A Rainy Day I Still Remember

Backdrop:

Being from a newly opened engineering college, there were no closed campus recruitment drives in our college and we had to appear for open campus only. Each open campus day due to the happenings of the day or the people I met, became a memorable event. This day is one of them.

The LnT rule and TPOA:

It was 10 September 2006. Lnt Technologies had an open campus at Medicapps Institute of Technology. The criteria of the company were 60% plus aggregate and no backlog at all. Most of my friends could not fulfill the second criteria. We discussed our concern with the assistant TPO. She was stubborn by nature and if someone pointed out her mistake, she would just misinterpret the rules to prove herself correct. The usual happened.. She said that we are misunderstanding the criteria and however, we have only few companies for which we are eligible. So either go for it, or go to hell. “Anyways, none of you are going to clear even written test! So why bother about criteria.. ”- she blurted and smirked.  Though it was a demoralizing comment, we were enough demoralized already to mind it. We nodded our heads in consent. Of course we wished not to clear the written test. Why to waste a whole day when we knew it’s not going to be fruitful! .Moreover, appearing for this one and not getting selected will add one more failure to our long list of rejecting companies. I didn’t even wish to go for it. But then thought it would be better to curse our fate in group instead of cribbing on it alone. Yes, campus recruitment, particularly written test, were considered as a matter of sheer luck by us considering multiple factors associated with it.

Luck/Badluck

Halfheartedly, I reached the venue. It was a sunny and humid day. We completed the formalities and appeared for written test which was to be followed by 2 interviews of selected candidates. After finishing the written, we all were in a mood to leave for home.  It was 7th or 8th company and most of us have not cleared a single written yet. Still, no one wished to clear this one. Me along with some friends went to my friend Neha’s house for lunch which was at 2 minutes driving distance.  During lunch, everyone was discussing that how they don’t wish even by mistake to clear the written. My performance here was poorer than those tests which I didn’t clear.  I said- “Itni buri kismat to kisi ki bhi nahi ho sakti yar ki is company me written nikle jaha kuch hona jana nahi hai!”. Just then, the phone rang and my friend informed me that I have cleared the written test. Only I was misfortunate enough in our whole college to clear this written! Before I could think of whether to go for next rounds or not, my another good friend Ruchi quickly finished her lunch and picked the scooty keys to drop me at Medicapps. The moment we hit the road, it abruptly started raining heavily.

Furious drive in rainstorm

It was raining cats n dogs and Ruchi was driving her scooty in a frantic speed on a busy highway in such a heavy rain. The showers were very strong, almost blinding us. We were stupidly staking our lives for the sake of an interview. By the time we reached college campus, we were completely drenched in water. I entered the room to fill some forms, but raindrops were draining all over me and the form was getting wet. Moreover, I was shivering becoz of cold, my teeth were clattering badly and I was unable to utter or write a word.  The volunteers were calling to submit the form and go for the interview. My friends came for rescue. One completed my form, other pasted my photo on the form, third one explained whole situation to the TPO and volunteers and postponed my interview for an hour.  My friend Arpan took his car and rushed in that heavy rain all the way to my home – atleast 40 min distance- to collect my folder and stuff. My senses had gone numb.  I was not getting what is happening around me.. It was just 10 minutes passed after I had uttered that ‘buri kismat’ sentence.

Philosophies of a drained mind

There I was..I was myself in trouble and was troubling people around me. And all of us knew this is not going to be fruitful. Still, my friends are taking so much pain for me. I am shivering, sneezing and same was Ruchi’s condition.. she took all this pain for my sake. She was driving that way to get me to the venue asap. Vinay, Arpan, and all other friends of mine, were running around to get my things done, why?? I had only drown in despair on seeing failure till date, but never learnt to overcome it. Do I have that generous heart that in spite of my disappointment  I could help someone? Or am I courageous to an extent that knowing the futility of attempts, I’ll give my best? My brain went overdrive thinking that that’s my fate..being a loser always and being the reason of pain for my loved ones. And look at them.. so selfless.. so caring. Tears welled in my eyes. Just then, a volunteer came with a cup of coffee. I regained my senses after having hot coffee and I realized there is no going back.

In few mins, I received a call from our TPO assistant that if asked, I should not tell to company delegates that my TPO knew about that criteria thing. Instead, she insisted me to tell company delegates that I lied to her so that I could get the hall ticket. Also, she added that anyways I was not going to get selected, but if I tell delegates the truth, our college may be blacklisted and that will be bad for all of us. When I told my friends, all were filled with anger. However, there was no time for all this. I was called for company pre placement talk by a volunteer.

The volunteers were all our batchmates from Medicapps who were already placed. And I must say, that was the first college where I found them so friendly and polite. They were all trying to comfort me with their words and were really helpful beyond expectations. Looking around me, how everyone was doing their bit for my success, I chuck negativity and decided to give my best for the interview.

My friend Vinay stayed there till my interviews so that he can accompany me till home as it was far. After clearing the technical round, I told the company delegate about my backlog which was cleared in previous sem. He was cool and said HR only can take a decision. I was called for HR round and a very angry delegate stated that I wasted their time and I was wasting mine. I was prepared for this. I said I have proved that I am no less competent than those fulfilling their criteria by clearing all these rounds. He said they don’t want to promote a bad practice and I was told to wait outside.

End of chaos

Now that all the tension was over, I wondered how I missed to notice the beauty of this place.  Rain had stopped and evening shadows were casting over the beautiful campus. The plantation there was balmy and freshly bathed. Few raindrops were dripping from the bright leaves when mild breeze touched the plants. Aroma of wet soil and plants was adding to the serenity of that environment. The campus which was filled of hubbub few hours back was almost empty now and I could listen to my footsteps. The cloudy evening sky, the bright white campus building, my surroundings all were kind of glowing with the golden yellow hue slowly blending into twilight.

