Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting Married, Part-II

(Continuation of the post "Getting Married")

“Are you still angry with me?” asks Radhika.
“Of course not,” I reply and add, “What you did, was absolutely right?”
“Where is Siddharth working?”
“In Visakhapatnam.”
“But our company does not have a branch there.”
Radhika nods and is already lost in thought.

Why does the girl always have to be the sufferer? She is always made to adjust. Will the guy resign his job and look out for a new one in the city where the bride is working? Except in very rare cases, it is a big NO-NO.

Radhika, in a way it is much better than going to the US,” I say, trying to cheer her up.
“Yes,” she agrees, “At least I will not be among foreigners and in a strange culture. In places like the US, I will have to do all the household work myself.”
“You will have to call and ask Auntie what has to be done during festivals…”
“And I don’t even know how to make Payasam or vadas.”
“There will be no mother-in-law with you, to teach our special delicacies to you.”
“Forget all that, most important of all, I will never be able stay that far from Mummy-Papa.”

Radhika seems relieved.
Visakhapatnam is just a 18 hr journey from home,” I say.
Hmm… Whenever I feel homesick, I will come and spend a week with you all and return happy.”

Home. What will be home for her? Her Husband’s place or her parents’ place?

“How is Radhika?” asks Amma, “She hardly visit us these days.”
“She must be fine,” I answer with a frown.
“Must be?” emphasizes Amma, “Have you both fought?”
“Nothing like that. She is always busy with her Siddhu.”
Siddhu? You mean her fiancé?”
I nod.
“Don’t feel bad, dear!” says Amma trying to console me.
I feel bad, very bad for losing a nice friend like her. These days she hardly talks to me. Even in her busy schedule she can find time for her Siddhu, but none for me. Why should I not feel bad?

“When is the wedding?” asks Amma.
“In six months’ time,” I reply.
“Six months is too long a period,” ponders Amma.
“I don’t think so. It will help them understand each other better,” I retort back. I am used to supporting Radhika even when she’s wrong. I am very possessive and protective about her.

“I was not saying from that perspective.”
“You know what happened to Shilpi.”

How could I forget that! She should have been happily married to Bhaskar if it were not for…

(to be continued in "Getting Married, Part-III)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear Husband-to-be,

Thanks to one of my MCA friends, I chance upon a very nice message to a husband-to-be.

Here it is:

The woman in your life...very well expressed...

Tomorrow you may get a working woman,
but you should marry with these facts as well.

Here is a girl, who is as much educated as you are;

Who is earning almost as much as you do;

One, who has dreams and aspirations
just as you have because she is as human as you are;

One, who has never entered the kitchen in her life
just like you or your Sister haven't,
as she was busy in studies and competing in a system
that gives no special concession to girls for their culinary achievements

One, who has lived and loved her parents & brothers & sisters,
almost as much as you do for 20-25 years of her life;

One, who has bravely agreed to leave behind all that,
her home, people who love her,
to adopt your home, your family, your ways and even your family name

One, who is somehow expected to be a master-chef from day #1,
while you sleep oblivious to her predicament
in her new circumstances, environment and that kitchen

One, who is expected to make the tea, first thing in the morning
and cook food at the end of the day,
even if she is as tired as you are, maybe more,
and yet never ever expected to complain;

to be a servant, a cook, a mother, a wife, even if she doesn't want to;

and is learning just like you are as to what you want from her;

and is clumsy and sloppy at times
and knows that you won't like it
if she is too demanding, or if she learns faster than you;

One, who has her own set of friends,
and that includes boys and even men at her workplace too,
those, who she knows from school days
and yet is willing to put all that on the back-burners
to avoid your irrational jealousy, unnecessary competition and your inherent insecurities;

Yes, she can drink and dance
just as well as you can,
but won't, simply because you won't like it,
even though you say otherwise

One, who can be late from work
once in a while when deadlines,
just like yours, are to be met;

One, who is doing her level best
and wants to make this most important relationship, in her entire life, a grand success,
if you just help her some and trust her;

One, who just wants one thing from you,
as you are the only one she knows in your entire house
- your unstinted support, your sensitivities
and most importantly - your understanding,
or love, if you may call it.

But not many guys understand this...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Getting married!

The cell phone beeped and there was an SMS. An SMS from one of my closest degree friends. It just had three words: "I got engaged." This aroused a mixture of emotions in me. Though we both parted right after our BSc., we were in touch through phone and e-mail. She would make it a point to call me every now and then. And it was through her special interest that we met at least twice a year. I hope she feels that even I have reciprocated her affection and love.

