When Raj had stealthily installed the iSpy 200 Vision Plus device on his wife’s prescription glasses two weeks ago, he had no idea the device would enable him to watch and hear from her perspective—in a way, relive—her last day alive. It was this morning Raj had received the Bluedart courier with the pen drive containing the recording of the last day of Mira’s life—her first and only day of wearing her glasses with the iSpy installed—just before the horrific car accident in which her car had been hit on the rear by another fast-moving vehicle; the Police believed it to be a truck or a bus. Mira’s Ford Endeavour had spiralled out of control and plunged into the river beside the road where she had drowned before she could be rescued. When her car had been pulled out, Raj had collected her things including her glasses and sent them to the technical facility of the iSpy Corporation in Mumbai, where the team had extracted the audio and video recorded on the device and mailed the file to Raj on a pen drive along with a hefty cheque for their services.
Taking a deep breath, Raj poured himself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc—which also happened to be Mira’s favourite wine—for he needed his courage for what he was about to do. Three large gulps and soothing warmth in his throat equipped him the nerve to plug in the pen drive and click on the folder dated July 24th, 2021. Wondering what their sixteen-year-old daughter Heena would think of this blatant breach of his wife’s privacy, Raj pressed the play key.
The world came into focus with dainty hands with black-painted fingernails placing the glasses over a nose. The camera panned to the left and focused on the other side of the bed where a portly man lay sleeping with his mouth slightly agape. Raj watched the laptop screen with his heart racing as Mira leaned closer and kissed his bearded face before wrapping her gown around her body and proceeding towards the bathroom. He paused and watched the affectionate gesture again, frowning. He must have been fast asleep because he didn’t remember his wife kissing him in the past three months, not since his near-fatal heart attack. Was there a corner of her heart that still loved him even though she was cheating on him?
Raj shrugged the thought away and taking another sip of the wine, resumed playing the video. In the bathroom, Mira placed her glasses on the bathroom sink while she proceeded to undress and step into the shower. For a few moments, Raj hated himself for lowering the laptop screen—this wasn’t why he was spying on his wife and somewhere in his heart, he knew he was violating her privacy after she was dead, which made it worse—but then he lifted the screen once again to watch his wife bathing, still as glorious at forty-three as she was twenty years ago when they had first met. Raj couldn’t credit her genes for her fitness levels for her two sisters were both overweight and looked ten years older than their age. The credit was all Mira’s—she loved swimming in the clubhouse and sweating it out in their backyard with her ten-kilogram kettlebell. With a twang of shame, Raj glanced at the tyres of fat around his waist, which made it impossible to see his feet without leaning over. Maybe he deserved a wife who cheated on him; after all, he had completely let go of himself over the past ten years—a factor, his doctor proclaimed, had contributed to Raj suffering a massive heart attack at forty-six despite having no history of heart disease.
Mira put on her glasses as she emerged from the bathroom and got dressed in a navy blue suit for her office meeting—each Monday she had a meeting with her boss, a man she detested but tolerated because it allowed her to provide for her family. As she combed her long, wavy hair and effortlessly styled them into a chignon, Raj caught his own reflection in the mirror on the bed behind her—a middle-aged, unshaven, unemployed man perched on the edge of the bed, wistfully watching his beautiful and successful wife, who was everything he wasn’t. Did he feel resentful towards her? Was it her fault she had done well in her life while he had simply failed at everything he tried? Was it love that still kept them together or was she only with him for the sake of their teenage daughter?
“I’m going to be late today,” she said without glancing at her husband. “Today’s the last date for the submission of the RFP response and Khanna would expect me to finish it before I finish my day.”
“How late?” he asked desolately.
“Late,” she said firmly, giving him an icy stare. “Eat your dinner if I’m not home by eight. I hope you can manage to feed yourself and Heena.”
It was more of a statement than a question.
Raj heaved himself from the bed with much effort. “Let me get breakfast started.”
“I’ll eat in the office. Anyway, I can’t eat anything before my Monday morning meeting, you know that.”
Through the camera, Raj saw his own sorry figure as Mira grabbed her purse and laptop bag and left the room without another word to him. She paused by their daughter’s room and after a perfunctory knock, opened the door and stepped in, closing the door behind her. Raj remembered sticking his ear to the door, eavesdropping on their conversation, but all he had heard were some muffled noises as though they were deliberately trying to keep their voices down.
It had started two months ago when one night, Raj had woken up to find his wife’s side of the bed empty and loud arguing noises coming from their daughter’s room. As he had tiptoed to Heena’s room, he heard his wife yelling.