That day was a strange mix of ups and downs, positive and negative, hope and submission, faith and disbelief. I closed my eyes breathing in the soothing air and absorbed in the tranquility. Dear God, I thought, what was this day about? Walking on the pathway, I saw a tiny sapling between two tiles  which was very likely to be crushed under passerby’s feet. Again I thought, God, when this plant is not destined to live for more than a day or two, why gave life to it? Anything that is not going to attain completion, why it even happens at all?

Epilogue

Results were soon announced and I was not selected. But whenever I look back at that day, all I remember is my friends’ unconditional support, who all were there for me, no matter what. And the helpful volunteers, some of whom later became my friends.  And the day rebuilds my faith that there is more good than bad. And that I will be glad to be and strive to be one of such people. And that everything happens for a reason…to teach us some lessons, or to value what we have, or to value what we are going to have in future. Some moments inscribe themselves on the leaves of our memory, and all such moments together make us the person we are. It is the journey that matters, not its completion, and that is what life is all about…That was what that day was about.

All my friends, you all are very dear to me and hold a special place in my heart. No matter how often we talk, no matter how distant we are, no matter we are in touch or not…you all played a special role in my life and made me the person I am. Thank you for that and I treasure all of you.

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The Fear of Loss

How do you feel about the fear of loss..a frequently recurring fear of losing something or someone deeply loved or needed?

Mommy is making phone calls here and there in the neighborhood. All servants are searching for Icy everywhere. And I am whimpering, sobbing, feeling helpless..again. Icy disappeared again..

–X–

Icy, my snow white kitty, my parents gifted it to me on my 13th b’day. One month old kitten, a cuddly white ball of fur with tiny winy pink nose and a pink ribbon around its neck was sleeping in a basket. I screamed with joy and the toy like baby cat slowly opened its icy blue eyes. Yeah Icy was the perfect name for it..umm.. for her.

Soon she became a darling of everyone. But no one loved her more than I did. No one could ever love her more than I loved her. I knew that.

My room walls were adorned with our snaps. I had a cupboard full of her toys, her dresses n ribbons. Icy was my best friend, my sister, my kid, my life. My classmates were no good. None of them was my friend. They made fun of me. They thought I am maniac; I am obsessed about my pet. I never cared. All I cared about was my Icy, my only friend. We grew up together. I understood her and she understood me as well. There was just one thing I could not understand about her.

Since few yrs, she had developed this strange habit of running away, disappearing all of a sudden. First time when she ran away, I woke up to find her missing from my bed. I searched for her madly in every nook and corner of house, on terrace, in the bushes of front garden, calling her name madly. My voice rising in anger, then breaking in sobs, as she was nowhere.. nowhere in the house. All the servants left their tasks and went looking for her in the neighborhood, and failed to find her. I was crying and crying all day long. Mommy was trying to soothe me. I could not eat that day.. as I was worried about my little Icy. Where was she!! She must be hungry. We always ate together. She won’t eat anything unless I feed her in her blue-white bowl. Blue was her favorite color, I knew that. It is my favorite color too. My classmates say that animals can’t see colors. They are mad. I know more about Icy than anyone else. But I could not understand what made her run away. There was no trace of her.

Daddy returned from his work. He also tried to pacify me, then called few neighbors. Ohh.. that was the most difficult night of my life.

My little angel.. where was she!!!! May be the front gate was left open, and she escaped. May be some vehicle hit her.. may be a group of dogs attacked her… ohh no noooo…………..

I was so worried and so helpless. Every now and then I got up from my bed and looked from the window if I could find her somewhere. In the early hours of morning, when I was lying on the couch in an uncomfortable nap, I heard her purring. There she was.. she jumped from my window and came running to me. Ahh.. she was back. I hugged her tightly and tears streamed down my eyes. I thought, she must be hungry n frail, but no, she was perfectly good. There was no sign of any wound on her. I was relieved at first and suddenly felt angry. Here I was, feeling so miserable.. and there she was.. having fun!

“Where were you??” I shouted. “Tell me.. where were you??? TELL MEEE” I shrieked hysterically

She just mewed softly rubbing her neck on my knees.

One of our servants suggested that may be she went in the search of a prey, a mouse or something. From that day onwards, I made it a point to serve her a wide variety of food. Fish was her favorite, I knew that.

But donno why, one day she escaped again, and a neighbor found her after 2 days in the adjacent street. This became her habit. Every time she escaped, I added few things to her already luxurious life. Mommy and Daddy cannot say no to anything I demand. I bought her so many toys, beautiful ribbons, lots of bowls. Everyone took care, not to leave any door or window open from where she would escape. I gave her so much attention and love. Everyone made fun of me, being so obsessed with her. I never cared about anyone but her.

But how ruthless she is! She never understands how much I love her, how much I suffer when she disappears like this! Sometimes she returns by herself; sometimes, someone finds her and brings back home. But she never understands how difficult it is for me to go through this again and again. How exhausting it is, to keep looking for her frantically, waiting helplessly, whether she would return to me or not.

–X—

“Raina.. I m sorry baby. No one in the neighbourhood saw her.. I’ll send someone to search for her in the abandoned house nearby” Mommy said.

I turned to face her, with my eyes red and puffy. “Mommy, why she need to do this all the time!! WHYYYY” I screamed

Days passed one after the other. It was 3 days, I could not find her. Like always, I was painfully thinking whether she would return this time or not. So lonely, so miserable..

–X–

“Raina.. Rainaaaa…” Mommy came calling me, with Icy in her lap.