With most of my childhood friends, college friends, PG friends and colleagues getting married, a thought occurred to me. These friends have inspired me to write this story. All the characters in this narration are fictitious but some of the incidents have been influenced by the real-life experiences.

“I got engaged.”

These are the only three words in the SMS. I cannot believe my eyes. My best friend, Radhika, has got engaged and I don’t even have a clue about it. Bad! Very Bad! I give her a call immediately. But the line is busy.

An hour later, I try her number; it is still busy. I send her an SMS, asking her to call me at once. Another hour has gone by and I am yet to receive a call from her. I get irritated. I rush to get down two floors to find her.

Radhika and I have been friends since childhood. We have been residing in the same lane, studied at the same school, completed our graduation together and by sheer luck got placed in the same company.

She is busy listening to songs.
“Hey! Why didn’t you call me back?” I ask her in anger, “What’s wrong with your mobile?”

She turns around and puts a finger on her lips gesturing me to be calm. My eyes fall on the mobile on her lap. She is not listening to songs; those are the earphones of her mobile. I try grabbing the cell while she tries her best to pull it away from me. She mumbles something into the mouthpiece and ends her call.

“Why did you do that?” she asks.
“Do what?”
“Snatched my cell?”
“I have been trying to reach you for the past two hours.”
“Oh! I am sorry,” she says and adds sheepishly, “I was talking to Siddhu.”
I try to place the name.
“Siddharth, my fiancé.”

The word ‘fiancé’ reminds me of the real reason why I wanted to meet her.

“You get engaged,” I say and add, “and your best friend does not even get to know about it.”
“I am so sorry, dear,” she replies, “Let me explain.”

I am on my bed trying to grasp what Radhika has told me. I remember the first time when Radhika’s parents found a match for her. What was his name? Vinay. We all had a look at his photos, chatted with him through Yahoo and Gtalk and spoke with him over phone. During those days, Radhika was the sole target of our discussion. We would tease her day and night. Though initially reluctant for marriage, after getting acquainted with Vinay, she accepted the reality that she had to get married some day.

On the day of the engagement, everyone was very excited. We had invited all our close relatives and friends. Radhika had a blushing glow on her face. She looked gorgeous in her pink sari. Just before the function, Radhika’s parents were in a very serious talk with Vinay’s parents. We saw the unpleasant side of them. They were finding fault with each and everything. No one was able to understand what was in their minds. All of a sudden, Vinay intervened and declared that he did not want to marry Radhika. He said that he was going to the US for an onsite assignment and would be away from home for at least 3 years. We insisted that the engagement be done and then we would have the wedding after he returned. But he refused. Everyone was heart-broken.

I vividly remember the way Radhika had reacted to the situation. Though her life was shattered, she never lost her calm. She continued with her day-to-day activities. But the people around her never forgot the incident. She was always reminded of her broken-engagement in their pitiful and sympathetic looks.

After a couple of months, we got a wedding card from one of our common friends and colleague, Priya. We were shocked to know that the bridegroom was the same Vinay. We realized that Priya got to know of Vinay through Radhika. While Radhika and Vinay were courting, Priya started sending mails and messages to him. They started liking each other. And before Vinay could realize what was going on, he was already deeply in love with her. But his parents had fixed his wedding with Radhika. He eventually convinced his parents and they agreed as she was from a richer family. But why did they play all that drama? They could have told everything frankly. Yes, it would hurt, but at least it would have been better than the hypocrisy. Why did Vinay hide the truth from Radhika and continued to fake love?

Amidst all these thoughts, I drift into asleep.

(Continued in "Getting Married, Part-II")

Monday, September 10, 2007

A date?

I looked around me. In the dim lights, I could see only silhouettes. Why was I imagining couples glued to each other or holding hands? I looked at him, sitting beside me. How were we different from them?

It was his idea to go for a movie. He had been watching this movie every week. This was probably his 4th or 5th time. Last time we came here, it was already late for the morning show. So, we had to return disappointed. But this week, we had made it just in time.

Once we got the tickets, we stood outside the entrance of the theatre. I observed that all the people around us where college students, who had probably bunked college and come for the movie. We got in and took the stairs to the balcony section. When we waited to get inside the cinema hall, I could not help myself looking out for my friends. What if one of our colleague or college mate saw us? What would we say? Well, I had never hidden anything from my family, but none of my friends knew about him. We would probably cook up some story by saying that two of our other friends were on their way to join us for the movie.

