Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Other Woman

If you really think about it, her family had always been unlucky when it comes to marriage. Mahriati was fourteen years old when her father divorced her mother and took in a new wife. She was too young to understand the complications of love and marriage, but old enough to be embarrassed by her father’s behaviour and definitely old enough to resent her stepmother. She didn’t address her stepmother for one year, didn’t call her “Mother”, and when she finally addressed her she called her “Nu Rammawi”. There was no way she was going to address Rammawii, the shameless home wrecker as Mother. She only has one mother, her precious mother who had to go back to her father’s house and live with her elder brother and his family. What she didn’t understand was that her stepmother, who was all of twenty-six years, was just a girl herself, full of insecurities and anxiety, eager to be loved and accepted. Her mother didn’t work, which meant she could not go and live with her in her uncle’s house, so Mahriati and her elder brother Maruata lived with their father and stepmother.

As far as stepmothers go, Rammawii was not so bad. She behaved more like an elder sister, never admonishing them for their teenage tantrums and pretending that all was right in the house when in fact the two children hardly spoke to her. To them, she was still the evil woman who was the reason for their mother’s departure. She tried desperately to win their approval, buying them clothes and little gifts, but all she got in return was a sarcastic “I know you spent my father’s money on this, if I want clothes I can ask him money myself.”

After Mahriati finished her Class 10 exams, her father sent her to Shillong where she spent the next seven years studying. Living away from home made her forget her hatred for her stepmother, and when she went home she was cordial to her, but you cannot say she was friendly. She accepted her father for who he was, and realised that whether she liked it or not her stepmother was always going to be a part of her life. Maruata had gone to college in Aizawl, and at the age of 20 had got married to a classmate, and had a son. The child was barely a year old when his mother ran off with another man, leaving the baby in the care of his father. Maruata had no idea how to take care of the baby, and so it was Rammawii who raised the child. She was delighted, not having a child herself, and enjoyed every moment. The baby changed their lives. He became the centre of their world, and brought the much needed peace in their home.

Mahriati came home with a post graduate degree in Mathematics, and after successfully clearing the NET exam, worked as a lecturer at Pachhunga College. It was there that she met Zamtea, a lecturer in the Mizo Department. She didn’t pay much attention to him in the beginning. They were colleagues and were polite to each other, and they never spoke to each other except for the Hellos and How are yous.

It could be rightly said that they became friends on the day of the staff picnic when he dropped her home. They lived in nearby localities and so when he offered her a ride home she gladly accepted. They talked about the college, the student unions, the professors, and both were surprised at the ease they felt being around each other. There were no awkward silences, no groping around for suitable topics; it was like they had been friends forever. They exchanged phone numbers, and a friendship began that soon blossomed into love.

She would lie in bed and think about him. It was amazing, really, the way they connected. Sometimes it felt like she could read his mind and he could read hers. They could look at each other across the crowded staff room and know what the other person was thinking. A look was all that was required to communicate. They tried to keep their affair a secret, because it would set the gossip mills churning into overtime, and it was not encouraged by the college. Lecturers and professors were supposed to keep a clean image, and should always keep in mind that they were influencing a hundred young minds. It was very tiring, always hiding and pretending not to notice each other. Sometimes she wondered if her colleagues noticed how she never spoke to him in public, how she sat far away from him. She would look at him from a distance and feel her heart bursting with love. She longed to be with him all the time, ached to touch him and just be with him.

Mahriati looked at her reflection in the mirror. She had never felt, happier, more beautiful than she did now. She knew she didn’t have much time. It wouldn’t be long before people discovered their affair, and her reputation would be ruined for ever. She had had a few boyfriends before, awkward boys who didn’t know how to carry a conversation, young men who often expected everything and gave nothing in return, but Zamtea was different. He was ten years older, knew how to make her laugh and feel loved, and knew when to push and when to stay away. He respected her as a woman and didn’t feel threatened by her intelligence, her profession. To him, she was an equal.

She knew that very soon they will have to part ways. Because Zamtea was a married man, married for the last five years to a woman he had known all his life. Though she wanted to be with him forever, she didn’t want to come in between Zamtea and his wife. She didn’t want Zamtea’s children to suffer the way she and her brother did, didn’t want to be the person who divided a family into two camps. She knew all about the anger, the resentment and the bitterness. But for now, she wanted to have him, at least for a while. She was ready to lose, ready for the embarrassment and disgrace that was to come. Didn’t someone say “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”?