All my exhaustion and anger vanished with a sight of her.

“I saw your naughty kid playing in the front garden. She is impish.. teach her some manners Raina..” mommy said laughing and handed her to me.

“Icy… ” I shrieked hugging her and dancing up and down.

“Why you do it to me baby.. Why u run away like this!!” I sniffed and sobbed silently and as always she purred and scratched me playfully.

“You know how much I love you. I’ll get you everything you want. But please, don’t do it again. Don’t you love me?” She mewed and softly jumped in my lap. I caressed her furs, cuddled her and tried to explain her.

“You are my only friend Icy.. I feel so dejected when you behave like this. Just tell me, why you go out? I love you so much baby.. Please don’t do it again”

Again..yes, I was repeating the same things again and again. The things I say to her every time she is back. I don’t know she understood or not. She fell asleep in my lap, looking so innocent, that I had to trust her.

–X—

Dead silent at home.. Eerily chaotic expressions on everyone’s face..

 Icy found dead in daddy’s car today morning. She died of suffocation.

Everyone is quite baffled at how she was locked inside the car. Daddy interrogating with servants.. Mommy is sitting beside me.

They are so much worried about me.

Daddy promised me to bring another lovely kitty in few days and left for her funeral. Mommy not left my side for the whole day.

She talked to me about most trivial things in the world to distract me from her death.

She was trying to appease me, trying to make me feel relaxed. But I was so much at ease.

No one knew how she got inside the car.. except me.

–X—

The previous night..

She fell asleep in my lap, looking so innocent, that I had to trust her. But I knew, she would betray me again. She would never understand. I was so much tired of this miserable feeling. I realized that I don’t fear of losing her, I am afraid of the anguish and pain of the uncertainty of her being in my life. I fear of the torture and suffocating feeling, which her sudden disappearance brings to me.

She was sleeping. I took her with me and locked her inside daddy’s car. I was watching her from the stained glass car windows.

She woke up uncomfortably. Just like I do when she runs away.

She was feeling suffocated, she restlessly moved inside the car, scratching the seat and the glass window.. just as miserable as I feel when she abandons me..

She mewed, shouted, cried.. just like I feel during an endless wait for her.

Then.. she lay silent.

Now she can never run away. Now I no more fear of losing her.. I killed her……

–x–

P.S.: This is my first attempt to write a psycho-thriller-suspense kinda story. Waiting for your feedback 😛

Spicy Saturday Pick

Somewhere Around Us

(Posted upto Episode VI)

Just a fiction..however, as it goes, a fiction is somewhere inspired from the reality. The characters and the events are all taken from somewhere around us.

I was helping my wife Radha who was enthusiastically dragging luggage to the front door. She was so much looking forward for this trip. We were going to visit her hometown. It was the occasion of her dearest cousin’s marriage. Kartik called us thousands of times to ensure we’ll be there at his wedding. Radha was happily telling my mom about her plans on this visit, each word falling with zeal.

Also, there were endless instruction that were repeated many times before;  mom and dad told us to take care of each other and of luggage. Radha was insisting my mom to take medicines on time and get Dad’s blood pressure checked regularly and told my dad to keep a check on sugar intake of mom etc etc. This was our first occasion to part for so many days. Dad blessed us and with teary eyes, my mom gave me a big hug and a bigger hug to Radha. I guess mom loves her more then she loves me.

Radha wanted my parents to come with us too. But the three of us were not keen on this. First reason, and the reason I told to Radha was that my parents won’t be comfortable travelling with the BP and diabetes. And real reason was that I was not sure whether they would feel comfortable with her relatives.

It was first time after our marriage, almost after 2 years, that we were going to visit for a family function. It took lots of efforts to convert our love to marriage due to caste difference. We had the consent and blessings of our parents; however, one cannot please everyone. There were few relatives from both sides who were against this marriage, and that created some bitter memories. Just after our wedding, we shifted to Singapore and since then, this was the first invitation from her relatives. And then, it was Kartik’s big day.. We had to be there.

Radha is just one month elder to Kartik, and they are more like best buddies. Among all her cousins, he was closest to both of us. She is highly pampered only child of her parents. But her bond with all her cousins is very strong. Kartik once told me that she used to be the most admired and affable child in whole clan.

Her eyes were dancing with memories as she kept talking about her family throughout our journey. I was glad to see her so happy.

–X—

We were here, and Radha was overjoyed to meet her parents after a long time. We had spent nearly one week preparing cuisines and purchasing gifts for the family and right now all of it was on display.

An aunty from neighborhood appreciated the stuff and with a wide grin, said to Radha’s mom “Bhabhiji, it will be a costly affair to gift your son-in-law. See, they’ve bought you so much……….”

She trailed between her words, as Radha interrupted with a frown. “Why? We don’t need to have business like relations with our own children, isn’t it aunty!“

“Whatever you say Radha, but it is our custom either not to take any gifts from daughters, or to return twice as much”, Radha’s mummy said.

“Specially married daughters!”, asserted aunty.

“But you can accept gifts from your son, rite mamma?”, I poked into their conversations and all the ladies looked up at me. “So here I am! Your only darling son!!”  Radha and I looked at each other with a smile.

“It seems good to listen, but quite impractical”, aunty said and mamma nodded.

“Why mamma? Radha loves my parents and looks after them just as she does for you. You taught her to treat her in-laws like her own parents. Then why can’t I treat you like mine?”

This is one of the problems in our social mindset.  A girl’s parents have no right on their own daughter’s life. On the name of various customs and giving gifts on some or the other occasion, they have to pay back continuously, just to ensure the happiness and security of their daughter. This greatly impacts the self respect of a girl. She cannot share any responsibility of her parents and moreover imposing burden on them just because of her existence.