When we entered the cinema hall, we were ushered to the very first row in the balcony. To our surprise we had been allocated sofa seats, mainly intended for couples. I looked at him. He understood me.
"I can shift to another seat," he said, "once the movie starts."

Would I feel in the same manner if I had come with any of my other friends(boys)? I would have nicely sat next to him. Then why did I feel hesitant to sit beside this person? We knew each other better than anyone else in the whole world, then why was I feeling awkward?

We sat beside each other in a very uncomfortable manner. I put my handbag between us to give us some more distance and to avoid touching.

The sudden start of the movie brought me back to the present. While the titles were shown I looked around me. To my left, there were two aunties sitting in the sofa adjacent to ours. I turned to my right. I could see his profile. He pretended to be engrossed in the movie. He sat cross-legged with his elbow perched on the arm-rest and his hand supporting the face.

Did I do the right thing by coming to this movie with him? He had commented that he liked watching movies alone and this particular movie was close to his heart. He simply adored the heroine. Would I be able to tolerate him ogling at her for three full hours?

As an answer to my unsaid question, he replied, "Don't look at me like that. I am feeling conscious of myself looking at her". He was pointing to his 'Darling' on screen. I sighed.

Soon I got so engrossed in the narrative that I forgot every one's presence, including the one with whom I had come for the movie. Some of the scenes reminded me of my childhood, the days spent with my grandparents etc. It was an emotional movie and it was quite an attempt from my side, to control my tears. At the corner of my eye, I could see him crying too.

By the time it was interval, both of us were was sniffing and trying our level best to hide our tears and behave normally.
"How's the movie?" he asked
"See, didn't I tell you so?"
"Yes, you did," I agreed.
"How's she in the movie? She acted well, right?"
I had to reluctantly accept the fact. Then he proceeded to explain the scenes that he liked the most, the dresses in which his 'Darling' looked awesome etc. etc.

After some moments, seeing the expression on my face, he burst out laughing.
"Why are you laughing like that?" I asked.
"If you see your face in the mirror now," he chuckled,"even you will laugh."
"What's wrong with my face?" I asked innocently, "Is there something stuck to my nose?"
"No, my stupid little brat, " he cooed, lowering his tone, "There is no need to be jealous of that heroine. She is after all a crush, but, you..."
"But I?" I asked excitedly.

Before he could reply, his mobile rang and the conversation ended abruptly.

I suddenly became aware of someone staring at me. I turned to my left to see the two aunties appraising us. They must be thinking that we were also love-birds like the others in the cinema hall. It was so embarrassing. As soon as his call ended, I told him about this.
"Shall I sit in the next row?" he offered.
Before I could answer, he continued, "If I go, everyone will think we have had a fight." There was a twinkle in his eye.
"Or worse," I added giggling, "they may feel that you misbehaved with me. That is why, I drove you away!" We both burst into laughter. All the awkwardness melted away. We sat together with ease through the rest of the movie.

It was a lot more fun to watch the movie while he commented on the scenes. Before we knew it, the curtains fell. We reluctantly left the cinema hall.

It was time for our office; hence we parted ways at the gate of the cinema theatre. He walked towards the bus stop to take a bus while I waited for an auto.

I turned back to see him leave. His left hand rotating the umbrella and the other hand running a hand through his hair. Wish I could see his face for another time before I left! As if he had heard me, he turned around to meet my gaze. I could see the longing in face. I could read his eyes; they said he too wanted to spend some more time with me.

Meanwhile an auto stopped and involuntarily I got into it. He frowned and looked so helpless.

"Bhaiyya," I told the auto driver, "Paradise hotel, but we have to pick up that person first."
As my beloved got into the auto, I felt like giving him a tight bear-hug, instead I held his hands in mine.
"Thanks, dear!" he said.
"What for?"
"I took a day's leave just to spend time with you. I wondering how I would spend the rest of the day without you." I did not even know that he took an off from office. So sweet of him!

"Work will always be there," I said, "But moments like this will never return. We will have our lunch together and then go to the Book Fair held at Basheer Bagh. What say?"
"This will be one of the best days of mine."
I was too overjoyed to talk. All I could do was to nod enthusiastically.

It happened on a rainy evening!

