SHORT STORY | THE CASE OF THE CHEATING SPOUSE – Part Three

(I)

Qayum Alam: (smiling at his wife’s uncharacteristically mysterious manner) “Where are we going Bats? The suspense is killing me”

Batool: (Awash in a wave of overwhelming anticipation) “Oh, you’ll soon find out. I can only tell you that it’ll be the surprise of a lifetime”

Qayyum Alam (smiling to himself, thinking he wasn’t the only one, after all, who’d been busy lately)

[At the KILLA office]

Batool: “Tum*!”

Qayum Alam: “You!”

Madam J: “Hain*!”

Inamullah K: “Allah khair*!”

Chaddu: “Ji, ji! Bismillah*!”

Batool: (Pointing to Masood Khan who was sitting comfortably in a chair) “What is he doing here?”

Qayum Alam: (To Jahanara who was also sitting comfortably in a chair) “What are you doing here?

Madam J: (To Qayum Alam while adjusting her billowing chiffon dupatta and releasing a petrichor of roses that engulfed the room) “What in the world are you doing here?”

Inamullah K: (Sweating profusely and looking around like a caged hare) “Please sit down. Everyone, please. Let me explain. There was a mistake. A little error … Chaddu sb, will you tell?”

Chaddu: (Standing unobtrusively in a corner, shaking his head vehemently; no he would not)

Batool: (Refusing to sit down and glaring at Inamullah Karamat) “Inamullah sb, is this some kind of a sick joke?”

Qayum Alam: (Sitting down in a chair) “Bats, what is this place and why is Madam Jahanara here?”

Madam J: “Masood Khan and I have arrived just a few minutes ago. To get to the bottom of all this. (Turning to Inamullah Karamat while the bracelets on both her wrists jingled briskly)

Madam J: “So, Mr. Inam is it? Why has your colleague there been taking photos of the guard at my apartment building, Masood Khan here? Not once, not twice but a few times now. Are you planning on launching a modelling career for him or are you voyeurs of some distasteful variety? Hmm? Masood Khan caught him today getting into a rickshaw outside my apartment building and brought him to me. He wouldn’t say much except that there was a meeting today. So we came to see what the fuss was all about”.

Inamullah K: (Still sweating profusely and mopping his face with a large red handkerchief) “I … the thing is madam …” (looking towards Chaddu for some helpful interjection) “Chaddu sb ___?”

Chaddu: (Still standing away from the group, still silent as a tomb, looking studiously at the ballpoint in his hands).

Batool: (Taking matters into her own hands and turning on her husband who was now sitting near the other man) “I know you’re having an affair QA!”

Qayum Alam: (Perplexed and confused) “What? Have you lost your mind Bats?”

Inamullah K: (Having given up trying not to sweat up a storm, the perspiration now flowing in sopping rivers down the front of his shirt) “If you will just let me explain __”

Batool: (Reddening with frustration and indignation) “I have photos! (Turning to the sweating sleuth) “Inamullah sb, the photos!”

Inamullah K: (Pulling on his suspenders, unconsciously facilitating the even flow of his secretions down the entirety of his shirt) “The thing is Mrs. B … the thing is that the photos are definitely of this guard whom your husband used to sit with. Yes! there is no mistake there”.

Inamullah K: (Losing steam and looking desperately around for inspiration and courage to continue. Catching sight of Madam Jahanara’s beatifically smiling face) “The thing is Madam, your .. err … Mr. B sat with the guard waiting for Madam Jahanara to finish her morning classes. Singing classes. So he could get his singing lessons. She’s a great singer!” (Smiling foolishly while pulling out a second handkerchief, this one white, like a flag of surrender, and mopping his face again, looking just a tad hopeful about this nightmare ending).

Qayum Alam: (Throwing up his hands in exasperated defeat) “There goes my anniversary surprise!”

Batool: (Still standing rooted to the ground and still red and wrathful) “What singing classes? What about my husband having an affair with the guard? (Pointing to a bewildered Masood Khan) “With him!”

Qayum Alam: (Finally shocked and stupefied) “An affair? With Masood Khan?!” (Now watching his wife for signs of a mental breakdown) “Bats my darling have you finally lost your marbles? (Then looking around) “What is this place?”

