Priya Jaipal-Tandan (PGP 1971) has worked as a Marketing Research professional and Manager for 40+ years, in India, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and across Asia-Pac. She has also done volunteer work with the Samaritans in Singapore and Mumbai, and is partially trained in Psycho-Analysis at the PTRC, Mumbai. Now retired and a brand new grandmother, Priya still enjoys sailing and raising Siamese fighting fish among other things.
Sita Kapoor, middle-aged, sharp-nosed and gimlet-eyed, attended an aerobics class. This was a class designed for ageing folk with a variety of ailments. Sita had an awkward walk, as though her hips had been replaced by rusty steel hinges. Her hair was dyed an obvious black. Short and curly, it framed a pronounced lantern jaw. Small, dark and lethal looking, she had a wary, measuring look whenever she spied an object worthy of her predatory instincts. She was the invisible moral leader of the group, and spat out her pronouncements in a ringing tremolo, easily penetrating any female chatter.
She and her coterie did not like the teetotalling new girl with the alien dress code and athletic movements on the aerobics floor. At their annual event, an evening at the mall bar, she moved in for the kill. With her eyes rolling in her head after a couple of neat vodkas, she screamed “tu bachchi jaisi peeti ho!?” They, her coterie, took the new girl outside, onto the balcony, away from the glare of the crowds and light. One of them, gnarled fingers encrusted with rings, took out a small vial from her jewelled purse and tipped it in to a glass of soda and handed it to the new girl. The new girl stood up, picked up the glass of soda and walked away, saying in a muffled voice, “Yes, l drink my liquor like a girl child!”.
All week long, the new girl avoided Sita and her coterie in the classes. There was no need for conversation or eye contact during an aerobics session. Then, one morning, Sita walked in wearing fancy Ray-Ban, and when she took them off, they all saw the angry red welt under her right eye, the disfiguring swelling of the eyebrow above.
‘Unmistakeable!’ thought the new girl. ‘Drunk abusive husband, right hook to her head last night.’ The silence reverberated through the class, among all those surrounding Sita – condoning, sheltering, supporting, understanding? But above all, unspeaking.