Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic . . . umm and a closet alcoholic (Book Excerpt) by Chitrangada Mukherjee

Quirky, honest, and always relatable, Secret Diary… chronicles a year in the life of a recently widowed thirty-year-old woman, Madhubala Ray, who copes with what life has thrown at her in her own distinctive way. Men, wine and vodka are never too far from her lips as she nurses a wound whose best medication seems to be time. Or is it? Madhu is one of the most achingly and frustratingly real characters you’d have read in a long time!

Chitrangada Mukherjee was born and raised in the scenic north-eastern state of Tripura. She post graduated in History from the Presidency College in Kolkata, a city which made her a thinker. A love affair resulting in marriage brought her to the south of India, where she worked as a tele-caller, teacher, news reader, soft skills trainer, quiz show hostess, and content writer.

Five years ago she decided to leave her cushy IT job and embrace motherhood. While at home, she started to introspect about her true calling. She found it in writing. For her writing is akin to exercising–if she doesn’t write for a day, she ends up releasing negative hormones in her body.

Apart from writing and reading, she loves listening to music on her headphones, grass walking, and gazing at the ocean. Chennai is her home now, where she lives with her six-year-old daughter and husband. Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic is her second novel. Below you can read an excerpt from her book, Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic . . . umm and a closet alcoholic. Courtesy: Fingerprint.

An excerpt from Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic . . . umm and a closet alcoholic by Chitrangada Mukherjee

January 1, 2016

Friday

 

11 am: It’s been a month. Of hiding. Avoiding. Despairing. . . . With intermittent suicidal tendencies.

This morning, while browsing idly on my mobile, I bravely googled how to die painlessly. A step-by-step instruction popped up on screen, making it a bit difficult . . . you know, to muster courage and die.

Disconcertingly casting my suicidal tendencies aside, I poured red wine and vodka—on some days I do both—without telling her. My mother-in-law. She lives with me, is about seventy, has long jet-black hair, and no place to go. Her daughter has her family, life, and sanity to look after. After all, an old and extremely opinionated woman—she counters arguments and speech with unshakeable silence—can’t, for all understandable reasons, be anyone’s priority.

Lalita Pawar—that’s her name. No, no, wait, that’s not her name. I call her that. Shit! I’ve forgotten her name. What was it? Hemlata, Barnalata . . . Mahasweta? Fifties’ kind of name that Bengali women used to have . . .

Anyway. Things have been bad. Like real bad. Since December first. The school where I work gave me a month to recover and re-join.

“Fit as a fiddle. In a month,” Mr Subramaniam, our muffin-topped principal, who likes to talk in silly similes, had whispered, as he sat cross-armed across the large wooden desk in a small, musty room. He only whispered when he wanted to be taken seriously. Or when things were serious.

“Okay . . . s-sir,” I had murmured.

“Good.” He had then smiled and let me go, not looking at my breasts—this time.

Picture Credit: Fingerprint

Picture Credit: Fingerprint

I hadn’t broken my bones in an accident nor had I been diagnosed with Dengue. My husband, for God’s sake, had passed away. A month back. Leaving me to live. Survive. Go through all this shit alone.

So today being the first day of the New Year and all, I had decided to stand up. And wax it. My upper lip. In the large and plush salon few metres away from my apartment. First thing in the morning.

However, my high hopes of turning into Princess Mia had evaporated once I took one good look at the mirror. For unfathomable reasons I had ended up resembling a sixteen-year-old teenage boy, who had just had his first shave—after the wax!

I thought I had done the smart thing by opting for upper lip wax, instead of threading through my

woman-moustache. Even the young and slim north-eastern girl had nodded in agreement when I had suggested a wax, which had made me take an instant liking to her.

She was so funny. She had roared in laughter when I had let out an aaaaahhh while she mercilessly ripped the white cloth off my face, scaring some of the masked aunties, and on-phone working girls—getting their legs waxed and simultaneously tackling their concerned-about-safety and hyper-about-marriage moms.

After paying hundred odd bucks, I had returned home feeling worse than how I had felt in the morning. Right after Pintu’s call.

