I collapsed on the couch after a strenuous day of work at office. My mother promptly offered a piping hot cup of tea and my favorite cauliflower pakodas. ‘Gosh! Aren’t mothers the best?’, I wondered as I hungrily wolfed downed the pakodas.
“Shreya, there is a proposal that came today. The boy lives in Bangalore and works in an IT company but his parents are from Belgaum. He’s sent his email id. Can you please send your photo along with your details to him”, my mother asked as she passed the TV remote to me.
‘Damn! I knew there was a catch.’ So the royal treatment was just to butter me up before bringing the machete down. Slash!
This was nothing new anyways. My mother was aggressively searching for her son-in-law for the past 2 years and distributing my photo and horoscope to all and sundry. But the guys whom I “met for marriage” were either too short, too tall, showed too much interest in my paycheck, were too attached to their mother or were just plain psychos (some). I just wanted someone decent, someone kind. Someone who would allow me, to be me, and that would mean accepting me as I am, with my faults and phobias. Someone who wouldn’t force his views on me, someone who would understand that a wife is not someone’s slave, that she has a life of her own, an individuality of her own. I was not asking for too much, was I? And yeah I wanted my husband to know cooking because I knew that no matter how many years I toiled in the kitchen, I could never cook to save my life.
So I was not overly excited when my mother announced this arrival of a new proposal. In my heart I already saw it as doomed or failed. I just nodded my head and continued eating my pakodas.
As soon as I reached office I received a call from my mom.
“Don’t forget to send your photo. Send it now. You’ll forget about it later.”
I rolled my eyes but agreed to send the snap. The snap which had me covered in a sari, looking demurely at the camera, had me in giggles. Of course I was nothing like that in real life but the photographer had gone a little overboard with the Photoshop trying to make me look fair and graceful. It was a herculean task I admitted, to make me look “marriage material”.
|The Photoshopped Photo|
A few minutes later I received an email from Eshan Bhat. Yes, he was the guy whose proposal I had received the previous day.
“ThanQ for sending your photo. Here is mine”.
‘That was a short and crisp reply’ I thought, as I clicked the photo attached along with his mail.
A guy in a pink shirt, with light eyes, fair skin and cleft chin stared at me from my computer monitor. ‘Not bad at all’, I contemplated. I was particularly amused by his shorter version of Thank You.
I quickly logged into my Orkut account (FB hadn’t caught on then) and searched for Eshan Bhat. He liked traveling, as was evident from his photos taken along with his friends in various cities in India. There were a few testimonies that proclaimed that his poetry had garnered appreciation from his friends.
Oh, a creative guy, just like me, I wondered. My hopes were rising. Was this guy, ‘The One’ then?
A few minutes later, I received another email in which his phone number was given.
“I would like to talk to you. If you don’t mind would you please pass on your phone number?”
I hesitated for a while before sending him an email with my phone number.
I immediately received a call.
We were at a loss of words, not knowing what to speak. It was an awkward pause.
“This is kind of awkward. Let me go first. I completed my MCA in Belgaum and I have been working in Ardent Technologies for last 4 years. I have 2 elder brothers, both are married. I am currently living in Bangalore with few of my colleagues. I like to travel, watch movies and sometimes I play cricket with friends.” he blurted out as if he was in a job interview.
I almost laughed.
“Ok, I am currently working for a software company in Mangalore. I completed my Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics branch. I like to watch movies too.” I replied in a pleasant voice.
“You have a beautiful voice”, he said as my heart leapt.
No one had complimented on my voice till date, although I had wished a thousand times for a mellifluous tone as I sang slightly off key. And here he was a saying that my voice was beautiful. I could have wept with joy.
“Thank you” I said demurely. Now I was acting all coy and shy. What had come over me?
We spoke some more and by the end of our conversation I liked the guy. He was a gentleman, he knew how to speak to a girl and when I mentioned that I was not the quintessential traditional Indian girl, he said that he didn’t expect me to be.
That evening, when I reached home my mother waited patiently with a plate of my favorite Maggi noodles, looking at me anxiously and expectantly.
I smiled and nodded. My mother’s face lit up. She came and hugged me, kissing my forehead. My mother then proceeded to call our family priest, requesting him to match our horoscopes. Of course Indian arranged marriages are never complete without the horoscope matching. I found myself crossing my fingers, as for the first time since my mother started the groom hunt, I hoped that things would work out.
The results were announced next day. Our horoscopes matched. We had the green signal from the astrologer.