On the contrary, even if a son sacrifices a lot to diligently fulfill his responsibilities towards his family, he is mostly taken for granted.

Whenever my parents or elder sister appreciate me or Radha, they always receive replies stating that what’s so great in that.. it’s a must do for them.

Though, things are changing at their own pace. I hope this thing will never bother the next generation.

Episode II

After our two days stay at Indore, four of us were heading to Rewa. That was the actual home for her.  Radha and her parents lived there with their joint family, till they shifted to Indore 7-8 years back. Radha had got admission in one of the best engineering colleges in the state, but her family was not willing to let her live in a hostel. Finally, it was decided that her parents will move along with her. After an year, Kartik also moved with them to pursue his studies.

“Sameer, please don’t cross question anything there ok?” Radha was repeating the do’s and don’ts for me and disgusted with the same stuff, I nodded, “Yes Ma’m, I‘ll behave like a good boy.”

She chuckled,  “I am sorry Sameer, but that’s the way my family is.. It may sound odd to you right now. But once you will get along with them, you will like them. And one more thing…don’t talk to me in front of elders.. and….” she paused

“Get that typed in an instruction booklet; I’ll refer to it while meeting your people. Now I am not listening.” I said covering my ears and teasing her, and she threw a cushion on my face with mock anger.

Her family was a traditional and conservative family, totally opposite to mine. Her dad is youngest among three brothers and one sister.

There was a set of protocols which was carried generation after generation in her family. None of them dared to speak or do anything against the will of her grandparents and bade papa or any elder in general. On the name of obedience and respect to elders, there were a lot of weirdest rules. Well I found them weird. May be because of my upbringing, which was in a totally opposite environment.

Radha and I, we were brought up in entirely different backgrounds. Our thought process differed a lot, in many aspects. It was, now I think, a chain of coincidences that we met.

It was my drop year and I was aspiring and preparing hard for admission in one of the IITs or at the least any NIT. With my scores last year, I could fairly expect that. With full preparation, hope and faith, I appeared for IIT and AIEEE. However, the results were not according to my expectations. I missed the chance to get into IITs. I was desperately waiting for the EEE results. But there was not much difference in the marks than what I scored last year. I could not get the branch of my choice in any of the NITs because of my low score. I was highly disappointed at that time. All my efforts in the past year were wasted. I was regretting taking drop. Most of my friends had completed one year in engineering colleges that were better than what I could get now with my scores. My parents and sister encouraged me and tried to convince me to take admission in the NIT at my hometown Nagpur itself, but I was not quite willing to take a branch I was not interested in. In the midst of all the confusion and depression taking over me, I got my branch in this college, which was not an NIT, but was good and known as one of the best engineering colleges in MP. And I moved to a hostel in Indore, a place which I never thought of in my dreams. During first few days, I remained grumpy and self centered. I was angry with myself, and had just one determination- to study hard and make up for the loss.

There I met Radha, who was so happy and cheerful to get a chance to study in this college. She was one of the few people I had friendly terms with. The reason was that our roll numbers were consecutive and she was part of my practical group in almost all the labs. Else for the whole first year, I was dull and silent, quite opposite to my nature.

Now I ponder what if! I would have never met Radha If I could get admission in some other college. I would not have been in the same batch with her had I not taken drop. Moreover, I may not have talked to her throughout the engineering if our roll numbers would not have been consecutive, which were alphabetically arranged.

I wonder how meticulously, God brings together two utterly different strangers from different corners of the world, allows them to know each other and ties them in a strange bond; the miracle called love. And then He enjoys the drama, the turmoil in their lives, the emotional struggles of convincing themselves sometimes or convincing others.

Time was pacing and now it was final year. I could not realize when she became a vital part of my life. She was a part of my small friend circle in college. And she was very different from my imaginations of a life partner. Similarly, I was nowhere in her criteria of an ideal spouse. We had a different set of hobbies, thoughts and ideologies. But when we were together, the time seemed to fly. We enjoyed each others company.  She had always been my best friend, my guide and adviser. From very beginning, she knows exactly what to say when I am sad or angry and she easily cheers me up. In the same way, I make out very well how to bring a smile on her face whatever be the situation. We needed each other in every joy and sorrow. Life with her was millions of memorable moments. I missed her when she was not around, sensed some emptiness in her absence.

Many a times, I denied my emotions towards her, tried to effort fully push her thoughts aside.  I reminded myself a thousand times about my aims and ambitions and sometimes scolded myself for paying attention to such stupid thoughts. Yes, it was stupid to spend hours thinking when I was supposed to study hard and crack a good company. I did not even know what she felt for me. Sometimes I felt ashamed that I am mistaking her caring and affection towards me.  I even thought that I am hopelessly confusing the friendly fondness with love. There was only one thing I was sure of. She was one of the most important people in my life and I wanted her to be with me always, whether as my friend or my spouse, I didn’t care. I could not afford to lose her.

And I was feeling short of time as it was final year. I could sense some changes in her behavior which was may be due to the weirdness of my behavior towards her. It was difficult to share this thing with anyone in our group. My daily prayers to God were a funny blend of contradicting wishes. “God please help me concentrating on my career and remove any distraction in my mind. And please in any way, let me know if she is the one. Hint me something please. And don’t let her thoughts interfere my preparations…I want to crack the best company in placements. And please God, see if we can get placed in the same city…”

After failing to crack first two companies, I was quite pessimistic for the third one, which was known for it difficult technical rounds. But I don’t know how, I was selected!

