“I can help Uncle.” Sarva offered his hand, as he saw as Mohan and Harshith move the heavy sofa.
Few of the other men who came for helping, were re-arranging the rest of the furniture.
“That is ok Sarva.” Mohan hesitated.
“Uncle, I am also a part of this family.” Sarva smiled.
“Ok, in that case, can you please check if the food is served promptly once the breakfast commences?”
Sarva smiled. They were still treating him with respect, delegating him only dignified jobs.
Harini sat on the couch, with her laptop. She wore a red Silk kurthi from Soch and contrasting golden shimmering legging.
“Why don’t you wear Anarkali like Adithi?” Her mom asked in the morning.
“The dupatta will not stay intact. Plus I cannot keep holding the sides of the top every time I walk.”Harini answered.
“It is surprising how you have an answer for everything.” Uma shook her head. “Choose yourself.” Uma opened the large suitcase which had the recently purchased dresses for the wedding.
Harini chose an Olive green Kurthi.
“That is too simple.” Akhila joined Uma.
“I am not the bride.”Harini let out a sigh.
“This one.” Akhila took out a red color salwar.
“Too grand. I promise that I will wear a saree tonight and a Lehenga tomorrow evening. Please let me wear a Kurthi now. “Harini dug in to the suit case.
“In that case, wear this.” Uma and Thanuja took out the Red silk Kurthi and golden leggings.
“The leggings material will..,” Harini was interrupted.
“Don’t whimper like an infant. Wear this.” Uma and Thanuja strode away locking the door behind. The early morning scene ran through Harini’s thoughts.
She came back to the present as the Laptop beeped. It was a notification from one of the medical site she had subscribed.
Adithi held the sides of her Anarkali and was among the guests, who were appreciating her for her dressing sense.
More than 10 chairs were arranged around the dining table. The master dining table, which the family used was reserved for Kirti, Nikhil,his parents, Mohan, Uma , Gopal and Srimathi.
Two mammoth wooden dining tables were brought and were set in the lawn for the rest of the guests.
A wide spread of breakfast was arranged on the dining tables. Two, out of the several chefs who were the part of cooking committee of the wedding, had arrived for the preparation of the food for the next two days.
The breakfast was a perfect blend of both North Indian and South Indian cuisine.
Few of Gopal’s relatives had arrived early for the wedding. There were around 40 members.
The couch and the sofas were cleared from the center of the living room to the sides to give more spaces for the guests to move around.
“Madam.” Harini heard a voice as she was reading.
“Harini, why don’t you get up? Look the guy is waiting to move the couch. And for god’s sake why don’t you close that laptop?” Harini heard Srimathi’s voice.
She stood up and the couch was moved away. She looked around. The living room which was already big appeared bigger as the furniture was organized towards the corner of the room. It looked like it would accommodate 30-40 members easily. The furniture was rearranged, carpets were laid straight and morning puja was completed and various other things were set ready before the groom’s side came down for breakfast. Gopal overviewed everything and made sure it was all perfect.
Harini walked around with the laptop trying to find a spot to place it.
“Why don’t you apply some cream on your face? You look dull.” Srimathi asked, as Harini placed the laptop in Gopal’s room.
“It is ok Paati.” She replied. Srimathi shook her head and walked away.
Harini checked on Gopal, spoke a few words to him.
Harini saw Sarva standing. He waved a ‘Hi’. She gaped at him as he blew a flying kiss.
She walked in and grabbed a bowl of her cereal before her parents could notice. She came and sat on the chair that was placed near the fridge. As she opened her mouth to eat a spoonful of cereal she heard a voice.
“Why are you eating here?” Sarva asked.
“Shhh.” She shushed him and continued.” I do not want to have those Aloo Paratha and Ghee Pongal. Empty calories. If my family knows that I am eating this today, they will start preaching about the qualities that I lack, like ‘doing something which is accepted by everyone’.”
“You are a complicated introvert, aren’t you? You want to be included, but left alone at the same time. You want to stay in a group, but at the same time you want to do what you want.” Sarva smiled.
“On the dot.” Harini smiled. “I am complicated.” She added.
Sarva looked at her for few seconds.
“You look beautiful.” She heard him say.
She cleared her throat. “Really? That sounds funny. My mom and I had a big argument over what to wear. Know what? Akhila Athai wanted me to dress like Adithi. My grandma just asked me why I was looking so dull. I know I am not beautiful, but my family makes sure that they remind me often.”
