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As he came closer, I felt a surge of electricity run through my body. I had never been with a man who could arouse me with just his intelligence and choice of words because I had never met one.
You and I both are perplexed
Life is not simple let’s take some rest
Before the clouds dry and fly
My dear rain you just volley ….”
A sort of mist had descended since morning as if rain was also in turmoil like me, to rain or not to rain, to clamour or to just remain quiet. I want the rain to volley, but I was not in a position to advise her when I was sitting here alone while all my family is busy dancing to the tunes of my would be in-laws. The barat had already arrived and because I am the bride; I was not allowed to see my groom as it is not considered a good omen.
I am Sambhavi, an architect by profession. But after a series of failed relationships and crossing my 30s, two years back, my parents and their not so known relatives had refrained me from taking any decision for my future.
In Indian society 30 is a dangerous line for girls. Once you have crossed this line and your relationship status is still single, your parents and a whole lot of known and unknown relatives will turn into agony aunts. And finally a few months back, one of those aunts introduced Akhil and his family to my parents.
Akhil was a ‘perfect match’ for me; at least my mom presumed it. He was a civil engineer from IIT and working with a Singapore based company. Even I had asked for a transfer to my Singapore office. What more could a girl want? But I was not happy, and the irony is that I didn’t even know the reason.
I use to have regular chats and calls with Akhil, but those were the conversations between two strangers, and it’s still the same. My mom had instructed me to not have much of personal conversations with him, so I had never developed any romantic feelings for him, even if I had wanted to.
Today, when my groom was waiting outside for his bride; I wanted to run away from our marriage. He might feel bad for a day or more, but eventually, he would be thankful. After all, both of us hail from completely different parts of the world. I was entangled in a labyrinth.
I desperately wanted to have a cigarette but where? Because of my relatives scattered everywhere, it was almost impossible for me to find a deserted place. A smoking girl is a rare sight in India with a stigma attached.
But I was an explorer, and I had an inbuilt navigator too, which helped me in finding a deserted backyard.
I stood on the front porch, puffing on my cigarette as if sucking in a lung full of chemicals might somehow help me to solve my matters.
“You smell of cigarettes and sadness.”
My motley of thoughts were disturbed by the husky voice of a male. I did not look back and ask him to leave me alone.
“I hate being ignored with a passion. Tell me what’s up, and I’ll leave you alone.”
It made me furious, and I turned back, only to find Akhil standing there with a mysterious smile on his face.
“Wh…wh…what are youuuu doing here?” I was fumbling as if he caught me red-handed.
“For the same reason of which you are here.”
“Do you smoke??” I felt like cheated.
“Yaa…sometimes.” He signed.
“But your lips are telling a different story, it looks like that you are a chain smoker, Akhil.”
“Aaah, your eyes straight away figure out my lips.” He chuckled which left a coy smile on my face. But he continued.
“But I am not able to guess your part of the story because your lips are wearing multiple layers of lipstick. This is unfair.” He teased me which made me silent for a few minutes.
After a few minutes of silence, I spoke, “Everyone must be looking for us.”
“No one is looking for us and at least for a couple of hours no one would even think about us.”
“What? But why?”
“One of my uncles fainted, and right now everyone is busy in making him conscious again.”
“You should be there.”
“He fainted because he was boozed, and there are enough people around him. Anyways don’t change the topic, tell me the problem.”
I hesitated for a minute and then spoke, “I guess I am not right for you.”
“Hmmm. And what made you think of this?”
“Look, I am not a perfect girl which your family is looking for.”
“I guess you are getting married to me. And you are just perfect for me. In fact more than that.” He winked at me.
“Look, I smoke …”
“Even I do.”
“You drink? I mean your parents said that you are a teetotaler.” I was startled.
“Parents know each other very well. That is the reason they know what to share and what to hide from each other. This is how an arranged marriage functions in India. What to do and what not to do; mentioned before you are approaching any family. This list changes with the change in family, state, and city but basic rules remain the same in arranged marriages all over our country.”
“And, one basic rule is about the virginity of the girl.”
He stopped smoking and looked straightly in my eyes.
I gulped nervously before speaking. “I am not a virgin.”
He stared for a minute and burst into laughter which left me perplexed.
“Do you think that it is going to affect me as if I am some ascetic person. I had many relationships in the past too.”
“But you are a man and that too a man who is going for an arranged marriage, So obviously virginity would be a prerequisite for you.”
“In that case, you are a girl who is also opting for an arranged marriage; you should have saved your virginity for your husband.”
I became frantic with his sudden remark, and he sensed it.
“Sambhavi, you must not be judgemental. Anyways if are not strong enough to call off this marriage, I will do it for you. But please speak the truth.”
I felt insulted. But of course I talked like an idiot; so how else could he understand me!
