The Sun announced the dawn of another glorious day outside Mili’s window. But it wasn’t just another day—today was the day of her Roka (unofficial engagement) with Ahaan.
Sitting on the bed, her arms wrapped snugly around her bent legs, she watched the Sun play hide and seek with the clouds.
To her surprise, she had slept well last night. Perhaps it was because her conflict had been resolved. There were no more concerns, questions or doubts of what lay in wait for her in the immediate future and that definitely was a relief.
Then reality sank in. She was about to lose her single status and become someone’s wife; someone’s daughter in law. But to her amazement, she didn’t feel terrible about it. Rather she could sense an undercurrent of nervous excitement. Yes, it was going to be a learning process; a new life of responsibilities and compromises. But knowing that Ahaan would be by her side made it tolerable…more than tolerable.
Damn it! She blushed. All of a sudden her legs had turned to jelly. She wanted her mother badly.
Mili ran into the large living area and saw that it was already abuzz with activity. Workers had arrived to spruce the house up for the big event—cleaning, painting, repair work which would be followed by lavish decorations just like 4 years ago during the occasion of her di Sheela’s wedding.
It was obvious that her father had been waiting impatiently for this day, so he could start his spending spree, while displaying absolutely no concern about his shaky financial status.
She spotted him in the corner arguing with a man, she presumed to be the mistri (foreman.)
“Papaji, have you seen mama anywhere?”
He turned around and magically his irritated frown disappeared and was replaced with a blissful smile. “Mili, my child! No I haven’t seen her since early this morning. Come here, let me hug you once.” He said spreading his arms out wide.
She ran into them, knowing that these moments would soon become a rarity.
“I didn’t know that my little girl has not only grown in age but has also become very wise. She was able to read her father’s mind and fulfill his wish.”
Mili looked up at Jai’s face, “You mean…?”
“Yes, I have been following Ahaan’s progress for a long time now. I’ve kept in touch with his father Dr Sharma, who besides being my physician was also my dear friend. And I’d secretly hoped that one day he’d find my Mili and make her happy. But I didn’t anticipate it’d be so soon!”
“You didn’t say a word about your feelings papaji. Why?”
Jai shrugged, “I didn’t want to influence your decision in any way. I’m an old man. How do I know what young people want?” Then placing a gentle kiss on her forehead, he said, “But you have made me so happy and proud my dear. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.” His voice broke as his eyes filled up. “Run now, find your mother. I have to go to the city and the talk to our Panditji (family priest), get your horoscopes matched…and so many other things!”
Mili smiled fondly as she saw her father rush towards the door. Then called out after him, “Please… take it easy. And do talk to Ahaan. He has something very important say to you…”
“He does? Alright. I too need to have a word with him.” Jai said with a smile before hurrying out.
I hope that Ahaan is able to convince papaji and prevent him from going overboard, even though I doubt it very much.. Mili prayed fervently before renewing her search for Kiran.
She peeked into the kitchen. Her mother wasn’t there. Instead she saw a couple of women from the neighborhood talking up a storm in the pretense of assisting the overwhelmed Ramu kaka. She retreated quickly when she heard her name mentioned several times…; now in a state of agitated frenzy.
She found her mother in the yard, standing in front of a couple of Magnolia trees and deduced at once why. Kiran smiled when her daughter flung her arms around her.
“Your father and I planted these trees when you were barely a week old. That day we made a promise to ourselves that we will take care of you and your sister the best possible way we could.”
“And yes, you have!” Mili exclaimed, hugging her tight. “Never have you made us feel that you missed having a son. You gave us everything we needed and more. We were and still are proud to be your children. People envied us wherever we went, especially in school, where we were known as the lucky Bharadwaj girls.” Then with a perceptive gleam in her eyes, she continued, “I know exactly what you are thinking, even though you won’t say it. You don’t want me to leave and I don’t want to either. I will call Ahaan and tell him so right away. I’m sure he will understand.”
Kiran laughed, “Silly girl! It is nothing like that. Just because you are getting married doesn’t imply that you cease to be my… our daughter. All it means is that you bring happiness into more lives. So don’t you dare call Ahaan and do anything stupid!” She chided Mili softly. “But tell me something. What do you think of Ahaan? You didn’t say yes just to please us, I hope. Do you really like him?”
Though Mili wasn’t prepared for the question, she didn’t hedge around it, “I guess I do. I can’t help it. He is so different, yet he is the same. It is a little weird. And as he said, why not get hitched now than at 30? For sure I won’t find another guy like him even if I scoured the world with a fine tooth comb!” She declared with a bright smile.
Kiran’s eyes widened with wonder, “Since when did you become so practical?”
Mili pulled at her hand, “Since yesterday! C’mon now. Help me find something for tonight. I have absolutely nothing to wear!”
PS: If you’re getting impatient to read the rest of the story you can buy the book here.