“You are beautiful.” Sarva spoke as he played with the button in his cuff.
“Look.” She pointed a finger in Adithi’s direction. “There is Adithi. Now tell me honestly. Doesn’t she look more beautiful than me? I know she has got a lot of make up on, still.” Harini looked at Sarva.
Sarva crooked his brows as if he was in a deep thought.
“Look. “ He pointed to the dining table. “There are Parathas, Idlies, Masala Dosais, Pongal. Now tell me honestly. Aren’t they tastier that this diet oat cereal? I know the other items have a lot of butter, ghee and oil, still.” Sarva smiled as he imitated Harini’s previous question.
“Of course they are tastier, but not for me. I know what I want. I enjoy eating this and to me, this is the tastiest food in the world, as it serves its purpose.” Harini shrugged. She had almost completed her bowl of cereal.
“You now have the answer for your question.” Sarva smiled.
Harini knew what it meant. She smiled at him. She did not snub him, calling it a ‘Flirting’. She understood that he loved her and he was seriously trying to convey it to her.
His voice ran at the back of her head.
“When will you stop flirting?” She asked.
“Probably, the moment you understand that this is not flirting but kind of a sweet conversation a Guy is having with the girl with whom he wanted to build a relationship.”
“Harini,” She heard Srimathi’s voice, breaking her chain of thoughts. “Come, help with the serving.”
Why there is always a call only when we have a nice moment? Sarva thought and sighed.
It was 2.45 P.M.
The floor was covered with Bright red carpets. A small dais was set up in the center of the house, on which Kirti and Nikhil had to sit.
The guests were all dressed beautiful and it was shimmering with gold, be it the ornaments or the zari in their sarees and Dhothies.
Uma, Akhila and Thanuja were dressed beautiful in authentic Kanchipuram Silk saree but never got time to compliment to each other.
Adithi draped a yellow thin border silk saree. The older men wore Dhothies and shirt, while the younger preferred Jeans and crisp cotton Kurthas.
Harini walked out of her room, counting the pleats on her shoulders. She wore a beautiful peacock blue saree. An emerald necklace adorned her neck.
A set of twelve women were made to hold a tray each which consisted of various varieties of fruits, dry fruits and flowers. There were also trays on which the new dress for the bride and groom, on top of which the rings, to be exchanged were placed.
Kirti was made to sit on the dais first while the priest carried out the rituals. By then the house had almost 80 guests gathered. Few of the close relatives of Gopal’s family were invited for the engagement function.
The bride and the groom were given new clothes and were made to change. The relatives and elders gathered as they blessed the couple-to-be.
The date and venue of the wedding was read aloud.
In Most of the weddings, the engagement is carried out at least a month before and hence the announcement is generally made to inform people gathered, about the wedding venue and date.
As Kirti was put up in Delhi, it was difficult to move either of the families to one location and hence the formal wedding date and place was decided by Gopal, Srimathi, Mohan, Uma and Thanuja who went to meet Nikhil and his parent’s , formally in his house.
They made sure to conduct an engagement few days before the wedding, just to stick to the authentic ritual.
The priest read the Lagna Pathrikai which is a written vow to each other that the wedding will take place in the announced date and announced venue.
Nikhil’s family was told about each and every proceeding as it was new to them. The groom’s side looked as though they waited for the Authentic South Indian style Engagement to get over.
The couple exchanged the rings. The guests clapped their hands.
Kirti and Nikhil stepped down the dais and touched Gopal and Srimathi’s feet to get their blessings. A relatively younger, yet the eldest couple from Nikhil’s family were called. Kirti and Nikhil bent down and touched their feet too.
Snacks, coffee and tea were served. Gopal’s family members hardly found any time to eat or rest.
Juices and water bottles were constantly supplied to Kirti and Nikhil. Kirti seemed to enjoy the attention.
The engagement was over by six o clock. There were people in group who spent most of the time talking and laughing.
Harini requested her mom that she would change. Uma allowed, but made sure Harini changed from saree to a grand salwar.
It was almost 7.30 in the evening.
“In marriages do they serve heavy meals every one hour?” Harini asked Harshith as the kitchen got prepared for serving dinner.
The floor which was almost filled with coffee stained glasses and paper cups, was now getting ready to get filled with crushed water cups and water bottles.
