Milan (A Wedding Story) Chap 7: Sugar and Spice

MIlan cover 1

Chapter 6

“Mili!.. You can’t do this. You can’t just run away and leave me high and dry!” Ahaan complained aloud when after searching up and down several narrow streets of the small hillside town, he came upon her standing casually at a relatively large crossroad.

She didn’t say a word, nor did she look at him.

He smiled, understanding the cause of her irritation–herself, and decided not to pursue the topic any further. “Lunch? I’m sure we can agree on that.”

She glanced up at him. He had uttered the right words. “Fine. Where do you wish to go?”

“Hmmm…” He glanced at his watch, “I think La Belle Vie is 15 minutes or so from here. Sid recommends it. Shall we give it a try?”

“Have you made reservations?”

“No. Anyway we should be able to get in. Don’t expect much of a crowd on a weekday.”

“OMG Ahaan! Are you out of your mind? No reservations means no food.” Mili exclaimed. “They won’t even let you hang outside and wait for a table. Annie and I made the same mistake last week and were turned away very rudely!”

Ahaan frowned irritably. “Then the only option left is the Taj…”

“Which is at least 2 miles uphill…”

He let out a frustrated sigh.

“We could certainly go home…Ramu kaka could whip up some…”

‘No way, Mili! I’d rather go hungry,” Ahaan interjected vehemently, “not that I have anything against Ramu kaka…”

Mili smiled,  observing him as he cast his eyes into the distance with arms folded across his chest in feigned nonchalance. His earnestness to spend time alone with her was sweet to behold.

“Then there is only one way out. I know of the perfect place where the food is great and there is no wait whatsoever!”

“Then why didn’t Sid tell me about it?”

“Because it’s my little secret and he won’t be caught dead there!”

“Why…? Hey wait up!” Ahaan had to give up on his inquiry, because Mili had already taken off downhill at a fast clip.

`

He flashed a dubious glance at her when she led him into a tiny strip mall and his heart sank to the pits of his stomach when she came to a standstill in front of a tiny nondescript mom and pop eatery called Marwari Bhojanalaya (Marwari Food Joint.)

“What the…”

“Hush! No cursing in public!”

“I wasn’t… but this is…” Ahaan’s downcast expression said the rest.

“I know but looks are deceptive. Wait till we get in. Besides I have a terrible craving for Daal Baati (lentil soup with wheat dumplings) and this happens to be the only place in Coonoor that serves it.”

Ahaan looked doubtfully at the sizable crowd which had formed a queue outside, “I thought you said that there’d be no wait…”

“I said right. Follow me.” Milli replied with confidence, then marched calmly ahead. After jostling aside a few annoyed customers, she barged into the joint, where to Ahaan’s surprise, they were immediately directed to a table with a plastic ‘Reserved’ sign.

“You had it all planned!”

His fiance managed to look sheepish but only just, “My cravings started in the morning, plus I didn’t get to eat any breakfast. You gobbled up all the idlis (steamed rice cakes)!”

Ahaan glowered at her while reluctantly taking his seat. All he wanted to do at the moment was to rush outside, but incredible hunger overwhelmed his instincts and the aroma in the place fanned it even further. His hopes for a romantic  tête-à-tête were completely destroyed for not only was the tiny tavern packed to the gills with noisy customers but their table was also situated in the dead center of the room. He wondered what had caused Mili to bring him over here. Was she afraid to be alone with him?

“Eat your food. You have been frowning at your plate for the past 5 minutes.”

He woke up from his unhappy reverie to discover Mili beaming at him while slurping the thick yellow daal (lentil soup) from a katori  (small bowl). She appeared ecstatic, floating in some kind of culinary paradise and the vision brought an indulgent smile to his lips.

You lose some, but then you also gain a lot.

He chose to indulge her, but no sooner had he placed a sampling of the spicy wheat baati (dumpling) in his mouth that they were inundated by a flood… a flood of people—the same ones who had been staring unabashedly at them for sometime. Perhaps they had been biding their time, waiting for the appropriate moment.