Eshan and I spoke regularly over the phone. We talked earnestly about our likes and dislikes. I confided that I’m a bad cook and that my preferred choice of dressing was jeans and t-shirts and I was not very spiritual. In fact I rarely went to temples except for some occasions. We had heart-to-heart talks where we discussed for hours together, much to the amusement of our friends.
And finally a week later my mother received a call from Eshan’s parents. They had invited our family to their house. This meant that things were serious, that maybe this was for real. Maybe, I and Eshan would be husband and wife.
The day we were to meet his family, I chose to wear a simple cotton salwar. My relatives were aghast. They insisted that I wear Sari since this would be first time his family would see me. But I refused steadfastly. I was not comfortable in a Sari and I wanted to be me. If Eshan’s family accepted me, then it would be as I am. I was adamant that I wouldn’t change for anything.
And when we arrived, his mom was amused to find me in salwar but to his family’s credit they didn’t utter a word. They accepted me with open arms and I was on cloud nine. His brothers and parents went out of their way to make us feel at ease.
There were a few embarrassing relatives who wanted to click our photos together and we had to pose awkwardly. Eshan took me away for some time and we went to an ice-cream shop. He had remembered that I loved eating ice-creams and they were my weakness. I was pleased that he remembered.
|The Awkward Photo with the awkward pose|
The date for marriage was fixed by the elders after consultation with the priest. Eshan and I would be declared as man and wife on December 11th, 2009.
December 11, 2009.
It was a bright, warm day and my eyes were still closed as the beautician looped a large garland of jasmines around my hair, tied into a neat braid. I couldn’t believe that I was getting married as early as 8 AM, which meant that I had to be up at 4 AM. Damn the priest! I asked my cousin to get me a cup of strong tea or a bottle of vodka. Anything that would wake me up. I didn’t want to sleep when Eshan tied the Mangalsutra around my neck.
After few hours of the beautician toiling over me, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and I was surprised. I looked like a bride. I actually looked like a bride! The reality hit me hard. I was going to be married.
Would Eshan and I live happily? Will we fight? Will we fall in love eventually? Because all though I liked and respected Eshan, I didn’t think that I was in love with him. But that was ok. I knew that in arranged marriages, love comes later, maybe some years after the marriage. It was enough for me that we liked each other and believed that we could live together happily.
The marriage was a strenuous affair, with relatives wanting to wish you, with the priests wanting you to be serious about the different rituals, and the cousins who kept teasing you incessantly even though you didn’t find their jokes funny. I promised myself that I would never ever get married again and laughed at that thought. Eshan looked at me weirdly thinking that maybe he had got married to a lunatic.
|The wedding album|
Finally the marriage got over and it was soon time for husband and wife to head to their honeymoon. Eshan had booked us for a Shimla-Manali honeymoon package. Throughout our flight to Delhi, we were holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. It was the most romantic moment of my life. Amidst the clouds, high up in air, I was cocooned by the soft warmth of his arms. I decided that marriage was bliss.
As soon as we reached the Delhi airport, the cab driver called Eshan’s phone.
“Hello Saab, aap kahan ho? Main airport main hoon”
“Hum airport main hain… Tum.. Tum..”, he faltered not able to talk further.
Eshan looked at me and asked, “Hey can you speak Hindi? My Hindi is not fluent.” He passed the phone to me and I gave directions to the driver.
“You said you liked watching movies, but you don’t know how to converse in Hindi?” I asked Eshan when we were seated in the cab.
"I watch Kannada movies. I don’t usually watch Hindi films since I don’t understand the dialogues”, he explained.
“Ohhhh… I see” Alarm bells were ringing in my head. I loved Hindi movies. In fact I have been fed with our Masala Bollywood movies ever since my childhood. How would I watch movies with Eshan if he didn’t understand Hindi? I forced myself to remain calm. Of course I was acting silly, these minor things didn’t matter. Eshan could always learn a new language or maybe he wouldn’t mind accompanying me to a movie which he didn’t understand.
We enjoyed the beautiful scenery as the car zoomed past the green fields of Punjab on the way to Shimla. I slipped into my dream where Eshan, clad in a leather jacket, opened his arms and I ran in slow motion into his arms and then we hugged each other passionately.
|The Honeymoon album|
“Hey, you eat Egg?”
“Yeah, of course. I mean I don’t eat it at home, but whenever I’m outside I like ordering Egg dishes. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Oh ok. I was surprised, you know, being a Brahmin, you eat egg. Do you eat fish and chicken too?” he asked cautiously.
