An excerpt from the book, Love in the Time of Affluenza by Shunali Khullar Shroff.

I nearly fall face-first into the meat section at the supermarket today. As a vegetarian, it’s especially surprising. But I see I’ve gotten ahead of myself here, so let me start at the beginning.

The driver is off sick, so I have groggily done the school run at the crack of dawn. While I’m driving back experiencing a glow of pride at having managed to not kill myself and my three children, the cook – who thinks I work for him – rings to dictate an urgently needed list of provisions. I turn into the first mall I see near their school and head towards Green Bazaar to find arborio rice and shiitake mushrooms and just as I’m walking in, I
see someone who looks exactly like my friend Trisha.

Spotting a friend at a supermarket isn’t usually this suspicious a happening, only Plaza Mall isn’t anywhere near Trisha’s house and also Trisha is to domestic errands what Donald Trump is to environmental conservation. In addition, while she’s given to a bit of bling, why on earth is she wearing red lipstick with her Lulu Lemons this early in the morning? I wave to say hello, but she doesn’t see me and turns into another aisle. I go towards the aisle and am about to call out when I see a man in a checked shirt – quite possibly made from a French tablecloth – move towards her, put his hand on her back and whisper something into her ear. Trisha responds by throwing her head back and letting out a volley of such merry giggles that either he’s the funniest man on earth or she’s flirting with him. The man taps her jokily on her head with the baguette he is carrying and that unleashes another torrent of giggles. And then when I see Trisha turn in my direction, I do the only thing I can – I dive behind the closest aisle where I find myself nose to nose with a bag of frozen chicken thighs. I realise I haven’t missed meat, having left it about five years earlier. I peer out to see Trisha and the mystery man’s back walking down the Bath & Shampoo aisle, with him trying to hold her hand and she, belatedly remembering that she is married, yanking it away and looking left and right in the manner of a woman who’s really bad at having an affair.

Spotting a friend at a supermarket isn’t usually this suspicious a happening, only Plaza Mall isn’t anywhere near Trisha’s house and also Trisha is to domestic errands what Donald Trump is to environmental conservation.

I make a dash for the tills to pay and leave before being spotted by Trisha and Tablecloth Man but on seeing them emerging from the baked goods aisle facing me, I’m left with no choice but to abandon my basket, shiitake mushrooms and all, pull out my phone as if receiving an important call and run out of the supermarket. As I scurry to my car, heart thumping loudly, it occurs to me that it’s a bit much that I’m the one hiding and not the woman cheating on her husband. And also, how dare she does not tell me? I mean, it’s one thing to lie to your partner but
to the person you call your best friend?

Driving out of the mall, I take a deep breath on hitting the main road and ring her from the first traffic light I hit. I’m not especially surprised when she does not respond – too busy giggling, I’m sure. God, I wonder how long this has been going on. Or if she just randomly met this man at the supermarket. No, that would be too weird. I have theorised to the point of exploding by the time a message from her flashes on my screen five minutes later.

Can’t talk, at the dentist. xx

The dentist? Really Trisha, is that the best you can do? I take another deep breath. I’m going to wait for her to tell me. There’s no point getting involved, no good can come of it. The next thing I know I’ve pulled up on the side of the road.

No problem. Just wondering if that man that I saw you getting cosy with at the supermarket was your dentist???

No response. I think of the colour draining from her face and while I’m still totally bewildered, I have a little smile on my face.

I get home and ask Shambhu to bring me a cup of coffee. Clearly, this is a situation that demands drugs, and caffeine is about as exciting as it gets in my house. Shambhu asks if he should take the groceries out of the car. I have no idea what he’s talking about till I remember the basket abandoned at Green Bazaar. ‘No groceries,’ I tell him, ‘there was an emergency.’ I can’t believe he’s bothering me with questions about food at a time like this. He brings the coffee out on a tray and I’m about to ask him why he hasn’t served my almond milk along with the coffee when I remember that it too was sitting in that basket that got left behind. Damn you, Trisha!

She eventually rings some twenty minutes later.

‘Hello?’ I say, icily.

‘Natasha don’t be mad at me. I…I can explain,’ voice faltering.

‘What’s left to explain? I saw everything with my own eyes. And then you tell me you are at the dentist’s! Why would you lie to me, Trisha? Why, Trisha, why?’ I say. I know I’m prone to being a little dramatic sometimes but I think this conversation calls for it.

Picture Credits: Bloomsbury India/ Shunali Khullar Shroff

Excerpted with permission from Love in the Time of Affluenza by Shunali Khullar Shroff, Bloomsbury India.

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