The Open Secret

Shweta entered her compartment, placed her bags. Sat beside the window.

She picked up her Daphne Beauchamp book. The story was setting in the Anglo-Indian community of the Doon Valley.  The journey of the three generations, beginning with very British rooted ones to the totally indianized a Punjabi one that emerging. The conflicts of Mahanadi with Punjabi seem to dominate the third generation while the second lived in the comfortable blanket woven by the blending of the white and brown sahib…. “For the kind attention of the passengers travelling by Raniketh express, the train is scheduled to depart from platform 11 at twenty-two hours and thirty minutes as scheduled.”

Shweta put the book down; couple outside on the platform caught her attention.

“It is important that you find Leslie,”

“Hmm’

“You know I am not comfortable with this whole thing. But since it makes you happy I allow you this trip on and off.”

“Well, it helps you  though does it not?”

“As a side effect if I do benefit what of it. You know what you are doing is not right.”

“oh!oh!’

“See please make sure that Leslie comes out, I need to have the book on the racks in exactly three months time. I have not seen the first draft yet.”

The man, of course was pretty well known, the CEO of Seeker Publishers. The past three years he had been on top of the publishing house, Daphne Beauchamp had been his discovery. The rumour mills hinted that the two of them had an affair.

Shweta looked at the woman, she was very elegant, dressed rose coloured caprice with ivory top a string of garnets, the garnets was the only thing different from conventional formal pearls.  She seemed in her mid forties, well kept. Salt and peppered cropped hair. Shweta smiled to herself, it was only the trains to Kumaon and Tehri  you met this fading Anglo-Indian crowd. They for some strange reason seem to prefer trains to flights.

The woman came in, along with her there seemed a man Friday,

“Ma’am aapke samaan rak dhiya hai, aur Kathgodam mein Raju aayega, woh apko Sathkol le jaayega.”

The lady graciously gave him a smile,

“Ab aap chalo sir ko dher hogi, pahunchte mein phone karoongi.” She instructed as she settled in the window opposite Shweta. Gave her a tentative smile…when

“chalo, jaldi, samaan rakho” was loud commanding voice that came in. the owner of the voice followed, bright pink Pakistani, trousers, with 2 inches lace that was visible, over it was a sky blue kurta… very fabindia a blue and pink dupatta thrown across in studied casualness. There style but not the subtle one of the woman in front but definitely it spoke of money and class too. Shweta put her down as Bossy Punjabi Aunty, while Laura Kapoor was the classy Punjabi Memsaab.

“Laurie..Kahaan…kathgodam?”

Definitely the women knew each other.

“Hmm, and you”

“Not  far, Moradabad. I am going to source some stuff, after that its back to Delhi. How many days is your trip”

“10 days, at Sathkol dhak ghar”

“How nice. Anything special?’

“Yeah! Seeker publication has organized a retreat. Peter is a little too busy, I am supervising it.”

“Just check out those Kumaon shawls for me, I think I can do with some in the store and for my wardrobe”  both the women smiled a comfortable smile.

The train moved out and the three of them immersed in their books, the chaiwallah came around, and three of them picked up chai’s… the Bossy Punjabi Aunty(BPA) picked up the book that Shweta was reading.

“Daphne Beauchamp, Laurie it’s your publication isn’t it.”

Laurie Kapoor smiled.

“Daphne, is an amazing person,’ the  BPA was telling Shweta, “She is such a successful author, yet she is so focused on her family, children , church everything. It’s so unlike the wavered  creative people one hears about.”

“I heard her interview on Karan’s show” Shweta retorted. “She and husband Darius Beauchamp they made such a wonderful couple. I mean he ex-military, sports person, so elegant, while she seemed so feminine ’

The three women continued for a while but Laurie Kapoor seemed quite distracted,  somewhere along the line, it time for The BPA to board off the train.  Laurie waved her off, and returned to her berth.

“Betty, is such a strain.”

Laurie picked up the book, and looked at the blurb, “Do you like Daphne’s writing?”

“Yes, it seems so real, yet so different from mine.”

“It is real because it is the life we have all have known. She is talking about every anglo-indian’s life. ”

“But it is so different from what is shown in movies.”

“Of course, in movies we are exotic, in real life we are just another community,’

Shweta let a deep breath.

“What do you like about Daffy’s book, Shweta you said ”

“Yes, I am Shweta. As for Daphne’s book there is so much of personality in her characters they seem so real. When I read about her book I think of a tomboy exploring the hills of Kumaon, walking barefoot. Yet when I see this demure gentle ultra feminine woman I really find it interesting.’

‘One thing Daffy told me was writing is like eavesdropping.’

Both of them laughed. “Where are you off to Shweta if I  may ask?”

“Well, I need to do lot of rethinking so I am just taking the week off to Almora. ”

“Relationship?”

“Is it so obvious?”

“No, but by and large it is.”

“Its just that I was brought up believing in equality, and freedom, once after marriage I realized that it was all crap. I mean, I am expected to ji huzoor, “’

“You know, women are supposed to be submissive, I like to think we are more realistic.”

“Sometimes I think I am a man.  I know Daphne says, she feels like a man when she writes, well she can get away with it, because she is definitely woman I mean look at her, the beautifully kept house… I saw it featured in inside outside magazine. Two lovely kids, handsome husband. If I were to say it, I would … forget would, I have been accused of being male,”

“Hmm… how many years have you been married?”

“15 ” replied  Shweta very distractedly. “And you?”

“Oh! 30 yrs now. Though Peter and I dated for couple of years before that.”

“Wow and you have stayed loyal to each other all these years!!”

“My dear… it depends on what you call loyal”

Shweta must have looked shocked, for Laurie smiled gently and said, “Both of us have had our indiscretions, but before we go huff and puff, we take stock of what is at stack… that probably allows us to turn a blind eye to the other’s discretion.”

“But I feel like a man at times, I notice that women are sexy. Like when I look at the pictures of Daphne I really  get a visual of dim rose hues, I imagine running my hands on her skin which looks so soft and silky.” Laurie looked at Shweta and smiled.

“Young lady it is time to turn in.”

Somewhere the women drifted to sleep.  Shweta was awakened by morning sounds, it was Haldwani a stop before Kathgodam, a porter came round picked Laurie Kapoor’s things, and Shweta woke up hoping to say bye to the lady… when she poked her head out,

“Les, my darling Les” she heard Laurie calling out, she saw her flinging her arms and it was a passionate kiss, of lovers, and when she unlocked Shweta spied her partner Daphne Leslie Beauchamp!!!

Shweta pretended to be asleep.

Exactly three months later,  Shweta received a parcel, it was an author signed copy of Daphne Leslie Beauchamp’s new novel. Laurie Kapoor had kept her promise and sent her the author signed copy.

The dedication was to the “Shweta  and a night on the train…”

The story was hers, with no names changed, just the right amount of spicey imagination blended… the story had not deviated from what she told Laurie…right to her affair with her sister-in-law…

Shweta broke sweat she felt betrayed it was as if someone had stripped her in public.

written for indispire #205 prompt by Maya Bhat

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