“No, I don’t. It’s nothing to fret about. I know a lot of Brahmins who hog non-vegetarian food too. Caste or religion shouldn’t inhibit you from doing something you like, right?” I explained patiently.
“Uh-huh. It’s just that my family is kind of orthodox, so please don’t mention this to them, ok?”
I wanted to talk, but I knew that it would lead to an argument and I wanted to avoid it. The fact is, I didn’t have a conventional upbringing. My parents allowed me to choose the lifestyle that I wanted. They gave me independence, trusting my choices and knowing that eventually I would learn from my own mistakes.
Eshan was quite on the ride to Shimla. When we reached Shimla, we ordered dinner and even though I was dying to have some alcohol inside me, I forbid myself to do it. I didn’t want Eshan running back for his life. I had shocked him with my egg-eating episode. I never knew that Eshan was unadventurous. I mean what was the big deal if I liked eating eggs.
That night I was woken up by loud and deep snorting kind of sound. I woke up with a fright, thinking that someone had broken into our room. And that’s when I realized that the sound was Eshan snoring. I had never heard anyone snoring so loudly. I tred sleeping with my ears covered, I tried to mentally block the sounds, but sleep evaded me. I was a light sleeper. A gentle sound was enough to rouse me from my deep sleep.
I realized that no matter for how many years we knew a person, we come to know about his habits, about his behavior, about the small things that irritated you, only after you started living with him. Maybe Eshan and I should have had a live-in relationship before marriage. I giggled as I imagined Eshan having a heart-attack when I mentioned this to him. I remembered to keep my liberal and contemporary thoughts to myself.
The next day I woke up with a slight headache and a little bit annoyed. I had had no sleep, thanks to Eshan’s loud snoring.
When I mentioned this to Eshan, he looked perplexed.
“Oh, did I snore? I do that only when I’m tired.” He explained.
Ok, so I had to be ready for sleepless nights I warned myself. We went to Kufri that morning. On the way to Kufri, I felt restless. Somehow I felt that my married life had not started on a right note. Eshan and I kept discovering little things about each other that irritated us. I was sure Eshan had the same thoughts, because he looked distant and lost.
At Kufri, our guide took us on a trek to the mountains. We had mounted different horses which were steered by two small boys. My horse seemed a little jumpy but the boy next to my horse assured me that I had nothing to worry.
15 minutes into our trek and my horse bolted. It ran straight up the hills. I was terrified and started shouting for help. My guide had fallen when the horse ran away. I held the reigns tightly and tried not to fall off. It was the most horrifying moment of my life. I was rushing past trees and people. The low lying branches scraped at my face and I was too scared to let go off the reigns and cover my face.
I kept shouting and yelling. Suddenly I heard another horse riding beside mine, trying to catch up with my horse. I didn’t dare turn my head, but I guessed that it must be the owner of the horse Eshan was riding on. I just hoped that he would save me. I envisaged Eshan as a widower, grieving the death of his wife of few days. Would he get married again? I didn’t want to die. I wanted to have a happy life with Eshan, even if that meant sleepless nights. I wanted to be in his arms, be comforted by him. I loved him and I wanted to tell that to him. I wanted to kiss him, one last kiss before this stupid horse hurtled me to my death.
It was the platinum moment of love for me, the moment when I realized what Eshan meant to me, when I realized that I didn’t love Eshan despite his faults. I loved him for all his faults. I wouldn’t want to change even one thing about him. How I wished that I could tell him all these things now.
I realized that my horse had slowed down. I looked at the person who was now riding beside me and holding the reigns of my horse and taking control.
“Are you alright Shreya? You look so pale”, Eshan took me in his arms and delicately lifted me down from the horse.
It was Eshan who had come to my rescue. It was he who had saved my life while risking his.
“I didn’t know you ride horses too.” I was shaking like a leaf but I felt better, now that I was enclosed in Eshan’s arms.
He didn’t let me go. “Shreya, I was so frightened. I had taken couple of horse riding classes when I was in college. I was so scared of losing you. I don’t want to let you go. I love you Shreya. I’ll always love you till death does us apart and even after that”
I beamed up at Eshan. This was our platinum day of love when we understood that no marriage is perfect, no spouse is perfect. What made us perfect are the small moments of love, when we realize that the person standing beside you and squashing you with his bear hug, is the person you can’t live without. That your life is beautiful because of his presence and you love him so much that you miss his snores when you spend even one night away from him.
|Eshan and Shreya with their little one after 4 years of their marriage :)|
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. :-)