The Girl in a Champagne Yellow Dress

Jishnu was sipping his drink slowly, trying to look attentive. He was in an important meeting with an international client of his advertising agency along with the entire senior team. It was a briefing session for the forthcoming launch of an AI-enabled Bluetooth speaker that their client, a global audio company, was set to launch. As the national creative head of the agency, Jishnu had an important role to play in presenting the entire creative strategy but somehow, he just couldn’t focus on the discussions, even though he was the one who set up the dinner meeting with the global Marcomm head who was flying through Delhi. This campaign could give him the breakthrough he had been waiting for, take him to greater heights in the creative fraternity of the ad world.

But Jishnu was not himself that evening. Tara’s harsh words were reverberating in his ears, “I am sick of waiting for Jishnu, I am leaving.” She stormed out of the apartment even before a stunned Jishnu could react. Beautiful, whimsical Tara, who dumped him once, got back again, saying he was all she wanted. Though Jishnu was completely taken aback by her sudden change of heart, he chose to believe her, took her back no questions asked. Tara came into his life like a gush of a warm breeze. It was not easy to deny Tara; she was stubborn and strong-willed and got what she fancied. They were insanely happy for a while, till things started going downhill again.

Lost in thoughts of Tara, battling conflicting emotions of rage and a sense of loss, Jishnu’s eyes wandered to the table in the corner. Sitting on that candle-lit table all by herself was a girl in a champagne yellow dress, and something about her looked very familiar. She was sipping wine and taking small bites from a plate placed before her. Jishnu looked again and was transported back to a late spring evening when he and this girl were drinking beer, talking and laughing. She was wearing a yellow dress that evening as well, lemon yellow, Jishnu recalled.  He met her at a party at a colleague’s place. She had just moved to Gurgaon then and was still getting used to the ways of the city – a city that could at times be very cultured and at times rude and rough. “Chandrima has joined a PR agency in Gurgaon,” said his colleague introducing them. Like moonlight, Chandrima’s quiet beauty and natural grace lit up the room the moment she walked in. She was born on a full moon night; Chandrimalater told Jishnu.

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Jishnu was immediately drawn to her. That was a few months after Tara had unceremoniously dumped him the first time after a brief tumultuous affair. He was still smarting from Tara’s rejection; he had agreed to come to the party to take his mind off that painful affair. The serene beauty of Chandrima was in stark contrast to the wilfully attractive Tara. Her poise, warm smile, soft but assured voice drew him to her. Unlike Tara who was a spoilt daughter of a rich father, Chandrima was an independent and successful career woman. Since Chandrima didn’t know too many people at the party she was glad that Jishnu was keeping her company. As they started talking, they realized they had a lot in common. Jishnu offered to show Chandrima around the city over the weekend, she agreed eagerly.

They met on Saturday, Jishnu drove her around for a while. As Gurgaon doesn’t have much to offer besides malls and pubs, they ended up in a popular pub in Cyber Hub. A few glasses of beer further added to the ease of the conversation. They were talking as if they had known each other for a while. Chandrima had lived in Mumbai all her life. She wanted to get away from the city, especially her family, to try living on her own. Fortunately for her, a position opened at the Gurgaon branch of her agency. Jishnu, pretty much a Delhi boy, moved to Gurgaon to avoid the long drives to work every day and of course for his own independence and space. Though he told Chandrima a lot about his family and work he somehow didn’t mention Tara.

That evening, after a long time, Jishnu was happy, as if the heady sweetness of Chandrima’s company had drowned the bitter after-taste of Tara. He couldn’t sleep that night, he kept thinking about Chandrima, her sharp sense of humor, soft laughter, most of all how beautiful she looked in the semi-darkness of the pub. The next morning, he wanted to call her but held himself back. His experience with Tara made him wary and he didn’t want to rush things. He kept thinking about Chandrima through the week though he didn’t call her. Perhaps the strong attraction that he felt for her scared him.

On Saturday morning Chandrima’s call woke him up. She wanted to go around the city, ‘would Jishnu care to join?’ she asked. They enjoyed a beautiful afternoon together, met again on Sunday and kept meeting frequently. One night while dropping off Chandrika, Jishnu kissed her gently. Shyly and happily Chandrima kissed him back. Soon they started spending time in each other’s apartment. Though they were very much like a couple in love, none of them ever uttered the L word. After a few months, an opportunity opened for Chandrima to work on a prestigious project in the US. Though Jishnu knew that he would miss her terribly he encouraged her to go. “But you must call me every day, no matter how late,” he said. “I will,” promised Chandrima as she left for New York.