With my mind in turmoil, I rush out of the house. The weather outside is also the same- full of thunderbolts and lightning. It's 5:45 and the library closes by 7. Will I reach in time? I will have to return the books by any means. The due on them is more than Rs.50. With all these things in my mind, I close the gate and get onto the street. I look skywards to see huge nimbus clouds. The horizon towards Mehdipatnam bus stop is thickly covered with clouds as far as I can see.

I walk towards the bus stop. My new slippers are pinching me but the pain in a way seems pleasureable. Atleast it gives me reason to cry. My eyes are filled with tears. Why does everything go wrong with me? Though I have been slogging like a donkey since morning, I get scoldings from everyone for not doing my work.

Tears spill out of my eyes. While I try wiping them away, huge drops of rain fall on me. Is the sky crying for me? Or it does not want anyone to know that I am crying? It starts to drizzle. The rain pricks my skin. It trickles down my nape onto my back. I do have an umbrella. But why should I use it? Do I want to fall sick? Atleast then people will start caring for me. But no. I will NOT fall sick. I don't want to be dependent on anyone. I need my health the most. Only if I am healthy, I can face to fight the world. I unfurl my umbrella, a black one, and walk upright. I make sure that my books don't get wet.

I reach the bus stop just as a bus is about to leave. As I get in, the driver and conductor get out. I will have to wait. It's close to six. Will I reach the library on time? I don't want any new books but will I have enough time to return these and pay the fine?

A couple of minutes pass, before the conductor gets in. She starts issuing the tickets. But where is the driver? He is nowhere to be seen. I feel like crying again. I have to control myself. I am no more a school kid. I am old enough to be a mother of one. I mock at myself.

The bus driver gets in and starts adjusting the mirror. He lazily starts the bus and drives it at a snail's pace. By the time we get out of the bus stop, the drizzle has become a heavy downpour. I have consciously taken an aisle seat. I will not be drenched by the water dripping through the half-shut window.

There is traffic jam at each and every signal. On most of the roads, the water level has risen. We are moving slowly and steadily. I am beginning to like the driver. He is stopping at each bus stop and waiting patiently for all the passengers to get in. He even stops in between stops for old people or ladies. He seems to be a caring person. I feel like appreciating his efforts.

It's 6:40 and there are two more stops to go. Will I reach on time? What if I dont? I will take another bus and return. A lady with a baby gets into the bus and I get up to give her my seat. She gives me a victorious smile which means:"Arey Buddhu! See how chaalu I am to get a seat!" I should not have got up. But old habits die hard. How can people not appreciate a good gesture! I am standing behind the driver's seat. During a turn, I almost fall down. I somehow manage to balance myself. The driver gives me look that seems to say: "Why are you standing here?" or "Don't you know how to stand?" No one cares for me.

My stop has come. I jump from the last step of the bus onto the pavement. There's water everywhere. I wonder if the signal is red, so that I can cross easily. But I can't see anything. It's already dark and it's also raining very heavily. Twice I try crossing and suddenly a vehicle vrooms past and I am forced to get back onto the pavement. Finally, the signal turns red or I assume it to be red as all the vehicles halt at the zebra-crossing. I quickly cross one half of the road. I am underneath the Secretariat flyover now. There are loads of two-wheelers parked and people waiting for the rain to stop.

While I am crossing the other half, I realize that the water, on the road, came above my ankles. I quickly reach the other side of the road. I am on the pavement walking towards the gate. I am shocked to see that the water is almost on level with the footpath. There is a man in front of me, folding his trousers almost upto his knees. I follow him to get down the footpath to get inside the compound. At the corner of the road, a car is stuck in the mud. The driver raises the engine but the vehicle refuses to budge. I try not to get disheartened and I don't want to look at the watch.

Holding the gate railing, for support, I get down the footpath and get in. There are lots of people standing at the entrance of the library. Everybody is waiting for the rain to stop. I close my umbrella and stop at the security. I take my books out and show him my card.

The entire floor of the library is dirty with footprints of the muddy boots and slippers. I directly go to the issue/return counter to return my books. The librarian says that the due amount is Rs.54. I go to the next counter to pay the due.

Now I can look at the time. It's 6:55PM. I decided that I would not take anymore books. Enough of rushing to return them, even though I dont complete reading them. I know, I will not have time for any of my hobbies. Life's cruel!

Yet my love for books attract me to the shelves. I go around just to get the feel of being in the library. First I look at the Agatha Christie novels to see if "One, Two, Buckle my shoe" is on the rack. As expected, it isn't.