A sumptuous dinner was served.
The guests who visited were slowly leaving. It was 9, when the groom’s family completed the dinner and retired.
Kirti and Nikhil exchanged looks as though they were at an international Airpot, bidding a bye. They bade a reluctant bye as Nikhil went into his room in the first floor, while Kirti went into her room in the ground floor.
Gopal and Srimathi had dinner along with the groom and his parents.
The rest of the family members and the cousins were left out. Adithi and Harini bought plates for everybody.
They sat on the lawn. The lawn was Sarva and Harshith’s idea. The cooks helped in serving. The dinner went on with the usual talks. Sarva and Harini never got a moment to spare. All that they could do was exchange glances.
The dinner was finally over by 10.30 P.M. The chefs stood beside Uma and Akhila.
“We will wake up at 3, madam. What is the menu for breakfast?” One of the chefs asked.
“Oh my god.” Harini blurted out. The group laughed.
“My legs hurt.”Adithi declared.
It was true. They were all exhausted, but, hasn’t the wedding just begun?
It was just day one. They had mehndi the next day, reception the day after and the wedding two days later.
There were so many people working, yet it seemed they were always busy.
That is what marriages are all about, aren’t they?
“Is it going to be really noisy?” Mohan asked the guy who was setting the speakers for the evening.
“No Kurm.” Nikhil’s dad said Mohan. “It is not going to be as loud as the actual sangeet. This is just some peppy numbers in the back ground when the actual mehendi is happening.” He added.
“Sure. Please don’t get me wrong. I was just curious.” Mohan smiled. The Kurm in Nikhil’s Delhi terms or the Samandhi in Kirti Tamizh’s terms shook hands and moved away.
It was 12 PM. Kirti was asked to complete her lunch soon. Nikhil’s family wanted to organize a small Sangeet in the evening, which was scheduled to begin by 6 PM. Since Kirti and Nikhil were needed the most, the Mehendi was rescheduled for the bride.
Three dedicated women were there, applying the paste in intricate patterns. It took one and half an hour for them to complete all the way from few inches above Kirti’s elbow till her finger tips. They did the same on her right hand. It took place in the girls’ room. For the rest of the women in the family, it was scheduled at 6 PM.
Two women of the mehndi committee were upstairs to decorate the hands of Nikhil’s mom and few other close relatives.
Srimathi, Uma, Akhila and Thanuja chose to stick with the South Indian way of applying Mehndi.
Harini was tired with most of the happenings of the previous night and chose to get some sleep. She was lying down on the bed, facing Kirti.
Adithi sat beside one of the woman discussing what would she apply on her hands.
Uma and Srimathi came in.
“Mami!” Adithi exclaimed at Uma. “I am going to wear this red Ghagra.” She held up her dress from the suitcase.
“It will look so good on you.” Uma smiled and suggested the choices on the accessories. The bed was covered with Kundan jewellery sets, bangles and dresses except for the small place occupied by Harini.
“Harini. “ Srimathi called.
“Mmmm.” Harini mumbled.
“Adithi is almost of your age. Look how excited she is. Why are you slogging like this?” Srimathi asked.
Akhila and Thanuja joined. Harini let out a sigh.
“If you just keep eating cereals, this is what will happen.” Akhila added.
This is so typically, typical. Harini thought.
Uma shook her head. She came close to her daughter.
“Why haven’t you done anything about these pimples?” Uma scrutinized her daughter’s cheeks.
“Hormones. Someone is after Harini.”Adithi added.
Harini hid her face under the pillow. You can call it hiding the blush as Adithi mentioned about Sarva or it could also have been to stop her mom from scrutinizing further.
Kirti sneezed suddenly, as the room started smelling of fresh mehendi.
“Hey you.” The women inside the room heard a voice. It was Harshith, followed by Sarva and Arjun.
“100 years.” Adithi chuckled.
Harini made a face.
“What?” Srimathi turned.
“Nope. Kirti sneezed. Hence.” Adithi winked at Harini, as she lied.
“Hey, as per Punjabi tradition, men are not allowed inside the Mehendi room.” Kirti tried to shoo the guys away.
“As if everything else is taking place as per your Punjabi tradition. Do you know few words in Punjabi? I heard you last night. You speak to Nikhil in hindi , broken hindi. Don’t tell me.” Harshith stacked the accessories one on top of the other in random order and made a place in the bed for him to sit.