Earlier in the morning. 8-ish.

Somewhere in between paranoia over missing a stair and finding I don’t have legs in the first place, I heard a shrieking bell. Leaping up from bed, I found a room with white walls and a large turquoise wardrobe. I sat on a bed that felt familiar. Staring blankly.

It took me some time to snap out of it and find my mobile phone, which was ringing obnoxiously. I had forgotten to put it on silent last night. Blame it on the red wine infused dementia.

“Hello,” I said groggily, fighting morning breath.

“Happy New Year, babes!” a male voice boomed.

“Pintu?” I cried.

“Who else! You naked?” he said.

 

“N-no,” I mumbled.

“You are. I know you don’t wear any when you slee—” he continued in a jeering tone.

“Long time. How are you?” I cut in hastily.

“Blushing, babes? I know you are,” he said, breaking into laughter.

“Happy New Year!” I wished, almost shouting. I needed to divert his mind and do it quickly.

“Are you sure? Happy, really, babes?” he said and stopped laughing.

“Ya-no. Not happy,” I conceded.

“You’ll be, though. Because I—”

“You’re coming. When?” I asked.

“Tomorrow,” he announced dramatically.

“Oh . . . great. But why suddenly?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.

“Seriously? You don’t want to see me?” He sounded hurt.

Well, Pintu can read my mind. We’ve known each other since the time he sat in class staring out of the window, dreamily digging his nose. And I swooned over a cute senior at school—a wannabe rock star and my demi-god.

“I do want to see you,” I said with enough stress, hoping this would undo the damage.

“I know, babes. Put on your sexiest outfit and meet me in my hotel at six, sharp. Will ping the address,” he ordered and hung up.

Pintu’s impending visit had been reason enough to scare the daylights out of me and send me marching to the parlour. I certainly didn’t want him to take one look and go: “Wow. That’s new, babes. A stubble!”

1 pm: Hair out of the way, I started to ruminate about the sexy outfit. Not that the outfit needed to be particularly sexy. Because last time I checked Pintu was in love with Sujit—an uncannily beefed up wannabe model-actor, and Brishti—a doe-eyed married woman with a disinterested husband. At the same time.

After rummaging my wardrobe for hours, filled with saris, salwar-kameez, dresses, tees, and jeans, I found nothing to wear. Each garment in my closet triggered a colourful memory though. I saw Pyare making love to me; taking me to late night movies in our red Figo; surprising me with dinner dates; stopping the car to kiss; arguing sweetly why chicken hariyali was so much better than tandoori chicken as the bored waiter looked on . . . And I broke down, weeping like a child lost in a large departmental store.

Alternating between muffled sobs and staring blankly at the wall, I sat for hours. Until someone knocked, hesitantly. Slowly standing up, I dabbed my cheeks and opened the chocolate brown wooden door that separated my room from the rest of the apartment. Lalitaji, resplendent in a fluorescent green and pink printed sari, stood like a monk—blouse less. She didn’t wear one at home.

“Maa?” I muttered.

“The owner called. Rent,” she said, looking through me.

“When?” I was suddenly hit by a wave of panic.

“Yesterday,” she said calmly.

“Shit, shit . . .” I cursed. “Did he sound angry, irritated? Urgent?” I rambled.

“I’ve some money in the bank. About a lakh,” she said casually.

I suddenly got this urge to kiss her dry and creased lips, but my logical mind pulled me back.

“U-uh. Thanks,” I said with gratitude.

“When does your school reopen?” she asked, peeping into my room.

“Day after tomorrow. I can join by tenth,” I said, blocking her vision with my body.

“Take bath and eat your lunch,” she said turning away, like she’s done dealing with a sick child. And for a moment I wondered how she was taking it. How does an ageing mother who loses her thirty-two-year-old son in a freak accident and is forced to live with her daughter-in-law take anything?

She sat on the black leather couch and turned the TV on. A Bengali channel came on. Pretty women in gorgeous saris got angry, jealous, worried, and disheartened by incredible situations.

Switching the geyser on, I stepped into the bathroom. A long, hot bath. Maybe that’s what I needed . . .

 

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