Chandrima called every day, she shared pictures from different cities. “Once she’s back, I will tell her how much I love her,” Jishnu told himself. Then one day, a month or so after Chandrima left, he got a call from Tara. Though he didn’t respond initially Tara kept calling. “Typical Tara,” mutteredJishnu as he took the call to avoid curious glances of his colleagues. Tara was hysterical, “Jishnu please, please meet me this evening,” she kept pleading and sobbing. They agreed to meet in a coffee shop that evening. When Jishnu reached, Tara was already waiting for him. “I am really sorry; can we try one more time. I love you so much.” “No, it’s over Tara,” said Jishnu curtly. A hysterical Tara and held his hand, Jishnu took her home to avoid a scene in the coffee shop. As soon as he closed the door Tara threw herself on him with so much passion that he just couldn’t resist her.

When Chandrima’s call woke him in the morning, he found Tara sleeping next to him. The night of wild passion flashed before his eyes, he silenced the ringer and put the phone down. Tara moved in with him the next day. She was like a force that he could not deny. He didn’t take Chandrima’s call the next day as well. “Travelling, crazy schedule, will call you back,” he messaged.

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Tara promised to make up for the last time and she was true to her promise. She was chirpy, vivacious, her laughter and pranks lit up Jishnu’s apartment. Jishnu realized he never really got over Tara. She had taken up a job in a design studio in Gurgaon. In the evenings she would cook for Jishnu. Cooking was Tara’s passion and she loved to experiment with different cuisines. To Jishnu it seemed like Tara had never really left.

Meanwhile, his phone calls to Chandrima became less and less frequent. He blamed it all on his hectic work schedule. Soon it was time for Chandrima to return. Jishnu was supposed to pick her up from the airport, he told her he was traveling for a shoot. He promised to get in touch the week after. Unsuspecting Chandrimadid does not ask any questions.

Jishnu felt terrible about lying to Chandrima. Guilt was eating him up. He knew he had to tell her the truth, he just didn’t know how and when. Finally, he mustered enough courage to call Chandrima on a Saturday morning. “Hey, can we meet me in the pub in the evening,” he suggested. Only too glad to hear from him, Chandrima agreed. On reaching the pub he found Chandrima waiting, glowing in a lemon-yellow dress. She talked happily and excitedly about her time spent in the US. Seeing her after so long, Jishnu forgot the purpose of his visit. He got carried away by her soft laughter and happy conversation.

When he got home that night Tara was already asleep. Jishnulay awake next to her, with a feeling of restlessness and guilt. On Monday, before entering the office, he called Chandrima and told her about Tara. Chandrima was silent for a while. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”, she finally asked, holding back a sob. “I am sorry, I didn’t know what to say,” muttered Jishnu. Chandrima wished him well and hung up. The hollow silence hung over him for a while.

Life with Tara was perfect. They were so much in love, there was so much fun and laughter that he soon forgot Chandrima. A year flew by. They started talking about marriage. Tara decided to quit her job and take a break for a while.“Why do you want to quit? You’ll get bored,” Jishnu gently protested. “Oh, I will have a lot to do,” laughed Tara. Soon enough Tara started getting bored, she had too much time in hand and she was not good at being alone. She kept calling Jishnu during the day, pestered him to come home early. It became difficult for Jishnu to give in to her demands, “There’s too much happening at work, there are launches lined up,” He tried reasoning with her. But Tara has never been reasonable. Every other day she would throw tantrums, pick up fights. Tara was very much in love with Jishnu, but she could only love by putting herself first. Their relationship started going downhill. Jishnu was too busy, too irritated to try and reason with her.

One day when he reached home, he found Tara in the middle of the living room with her suitcases packed. “What happened? Where are you going?” asked stunned Jishnu. “I have had enough. I am sick of waiting for you Jishnu, I am leaving,” yelled Tara as she started picking up her bags. “Tara wait, don’t do this please,” urged Jishnu. Before he could finish the sentence, Tara was out of the door.

The sonorous voice of his client talking about the speaker brought Jishnu back to the present. He looked at Chandrima and wondered how differently his life would have turned out if he hadn’t given in to Tara. He let out a soft sigh of regret. “But why is she alone? Is she waiting for someone?” Chandrima looked content, enjoying her food and wine. There was no sign of impatience or restlessness in her behavior. After a while, she got up and started walking towards the tablewhereJishnu was seated, or so he thought. Jishnu couldn’t take his eyes off Chandrima, their eyes met briefly. There was a flicker of recognition, anger, reproach in Chandrima’s eyes that made Jishnu shrivel. She looked away, crossed the table, walked towards the door and left.

(Written by Sumana Bhattacharya)

About Sumana –

Sumana Bhattacharya is a PR practitioner by profession and a writer by passion. Her style is simple, she likes to write about things she feels deeply about. In her writings, she sometimes draws from her experiences of having grown up in a small town, Agartala. She has recently started a blog The Retro Feeling, that stems from nostalgia – longing or twinge of guilt for days gone by or left behind. She is an ardent reader of poetry, fiction, and mythology.

Sumana is a post-graduate in English from Hyderabad Central University. She works for a PR agency and lives in Gurgaon.

*Featured Image by Bruno Cervera

This story first appeared in Storizen Magazine January 2020 Issue!

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