Mr. Sundaram, in a starched white shirt and dhoti, ventured to be the initial player. First he asked Mili to be introduced to the young man who was accompanying her. Then turning to Ahaan with a bright smile, he volleyed at him a barrage of queries about his life in the capital, his father’s death, his job (including his experiences in dealing with foreign governments,) so on and so forth.

Ahaan, to his credit maintained his cool, and replied in the most succinct and businesslike manner. But matters didn’t end there, for Mr. S was followed by Mr. M, who was followed by Mr. L, then Mrs. V, all wanting to know the exact same information. Ahaan had never been interrogated by so many people before. Soon he was assailed by profound claustrophobia.

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Milan (A Wedding Story) Chap 6: Nurture

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Chapter 5

This is the first day of the rest of our lives and I want to spend it with you. We need to begin nurturing our relationship. There is absolutely no time to lose.

Mili smiled as she read and reread  the note that Ahaan had handed her last night, OMG! He is so eager. Is he like this all the time, I wonder.

It is amazing that just a few days ago, he didn’t even feature in my thoughts and now… he is the only one! … Good Lord Mili! Hadh hai yaar (This is the limit.)

She burst into a fit of giggles, and pulled the thick embroidered quilt over her head. Thank heavens Ahaan isn’t here, or he wouldn’t hesitate to change his mind!

Then she sat up straight frowning. Really? Would he change his mind? And if so, would that bother me?  She fell back flat on the bed. Yes, it would…it would bother me quite a bit.

She grabbed a pillow and curled herself around it, “damn you Ahaan! Who asked you to come into my life and mess it all up when I was doing just fine by myself? Who asked you to be so charming and smart and cool? Who asked you to drop down from the sky like the perfect Godsend son in law?…Who..?”

Her rant was interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Guess what came by special delivery bright and early today?” Kiran was standing at the door holding a bunch of fresh and colorful wild flowers. “I’m really starting to like Ahaan’s style of wooing!” She said seeing her daughter’s face light up instantly.

“Of course you would! You would like him even if he turned out to be Osama Bin Laden’s nephew!”

“What are you muttering about?”

“Tell me mama. Are you going to miss me or not?”

“Of course I am, Mili. We both are!”

“Then I’m not getting married and that’s that!” Mili said plummeting face down on the bed.

Kiran pulled her up and wiped her tear stricken face with the edge of her palloo, “My darling. Enough with all this fuss! I know exactly what is going on in that little head of yours and it bears no resemblance at all to what you say.” She smiled… “Now get ready quickly. Ahaan is waiting impatiently for you!”

“He is here?!” Mili exclaimed as her heart did a cartwheel in her chest.

“Yes he is!” Kiran laughed, “Who else do you think brought the flowers?” Placing a gentle kiss on her daughter’s soft cheek, she said. “my silly little Mili…” then abruptly turned and hurried away.

`

Mili stood at the entrance of the dining room, inhaling the aroma of hot spicy sambhar (a type of South Indian lentil soup) and fresh filter coffee and silently observed what was going on inside. It was a scene one may find in any normal household. Everybody was there, including both her parents, Ramu kaka and of course Ahaan and they were all doting on him.

She saw Ramu kaka blush with pleasure when Ahaan praised him and said that he wished he could kidnap him and take him to Delhi, when her father and mother screamed in unison, “No way!” and they all burst into merry laughter.

Mili was glad to see the smiles of happiness and contentment on her parents faces. At least I am able to give them something in return for what they have done for me.

And to say the truth, she couldn’t find anything to complain about either.  Ahaan seemed to value and respect her feelings and that meant for a lot.


“Mili!… her father said noticing her, “Beta, Look who’s here!”

Ahaan swung around in his chair…

“Yes, I know. Hi Ahaan.” She smiled, drawing herself to her full height of 5’7”. She knew she looked good in a simple flared sunshine yellow cotton kurta (long shirt), crushed scarf of forest green and tight leggings to match.