Jumping with joy, I informed my parents and partied that night with my roomies.  I was delighted to know only two students were selected in that company – Radha and I! My joy was doubled! I could not hide the hyper happiness while congratulating her. Overwhelming with God’s grace I could not stop myself from thanking Him. Thank you God! She will be with me even after the college… thanks a lot! Was this the signal I was asking from God, I wondered.

On shifting to a new city Pune and adjusting to a new environment, we two were the only support for each other and our bond grew stronger.. What else do you look for in your life partner other than the unconditional love and understanding? Almost 1 year passed this way.

It is difficult to find someone in this crowd who touches our heart and soul, who adds joy to the life, who shares all sorrows and enables us to see and work beyond our potential. It is so difficult to find someone whom you love and who loves you back. If one gets to meet such a person in life, it’s worth to cross all the barriers, to fight for it.

Yes.. she was the one, my soul mate! It took a long time for me to realize. Though Radha felt the same way, she denied it, as she knew her family’s reactions to this. I was sure and confident about my parents and was expecting that since I earn well, look decent and belong to a good family, they will happily accept me.

But it was too much for her very conservative and well-known family, to marry her outside the community. I did not know how to even approach her parents. My parents came for rescue and agreed to officially approach her family.

When she talked about it, her parents strongly opposed. When rest of her family came to know about this proposal, they were mad with anger. Her uncle stated that this was the reason they were not in favor of giving so much independence to girls. Her family clearly thought that she misused the privileges to study and to live independent.  My sister Shruti didi and Kartik was trying to mediate and offered so much support.

There was yet another year of pain and struggle, waiting and longing. But up there, He had already written our destiny. We were meant to be together, crossing all the hurdles, and we are together now. Rest of her family was quite unwilling but her parents accepted me happily.

Radha was very sure, that once her family gets acquainted with me, they will like me. I got along well with her parents, due to time we spent collectively. But I was feeling nervous as well as kind of stupid before this visit to her extended family. It was almost two years; I was trying to persuade myself. I could just hope that dust must be settled now and they will accept me without any resentment. And then there was Kartik and many of her cousins who were in touch with us, and were looking forward for our visit.

I repeated all of the Radha’s instructions in my mind as we neared her grandparents’ huge house. Com’on Sameer! For the sake of this delight on Radha’s face, prove yourself..all the best to me!

 

Episode III

Our train was late and it was sunset by the time we reached there. The sky was adorned with hues of red and gold and the exhaustion was soon relieved by the soothing breeze. There were sounds of children playing in the streets, chanting from some distant temple and occasional calls of roadside vendors, still there was a kind of serenity and I felt a sort of inexplicable attachment with this place. I was able to control my heartbeats and gain composure by the time we reached her house. It was huge and spacious. The fragrance of incense sticks burning near “Tulsi” and the scent of recently watered grass and earth filled the atmosphere.

The house was lively with lots of people. With the sound of opening the gate, few children came running and ran back announcing our arrival to all. Radha was glancing her surroundings as if trying to recognize them. The golden sky reflected in her glowing face and her throat tightened as we saw her family approaching to welcome us.

Radha and her parents touched feet of all the elders and she was unable to control her tears as her grandmother hugged her. I stood stupidly in dilemma of what-to-do-next. Kartik signaled me which woke me up from the trance and I bowed to take blessings from her grandparents and other elders. As I straightened myself, I noticed all the eyes on me. After few icebreaker questions, everyone was engrossed in conversation, the talks about wedding arrangements, about future daughter-in-law and her family and  occasional remarks to Radha that she’s changed a lot.

I wanted to impress Radha by proving that I recognized all her family members;  And was trying to map the names and faces with the photo albums. There were her grandparents, then her bade papa, badi maa, their children Aditya, Swastik and Sneha,  Aditya’s wife Garima bhabhi, their son Ashu, then her tauji and taiji, their children Kumar and Kartik, Kumar’s wife Suchitra bhabhi, then her Dad’s sister, Sunaina bua, her husband, then her daughters Siya and Gayatri. Her family, no.. now our family,  is really big! Besides all of them, there were other guests too.

We were in constant touch with her cousins so I soon found myself comfortable in that group. Specially Kartik and I had a lot to talk about as we both spent our college life at Indore. We were recalling all the late night tea sessions at Rajwada during examinations and PL, the bike trips to Khandwa road, multiple cuisines and a lot more. Our chat was interrupted  as mamma, means Radha’s mom called Kartik and asked him to tell papa to put that suitcase in that room. We obeyed instantly and helped papa arranging the luggage.

At dinner time, all the men sat for eating while women were serving. While eating, Aditya Bhaiya said “Ashu tell your mother to serve water”. There was no need for Ashu to repeat the sentence and Garima bhabhi served to all. Then I recalled the protocol- not to talk to your spouse in front of elders and I could not hide a grin. That happened many a times and I found it really entertaining and amusing!

At night, Kartik, Siya, Radha and I went for a walk. Both the girls were engrossed in some conversation totally ignoring us. Radha was talking in her usual express train speed, as if trying to save pulse on an international call. Interrupting them, I said “Kartik tell your sister to look at that tree, such beautiful leaves”, said I.

Kartik laughed, “No need of this much respect for me atleast bro” and Radha snapped back, “Don’t act oversmart, ok!”

“No no, I must follow the rules. I should r-e-s-p-e-c-t everyone. Kartik, tell your sis that I am doing wat she told me a 100 times”, I said teasing her

“Don’t you dare make fun of my family”,  she shouted. “And you Kartik, stop grinning like a monkey”

“Siya, tell ur didi to behave herself and talk softly on road, u know she is supposed to respect everyone. ”

“Oh, plz jiju, she is right, u are makin fun of our family”, she took her didi’s side which was obvious. “Kartik bhaiya, u always take jiju’s side.. since very beginning, I’ve observed that!” she complained.