Sarva pulled a bean bag and sat close to Harini. Arjun sat on the floor, beside Adithi.
“What is that 100 years thing when someone sneezes?” Sarva asked Harini, as if that was only thing left for them to talk about.
“Know what?” Harini who was lying down, sat up with a startle.
“Some medical class is about to happen.” Harshith whispered to Adithi as they gave a high five.
“When you sneeze, your heart actually skips a beat for a fraction of micro second. That is why it is a kind of a superstition to say ‘100 years’ immediately, just because the heart had skipped a beat.” Harini spoke in new excitement.
“And why is that we always close our eyes when we sneeze?” Arjun asked in genuine curiosity.
“What a brilliant question! So appropriate to the current situation. That is why no girl liked you, including this nerd.”Adithi gritted her teeth.
“May be because to prevent the eyes from popping out?” Uma asked.
“Nope. “ Harini excitedly turned to Arjun and Uma. “That’s a myth. When your eye ball decides to pop out, your eyelids can never hold it back. The muscles surrounding the eyes are not strong enough to hold it back. Sneezing is an involuntary action. Eyes close, immediately as a part of this involuntary reflex. You can try to keep your eyes open. But for that you have to practice to work against your reflexes.”
The room fell silent, listening to Harini. Most of them had a weird look. All of a sudden, the Mehendi room got transformed into a medical class. Sarva smiled at Harini.
“Why the hell did you sneeze?” Adithi looked at Kirti. The room burst into laughter. Harini made a face. Sarva smiled too, but his lips came back to a straight line, as the frown in Harini’s face grew deeper.
“Lehengas and jewellery don’t excite you, but a couple of medical terms will.” Akhila smiled at Harini.
She shrugged. Probably that was how Harini was.
“Arabic.” Harini extended her hand to the Mehendi person.
Kirti had removed the paste once it dried and applied coconut oil, kept her hands over the cinnamon fumes until her hands really hurt and did all the possible things on earth to take it from red to bright red. It stayed red, which was beautiful.
Adithi wanted a full pattern from her wrists to the finger tips. She wore an old cotton kurtha and dark leggings to prevent her new dress from staining.
Mehendi stains were very difficult to remove.
It was almost two hours. The women removed the Mehendi paste. Snacks were distributed. The guests enjoyed the music. Few of them danced when a peppy number was played.
There was no dedicated DJ. One of Nikhil’s cousins took up the responsibility. The women started swaying their hands, legs and at times hips too.
It was strange for the members of Gopal’s family. Probably now they understood how it would have been to Nikhil’s family last night, during the engagement.
The thought that the wedding was about to happen in South Indian tradition, gave them a huge relief.
Nikhil and Kirti joined the dancing group. Few of hyper enthusiastic relatives of Gopal’s extended family also joined them. Nikhil Signaled Sarva to join who wore a light blue Kurtha and jean. Sarva refused.
Upon Nikhil’s insists, he twisted his hand to the beat, did few random steps along with Nikhil and tried to walk away. The widespread lawn came to his rescue.
Harini guided the serving people to distribute the snacks to few guests who were seated in the lawn while Adithi took care of the guests inside.
Samosas, Katori chats, Bhajis and chutney varieties to accompany them were served. There were Jalebi and Rabri too.
As the tray got emptied, Harini tried to walk in, to ask for more. Sarva , who just came out after the dance, met Harini. They were just a foot apart, when their eyes met.
“Hey!” Sarva exclaimed. He gently placed his hands on her shoulders to move her away a little.
That was their first touch – An involuntary one.
As he gently pushed her away, he took a long time to observe her. His act gave Harini a bit of uneasiness.
“You look,” he paused as though he searched for a right word. ”great, I mean beautiful, no, Ugh, Gorgeous.” He was still complimenting her, lost in her beauty.
Harini did not expect that coming. She did not know how to react.
“Thank you.” She looked at him, who was still looking at her.
“Can we talk for some time?” He asked. Harini wanted it too. He was clear with what was in between them. She wasn’t.
“Sure.” She nodded. Sarva looked around and saw just people. She understood and made him walk a half round and took him to the other side of the lawn that led to the backside of the house.
“This door will remain closed for the next few days.” She pointed and sat down. He sat beside.
