The flames in the fireplace flickered making the shadows dance across their faces as they regarded each other. A single thought occupied both their eyes. They could hear it as if it was being said loud and clear—Why, why does life behave this way?
Why did it have to them together at such a time?
Why did it brew this attraction? And he expressed it without any hesitation throwing her in confusion at first. She, who for sometime now had not considered herself attractive or for that matter even in the least interesting to the opposite sex. Then she realized it was for real and he was oh so sweet.
Her hand shook as she offered him the cup. She withdrew it right away and dug it into her pocket as if it would give her away. Her cold immune self.
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4: They Like You
Mita’s wedding entailed a long weekend in Pune. It panned out to be quite a pleasant waste of time rather than the embarrassing ordeal I’d anticipated. The foremost reason being that I was saved from an inevitable run in with Suraj.
“He had to fly back to the States since he had used up his paltry two weeks of vacation,” Mita informed me with a morose droop of her pristine painted lips. “I begged him to stay, after all I’m like a sister to him, but he wouldn’t. He said his job was at stake. He has a tough boss.”
Thank heavens for ruthless capitalism; I thought trying to maintain a straight face. But then another provoked renewed anxiety. “How about his mother. Is she still here?”
My almost cousin shook her head. “She too had to leave. Kokila aunty dreads flying alone.”
I engulfed Mita in a bear hug and bid Suraj and his mother a gleeful goodbye.
Now, feeling slightly more in control of my future, I settled down to entertain myself. The birds of paradise were out in full plumage, each one more resplendent than the next. The carnival that was the marriage venue was a perfect setting for them. I floated by with a chilled glass of kokum sherbet in my hand, and watched from what appeared like a safe distance. I caught snatches of conversation, exchange of news and gossip, punctuated by the tinkle of merry laughter. But when I attempted to look closer, I witnessed a different scene altogether. It was filled with envious, lonely and unhappy hearts that yearned forever in silence. I turned away disgusted with myself. My profession was making me feel like an intruder.
3: Meet Him Please
Slaves we are, habitual slaves. Look around. You will see us everywhere. We are serfs. Originally of our invaders, the British and the Mughals. Then of our culture, our parents, teachers, and neighbors, our superstitions and our horoscopes. Independent thought doesn’t come naturally to us. We need a guideline, a common constitution. If there are rebels amongst us, they are scant.
It was a pleasantly cool Friday morning and the parrots were up and about screeching their morning ragas. Mita had made her exit and I was back on the living room couch, embracing sloth like a long lost friend which meant catching up on my reading and getting acquainted with our new maid. A thin and wiry young woman close to my age, Rani was married with three children, the youngest a mere babe in arms.
“How do you manage?” I asked more than a little curious.
Rani was kneeling before our small wornout display cabinet, dusting with care a collection of beautifully carved wooden folk musicians. A family relic, they had escorted my mother from her paternal home as a wedding gift.
Rani turned around with a bright smile. “As best as I can.”
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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.