Suhana was sitting next to the window in her room. In traditional clothes, with tears in her eyes, holding a journal, her fist clinched.
“Suhana! Hurry up. What’s taking you so long?” Sangeeta slammed open the door, “Everybody is waiting for you downstairs”
Suhana hurled the journal on the floor and went out of the room with her cousin.
Suhana was a 25 year-old educated woman who lived with her family in Maitipur in Odisha. Her father was a government employee and mother, a homemaker. She had a younger brother Samir who studied in college. After graduation, her parents had agreed to let her pursue higher education and get a job as an eligibility to get a good husband.
“This is our daughter Suhana”, her father introduced her to the guests.
Silently, controlling her tears, she sat on a sofa, surrounded by some known and some unknown faces. Today was the day she dreaded the most. Her prospective future in-laws had come to see if she was suitable for their son though the ‘groom’ himself was conspicuous by his absence. She was the centre of conversation varying from her educational qualifications to her ability to do household chores. Her destiny was being discussed by those who had no contribution to her upbringing.
Finally, she was taken back to her room from where she could hear the ‘guests’ discuss dowry with her parents.
After some time her mother entered, “Thank God that they have said ‘yes’”, she hugged Suhana.
“But Ma, nobody has asked me. I know nothing about the guy,” Suhana said softly.
“Not again, Suhana. We have already talked about it”, her mother retorted.
Soon Suhana’s aunt Sumitra entered. “Look Suhana. You are already 25. Do you have a choice? He is a nice guy. Now don’t start arguing again”.
Teary-eyed Suhana asked, “Ma, I want to work after marriage”.
“Oh God! This girl…You are a girl, so behave like one”, her aunt interrupted angrily, “I already told you not to let her study further. Now see…”.
“Your marriage has been fixed. It’s in two months. The guy and his parents are nice people. You’ll be happy”, Ma tried to console her.
“Two months? Ma…”
“Nothing more. We have so much to do”, saying this Sumitra took Ma outside.
In a house filled with people, Suhana was lonely today. The girl, who once dreamed about flying, felt as if her wings were to be clipped forever.
The same night, she sat alone in her room going through her books. The same books had once taught her to be free but people had made her a silent spectator as others took upon themselves the responsibility to unfold her destiny.
Filled with anger and helplessness, she collected those books and went outside to throw them. As she was about to leave the room, her journal fell onto the floor. She picked it up started going through its pages. She had been keeping it since her college days. Filled with her wish list, it had her deepest secrets. From her dream destination to her first love, it had kept all inside it like a best friend.
As Suhana turned pages, she came across a name-Samay. He was Suhana’s college friend Priya’s brother and an officer in the Air Force. He would often visit Priya in college whenever he was on holiday. Though an introvert, Suhana felt comfortable in his company. Through his gestures, she felt that he liked her too but everything seemed obscure then.
It’s been years since she had last met him. They were friends on social media and Suhana knew that he was still unmarried. She loved him but was too shy to tell this to anyone.
Lost in his memories, she realized that now that her marriage was fixed, his name should mean nothing to her. She took a deep breath. Trying hard to get over her feeling for him, she turned another page of the journal. It was her wish list. One of her wishes was to travel alone to places like Darjeeling. Next to it was written-
‘If you do not create your destiny, someone else will and that will be the end of purpose of your life’
This struck her. She stood up and decided that before marriage she would fulfil her one wish at least.
She switched on the computer in her room, looked for trips to Darjeeling and booked a flight for next week. Excited she called up Priya and told her the itinerary. Still anxious if she should go ahead with her plan, she went to sleep.
Next morning, she told her parents about her decision but got the expected reply.
“Girls should enjoy but after marriage”, her father said without looking up from newspaper.
“Please Baba, for just one week”.
“No. I don’t want any further talks on this”, her father was adamant.
“It’s the result of education”, Sumitra took the conversation further, “She is good for nothing. Today she is talking to go for vacation in India, tomorrow she will ask to go outside the country.”
“I have asked my parents…not you”, Suhana said lowering her eyes and voice.
“Is this the way a girl should talk?” taken aback, her aunt asked.
Suhana went inside without answering. She could hear her aunt complaining to her parents.
