Category Archives: Milan (A Wedding Story)

When two souls meet.

Milan (A Wedding Story) Chap 8: Revelations

Chapter 7

It took some time for Ahaan and Mili to get out of the forest. The dense canopy, which almost completely filtered out the light, impeded their progress considerably, causing Mili to stumble several times. Finally at Ahaan’s insistence she accepted his arm and was nearly carried the rest of the way.

“Thanks.” Mili murmured detaching herself, once back on the road.

“My pleasure. We should do this more often.” he replied, grinning when he saw her cheeks blaze with color.

They strolled back, savoring this new found companionship–the lovely formative phase of a brand new relationship which was supposed to last a lifetime. Mili almost wanted to skip with delight. She curbed the instinct with difficulty. It won’t do for me to appear undignified and childish in front of Ahaan. Though he has probably formed that impression already, she thought, unhappily recalling the events from earlier that afternoon.

On the other hand, Ahaan was pursuing a slightly different theme. Good God! She is proving to be quite a handful; a very beautiful one though. I’ll have to keep my wits around all the time in order to survive.  Still, I bet I’m going to enjoy every single moment!

A surreptitious glance found her aiming a vehement kick at a pebble. His hands itched to reach out and pull her into his arms. He stuck them into his pockets instead. Damn this life!

“Ahaan…!”

Startled, he looked up. The object of his preoccupation was beaming at him.

“Guess where we are…”

His vision followed her outstretched arm. Of their own accord their feet had taken them down a familiar path, one which led to their old Alma Mater.

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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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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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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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Milan (A Wedding Story) 3B: Yes!

Chapter 3A

—o—

It was late twilight. The Sun was about to set. The sky was awash with a plethora of hues that gave everything in sight a warm becoming glow, including the two young occupants of the far table close to the window.

Mili had pulled on a watermelon pink button down sweater, slate colored leggings and a scarf of the finest white pashmina, not realizing that she looked utterly fetching in the outfit. Ahaan,  in a deep navy pin striped shirt and tan casual pants was the picture of effortless elegance.

Mili tried to appear unperturbed, even as she felt Ahaan’s admiring gaze upon her. Both had barely touched their drinks.

Finally, mustering some courage, she began, “Ahaan..I…”

“Spill it out! Say it Mili,  that you can’t trust me enough to make you happy!”

“I didn’t mean that…” She said looking up, startled by his impassioned tone.

“Then what else was the purpose of this meeting?” He demanded, leaning forward in his chair, staring directly into her eyes.

Mili was shaken. Ahaan seemed to have a lot more vested in this than he had made her feel. It was not just an exercise to fulfill his mother’s wishes. The confident nonchalance he had displayed yesterday had disappeared, leaving in its place a certain raw vulnerability that had been a characteristic of the old Ahaan and it drew her to him. She tried to resist.

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Milan (A Wedding Story) 3A: Indecision

Chapter 2

—o—

Continuing from where I left off 🙂

“Mili?…” Jai ventured at the dinner table, not having had the opportunity to converse with his daughter all day. For after the guests had left, she had locked herself up in her room until  her mother had finally coaxed her out for a bite. But she hadn’t tasted her meal…, just pushed the food around her plate for the past half hour.

She stood up, “I think I’ll turn in. It’s been a long day. Good night.”

“But beta (child) we have to talk…” Jai’s voice trailed off when he saw Mili disappear down the corridor without even a glance back. He looked askance at his wife, who was watching the proceedings with a discerning smile on her face.

“Kiran…we really do need to talk to her…”

“Our daughter is confused. Consider it a good sign.” She said, placing a reassuring hand on her husband’s.

`

Mili turned the TV off and tossed the remote away frustrated. Watching documentaries usually helped her fall asleep but not tonight. Her mind refused to distract itself from the topic of Ahaan. He had made it all so difficult.

She was indeed quite confused.  It was not black and white anymore. She couldn’t just pick up the phone and say no to him.

Why? Because she didn’t want to hurt him? Because she cared about how he felt? Did it mean that her feelings for him had undergone a drastic change or was it because they had been silly and unrealistic to begin with… A product of an immature adolescent mind. He had never really done anything to incur such animosity from her. His behavior had always been exemplary.

Perhaps mother is right. I victimized him because he was different and his silence made him easy prey. I acted like a cruel child, and he took it all quietly. Even now he bears no malice towards me whatsoever.

Mili was overtaken by tremendous guilt. I should apologize and tell Ahaan that I am not worthy of him.

Swinging her legs off the bed, she walked up to where her sitar rested. She picked it up and began playing absently. Her fingers flew up and down the instrument effortlessly, playing a favorite tune of their own accord.

‘I dabble in a little guitar myself…’

Mili smiled… ‘Dabble’ in Mr TOI’s vocabulary would equal a significant degree of proficiency. She could picture Ahaan strumming expertly on his guitar. Perhaps we could even do a Jugalbandi together, a musical east-west fusion.

No! What am I thinking? That could never be… A frown of distress marred her clear brow.

Placing her beloved instrument aside, she picked up the phone and dialed her elder sister’s number, but then changed her mind immediately.

No.. Sheela di (elder sister) will tell me to be obedient and submit to whatever mama and papaji decide because they know best,  Mili mused, recalling the events of four years ago when her sister had complied with Grandpa’s wishes and wedded his best friend’s young nephew, just because he had given him his word. She had quit her studies and had not uttered even a single word of complaint just because the family honor was at stake. It was a different matter altogether that Rohan Jiju (brother in law) had turned out to be the perfect match for her.

She opted to call her best friend Annie instead.

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Another Great Review on ‘Milan’

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“Ms. Simi K. Rao does a tremendous job of weaving the customs and traditions of a prearranged Indian wedding. I was pulled into this vast country and treated like royalty as I read and savored the many traditions foreign to western culture. I was amused and bemused with this enchanting, culture-filled coming of age story about the jitters and joy of preparing for a woman’s big day.” ~~Chiara Talluto, Author of Love’s Perfect Surrender.

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