Thank you for the wonderful comments. Here’s the next chapter.
2: The Inescapable Truth
A girl should be pretty, fair, demure,
Educated but not too much
Her only ambition should be to serve her family
And once she weds– her husband and his family
A divorced woman is a woman without morals
As for love–well leave it for the movies
It probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the following few weeks were some of the worst of my life. While I occupied my days struggling to fill the void left by my favorite companion, my nights were spent chasing away visions of his naked body entwined with my double-crossing best friend’s in varying degrees of nauseating intimacy.
I found my mood vacillating between extremes—an all-consuming jealousy and a soul sapping depression. My ego was wrecked beyond salvation. I was done. I, me, myself—all of us were done. Finished. Kaput. It was a foolish notion yet very real. At last I could empathize with what many of my patients often told me—When it comes to matters of the heart, the mind simply loses it.
I believed I was ready to call it quits. I began attending keenly to the plans some of my more miserable patients had concocted so to do themselves in. It came as a surprise at how creative some of them were. And easy. Damn easy. But a couple of things barred me from taking the conclusive step. Fear for one. I hate to admit I am a coward. While the other was fulfilling my life’s greatest ambition of becoming a full-fledged doctor of medicine. I didn’t want to die without obtaining the rights for the title of ‘Dr.’ in front of my name. In the least that would give my parents something to speak about with pride and regret at my funeral. I couldn’t give that up. Not even for Rohan. Fortunately or unfortunately it’s a curse I have learned to live with. I abhor leaving anything half-done. My life revolves around a perennial check-list.
The finals were looming just around the corner. I aced my exams, secured my degree, then packed my bags and moved back to my gaon as they say in my land. Though gaon was no tiny hamlet rather it was a sheher; the biggest in the country—Mumbai.
I got exactly what I needed. While the skies came down with their usual annual vengeance on the city, I sat within the comforts of home- a cramped 3BR, 12th floor apartment in the suburb of Borivali, and was indulged. Mom served me hot crispy pakoras, masala chai and the best home cooked meal on the planet while I lounged on the living room sofa in my pajamas and watched the latest masala Bollywood flick on the idiot box. She joined me and sometimes so did my dad and we all had a good laugh like old times. That I was able to take pleasure in the mundane things of life came as a pleasant surprise to me. Rohan’s memory was still very much there but his profile had begun to get fuzzy. It was a very good sign. One that gave me hope. I decided to give it a couple of months before I began to scan the internet eagerly for suitable jobs.
But rest can just as easily transform into a four-letter word. Thankfully before it did, distraction presented itself in the form of my cousin, Mita. I call her my cousin while in fact she is the daughter of a very close family friend. Her father and mine were next door neighbors and literally grew up together. They are almost like brothers.
Mita was getting married next month. She arrived with her mother in tow and some serious spending money. I was coerced into accompanying them on several tedious day trips to the bazaars on Linking road, Colaba, Hill road and of course the malls. Mita wasn’t just shopping for her own trousseau but also for her entire family and extended family and her groom’s family and his extended family. In my land, when it comes to a wedding everyone wants a piece of the pie.
A couple of weeks went by and I had almost begun to regard my new calluses with admiration. Ugly they were but one couldn’t deny their purpose. We were down to the bottom of the Mita’s list which I guess was a good thing because Savitri aunty (Mita’s mom) had begun exhibiting signs of an impending nervous breakdown. It caused me to wonder if the situation would have been any different if Mita had chosen to elope. It was worth a thought.
“How about breaking for some ice cream? I think we all deserve it!” Mita announced the final Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow she would be off back to her hometown to prepare for the great event. I agreed wholeheartedly. After sweetening the Zaveri brothers’ ample kitty by several lakhs of rupees in exchange for some garish jewelry, a breather was certainly warranted.
We trooped into Rustom’s, a legendary family owned Mumbai icon for more than half-a-century. It was a bare-boned eatery but no one came there to enjoy the decor. We were lucky to find a tiny table in the corner. I volunteered to place the orders.
“I’d like a vanilla ice-cream sandwich please,” mom said dabbing at her brow.
“Good choice but I’m going for a royal falooda,” I said.
“No Mita. Not today. You’re on a diet remember?” Aunt Savitri chided her daughter.
“But one falooda won’t make me fat.”
“You need to lose a few pounds. Look at Aanchal. She looks ready for the mandap right now, don’t you agree Sushma?”
I perceived a critical glint in Mom’s eyes. “Yes she does but she wouldn’t even hear of it.”
I let out a loud sigh. “Mom…! A wedding is not just about photo ops.”
“I agree but I’ve listened to you. I let you finish school. You are all of twenty-six now. How long are you going to make your father and me wait?”
“What do you mean Mom?” I don’t know why I was getting riled up; this conversation had been waiting to happen.
“I mean the clock is ticking. Marriage, then in a couple of years kids. You get it, don’t you?”
“Then old age, sickness and death.” I said with a wry laugh.
“Pose di!” A light flashed. I blinked. “I’m going to send this to my cousin Suraj.” Mita’s smile was cheeky.
“What the heck!” I blurted. But no one was listening.
“Suraj?” Mom’s eyes were eerily bright.
“Yes. Suraj Patel.” Mita said.
“He’s a Patel?” A deep frown marred Mom’s smooth forehead as her agile mind started to nitpick and solve problems. We were Bhats from Karnataka, a very close knit community who rarely matched outside.
“Yes, you see my second cousin Kokila is married to a Gujju,” Savitri aunty explained. “They happen to be old family friends. Really nice people. Though I don’t see much of them because they live in the US. But she is here now with her son Suraj, in search for a suitable match for him. Oh, this is going to be perfect!” She clasped her hands blissfully together and turned to gaze at me. I could imagine her waxing eloquent on my qualities—a padhi likhi, kaabil, sanskaari girl from a good family who besides being passably pretty, fair complexioned, slim without being malnourished can also cook and keep house. I could do neither. But she was prepared to coat the truth with a few lies. It was allowed.
Mom was all smiles. The situation had quickly gotten out of hand.
“Suraj won’t be able to help himself. Oh di! It’ll be so wonderful to have you in our family!”Mita gushed.
I watched silently as they made plans for the most important day of my life then got up and walked out of the place alone.