“Nice music and dance going on. You danced?” He asked.
Was it all we wanted to talk about? She wanted to ask, but fought back her sarcasm and tried to stay quiet as she knew that they somehow wanted to begin a conversation.
“No, not really. For me, break a leg, means, a bone fracture, not dancing well.” She paused.
Both of them laughed. Harini closed her mouth the moment she realized their laughter was loud.
“You have some hidden humor sense.” Sarva smiled.
“I am really wondering, if I really have any sense.” Harini shrugged.
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Ya, don’t you see? Adithi, Kirti. Probably they are the most sensible women. They knew what goes well with what. As in diamond jewelry would do well with this onion pink Lehenga. Gold will do well Adithi’s Red Ghagra. I don’t know all this. For me beauty means simple and elegant. I try to see whether the dress will look decent on me. That is all. I just go for it. See, I don’t have dressing sense. That’s one sense out.” Harini smiled.
Sarva sat still listening to her.
“What?” She asked.
“You don’t speak often. But when you do, you are so frank- most of the time it is really annoying; at times it seems childish and innocent, but it is genuine always.”
“Probably I don’t know to speak too. Look at the people around. They emote so well. They laugh out loud, cry, shout and bawl. Look at me, the same somber face.”
“Really? You don’t emote?”
“I know what you mean. I cried in the hospital. That was huge. I was drained. Probably the exhaustion and the thought that my dearest grandpa was alive gave me tears.”
“Come on. My mom thing. I had hurt her. So I was sad.”
“What else?” Harini seemed a little irritated.
“The panic when the old man in aircraft couldn’t breathe; the heartfelt ‘Thank you’ that your eyes conveyed when we were at the jewelry shop; the confidence when you treated the small boy who swallowed a pebble; the true concern about your cousin’s life, when you wanted me not to convey about Kirti’s past relationship to Nikhil; The true care when you were worried about Adithi’s silence. They are all emotions -True emotions.” Sarva smiled.
Harini looked at him, smiling.
“What really made you say all this? I mean why do you have to say this? Did I really impress you?”
“Let us get into something that you really love – The facts.” Sarva grinned and continued.” Are you drop-dead gorgeous to fall head over heels right at the first sight?”
“Obviously no.” Harini smiled.
“I did not fall head over heels, right at the first sight. But I did fall, gradually. Every time you spoke, every time you acted, you took me by surprise. You know something? It is easy to pull the legs of people who always try to speak the truth. It is very difficult to be one. It is very difficult to be a perfectionist. It is very difficult to be like you. Everyone can cry and laugh, but everyone can’t be Harini.” He paused to look at her.
She was listening.
“Every time I spoke, I took you by surprise? I guess I was harsh on you, most of the times.” Harini was curious.
“You were. I have to admit. And that annoyed me too. But on a larger vision, not sure if it is my nature or if it is due to my study on psychology and brain, I stopped hearing what people spoke. I started to listen what they thought. I started to interpret the thought in their mind that made them speak.”
“Sounds deep.” Harini was almost prying into Sarva’s eyes. The topic caught her attention.
“Have you heard about psychologist reading minds or identifying lies? That is how it works, I guess. Ideally the thought that made you speak and what you speak after thinking it, should match. But in most cases it won’t. In your case it did. Not just once, but every time. When you spoke words filled with anger, you were angry. When you asked a Sorry, you were really apologizing. Fake or ‘for the sake’ was never in your case. You are the most genuine heart -Unblemished, pure and flawless.” Sarva took a moment to breathe in some air.
“Whoa.” Harini exclaimed. “I never knew all this-all this in me.”
“That’s the most wonderful part of you. You are too good to even to know that you are too good. You never changed yourself for anybody. You never wanted to impress anybody.”
“I thought you were impressed.” Harini spoke in sudden fear.
“I was. I am. I will be. You impressed me just by being yourself. The more you were yourself, the more you impressed me. You are woman of refreshing candor.” Sarva smiled.
“I can’t believe this.” Harini shook her head.
“That I was able to impress someone. I am so boring to be with. I don’t make a good companion.”
“Probably for others, but not for me. If you are one of a kind, I am too.” Sarva looked at her.
Both of them laughed. Harini, once again closed her mouth, for it was loud.
“So?” Sarva asked.
“I had been speaking for a long time to hear something from you.”
“You can read minds. You can listen to my thoughts. Can’t you decipher yourself?”