All the lights are switched off, an indicator for the closure of the library. I walk towards the exit. It's crowded with people. I find my way out. The security guard guides me to a shelter outside the library. I stand there.

The rain has not stopped. Infact the water level on the roads have increased. The water is now on the pavements as well. How am I going to find my way to the bus stop? There may be open manholes on the road. I get very nervous. What if I were to stay here till the rain stops? But it is already 7:15. It is not that safe. If someone were with me now, it would be a great moral support to me. But who will accompany me? The one soul who said, would come, broke the promise as usual. What if I call up and ask? Then what? It will only worsen the situation. Are you ready to hear a "No"? Are you ready to see your expectations being trampled upon?

Will I have to stay here through the night? This is not office, where you can safely sit for hours together. What do I do? If anyone starts walking, I can follow them. There are so many standing under this shelter. People are only getting under, no one is getting out.

I have been watching this traffic policeman for the past half an hour. He has been asking each and every vehicle to slow down. I did not know that there are still sincere persons living in this bad bad world. He has been helping people cross the road. He has been helping move the vehicles stuck in the water. Shall I ask him to help me? But I am not used to asking anything.

A call from home.
"When will you be back?"
"As soon as I can."
"Try to be back soon."

I have decided that it's time that someone takes an initiative to get out. Why can't that someone be ME?

I unfurl my umbrella and get into the rain. One or twice I stumble. The water is cold. It is almost knee deep. I did not expect it to be that deep. I slowly reach the gate. I observe two people following me. I hold the gate railing and walk towards the footpath. The water is still deeper here. There are two men standing there. One asks, "Why do you need to venture out in this rain?". I reply, "I need to get back home and it's already getting very late." Meanwhile the two people following me, overtake me. Now I start following them. But they get into the very next building. I have to face this all alone.

I walk cautiously holding onto poles or any other objects on the roadside for support. The man who spoke to me near the gate, is walking with me. He guides me a little. But we reach the end of the footpath, we become doubtful of our progress. There is a petrol bunk on our left-hand side and that stretch of the road has been uneven for ages. What do I do?

Meanwhile two ambulances pass by. I am a little scared.

As the petrol bunk is still under repair or renovation, whichever it is, there is a rope tied across the entry of it. I hold it for support and walk across it. The water gets deeper and it pushes our feet whenever any vehicle passes by. My fellow escort walks towards the road as it's high ground there. I wade through the water and follow him.

Finally I am at the bus stop, waiting for the bus. I stand, on the road, not under the bus-shelter. Two buses come at the same time. Both are 5Ks. The first one is a Setwin bus. There is hardly any place to stand. I want a place to sit. I think that the other bus may have unoccupied seats. I run towards it. But it's also jam-packed. The Setwin is much better. But before I can reach it, the bus pulls away. I have missed both the buses.

After a 10 minute wait, I see another bus. But I cant see it's number. Is it 113? Yes, it is. I move closer. Oh no! It is 113A, doesn't go to Mehdipatnam. The driver asks me where I have to go. I reply, "Mehdipatnam." He asks me to get in and get down at Ladki-ka-pul. I hesitate. But yes, he is right. I will get more number of buses there. I get in and stand just behind the driver's seat.

The driver shows me 119 in front of our bus and says, "You can take this bus." Even the conductor is very kind and talks affectionately. He also suggests the buses that I can take. Are they thinking that I am new to the city? Or am I looking very worried and tense?

I get down at Ladki-ka-pul and immediately get another bus. It is a bus to HCU. When I get in, I notice that there is one person in each row and noone is willing to give place for me to sit. The reason that they give is: Water is dripping from the window and they will get wet. A man sitting in the ladies seat, very reluctantly, gets up.

I sit. Immediately another lady gets it and I am made to sit at the window. I don't mind the water falling on my me.

I call up home to tell them that I am safe. I am asked to go to our ex-neighbor's place to return their keys. Who is bothered about my life! But in a way, all through my return journey, I am made to realize that even strangers care for me. First, the man who guided me till the bus stop, then the 113A's bus driver and conductor. Even this HCU bus driver is also kind enough to stop the bus near to my house.

I am a little relieved but still I have to cross Amba Theatre where there are two or three open manholes. I take the main road. Luckily there is not much of water on the road. May be I did not rain much in Mehdipatnam.

By the time I reach home, the rain has stopped. Even my mind is blank. I feel as though my brain has stopped functioning. I feel tired and exhausted.

Rain is said to be romantic but for the first time in my life, I realized what kind of a nuisance it is.