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A pyre of dead twigs burnt below the oak tree. The air was reverberating with religious chants . The elaborate ritual had my entire family’s attention and attendance. I stole a quick glance at my mother. A tear trickled down her crinkly cheeks. I wasn’t sure if it was the fire that had caused it or her despair.
“We are doing this for your sake. Your presence is mandatory”, mother roared.
“Fine, I’ll do whatever it is that will make you happy”, I retorted before storming off.
Two hours later, dusk descended on us. It also signaled the end of the ritual. The lone sparrow on the oak tree flew to it’s abode. “Perhaps, it’s time for us to do the same”, I thought.
Once we were back home, mother and father heaved a sigh of relief, in unison. I walked into my room and closed the door behind me. I bawled like a baby. The happenings of the last few days had taken a toll on me. I just couldn’t restrain my emotions. I cried myself to exhaustion. Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.
Buzz.Buzz.Buzz. My phone rang incessantly.
“Hey. Is everything alright?”. I was worried.
“Where the hell have you been?”, Sis inquired.
“I was finishing up some work. What’s wrong?”
“Alright, listen to me carefully. Remember Lekha from my batch?”
“Hmm. I can faintly recall . What about her?”
“Well, we’ve got a proposal from her best friend’s family.”
“Breakfast’s on the table. Help yourself. I haven’t slept a wink last night”.
The dark bags were very prominent on mother’s face. Her pale complexion only added to the effect. I nibbled a few bits of the toast before dashing off to work.
At work, my thoughts were preoccupied with my personal life. It was in shambles. I hadn’t received a single marriage proposal in months. Mother and Father were distraught. Relatives would snigger at us anytime we’d venture out for a family gathering. My extended family would offer their sympathies to my parents. Some would downright snort at them saying I was way too cocky and hence this fate had befallen my family.
“It will happen when it is willed. We cannot marry off our daughter against her wishes, only to fulfill societal obligations”. Mother always put up a brave front before my extended family.
“Ahem. How did you manage this coup?”, I joked.
“I didn’t. They got in touch with me. I haven’t spoken to her in ages. The world surely is a small place”.
I could sense the excitement in Sis’s voice.
“The guy belongs to an affluent family. They are very liberal minded. I think you’ll like them. I have given them you’re number. Expect his call anytime soon. “
“For God’s sake , answer his call”, sis added for good measure.
The frenzy at home was palpable. Mother and Sis had already spent hours on the phone discussing my impending marriage. Everything down to the color of my wedding saree had been decided already. I was caught in the middle of all this heightened activity. I was thoroughly enjoying the fun.
I had spoken to him twice already and we had decided on a place for our rendezvous.
“If this works, my family would be so relieved”.
We hadn’t had a single celebration in years.
“My wedding is going to be one helluva Big Fat Indian Wedding”.
I was thrilled to bits.
“Why am I not even getting a single proposal?”.
I was angry. Around me, friends were uploading pictures of their newborns and here I was, not even married. Even people at work had started commenting on my relationship status and were flooding me with unsought advice.
“This is getting onto my nerves. Why the hell should I have to get married? I’m better off alone”. Of course I did not mean this. I wanted more than anyone else to get married and settle down . But life just wasn’t playing along.
I was broken off my reverie by the sound of the scurrying feet . It was time to call it a day.
We spoke for more than three hours , the very first time we met. Something that was totally unheard off in my family. They knew right then that this alliance would be “the one”. When I called home and told my family that he was dropping me home, they went berserk. I could hear mother yell out to my brother to get some pastries and lemonades. I knew her next move would be to summon father home immediately and plunge headlong into cleaning up the house. I giggled to myself. It had just taken a week to change the mood at home from somber to happy.
“Won’t you come home?”
“Oh no. I’m already so nervous. I don’t think I can meet your parents today”.
“We don’t feed monsters at home. You will be just fine.”
“Not today. I better go home and give my parents an account of what transpired between us. I had a great time today”.
“Me too. Keep in touch”
When I entered home, every article at home had been rubbed squeaky clean and everyone was looking at me expectantly. Mother was looking at the door expecting him to enter anytime now.
“He isn’t coming Ma. He said he’s too nervous. I’ll tell you what happened over dinner”. I laughed with gay abandon.
Seven months had passed since I had last met him. I hadn’t heard from him after that evening.
“It is the guy’s family who should get in touch with us now. If he has liked you, they’ll call us”, father said.
“It’s safe to assume he hasn’t”, I thought.
Last week had been extraordinarily difficult for me what with mother breaking down twice over my marriage. Every passing day seemed to be another painful reminder of the fact that I was unmarried.
“Please put an end to all our miseries God. Please. Get something going”.
A week passed uneventfully. Our miseries hadn’t.
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.
“Yes mother. I’m on my way home. Do you want me to pick up something?”
“Get home quickly”.
My heart skipped a beat. My amble broke into a run. I was trembling when I rang the door bell. Mother opened the door. Her face had lost it’s color. She was trembling too.I braced myself for the worst.
“What is it? Is everything alright?”.
She paused. I shuddered.
“We have received a mail from his family. They want to know if we are still interested in the alliance”.
I was brought to my knees. Mother knelt besides me too. We just hugged each other and then sobbed. Sobbed so inconsolably that even the rain would have blushed seeing the copious tears we had shed. That evening heralded the end of a misery for my mother and I. Tears were our only outlet .