“Uh huh… Hi..Mili..”

Gosh Ahaan! Close your mouth. You look like a startled frog!

“Careful son!” Jai exclaimed with concern when he saw his future son in law dissolve into a violent coughing spell.

Working hard to suppress a giggle, she ran to his side. “Paani?” she asked with a straight face.

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‘Under the Shadow of the Banyan Tree’ available for pre-order!

Poems are fragments of life.

In this collection, there are blissful moments; deep, invisible wounds; cries for help; declarations of defiance and philosophical observations. These poems are fragments of life elucidating the different phases of the human condition.

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Milan (A Wedding Story) Chap 5: Roka

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Chapter 4

“At last. The Dulhan (bride) is here.”

Dulhan.. Mili pursed her lips and concentrated on placing one foot in front of the other, gingerly making her way into the drawing hall of their bungalow, which was now filled to the brim with guests. If it hadn’t been for her mother’s firm grip on her arm, she’d have swung about and made a break for it; so desperate was her urge to flee.

For the past half an hour or so, she had schooled her mind into a state of detached indifference, while Kiran dolled her up. Closing her eyes, as she had so many times in the past, she had let her mind drift to a  faraway place , to help alleviate the jitters somewhat.

But they were back now with a vengeance. She was acutely aware of everyone’s eyes upon her, including Ahaan’s, as though they were seeing her for the first time. And why wouldn’t they be—her mother had insisted on dressing her up as a bride. “When will I get another chance?”

Mili was draped in an outfit she had bought for her sister’s wedding. She had forgone wearing it at the time on the insistence of one of her aunt’s, who had warned that it’d make her outshine the bride, which would have been taboo.

The dress was a light maroon lehenga  with a silver choli heavily embroidered with zari and studded with tiny mirrors. The jewelry was her mother’s own; ornate yet restrained, her luxurious midnight hair fell naturally lose around her shoulders, and it was all brought together by a touch of kohl to enhance her doe shaped eyes and a dash of maroon lipstick; she being blessed by a flawless complexion.

“Mrs. Sharma, your bahu (Daughter in law) is a Chand ka tukda (as beautiful as the moon)!” Someone exclaimed aloud.

“No, not the moon; the Sun!”

“When my bahu enters the room, everything fades into the background. Her beauty dazzles. So one could go blind if he stares too long.” Mili’s mother in law, in a white and black sari (white seemed to be her color of choice) said, with a bright smile while drawing her to sit beside her son.  “And these words are not mine, they are my Ahaan’s. You have made a poet out of him my dear.”

Mili raised her eyes to glare accusingly at her fiance and promptly turned crimson. He was staring transfixed at her, while looking outrageously handsome in a dark suit and tie. With a wry shrug of his shoulders, he admitted his guilt, though there wasn’t even a whiff of contrition in his manner. Rather he seemed to be relishing her state of inordinate distress.

“If stating the simple truth makes you color so prettily, then I will have to make a habit of it.”

Flustered and thrilled at the same time she looked away and tried instead to focus on her future mother in law, though it proved to be far from an easy task. But it seemed important because she was going to play a big role in Mili’s future, almost as big as Ahaan and it made her nervous.

She wondered what kind of person Mrs. Sharma was—stern or lenient, compassionate or spiteful. By the looks of her she seemed quite pleasant and it was obvious that her world revolved around her only son.

“Open your mouth, my dear!”

Mili obeyed and almost choked on the date that was placed in her mouth. Her eyes filled up with moisture, but she composed herself and solemnly accepted the gifts which were piled into her lap.

But the worst part of the ritual was when she was directed to feed her fiance laddoo (a type of sweet). Still quite rattled at him, she reached up blindly, and missed the target by a mile. While everyone present burst into amused laughter, he caught her wrist and guided it to its destination.

“Perhaps you should feed me dinner. It might be fun.”