Next week without informing any one, she left her house early morning leaving a note for her parents-‘Will be back in a week’. She knew this would upset her family but she was determined to live her life once on her own.
She called her parents from the airport assuring them of her safety. In the flight, to take her mind off her apparently hasty decision, she tried to engross herself into a book.
“Hi! Are you Suhana?”
Startled she looked up. It was Samay.
Pleasantly surprised she replied, “Samay?!”
“Mind if I sit next to you?” he politely asked.
“Not at all”, how could she refuse him.
He exchanged his seat and sat next to Suhana.
She tried to control her happiness when he said,” I saw you in the aisle. So…Darjeeling. It’s a beautiful place”
‘God, his voice…his smile…’ trying to act normal she asked, “Umm…Are you going there as a tourist or an officer?”
“Tourist”, he smiled. “Actually Priya told me about you and I followed you here”, he said with a smirk on his face.
‘ I so wish it were true’, Suhana thought. “Oh really?”
“Yeah”, he said looking at her with a smile. “You’re travelling alone?”
“Huh…Yes. Umm…actually….” she hesitated. She did not want to disclose about her marriage plan to him, “I thought one should travel alone at least once in their lifetime”
“That’s so brave of you”, Samay said. “Do you mind if I accompany you? I mean only if you’re comfortable”
‘Really?’ she replied. ‘God…this is going to be the best part of my life’, she thought to herself. She was too excited to say no but too shy to say yes. Controlling her emotion she said, “If you can, it’ll be very helpful”.
On reaching Darjeeling Samay asked, “So any plans? Where from here?”
“I don’t know. Let’s see”, Suhana replied with a shy smile.
They both decided to see tea plantations.
“Let’s take a walk around”, Suhana wanted to spend more time with Samay who readily agreed.
It was beautiful. Distinctive black tea plantations dotted the surrounding slopes. It was cloudy which made the weather even more pleasant. They kept walking for a few metres without saying a word.
“So Suhana, what do you do? I heard you’re working”, Samay broke the silence.
“Yes. I work as a finance manager”, she replied.
“That’s good. And…” he hesitated, “still single?”
This question reminded Suhana what she wanted to forget. After a pause she replied, “Yes”. She did not want to lie. ‘I am not engaged yet’, she thought.
“What about you?” she wanted him to say that he was single too.
“Well. Me too”, he smiled looking at Suhana.
‘Oh God, he is making me weak’.
“What happened? Are you alright?” Samay asked looking at her expression.
“Yes, I am fine”.
“Are you seeing someone?”
“What?” taken back by this enquiry, Suhana replied, “No…no”, she looked down with shyness. Mustering courage, she asked, “Are you?”
“I wish I could say yes”, he replied with same calmness.
“What does that mean?”
“Well I like this girl but I am not sure if she likes me too”, Samay replied first looking at clouds and then Suhana.
His confession made her upset. Half-heartedly she asked, “Who?”
“It’s this girl whom I know since quite few years. You know her well”
“I do? Who is she?” Suhana was already disheartened and was least interested in knowing the name.
“I’ll tell you…someday”
Tired of their journey, they booked rooms in a hotel and retired to their rooms.
That night Suhana wrote in her journal-‘Finally met him…after so long. So what if it’s not me whom he likes. I am already destined to be married off to someone else. But at least I can spend some time with that one person whom I love. I should be happy for him.’
In the other room, Samay laid awake on his bed thinking, ‘Finally I meet her. She looks even more beautiful. How should I tell her that it’s her?’
Next morning, they both embarked on their journey to Tiger Hill. Its beauty was enchanting. As days passed, Suhana would forget about her marriage only to be reminded in the evening by her parents over phone.
Soon the weeklong vacation came to an end.
“It was beautiful”, Samay remarked.
“Indeed”, Suhana added.
At the airport, Samay asked, “Suhana, I want to say something”.
“What is it, Samay?” Suhana asked. She could make out that he was a little hesitant.
“Remember that girl I talked to you about?”
She knew whom he was talking about but pretended not to, “Who?”
“The girl I like”
“Oh yes. What about her?”
“Well you know her…It’s …Nothing”, he stopped.
Knowing that this might be the last time she was seeing him, she wanted to leave on good terms with him. “Come on, Samay. You can tell me. I want to know. You said I know her”.