“Do you know how old you are?”
“I’m sixteen. I’m not a child anymore!”
“You’re just sixteen. You’re still a child. You cannot do this!”
“I can and I will!” the daughter had argued back.
“I forbid you.”
And on and on the argument had fired back and forth between mother and daughter until Raj had stepped into the room and both had frozen and then sputtered an apology for waking him up. Docilely, Heena had apologized to her mother and Mira had embraced her daughter, but Raj had sensed that it was just a temporary ceasefire owing to his heart condition and the real issue between mother and daughter was not yet resolved. When he had probed about the subject of the argument, both had dilly-dallied without giving him the truth. While he appreciated their concern for his health, Raj wanted to be part of important discussions affecting their daughter and wasn’t happy with being left out.
Now he watched keenly as Mira stood facing their daughter, Heena who was still in bed as it was early for school.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Mira said warmly.
Heena, a scrawny sixteen-year-old girl with crazy curly hair, mumbled a good morning from under the covers.
“I was leaving for office. I wanted to talk to you before I go,” said Mira, sitting on the edge of the bed.
Heena sat up on the bed, rubbing her eyes. “Yes, Mom. Is everything okay? Is Dad okay?”
Raj’s heart swelled with happiness at the concern he heard in his daughter’s voice for his health. While not the most affectionate or expressive person in the room, Heena did show her love occasionally through her gestures.
Mira sighed deeply. “Your Dad’s fine. He’s recovering, you know. We can’t let anything stress him out.”
Raj thought Heena looked away guiltily at her mother’s words.
“You know what I’m talking about, right?” Mira pressed on.
“Have you met him again, outside classes?”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m sure, Mom.”
Mira’s gaze dropped to the bedcover and her delicate fingers smoothed out the covers. “I know you went to his house on Friday.”
Heena’s expression was that of a deer caught in the headlights.
“I... I.... I went to his house to say goodbye,” she stammered.
Mira’s sigh was deep and audible. “I want to believe you, really, I do. But I can’t. You’ve broken my trust, Heena.”
Heena was now almost in tears. “I’m so sorry, Mom. But really, I had gone to his house for the last goodbye. I’ll never see him again, except at school of course, where I can’t avoid him.”
“Good. You know, once your Dad is better, we’ll do something to fix this problem permanently.”
Heena’s ears perked up at the suggestion. “What do you mean, Mom?”
“I mean, there’s more we can do to fix this problem. I don’t want to do anything right now because of your Dad’s precarious health, but once he’s better...”
At this, Heena threw the covers and jumped out of bed. “You can’t punish him, Mom. It was my fault as much as his. Promise me you won’t do anything...”
Mira rose, placing the strap of her laptop bag across her chest. “I’m not promising anything, sweetheart. Let’s talk about our options in a few weeks’ time. Until then, if you see him again outside class, I’ll know right away.”
Heena stared at the wall clock behind her mother’s head. “I won’t see him like I promised.”
Raj’s mind galloped to process the new information he had learned about his daughter. She had a boyfriend, apparently a boy from her class. Was that the reason for the strife between his wife and his daughter or was there more, he wondered as he fast-forwarded the part of Mira’s day where she attended her Monday morning meeting with her boss and worked in the office. Everything about the exchange surprised him because he was the over-protective parent, constantly worrying about every little thing regarding their daughter, while Mira was more of a liberal parent, who allowed Heena to experiment and even encouraged mistakes. Even though he thought it inadvisable for young people to date before eighteen, what Heena was going through was completely natural and expected. Why had his wife freaked out so much on finding out about Heena’s boyfriend?
Resuming the video from the point where Mira got into her Ford Endeavour after leaving office, Raj watched keenly as she checked her freshly applied lipstick in the rearview mirror and used her dainty hands to smooth her hair and tuck some wild strands behind her ear. She turned on the ignition and began driving in a direction opposite to where their home was located.
When the Police had questioned Raj about where his wife was returning from that fateful day, he had surmised that perhaps she had taken a detour to the market to shop for something for their daughter’s upcoming seventeenth birthday and maybe she had liked something but wanted to discuss with her husband before buying the gift. Raj wasn’t quite sure what had prevented him from sharing his suspicions with the Police that his wife was probably having an affair and was returning from a rendezvous with the other man—it was probably as a token of respect for their eighteen-year-old marriage and consideration for their daughter that Raj had kept his suspicions to himself.
With rapt attention, Raj watched the curve of the river hugging the road and the familiar city roads zipping past the fast-moving vehicle. As he expected, the car moved through the south city market and towards the residential area next to it.