She thought about fate, and how we really have no control over it. She looked at her reflection once again, and realised that she had become the person she once hated. She had become The Other Woman.


  1. nice short story, as usual...but it somehow felt incomplete, as if there's a next chapter. maybe there is?

  2. That was quick :) I didn't really plan on having a next chapter, but it's something worth considering.

  3. Coincidence! I was thinking about the same things that you wrote about here- not that i want to commit adultery or anything, but this short story was buzzing in my head about extra-marital affairs.. you write it so well, maybe I think I'll let mine die.

    And yeah, the story seems incomplete because one can't help noticing the lines "But for now, she wanted to have him, at least for a while" How long (or short) is a while anyway... one cant help thinking she's just gonna dig herself deeper and imagine how the story will go on from there..

    Funny how easy it is to point the finger at someone, but when it happens to us, its so easy to find excuses.. whoo, long post. :)

  4. ku2 - Please don't let your story die, let it live and let us read it. I'm sure it would be very different from this one, and very interesting no doubt.

    About this one being incomplete, let me see it I can come up with another chapter. Thanks for reading.

  5. Another great woman-centric post. What I'd love to see is you getting into a man's skin and writing about HIS love experiences.

  6. dr_feelgood - Yes, I do plan to write a story where the main character is a man, although the getting into the skin part may be a bit tricky. But you never know until you try, right?
    So you find this story woman-centric. I must be quite the feminist then. :)

  7. another interesting story.. yet i was surprised not seeing To be continue.. why not expand a little bit and make two or three chapters again?

    And do you know what man used to call the Other Woman (extra-marital affairs)?

  8. Varte - Thanks for reading. A second or third chapter.... let me see.
    And no, I don't know how the Other Woman is called, care to enlighten me?

  9. Simple algebra:
    If she called her step-mother as 'Nu Rammawi' then, she is already 'the other women'. Proved:)(100/100).

    Tak tak a, abids vela secondhand lehkhabu lei peih deuh ho hi chu thawnthu ziah pawh an lo thiam duh anih hi!

  10. Yeh yeh.You Feminists are doing OK. Now you have 33% reservation in the Parliament, you have Women's day, Mothers day etc.You've come a long way from the days of the suffragettes marching for the right to vote.
    I think they should enforce this 33% for Govt jobs, but with a twist.There shouldn't be more than 33% women in govt jobs!!

  11. Zara - mark 100 i inpe tawh sia, i dik ah pawm mai ang :) Abids ah kal ngai tawh lo, inkhawm bana han kal nghal na tur awm tawh si lova (inkhawm ngai chuang lo mah ila).

    dr_feelgood - methinks you is jealous. Don't worry, like one of my friends said "Women have one Women's Day, but men have the remaining 364 days."

  12. Actually its the other way round in my house!!

  13. Good stuff Aduh. Real good. I can relate this to many guys I know too. For guys, it is extremely disgraceful and shameful to cheat with your best buddy's girl. And guys extremely hate that, but a few still end up doing that exact thing...

  14. I like stories like this where there's a little bit of twist, maybe irony, at the end.

    You should consider compiling your stories one day. It'll be a great read.

  15. dr_feelgood - hahahaha I guess that's the same in most houses.

    Kima - Thank you. What kind of guy would cheat with his best friend's girl? The lying shameless immoral kind I guess.

    Tetea - Thanks for reading. I too like stories with sad endings, or endings that make you think and wonder "what if".
    Compiling the stories is a good idea, thanks for the suggestion.

  16. Life is just so complex, isn't it? Thankfully, humans are given the freedom to choose, the will to call a stop even when the feelings gallop towards what's not right. Otherwise, things would be even more messy than they are now. Who knows, many happily & faithfully married men may have behaved like Tiger Woods and others if they had let their feelings carry them away.

    Pretty realistic and convincing story. It'd improve further if you bring in more conversations, me thinks.

  17. mesjay - I know, sometimes you have to restrain yourself from doing what you want in order to do the "right" thing, the "acceptable" thing. Who said life was easy?
    Yeah I have to work on the conversations. Thanks for bringing it to my notice.