Inamullah K: (Having finally stymied the outward flow of his life force) “Sir respectfully, we are KILLA. We have been private investigators and settlers of truth for …” (looking at Qayum Alam’s darkening expression and deciding it was a good time to let the situation play itself out while keeping his marketing spiel and his investigative findings to himself).

Madam J: (Tinkling like bells while raising a pudgy hand to hold it daintily under her chin while looking at Batool, her whole posture one of barely contained mirth) “An affair! Oh dear!” (Laughing now full throatedly while the scent of roses floated delicately around her).

Qayum Alam: (Also seeing the comedy of errors, joining in the laughter).

Inamullah K: (Attempting a few sporting grins but each time being almost masochistically drawn to Batool’s face which had morphed into a Mughal battle field complete with stampeding elephants and red eyed soldiers with murder on their minds. Immediately tamping down on any lightness of spirit he might have called upon, and looking straight ahead with mouth pursed as if about to painstakingly whistle).

Batool: (Finally sinking into a chair. With Masood khan forgotten, now looking at the diva sitting in front of her, unsure for probably the first time in her life of what to say) “The messages! The texts! Laila!”

Qayum Alam: (Placing a hand on his wife’s arm, still looking for her missing marbles) “Laila?”

Batool: (Collecting herself) “The laila with whom you wanted to do your dil diyan gallan!”

Qayum Alam: (Looking stunned for a moment, then placing both hands on his wife’s indignant shoulders) “Those were the songs I was rehearsing for our anniversary. Madam Jahanara was coaching me. It was a surprise. I was going to sing them for you. Layla by Eric Clapton and Dil diyan gallan by Atif Aslam”.

Batool: (Lost for words again. Then instinctively) “You spelled it L.A.I.L.A. That’s L.A.Y.L.A …”

Qayum Alam: (Trying hard not to laugh) “I never was good at spelling darling” (then looking at his wife’s face as she slowly, hesitantly changed mental gears and began fitting the offending blocks of information into their non offending places. The laughter that had been bubbling up in the pit of his belly came booming out again, pulling at his tear ducts on the way).

Madam J: (Chortling along gaily).

Chaddu: (Still standing in the shadows chuckling abashedly).

Inamullah K: (With its intended purpose served, pushing white-flag handerkerchif back into the pocket of his trousers) “What a blessed ending. What a blessed ending”.

Qayum Alam: (Standing up and pulling his wife into an embrace) “Oh darling bats, dearest darling, batty bats!”

(II)

Batool Alam:

The thing about love is that it makes you do the strangest things with the best of intentions. Old love like ours; young love like in the movies, in the face of adversity (real or imagined) it all rallies in the same way. I would not call what happened a misadventure, I told QA. No, it was an irrefutable testament of my loyalty and devotion to our marriage of 40 years, and counting.

Speaking of money, Inamullah Karamat offered me a 50% discount seeing as how fictitious his “facts” had turned out to be. I was very much of the mind to retrieve the original 50% too but QA thought it was a fitting 40th anniversary gesture of magnanimity. I hrmphed noncomittally, letting my husband have the last intelligible word this time. He had earned it.

The annivaerasy party is 3 days away and QA has persevered with his singing lessons. I insisted of course; it’s not important how you start an enterprise, but how you finish it, as someone has so aptly said.

Of course, I can’t speak for the croakiness he might visit on the world when trying on a melody. Time will tell, because his audience definitely will not … thankfully. That reticence would be yet another wonderful social foible: being compassionately tone deaf and unfailingly appreciative of the host. At least to his face. I too will probably have to keep what my ears hear, to myself; after all, he is going to be giving Eric Clapton and Atif Aslam a run for their money just for me.

But when all is said and done, we will have been together for 40 years and nothing on that day could spoil that abiding fact.

That dear readers, is how this story ends, quite fortuitously and for the betterness of all. (I looked it up – that is in fact a word, and what a charming word it is).

Read Part One here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2022/08/09/cheating-spouse-part-one/

Read Part Two here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2022/08/11/the-cheating-spouse-part-two/

* Tum: You in urdu.

* Hain:
a colloquial expression in Urdu indicatin puzzlement and confusion.

* Allah Khair: “May God protect us” in Urdu.

* Ji, Ji, Bismillah: Ji = “Yes/ Ok” in Urdu. Bismillah = “may god endow this event with his blessings” in colloquial Urdu.

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