“Not always.. u know. Actually u don’t know.. how he threatened me when he got a subtle hint that I am falling for ur sis”. Kartik looked up and smiled on my remark.

Siya looked at three of us curiously, “I didn’t know this! Please tell me no… plzzzzz”

After a pause, Kartik started, explaining the obvious concerns about her dearest sis. It was he who ordered Radha to stay away from me during final year. Radha did not want to hurt him, so she agreed to whatever he said, however painful.

“I was quite worried for Radha, when she was moving to Pune. When I learned that Sameer is shifting too, I should have felt more tensed, but instead, I relaxed a bit, that there would be someone to take care of her, she won’t be alone. May be this was because I knew him as a person.” He looked at Radha and added “I knew he will always take care of her.. I could see it in his eyes, he could go out of the way just to see a smile on her face. But it was apparent that this thing has no future and will end painfully at last. That was the reason I didn’t want Radha to get involved with him.”  Three of us wandered in the past for a while, and Kartik broke the silence. “It was the day when Sameer was leaving Pune and shifting to his hometown and he proposed her. She denied it and I saw her crying that day. I’ve never seen so much pain in her eyes before. It was for my sake, our family’s sake, she was giving up her lifelong happiness. She was not asking for something we could not do for her. And that made me take a stand.. ”

There was pindrop silence for few moments. We could listen to the ruffle of leaves with the cold breeze.

“Ok now, Sameer, I think we should return now, its late, almost 9:30”

9:30 and late!  But no cross questioning!

While sleeping, I was very much at peace. These people are not so dangerous, I smiled.

Episode IV

Next few days rushed quickly. I was trying to adapt myself to the ways of my extended family which was amusing at times, while disturbing sometimes. Well, I was doing all this just for the sake of my beloved’s happiness, but at the same time, I could notice the joy fading from her face as the days passed by.

Though we were bestowed with lots of love and attention, some old resentments and hurts just kept popping out. Such conversations started normally but died with long pauses. Like one day, a casual conversation was going on about Radha’s higher studies. I asked Sneha, why didn’t she opted for engineering instead of science graduation, as she could have stayed with Radha’s parents at Indore, and could have got admission there.  I was completely unaware of the impact of this question. Instead of answering, Sneha threw a look at Radha as if that answered my question and made a face, Taiji mumbled something incomprehensive and mom’s face fell, followed by some eye contacts among all others. And worst of that was look on Radha’s face. After an awkward silence, someone changed the topic and things returned to normal.  

Later I got to know that elders were so angry with our marriage, that they didn’t allow Sneha to relocate for studies. They felt that mom and papa were incapable to take care of their own daughter, and they could not risk allowing Sneha to stay with them. All the pleadings from Sneha were in vain and though she never said this to her, she silently blamed her didi for spoiling her future. Her didi was her inspiration and role model since childhood.  And coz of this marriage… she is treated as an example of what-not-to-do-when-you-go-for-higher-studies. It was heartbreaking for Radha, and of course for me too..

It is not so easy to forget and forgive when our loved ones go against our will, even when they know how much it will hurt. But in this case, it was not our marriage that was hurting them. It was about the comments and approvals from others, the people who were nothing important to us.

Initially, my parents happily accepted Radha, but once our engagement was declared, her enthusiasm started disappearing.  It was due to the comments from acquaintances and relatives. Some of them sympathized with her that she ‘had to’ accept a girl her son ‘imposed’ on her, some had something else to say. Now Radha’s looks, her mannerism, her each and every act was scrutinized and I could sense that mom is constantly unsatisfied with her. Radha could not even make out that something is wrong. She was conditioned to obey and respect elders and she followed almost everything my mom expected from her. I knew that mom would love her innocent and truthful nature, her qualities, but I also knew it won’t happen until she is surrounded by such people. Moving as far as possible from this place was the only solution I could think of and tried for, and luckily, I got a lucrative job offer at Singapore. Soon after our marriage, we relocated and my purpose of shifting was achieved easily.

Episode V

“Where are you lost buddy!”

Kartik called, lightly punching my head. “Come, lets go for a walk”

These after dinner strolls with Radha and her cousins were vital to me here, where only I could be myself. 

The serenity of this place, the soothing breeze, aroma of dry leaves n soil and the moonlit pathways drained away all the stress.

“No one else joining?” I questioned when only three of us stepped outside.

“Nop! Siya busy with some chores, Sneha as usual not willing to come and everyone else busy in I donno what!” Radha replied making faces.

“Its ok.. so Sameer, its a nice opportunity to share my little secret with Radha” Kartik winked and I signalled “go ahead”.

“What secret??” Radha successively looked at two of us, getting impatient.

“No no Kartik, let it be, don’t tell her” I said enjoying her eagerness.

“Ohh please….please!!!”  She started shaking his hand vigorously.

“Ok ok.. first promise that you won’t tell it to anyone, throughout your lifetime”

Her impatience suddenly dissappeared and she started to think about her ability to keep it a secret, which made us laugh.

“Ok so promise?”

“Wait.. first tell me who all know about this stupid whatsoever secret of yours.. I mean from whom I have to hide it actually?” she asked trying to sound as if she don’t bother.

“Well..from everybody.. apart from two of us… and of course, my wife.”

“Oh.. so she too knows about it, which you took care to hide from me”, she asked with a grim face.

“Well, actually… she is the secret. I mean its related to Prerna only”

“Tell me clearly if you want to tell”

“Ok ok, well, you remember you asked me from where Prerna did her graduation.. and I answered from her hometown Ujjain. Well, I was lying.”