“I am sorry if you don’t like my honesty, but to be fair, I don’t like you. We could never be a perfect couple.” I replied sternly.
“This is what I wanted to hear. You know when we use to have our routine calls, your answers made me a bit skeptical about you. You seemed to do a role play in our so-called dates which we use to have. I even felt that you were trying to convey some cryptic response about marriage being forced on you. I did ask you. But then you never gave a positive reply to my queries. And now…” He sighed and continued. “But I am happy that finally, you spoke your heart out before it was too late.”
I could sense pain in his voice.
“Akhil, I am sorry. But I am fed up of playing the role of someone else. Our marriage would be a perfect example of imperfection.”
He took a quick puff at his cigarette and smiled at me.
“Bhavi, what is perfection?” He murmured, taking a tentative step closer to where I was standing in the dark corridor. I held my breath as the intense gaze of his dark eyes were burning me. Now, I could see his full lips and chiseled face. It seemed to me that he was about to blow smoke on my face, as I had seen in many English and Hindi movies.
But on the contrary, he blew smoke to my right from the corner of his mouth, and beckoned me to look there.
“Perfection is this, just like a cloud of smoke from a cigarette. You can see it, but the moment you want to touch it, it is gone. I want a total ban on this word because it is not real; perfection is not real. Even God is not perfect.”
This time he grinned wide, his perfectly aligned smile. As he came closer, I felt a surge of electricity run through my body. I had never been with a man who could arouse me with just his intelligence and choice of words because I had never met one. My mouth suddenly felt dry and I pushed him away gently while running my tongue quickly across my bottom lips.
He quickly moved aside,” I hadn’t planned on seducing you.”
I smiled in response because that was almost true.
“Perfection is not real, but marriages are. And one must marry out of love, not because of society’s pressure or because maybe in few years your reproductive system would have to face some issues.”
He couldn’t help but smile. “There you go, this is what you are. Now that you have found yourself again don’t let her go.”
I nodded my head in approval. “I won’t.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes, and both of us could hear the noises coming from the front side. We both knew that it wouldn’t be long before our moment together would be disrupted. I didn’t want this to happen, but couldn’t understand why.
“So, you think we can’t do this whole marriage thing?” There was disappointment in his voice, which made a lump in my throat.
“We don’t love each other and …” I was confused.
“Not all marriages happen because of the love you had in the beginning. There are some which happen on how you continue building love in this beautiful journey called marriage.”
I had pulled away, and however hard my heart wanted to say yes, but still, I said no; because no-one knows me better than me.
“Akhil, I am not a wife material. I am not made for marriage. I don’t know how to be a good wife. I am a wanderer.”
Akhil took a deep breath and leaned his head against mine. “Don’t get me wrong but your whole concept of marriage is wrong. There is nothing called the good wife or the bad wife. There is no rule book on how to be a good wife or a good husband. It’s in your mind. Sorry to say, but your thinking is not very different from the feudal mentality of this society. This society puts the baggage of rules on the shoulders of a couple, especially the woman. Shrug it off and be a partner for life of someone.”
I was almost awestruck by his words, and the realization of how much I wanted him was frightening.
He continued speaking. “Marriage doesn’t guarantee that we will be together forever, registration is done on papers. It takes trust, respect, commitment, understanding, friendship, acceptance of all imperfections, and unconditional love. ”
“Akhil, I ….”
He stopped me in between. “I respect your decision, and I am going out to break this news to our family members. I want you to love yourself and continue doing so. Marry whenever you want to, remain unmarried if it pleases you. But always remember that being unmarried is your choice, not your shortcoming. Take care… Bhavi.”
This was it; all ended well. I should be happy, but I was not.
“That’s it; I am leaving!” He announced as if reading my thoughts. In the meanwhile, he had lighted another cigarette and was puffing smoke continuously.
I tried hard but couldn’t shift my glance from his smooth jaw broad shoulder and his lips which were busy in puffing.
“Smoking is injurious to health. You must try and quit smoking.” I regretted the words the minute they passed my lips, but I couldn’t take it back now.
He sighed in frustration but refused to let go of the cigarette.
“Well, I am glad you could be reasonable about this. But take my advice – never tell any smoker about how injurious smoking is for him; because you never know maybe something is already killing him.”
At that very moment, I realized that I just didn’t desire him, it was much more than that. I never knew when he came closer to me and wrapped his arms around my waist. The warm scent of his perfume had become familiar now. I was enjoying the feel of his arms when suddenly he covered one of my ears with his lips and murmured.
“I would if you promise to quit smoking too.” Now he was playing with me like an instrument.
I looked up to see Akhil’s dark eyes filled with concern and desire. “Then let’s do it together; be my partner.”
Image: a still from the movie Manmarziyaan
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