Shraddha, generally a bubbly and lively person, was morose and brooding ever since her husband returned three days back from a tour. She had found accidentally a pair of torn stubs of cinema tickets from the pocket of Naveen’s pant while folding the heap of his clothes washed after his return. She had not gone in the recent past to any movie with him. The tickets were so crumpled and the letters faded, she could not find more details than that they were movie tickets. Naveen was not a movie person and gave in to accompany her only after much pleading from her. Who could be the other person, a female colleague or stranger, was she younger than her and more beautiful and was Naveen in relationship with her and whether that was why he went to Hyderabad frequently and similar such questions rankled her mind bringing in its wake a severe headache. Naveen was a good guy and loving husband, she was aware, but what worried her was if the woman was wily and snared him into her fold. She decided to confront him directly that evening.
On his return from office that evening, Naveen found the living room dark and switched on the lights to see Shraddha sitting on the sofa with her eyes closed and hair disheveled.
“Aren’t you well or what? Why are you not dressed up ready to go out as you usually are?” Naveen asked with concern. She did not respond and continued to ignore his presence. Sensing something unusual, he went near her and put his hands comfortingly on her shoulders only to be shrugged away.
“If you do not tell me what is bothering you, how can I help you?” he asked gently
After some uncomfortable silence, she said, “I never expected this from you. I have always believed that you loved me. But you seem to have developed other interests,” and started sobbing.
“What crap are you talking? Why can’t you be forthright and tell me what is it you are trying to convey indirectly,” he asked in an irritable tone.
She ran inside and brought the pant, pulled out the torn tickets and thrust them on his hands saying “Do you need more proof of your cheating on me while on tour? Do remember we had not gone to any movie in three months. Come out with your excuse that you had gone with your male friend despite my knowing that you hate to go to movies.”
“Believe me, I have never gone to any movie after we went together whenever it was. I am hurt that you suspect me despite my abiding love for you,” he said. Suddenly he pulled the pant from her hands and examined it minutely as Holmes would do by turning it from one side to another and measuring it against his body. He finally spoke, “It is you who needs to explain a lot. This is not my pant, the waist is shorter in width and length longer than my size. Further I do not have a pant of this texture that is somewhat cheap. How has this come to our house? We do not go to dry cleaners at all. Whose pant is this? You may have to account for the mysterious presence of a stranger’s pant and possibly that of a younger and taller man than me?”
Shocked at his veiled accusation, she could only mumble, “Frankly I don’t know how this has come here,” and snatched the pant and tickets from him only to examine them further. Not finding any clue. She threw away the tickets in disgust.
“No point in wasting time by examining the pant. Take your time and think of any plausible reason why a stranger’s pant is in our house. Do remember the adage that people in glass houses should not ….,” he trailed before she put her palm on his mouth screaming hysterically, “No, no. I swear in the name of god that I do not have an inkling of how this has come to our house. You must trust me and have faith in my words.”
“I thought faith was mutual and not one sided,” he said with a smirk. She started crying loudly.
He kept quiet watching her weeping inconsolably till he heard a knock on the door. It was the maid Krishnaveni with a man who could be her husband standing behind her. She looked disheveled with swollen eyes possibly after a bashing from what seemed a drunk husband. “Can I speak to amma(Memsahib) urgently?” she asked.
Hearing her voice, Shraddha came rushing to door and asked her to come in side with the man left outside to wait.
“What is it you want to speak to me urgently at this hour? Why are your eyes swollen and black? Did he beat you for money again?” Shraddha asked in concerned voice.
“Amma, you must promise me not to throw me out for a mistake I committed. I have never done that and will not do again,” she implored looking alternately at Shraddha and Naveen.
“What are you blabbering? What mistake you committed? Have no fear. Tell me the truth,” Shraddha said looking at Naveen from the corner of her eyes.
“Amma, I will tell you the truth but promise me that you would not throw me out. My brother got a new pant for my husband for his birthday and this wretch of a man wore it when he went for booze and rolled on the wet road unable to stand up. I washed it many times at my home but the muddy stain would not go. Devil got into my head when I decided to put along with your husband’s clothes in the washing machine. Since you went out to your mom’s house, I could not take it out from the washing machine that day. As you had removed the clothes the next day, I could not muster the courage to ask you for the pant.
This wretch standing outside accuses that I had given the pant to someone else when I could not produce it and has been beating me ever since to tell him to whom I had given. When I told him that I had put in your washing machine and that I could not take it out, he would not believe me. Would you please save my marriage by locating the pant and giving it to me in his presence? It is dark in colour,” Krishnaveni spoke nonstop.
“Did you say save your marriage?” Shraddha smiled as she ran inside to fetch the pant and asked if that was the pant she was looking for.
The maid fell her feet and said “Amma, you will be blessed by God for ever. Yes, this is the one. Let me hand over to my husband so that he will stop suspecting me and beating me,” before rushing out.
Naveen gravitated towards her and drew her close to him with both feeling embarrassed at their wild accusations. It was then Krishnaveni entered but stopped abruptly at the door only to retreat.
Shraddha freed herself from Naveen and called her to tell “Good, you are happy. Do not put your clothes again in the machine without my permission. Come tomorrow for work as usual.”
“Small misunderstandings add spice to life. Get ready in five minutes, my dear We will eat out. I am famished,” said Naveen. Shraddha hastened to her room with a spring in her walk.