at one end of the bed, knelt down clutching his legs tightly and proclaimed, “I swear in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that I shall never never leave my husband’s home. Never.”
At this point, James wanted to add, “If I leave for any reason, shall return to husband’s home the same day.”