“If I had been able to, I wouldn’t be here, eagerly waiting for you to reply. This is more personal. I wanted you to say. I wanted to hear your thoughts and your words this time.”
“To be honest, this is like too much for me. “ Harini paused. She never spoke for the next few minutes.
Sarva lay down on the lawn, facing the dark sky. The dusk had set in.
Harini was breathing heavily beside. The silver duppatha of her lehenga had spread in random pattern on the lawn, close to the point, where Sarva had rested his head.
“The brain had met the heart, finally.” Harini spoke after 5 long minutes.
Sarva turned to her. “Harini, the cardiologist, is the brain and you the psychologist, are the heart- A beautiful irony.”
How relevant was that to an ‘I love you.’ Sarva wondered.
She looked at him. “You know? I have this analogy. Be it a relationship or marriage, you should go for it, only after deciding that your partner is ‘the’ guy or girl. We will have to spend the rest of our lives with them, wake up in their arms every morning, and spend all our special meal and movie dates with them. Having said that, unless and until I don’t seem new to you every day, life will get bored. For an already boring person like me, it will get worse. Marriages must be like natural fresh water beaches. The same water, the same location, yet every time you step on the water or the water gushes and wets your ankle, you feel new, you feel excited, you giggle like a child and on top of everything you feel happy. You just want to go back to the water again and again. It does not bore you. You don’t feel exhausted even after spending hours at the shore. That is how marriages should work. “ Harini paused and looked at Sarva. He was listening to her, deeper than ever.
“You showed me a new me. – The impressive side of me, the beautiful side of me. You did not ask me to change to impress you. You did not ask me to add a layer of foundation to beautify me. You saw the real me -The forever me. I now know, I can be the same till my last day and still can be loved, which was all that I wanted. . You admired the qualities in me that failed to impress others. In fact they mocked me for the same. You saw, understood, interpreted, liked and loved the side of mine, which no one knew, ever existed, in that case, even I never knew. You gave me the confidence that you will never leave me. When you stood so strong in loving me, even when I showed my worst face to you, I can’t imagine how stronger you will be once I accept your love. That is the kind of a promise I want, a promise that you will never leave me behind. I felt you, only when we were away. Your words echoed in my mind in the most desperate, yet most needed moment of my life, the hospital ICU ward. I felt you closer than ever. You stood by me in the form of your words. I was impressed. Initially it was just the curiosity in knowing you, I have to accept, but later I travelled from curiosity to confusion as why I was interested in you and from that confusion to confirmation that something in you was making me fall for you and then I am here, this moment, confirming that it is Love.” Harini paused again.
Sarva tilted his head to look at her.
“If you had really liked me from what you had seen me in the past few days, I think you will definitely like me. That is the complete me. To be honest, until you came up to me with this relationship talks, I had not thought about how my love life would be. I wanted to spend a lot of time before deciding. I think I did. You were very patient. To me, it did not matter how much time I spent, all that mattered was on whom I spent. Once I decide he is the one, he will be the one- the one who dances with me on my wedding day, the same one who would walk with me slowly around the park at my age of 60, holding my wrinkled hands, no matter how wobbly our knees would be.” Harini smiled and continued.
“I will be the same, the same Harini, whom you saw in your friend’s wedding. You will have to tolerate me and love me for the rest of the life. “She looked at the grass.
“I will. I will make you feel special every moment. I will always win your heart. You are very complicated and hard to convince. Winning your heart is not a onetime accomplishment. I will win your heart every day, by every passing moment. “ He looked at her.
“That’s what I wanted to hear from you. I am not very bad, but definitely not as great as you are. I promise I will strive to give you a wonderful life too.” She promised.
“So , is that a Yes?” He asked.
“Yes, I love you.” Harini blushed.
Sarva smiled. He took her duppatah and covered his face. The night sky looked lovely through the thin material.
Harini looked at him. She slowly removed the duppatah off his face to look at him. Sarva still held the loose end of the dupatta.
“But…” He slowly spoke. “I have a concern.”
Harini looked at him, perplexed. A sudden panic with fear and sorrow struck her face. Sarva studied her expression.
“You will only have to wake me up in the morning for the walk. I will already be 64 then. Alarm clocks will be too much for my age.” Sarva feigned a serious look.
Harini looked at him, her expressions slowly changing.