“I don’t know if she likes me”
“Samay, just tell her. I am sure she is not a fool who would say no to you”
“You think so? What if she is a fool?” Samay smiled, “ I mean I have hinted so many times that I like her but…”, he looked at Suhana.
“Tell her directly then. Some are fools. They don’t pick up clues easily”, she laughed.
“Like you”, Samay quickly said.
Stunned Suhana looked at him with confusion. He was about to say something just when her phone rang.
“Where the hell are you?” a male voice asked on the other end.
“Pranav?”, Samay noticed Suhana’s tensed face when she said that name.
“I am at the airport…about to board the plane”, she replied in a fearful voice.
“Why didn’t you tell me about your vacation plan? If you are hiding things from me now, what will you do after marriage?” Pranav shouted.
“Listen. I’ll explain when I return. It’s…” her voice was shaking.
“Are you alone?” he asked.
She looked at Samay and said, “Yes”.
She hung the call and closed her eyes. She had come to Darjeeling to get away from everything going on in her life. But that one phone call reminded her of what awaited her on her return.
“Are you alright, Suhana”, Samay asked holding her hand, “Who was this…Pranav?”
“Nobody”, she tightly hugged him again. He calmly rested her hand around her.
Soon announcement was made and they both boarded the plane. Their journey was filled with silence than words. Samay tried to talk about Pranav but seeing that Suhana was not ready for it, he stopped. As they deboarded the plane and got ready to leave for their homes, Samay offered Suhana a drive to her home.
“No thanks, Samay. I’ll be fine”, tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Suhana, please tell me what’s bothering you”, Samay was getting anxious. “Who is Pranav? You’re upset since he called you”.
“Man that my parents have chosen for me”, she said.
Shocked, Samay kept looking at her, “What?”
“I am sorry. I should have told you about him before only. But I didn’t want to remember him”, she could no longer stop tears.
“I am always there for you”, Samay told. Before he could complete, Suhana spotted her father and brother. Quickly she stepped back and left. She did not want Samay to ask any further questions.
Samay was left alone wondering about the sudden situation that had risen. He knew she was shy and scared of her family and going against them would be quite difficult for her. But he also knew that she was unhappy with her forthcoming marriage.
“Baba…”, she said while travelling to her home in car, “ I am sorry. But…”
“No need to say anything beta. I should have known that he is not good for you”, her father said in a deep tone.
“Di that guy…Pranav, he created a scene in our house when Baba said that he couldn’t afford a car for him”, Samir explained.
“It’s good that you were away dear”, her father said as he pulled the car in front of their house.
After reaching home, Sumitra was the first one to start questioning Suhana’s ‘irrational’ behaviour.
“Where have you been?”, she asked bluntly.
“My parents know where I was”, Suhana responded with an unusual calmness which was accompanied by newly seen boldness.
“What? And I am not supposed to know?”
“No”, Suhana’s father said firmly, “She is my daughter and answerable only to me and her mother”
Suhana hugged her father.
Few minutes later, Suhana called Priya and told her everything. Later she checked her phone for Samay’s message. For her they had become quite good friends. She sent him a message and checked almost every minute for his reply. But there was none.
The next day her friend Priya messaged her about Samay’s engagement plan. Suhana was devastated. He had already told her about the girl he loved. She should have been ready for this.
‘Why did the destiny make us meet then?’, she wondered.
She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. Finally! It was his message.
But when she read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. What was this?
The message read-‘I always wanted to tell you this but some fools never understand. You are the ‘FOOL’. Will wait for you at the cafe.’
She dialled Samay’s number.
“Hello”, Samay answered without any delay, “Suhana”
She couldn’t speak and cut the call. Samay dialled back and said, “Should I take it as a yes”.
“Samay”, she mustered courage to say that name.
In the evening she went to meet him. She had been waiting for this moment since ever. He was already waiting for her. She was speechless.
Samay held her hand and said, “I love you”
Later he told her that Priya had told him about her Darjeeling trip and how he had got his leave sanctioned to go to Darjeeling too.
“Samay…”, she hugged him. Samay hugged her back.
That one moment of courage to go after her dream had changed her destiny.