Mira parked the car behind a dented Mahindra XUV500 parked in the parking space and stepped out with her purse over her shoulder. She rummaged through her purse for something and apparently not finding it in there she leaned into the car, opened the glove compartment and extracted a pepper spray. With the pepper spray ensconced in her purse, she marched to the front door and rang the bell. The pepper spray confused Raj. If she was going to meet her lover, he’d have expected her to be rummaging in her purse for something other than a pepper spray.
The heavy brown door was opened by a balding man with horn-rimmed glasses on his nose.
Mr. Sehgal? Heena’s physics teacher? Was Mira having an affair with him? She detested the man and had even argued with him over some marks after the first term examination results. Nothing made sense.
The man’s face deflated on seeing the visitor. Raj thought Seghal looked shocked to the point of being afraid on seeing Mira.
“Surprised?” said Mira. “Why? Were you expecting my daughter?”
“I... umm... I... I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man stammered.
“I know you’ve been having a romantic relationship with my underage daughter.”
The man inhaled deeply. “I have no idea what you’re talking about...”
“I have proof—those letters you wrote to her. I found them and I immediately knew they weren’t written by a boy but by a grown-up man! How could you do this? You’re at least fifty years old. You disgust me.”
The man’s nostrils flared with fury. “Listen, you can’t come to my doorstep and accuse me of something I haven’t done. You need to leave,” he said, beginning to close the door.
Mira’s ring-studded hand stopped the door from closing. “I am leaving. But not before I warn you to stay away from my daughter. If you try to talk to her outside the class again, I’m going to inform the Police. The only reason I haven’t already contacted them is that Heena begged me. She begged me to let it go and...” Mira paused.
The man was peering from behind the half-closed door with his narrowed eyes. “And what?”
Mira sighed deeply. “And nothing. I’m not calling the Police right now because of my husband, who is ill. I don’t want him to know about this mess. But if you contact my daughter again, I’ll have no option but to call the Police.”
Raj’s world was spinning around him. So this was what the mother-daughter arguments were about. Now that he realized what had happened, it made perfect sense. Why then had his mind jumped to the conclusion that his wife was cheating on him and the reason Heena was arguing with her mother was that she had somehow found out about her mother’s affair? How could he have been so naive to jump to a disturbing conclusion based on a mere happenstance? The only thing Mira was trying to do was protecting their daughter from the paedophile and protecting her sick husband from the stress of the situation. The sudden onset of guilt at suspecting his innocent wife of cheating on him and violating her privacy made Raj sick in his stomach.
Having half a mind to close the laptop screen, Raj continued watching what was probably the last hour of his late wife’s life. Soon, she would be on her way back home and her Ford Endeavour would be hit on the rear by a vehicle that would send her spinning towards the river and to her death. Things seem to be moving in slow motion as Mira delivered the final threat to the physics teacher and leaving him with his jaw hanging, reversed her car out of the driveway, turning around towards her home. As she drove on the highway next to the river, Raj kept his gaze on her rearview mirror, his heart racing. If he was lucky, he’d be able to view the plate number of the vehicle that had hit his wife’s car and hand over the evidence to the Police. With his heart in his throat, Raj watched several large vehicles on the highway approaching his wife’s car and some of them overtaking it. Resisting an urge to tightly shut his eyes, Raj continued watching the last few minutes of his wife’s life. What must be going on in her mind at the time, he wondered. He regretted not telling his wife how much he loved her and how much he appreciated her supporting the family especially since he had lost his job. He regretted every harsh word he had said to his wife, every missed opportunity to appreciate her, each occasion he could’ve been kinder to her. Thinking of their arguments and every time he had raised his voice at her made him burn with shame. Was this his punishment for not living a purposeful life, for not living deliberately but just drifting along the currents of everyday life?
Raj sat bolt upright as he saw a vehicle he recognized approach his wife’s car from behind. This couldn’t be right. Why was the man following her? Raj knew the answer to the question a split second before he saw Sehgal ram his Mahindra XUV500 into his wife’s car and send her spinning towards the river. Water engulfed the world around him and he saw the bubbles of air escaping his wife’s mouth and nose as the water pressure shattered the windows and rushed into the rapidly sinking car, drowning its only occupant. At some point in time, the glasses drifted away from Mira’s face and through the camera, Raj saw his wife’s face for the very last time. Some of the guilt that Raj felt for violating his wife’s privacy was washed away with the knowledge that he now had the evidence to bring his wife’s murderer to justice. Wiping the tears from his eyes, Raj closed the video file and picked up the phone to dial the Police.