Kartik paused and Radha waited for few seconds.

 “Don’t tell me this was your stupid secret”, she made a face

“Yeah, this is actually the secret.”

“What!! How ridiculous… don’t talk to me, both of you!!”, she yelled, highly irritated.

“Yeah.. she was actually my classmate.”

“Oh..”

She stopped abruptly.

“Ohh.. ok” she said again trying to recollect the facts.

“It means two of you knew each other? Or.. or its like.. its a ..”

“..love marriage” Kartik completed her sentence.

“Then why, I mean how..ok first tell me, how come you know?” she turned to me.

“Well, Kartik told me, only after his wedding date was finalized.. and I reacted similarly. This man was fighting all alone u know.”

“It was not exactly a fight.. was just a strategy. Luckily, our caste is same.” started Kartik.

Then he explained how his marriage proposal was initiated by a mediator, to both the families and he successfully managed to show it off as a purely arranged marriage. A little bit of acting and pretention, a slight manipulation of horoscopes and some facts; everything finally resulted in a happy ending.

Kartik remained the goody goody obedient son, who married a girl of his family’s choice.

Radha was quiet, trying to digest the facts. After few moments, she spoke

“But was the need of all this. I mean profilewise, she was a good match. Our case was different because of caste issues, but here that was not a problem.”

“Radhaaa… grow up!” said Kartik. “Do you really think so? Its not a matter of caste, its the matter of ego! If I would have told them that this is the girl I want to marry, can’t you imagine their reaction? They would have rejected her straightaway. And would have accused me of imposing a not so good girl on them. I knew I could convince them in that case also, but that would have taken much much more efforts, plus, that would have been painful for all..And..” he let some silence creep in, in dilemma whether to speak or not. ” And that would have put another question mark on ..” he stopped again.

“On mum and papa?” mumbled Radha, staring the road.

“Yes.. coz I met her during my graduation, when I was staying with you people at Indore. ”

Kartik added “And marriage is not the end, that is the beginning. The way they are accepting her right now is because they are under the impression that she is their choice. Else, it would have created a lot of probs”

“Hmm.. I know. Experienced truth.”  I reacted.

“Hey Sameer, I apoligize on behalf of my family. But trust me, its just out of anger, they don’t mean it.”

“I can understand dude”, I replied, while this was so not true.  Everything here was suffocating me. These people were acting as if they have obliged us for accepting our marriage. I really could not understand what is their problem!

“Both of you, please don’t take it otherwise, but making the biggest decision of our life without involving our loved ones definitely hurts them. They feel we’ve let them down, left them aside..” he said.

“Kartik, but why did you hide it from me? I would have supported you of course, the way you supported us..” Radha spoke after a long time.

“Radha, not everyone has the capacity to hide or manipulate the truth. I kept it secret from you so that even if someone asks you, you should be able to reply properly enough. Coz you know it yourself, you are not good at lying. Its not that I don’t trust you dear.”

“Then why are you telling it to me now?” she questioned, still sounding upset.

“So that you can learn something.”

“Learn what?” she asked with a confused expression.

“Radha.. Always being very true and honest does not do any good. Its not bad to be manipulative sometimes. Also, its not necessary to share everything with everybody.”

Episode VI

We returned home in silence, three of us lost in our own thoughts.

Though I was not at all against the idea that Kartik used, I was not able to digest that my ways were incorrect in any aspect. It was just that I was too straightforward. I knew about his plans since long ,but only now I could actually see, what difference had it made. Had I got any such strategy, things could have been so much better for all. Yeah, may be that would have given me some guilt feeling about cheating our families. But hardly would have mattered, because even after following the honest and correct ways, I sometimes get this guilt pangs .

Here, another one was waiting for me.

 House was buzzing with cheerful sounds till midnight. Everyone was busy finalizing the wedding preparations. From reception venue to outfits, stage to decoration, everything was really grand. Having a view of all this,  mamma sighed and uttered, “Had so many wishes and plans for Radha’s wedding.. but…”. Radha and I glanced at each other and my heart churned.

Yes, it was true that ours was a very simple wedding. Both of us were glad that finally we are getting married; finally our families agreed, and we could not expect anything more. Not that all these splendid arrangements and glorious celebrations mattered to me, but I felt as if I have crushed cherished dreams of our parents, deprived them of the happiness I could see on Kartik’s parents’ faces.

I wondered if Radha was thinking same.. was she regretting taking this step? Did she regret marrying me?? I kept rewinding and recalling all my times with her. She could have been happier if.. she could have been saved from so many tearful times if… This feeling was making me restless. I had tried my best to make her happy, to prove myself worthy of her.

And for the first time, a question popped up in my mind. What did I got in return? Why I have to fight and prove myself on every step?

Everything that we deserved, be it love, be it respect, was granted to us as if we don’t deserve it and we should be obliged of it. I was thinking about the small day to day happenings here, and about the behavior of people. Sunaina buaji, who was very stubborn, talked to her son-in-law very politely. He was a tantrum king and had arrived just that day. Gayatri, Siya and many others were engaged in attending him to such extent that they could not even spend some time with other family members or enjoy the rituals. Still, the man hardly smiled and always complained about one thing or the other. But this annoying snob was treated with great respect. Why? Because he is the son-in-law.

I am also son-in-law of this family, but things are so much different for me.  It was not jealousy exactly, or it was..but it was more of  disgust. These people can bear all the crabbiness of this grumpy man with a smile. But could not respect a person who loves their daughter. For the only reason.. I was not their choice. Their ego was hurt because of Radha’s decision. But now, look at them. Where is the ego, or self respect for that matter! And look how Kartik is treated by his in laws, like a prince! Sure he deserves all that, but what was my fault? What made me unworthy of this respect and importance!