She burst into laughter.
Both of them laughed, louder this time, but did not mind about the sound.
He slowly sat up, facing her. Harini sat by his side. The moonlight fell on her cheek that was closest to him.
Sarva held Harini’s hands. It felt cold. His grip grew tighter. Every time the grip grew tighter than the previous, it sent chill shivers down her spine. Harini held his hand firmly, entwining her fingers’ in his. She blushed. The feeling of being so close to a guy for the first time gave her goosebumps.
Sarva looked at her face. Harini freed her hands off his grip and took her hands to his face. She brushed off the short hairs that fell on his forehead. As she touched his cheeks, Sarva saw her cheeks turning red. He slowly took his hands and placed them around her shoulders.
“I love you.” She whispered and rested her forehead on his shoulders.
They were there, under the moonlight, sharing the most intimate moment.
Sarva’s mobile vibrated, disturbing them. It was a call from Kirti.
“It is Kirti.”He said aloud. Harini came back to her senses.
“We have to go; they will be searching for us.” Harini tried to move.
As they walked back, Harini suddenly stopped.
“It is 8.30 now. I will get up at 1 and get ready. When are we leaving for airport?” She asked.
Sarva was surprised.
“Are you coming with me for receiving my parents? You remembered the date?” He shouted in excitement. His face lit up with glee.
“When it can give you so much happiness, why wouldn’t I? I have started learning about what my loved ones will love.” She smiled. “Any constraints for clothing?” She continued to ask.
“I don’t know. May be something that you are comfortable with. But never mind about the eyeliner at 1 .30 AM. Go easy on it.” Sarva chuckled.
“Oh, you still remember that eye liner? I can’t forget how Kirti made me sit with my eyes closed.”
“But it still smudged those delicate areas below your eyebrows.” Sarva smiled.
“You noticed even that?”
“Do you want me to say what else I notice in your face? Now go get some sleep.” Sarva pushed her in the direction of the house entrance.
She smiled. Her smile made her face crease and eyes twinkle.
“Didn’t they ask you where were you going?” Sarva spoke as he ignited the car. Mohan had lent his car to receive Sarva’s parents. It was decided a couple of days before. Sarva wondered if he would have, if he had known that Sarva would take his daughter.
“They asked, Of course. I told them that I had to come with you as a representative of my family. My mom and grandma were never convinced. A lot of talking and finally my dad allowed as he knows me. So the others had to accept. They would have got the hint, I guess. As in why suddenly their daughter was showing so much interest towards something. ” Harini shrugged.
“Mmmm.” Sarva mumbled.
“Have you hinted?”Harini asked.
Sarva turned towards her.
“About me.” She clarified further. Sarva smiled.
“How shall I introduce myself?” She asked.
“Let us see once we reach there.” Sarva calmed Harini and drove towards the Airport.
They stood in the Domestic Arrival lounge and waited before Sarva waved to a couple. Harini and Sarva stood up and walked towards them.
They looked like Tamizh people, settled in Northern India for more than a decade.
Harini clasped her hand for a Namaste.
“Harini, this is my mom and dad.” Sarva spoke to Harini.
“Hi, Aunty, Hi Uncle,”Harini fumbled as what would she say next.
“So, Harini how are you?” Sarva’s mom asked. Harini looked with a startle.
“I am fine, Aunty, Thanks. How are you?” She managed to ask.
“We are good, child. How is the MD in cardiology thing coming together?”Sarva’s dad asked.
“Good, Uncle. I will start my master degree soon.” Harini replied and looked at Sarva.
‘I told them.’ He mouthed.
‘About us?’ She mouthed.
‘No. As of now, just about you. As a special friend. About our love, later.’ Sarva smiled.
Chennai – 4 years later:
The house smelt of fresh Jasmine. I, again, tip toed carefully through the big Rangoli that was drawn at the entrance.
This time the house and members in there weren’t as new as it was during Kirti’s wedding.
“Hey!”Kirti greeted me with the same enthusiasm as she greeted me into the house for her wedding.
“How are you?” She asked.
“Fine. How is your wedding life going? ”I asked.
“4 years gone. Oldies oldies. The talk of the house now is the new couple, Harini and Sarva.” Kirti smiled.
Four years passed quickly.
