Swaroop had joined a new company in a senior position just a fortnight before the new year. As was the usual custom, all executives were requested to attend the New Year’s Eve party with spouses without fail. He asked his wife Kusum to accompany him for the party at Hotel Ariya.She pleaded her inability saying, “How can I come when I am also to attend a similar party at my new office? They were particular that no one should abstain.”
Swaroop felt it would look odd and not befitting his position if he were to go alone singly but she was adamant. When he reached the foyer of the hotel and stood hesitantly, he found a strikingly attractive woman looking at him intently. When he stared back at her without turning his head, she too kept her gaze fixed on him. A fleeting thought occurred whether she could be a fun-loving and daring type. When he smiled at her nodding his head imperceptibly, she came quickly by his side and said, “Have we met before here? I am Shyama.”
"I am not sure but you look quite familiar. I am Swaroop and I am here to attend a New Year Eve party supposedly with my spouse. I am in a quandary as she is not in a position to attend. Are you by any chance alone here?" he asked.
When she nodded her head, Swaroop continued," Lucky, we found each other. Just wondering if you are free for the next three or four hours? Please do not take me amiss,” he said.
“Hahaha! You want me to impersonate your wife, do you? Yes, I do not mind helping you but would charge you by the hour, what say,” she said laughing somewhat boisterously.
“No price is too high for you, Shyama. Please accompany me and behave perfectly like my wife. Do not take me wrong and read much into this temporary deal, I warn you in advance,” he said with a twinkle.
The party started by 9pm with drinks followed by dance and dinner. Swaroop let everyone assume Shyama was his wife. She was so adept in dancing and engaging in conversation that she soon became the cynosure of all present. She in turn enjoyed all the attention on her while Swaroop turned into an object of envy . By 11 pm everyone moved to the main hall standing in small groups. Many of the participants gravitated to where Shyama and Swaroop were standing.
He could not resist comparing Kusum with Shyama and felt though the latter was sprightly and good in dance, she cannot hold a candle to Kusum who was extremely intelligent, sophisticated and loving. He was feeling a sense of guilt at this crazy arrangement he got into for the party. It was then he heard behind him a gentle voice calling his name. He turned pale in great shock with panic on his face on seeing Kusum darting towards him.
“ I hope you are now happy that I am here. Luckily I could wrench myself away from that boring crowd in my office to be with you,” she said in good cheer even as she snuggled close to him in great warmth.
When others in confusion looked askance at her, Kusum threw a bombshell ,”Sorry for interrupting unannounced. I am Kusum, Swaroop’s wife. Sorry for being late as I was held up late in my office.”
Some wag blurted looking at Shyama, “Arrey, what is this tomfoolery? We were all along given the impression that this vivacious lady is Swaroop’s wife.”
Everyone turned their gaze towards Shyama to her great discomfiture. With her face red in anger and embarrassment, she exploded at Swaroop, “You liar, you told me that your wife would not come. I am done with you. Give me my fee of Rs.3000 as agreed upon and never ever contact me again.” Turning to Kusum, she said, “You are lucky. He was tiring me all through the party talking about you, your graceful demeanour, your intelligence and the deep love you have for him. Fie on him, I detest him.”
There were loud guffaws from colleagues at his gaffe and heartbroken sobbing from Kusum. Swaroop's indiscretion cost him not only the loss of face among colleagues but he had also forfeited the trust among his bosses who were present and left a lingering doubt on his fidelity in the mind of Kusum despite the mollifying words from Shyama.
“Every short-cut has a price usually greater than the reward”