And a thought creeped in my mind- Had I married in my community, I would have received ten times as much importance. Had I…what the crap I was thinking! I could not marry anyone else but Radha! I was dreading my own thoughts. I really needed to sleep, because next day onwards, there would be celebrations. But my mind was busy evaluating each and every incident. I was standing on terrace, looking at the hall downstairs where ladies were busy in some chores. Annoyed of myself, I reached to a conclusion. One of my decisions was surely wrong- decision to attend Kartik’s wedding.

—X—

“Anything wrong Sameer?”

I startled at Kartik’s call. I thought he was asleep by then. This man is really smart. He was chatting with Prerna on his mobile, resting quitely on his cot. And everyone else was under impression that two of them hardly talk to each other.

“Hmm..no.”

“Com’on you know you can talk to me about anything”

“Nothing Kartik, you carry on with your chatting..”, I replied with an imposed smile.

“Well, I don’t believe.. but ok if you say”, and he went back to his bed.

“Listen Kartik..I was asking”, I stammered, “.. I mean just suppose”

“Speak up”

“What else could we have done, like in your style, the no-fight option to convince for our marriage?”

“Multiple options man! lots n lots…”

“Tell me one”

“Like we could have projected that Radha is terminally ill with some fatal disease, and you, our hero, is willing to marry her. And after marriage, because of you love and care, she recovered”, he said with a wink.

“How filmy!”

“Ok another one, we would have projected a dummy good prospect. And then this person would have withdrawn, and again our hero comes to rescue the princess from humiliation…” he added with a laugh.

“Stop it..either you are too sleepy, or you are not serious”

“Yeah Sameer, am not serious. Because I dont want you to be..”

“No comments now”

“I know, what you have faced and are still going through, but just try to ignore yar. You won’t see their faces again for next few years. So just chill and enjoy my wedding.” , he said now with a serious tone.

“Hmm”, I smiled lightly. “I can tolerate anything if she is happy.”

–X–

Episode VII

“I know, and thats what matters..being happy together. Now stop being so selfish. Man you are here for my wedding! Talk about me, tease me, pull my leg..” With these words of Kartik, I realized that I was really being very self centered. I decided then and there, whatever happens, I won’t think about these matters again. Will enjoy Kartik’s wedding and share his great day with enthusiasm.

This resolution made things tolerable for me otherwise I could not take it any more, as matters were turning worse.
Yes, the next day was even difficult. In a gathering of hundreds of people, I was feeling all alone. Almost everyone around was talking in their native language and though Radha sometimes tried teaching me her mother tongue, it was difficult for me to catch their words as I was out of context. Whenever I was introduced to someone, I could see the expressions of ‘oh, this is him, intercast huh’ and throwing looks of pity at dad, who was also made uncomfortable with people intentionally digging about my family, cast or native place. I could sense the mockery and disrespect in their eyes which made me more uncomfortable
I was getting so paranoid, it felt as if everyone is gossiping about me only.
I went out of the hall to breath, while someone again called me for introduction to some distant mamaji of Kartik.
Very reluctantly, I went to meet them when Kartik himself introduced me. As expected, uncle looked me up and down, with one eyebrow raised – “so he is Sameer.. very evident from his looks and accent, not among us, huh.”, as if not belonging to their cast made me some other species.
“Yes, he is from Nagpur but works at Singapore”, Kartik interrupted.”Business Unit head of a multinational over there”, he said putting stress on each word. Uncle’s expression now turned to show awe. He enquired about Radha, and again Kartik replied that she is pursuing her studies, we bought a house at Singapore, and Radha has travelled to various places with me. As they were unable to take it any more, they changed the topic by complimenting Kartik and Prerna’s pair and appreciated him that so-well-to-do son respected his parents’ choice and how they felt that marriages cannot succeed without family’s happiness.”Parivar ke ashirwad k bina khush nahi reh sakta koi, aur na aisi shadi se parivar khush rehta hai”, aunty gave her philosophy. Kartik replied “Kismat hoti hai mamiji..ab dekho na, itni ladkiya dhund kar bahu layi thi aap, khushi na ho kismat me to kya kare..”. Aunty must have felt sorry about her habit of complaining about her son and daughter-in-law sensing the sarcasm in Kartik’s tone and suddenly they remembered that they have to meet many more people.
Kartik had an evil grin when they left us in peace. He winked at me without me asking him anything and was immediately dragged by his mother in some other ceremony. Whatever he did was mean, but I was feeling a strange comfort. Anyways, I had to go to pick up my sister, brother in law and niece from the railway station. Yes, they too were invited for this wedding. I felt like a school kid feels in lunch break..1-2 hrs of break from the prison.

I thought of quickly informing Radha and turned to the hall towards the gathering of ladies. It is really easy to find her in a crowd. First, because she is always chattering and second, she is so high on pitch and pace that makes her easily audible from a distance. Trying to trace her voice, I was passing through the corridor where I could hear her flocked with her sisters. It was amusing how these girls jumped from topic to topic in a matter of seconds. By the time I covered the 100 metre passage, I could hear them complimenting each others’ jewellery/accessories, asking for shops from where they were bought, discussing a jewellery named after a bollywood flick, bashing that director’s latest flops, planning about a new movie releasing on next weekend, Radha pouting that she won’t be able to join and others asking our travel plans. There she was, decorating a kumkum thali and claiming her right for doing Kartik’s teeka first as she is eldest among sisters. ‘Eldest..’ I smiled. She’ll never grow up..she loves arguing over pitty things and gets so delighted after winning those. But hardly opens her mouth on important matters.