Kirti’s wedding was one of the most glorious weddings of all time. It was awe-inspiring. Both the families, guests, friends and even people who came around for helping were all happy. It was a picture perfect wedding. Gopal and Srimathi had happy tears.
I took almost two years to complete the story. After two rounds of editing and discussion, my book got printed recently. I reserved the first copy for Harini. When Kirti told me about Harini’s wedding, I wanted to present this as a special gift. I carried several copies in my hand for Kirti, Uma and Srimathi, as they requested me to give one.
Harini had pursued her masters in cardiology, a couple of years ago. She is now practicing in Dr. Sachin’s clinic. Due to her excellence in performance, Dr. Sachin decided to retain her in hospital to get trained under him. She was now one of the important doctors of the hospital. It meant as the most prestigious Job to Harini as the nation’s leading cardiologist had offered her a job.
Adithi and Harshith are still trying to work out whether to take their relationship to the next level – wedding. Akhila has been pressurizing her daughter lately to come to a decision soon and hence Adithi is now working with Harshith to decide.
Arjun was told about Harini and Sarva which he could not take it lightly at the beginning. Adithi had explained him about how she felt the same initially and Sarva and Harini were ‘Unique’ in their own way and only such people will get along well. Arjun accepted and moved on. He spent extra hours in the gym to distract himself. He is now working on his 9th pack, after adorning 8 abs packs.
Harini and Sarva told the cousins first about their relationship, for which except Kirti everyone gave a ‘I-new-it’ look.
Kirti gave a ‘You –two-together-Oh-My-God’ look.
The parents were told after Harini completed her masters. Sarva had a couple of US trips in between too.
It was difficult to convince initially. Sarva had to take the convincing job at both the ends. Whenever he looked at Harini for help , she told a ‘You are good at talking, better do it.’
‘Wifey tantrums.’ Sarva understood and complied.
After six months of negotiations, both the families accepted and they were here today, for getting married.
Tonight was Harini’s reception.
The house was less perfect when compared to the previous visit. Chairs were not in place. The edges of the read newspapers fluttered in the breeze. It wasn’t stacked as it used to be. The dining table still had open laptops.
‘Where was their perfectionist Grandpa?’ I wondered.
I greeted Srimathi, Uma, Thanuja, Akhila, Ashok, Arjun and Harshith. Srimathi had lost weight due to diabetes while Thanuja had gained, due to menopause.
“Harini is inside.” Kirti ushered me in.
I saw Gopal and Mohan seated. A sense of relief overtook me.
I looked at Gopal and smiled and greeted him.
“How is your health now?”
“I am fine. I now have an expert in my family. She had me feel ten years younger.” Gopal smiled.
“Back there…,”I paused.
“Don’t be confused with the clumsy clutter outside. Appa is too busy to get the newspaper in place. It is his favorite grandchild’s wedding. ” Mohan spoke to me.
“Oh, I see.” I smiled.
“Finally, he is beginning to accept that imperfections could be beautiful too.”Srimathi added.
I walked to Harini and finished the formal greetings.
“Sarvesh?” I asked.
“Groom is in the first floor.” Harini pointed her mehndi stained fingers. She took her mobile out and called him.
“He will come in four minutes.”Harini smiled.
He came down in few minutes.
“The book is complete. I thought I shall first give it to you guys.”I took the book and extended one to Harini and one to Kirti.
Kirti read the title aloud. “72 beat of Love.” She looked at me confused. She turned the cover page.
‘Dedicated to the Chakravarthy’s’- The credit line shimmered in bright bold Italic font.
“What’s with the title?” She asked.
I turned towards my heroine and smiled. She knew I needed her explanation here. Sarva caught my glance.
“72 beats are the average heartrate of an adult in humans.” Harini smiled.
“About you guys. “ I pointed to Harini and Sarva. “How the brain met the heart.” I smiled.
“Are we there too?”Kirti asked.
“Yes, you all are. But Harini and Sarva are my protagonists.” I spoke and packed my bag.
“Where are you leaving?” Uma confronted me.
Before Kirti could start bashing me as I have written so little about her, except for the phone calls and make up sessions. I thought, but never said it.
“Aunty, I will get ready and come for the reception.” I tried to slip away.
“Thanks for the book. Can’t wait to read it.” I heard the voices.
“My pleasure. Thanks for letting me write about you. Hope you all like it and hope you all would thank me after reading it too.” I smiled and waved a ‘Good Bye’.