Not on your life, Ahaan! Mili’s eyes flashed fierily.

We shall see about that, Mili. His retorted with the utmost calm.

This visual argument was interrupted when their parents urged them to offer prayers together at the household shrine and then seek the blessings of the elders, by touching their feet.

“Mili…I…”

“Dinner is served!” Her father announced gaily and led the party into the yard. She marched after him paying no heed to her fiance, knowing fully well that it made her look like a willful child. Perhaps she did so because it reminded her of the past; when she’d almost always exercised the upper hand or simply because she enjoyed irking Ahaan. Nevertheless, she didn’t pause to figure out.

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A Life Worth Living 1: Turn

solo man

Prologue

It’s amazing how quickly life can take a turn. It really doesn’t take a lot to do.

Life is chugging along smoothly. Things are falling into place. Love is blooming offering you the most pleasant of surprises and unsurpassed joys. Don’t you dare hit the pause button. For, if you do you’ll realize something’s wrong. You’re a sinner and karma will get you sooner or later.

One moment you are running a fifty-mile marathon without breaking a sweat, you’re on top of the world gallivanting with the best and the greatest. Nothing, absolutely nothing can stop you. Yeah right! Because soon, before you can say hallelujah, you crash land at the bottom of the deepest darkest hole.  I know because that’s where I am right now, in that hole, watching helplessly the ravenous monsters as they feast away at my limbs. Their ugly furry bodies quivering with excitement in their feeding frenzy.

They are enormous these beasts. Enormous, nasty and mean. I cry and plead with them to go for my jugular and bring an end to this horrific tale but they won’t. They want me to suffer. They want me to live through hell and tell the tale.

And then, how quickly and easily we forget these bad days. I don’t think it’s healthy. Because bad days have a tendency to recur and it’s better to be prepared.

tbc

PS: The rest of the updates will be in a private blog. This story is the sequel of my best-selling novels ‘Inconvenient Relations’ and ‘Now and Forever’ with your favorite protagonists Shaan and Ruhi.

I invite readers familiar with the above to follow along this work in progress on condition you will comment not just read. If you’re willing please respond here with your email so I can send an invite. Thanks!

 

Announcing my New Blog @momspresso

Hello readers,

In order to take my stories to a wider audience, I’m expanding my footprint. I’m spreading my wings so to speak 🙂

I’ve started writing a new blog @Momspresso — a platform that provides content for multifaceted woman of today (in their own words). I’d like you my dear readers to also be able to read the wonderful content offered there. So please visit their site and while at it kindly check out and follow my New Blog @momspresso. Thank you and keep reading!

Milan (A Wedding Story) Chap 4: Coming to Terms

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Chap 3B

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.

“Mama!”

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.

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A Life Worth Living: Prologue

solo man

There was a patch of space on the wall. It looked just like the rest of the wall– dull, lifeless and gray. The only thing that set it apart was that it was the first to catch the sun in the morning. The first that told me I had to live yet another day. As it grew brighter it took on the hue of the sky which I’ve got to admit in my hazy imperfect view was gorgeous.

So today’s orange. What’s tomorrow going to be like?

Peach, daddy. Peach! Kash declared with an emphatic nod at which Ruhi and I’d looked at each other and laughed.

Yes my baby. Today is going to be just peachy.

Damn, I need to look outside! I flung the sheets aside and promptly fell out of bed.

“Mr. Ahuja! You should be more careful. How many times should I tell you.” The nurse helped me back up.

“I’m fine!” I protested pushing him away as he started to give me a thorough once over but he overpowered me and I gave in as usual. It had become a routine and I didn’t begrudge him anything. He was just doing his job and I was trying to save what little self esteem I’d left.

PS: Here’s a story idea I’ve been toggling with as I move ahead in my amateur writing hobby. It’s the future tale of our favorite couple Shaan and Ruhi. I want to push the envelope a little bit 🙂 

Read about their past here– Inconvenient Relations and it’s sequel Now and Forever.