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She stared at her made-up face.

Her reflection at the full-length mirror stared right back at her.

“Not bad, not at all.”

Especially for someone above 45.

‘Kirti Ma’am, this colour really suits you, and with such a gorgeous look, you don’t seem a day over 35.’

The woman at the parlour had remarked, after applying a rich shade of burgundy on her hair.

A soft smile lit up her face at the mere thought of a name, Pranit.

The 6 feet, bespectacled, handsome hunk, who of all the ladies in the bank, chose me, she wondered.

Yes, but then, she has always been known for her personality

She had fallen for it all, his admiring glances when she entered the bank, the way he stole looks at her and the SMSs.

The one that started for her—the day she was late.

A simple message—“All is well? I got worried”.

It was a long time since someone really worried about her.

And the day she wore that orange sari, he sent her the image of a rose on Whatsapp.

He is just a friend, she chided herself.

You are 45 and he is 33.

No, he is not yet married, but you are. For a good 19 years.

And you have a 16-year-old son to prove it.

True, but for her family, she is just a giver, who does everything without any expectations. Praise, applause and admiration simply don’t exist in the dictionary of Satish and Shuvam.

A month back, Pranit joined the bank where Kirti works as a personal manager and the chief told her to teach him the ropes.

It was no big deal when he was assigned to her. The young Probationary Officer needed to be groomed and readied for the slaughter house, i.e., the bank.

And she was the best person to train him. Kirti had been living in cloud 9 since then.

She had groomed a lot of people who joined the bank before him. She has always been an asset to the company, valued by everyone for her people skills, her intuition and her judgments.

But Pranit was different. He hung on to her every word, making notes of what she said and did.

The tall, fair and handsome North Indian guy’s style and mannerisms caught Kirti unawares.

Simple hellos were followed by regular small talk over tea. Those led to shared lunches.

They enjoyed long leisure lunches in the office, mostly cooked by Kirti in the mornings and fruits provided by Pranit along with profuse compliments on her looks, culinary skills and her attractive persona.

All this made Kirti happy.

Pranit instantly understood her humour. In fact, once she heard him remarking to the assistant:

‘Ma’am’s husband is a lucky man. It is great to have a life partner who has this great sense of humour, makes life interesting.’

No doubt, these days she looks more at her smartphone than the TV while watching it.

No doubt she compares her 53-year-old engineer husband with that comfortable paunch with the suave, sleek-looking Pranit.

No doubt, she is getting up too early in the mornings to prepare the luncheon spread to be taken to the office.

No doubt, she has invested a good amount in a world-class hot case to carry the tiffin and keep it piping hot.

But, Kirti is happier than before.

Someone has made her feel attractive, wanted and cared for, after many years.

 

Excerpted from the story The 40s, part of the anthology Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas, selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 and now available on the Juggernaut app here.

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