It had been a tiring couple days, I was up for 40 hours straight. Not that I hadn’t done that before. Being a software engineer for a big ass multinational, I had dedicated more hours of sleep to my work, but this, this was different. Those sleepless hours were constructive, building towards something… swiftly gliding me towards better promotions. How I wish, it all ended soon and I could go back to my old life of ‘work is worship’. Why did they need so many ceremonies anyway, all just a big waste of money.
Out of nowhere, a hand came and settled on my shoulder. It was my dad’s hand. He was saying something but I could only get bits and pieces because of all the noise around. “smile”, “are you hungry”, “everybody”, “for you”, “your bride”.
As soon as I heard the last words fall out of my dad’s mouth, my face involuntarily moved in the direction of his eyes. I saw a huge crowd of ladies (every age, I believe) piling up on this one lady (my to be wife) clad in red. Clucking tongues, chanting small prayers to ward off the evil, cameramen trying to get the best shot of the entire entourage. The rest of the ceremony was painfully boring and really long, lots of hands changed, there were pictures and old ladies trying to hurl down ladoos my throat. When it was finally over, my back screamed of pain, my knees had given up and my mouth felt extra dry.
We came home eventually, the crowd that was waiting at home was definitely thinner than that at the wedding, but, big enough for me, nevertheless. The girl (my bride) was being ushered to a room. I knew what would follow, teasing tones, money demands or worse, dispensing of free advises. It ALL happened. When I was finally alone in the room, the light was dim (romantic, I guess ) and it took a while for my weak eyes to adjust to the setting of the room. This was the room I had spent 18 years of my life in, but right now it looked strangely different. My bride, sorry, Alka was standing by the window looking outside, but not really at something.
That’s when it hit me. I was married. It didn’t seem that big a deal until now. A big blazing RED siren went off in my head, the room was too hot, there was cold sweat on my forehead. Never, even in the direst of interviews had I been so nervous. I realized she was looking at me. It was different the way she looked at me. Before, I was worried I would be making a fool of myself in front of the lady I was supposed to spend my entire life with, but something steadied in the way she held my gaze, it was protective, and, exaggerated as it may sound, very slowly, the look in her eyes instilled confidence in me.
“Why don’t you freshen up?” , I said, barely a hush. She kept looking at me, then at her belongings and moved towards the bathroom, all her bangles and jewellery clinging to each other in a synchronized harmony.
She took an awful long time inside, midst which I dozed off.
It must be four in the morning or five, I couldn’t see clearly. The hullabaloo outside had ceased to a quiet lull. What woke me up was the sound of somebody typing on a soft keyboard, and every now and then tapping fingers on the desk. I looked around, there was someone sitting on my desk with a laptop on. It all came back rushing now, I had gotten married the last night, and the ‘someone’ was my newly wed bride. There was a coffee mug staining my mahogany desk. She moved and instinctively, I turned around to pretend I was still asleep. I realized She had changed into a more revealing, perfectly fit night dress, which, to be honest, made me a lot more nervous. How I wished upon those times, when my guy friends would urge me to go out with them and socialize with girls. Not that, I had a problem talking to girls, I had tonnes of female colleagues, juniors and seniors, and I had an excellent rapport with them, but this was a different situation. She disappeared in the bathroom an I cashed the opportunity to get a closer look(I know that sounds really cheap but I couldn’t help myself) at what she was doing. The command prompt was on and she was coding. There they were, all the flags and pings. I heard the knob turn and the jump I took next would make Javier Sotomayer proud.
Unfortunately, as soon as I landed on my bed and pretended to be still asleep, the thought mill in my head churned. There were a lot of thoughts, surprise, no shame in admitting, was the basic element of all. Wasn’t She an HR manager somewhere, I should’ve taken the time out before marriage to know things about her. She drinks black coffee, I hate black coffee, too strong for me, I always prefer my coffee white. Up until now, I was taking solace in the fact that I could give this relationship time and effort and if something doesn’t work out, I could go back down to my safe space of JAVA and C++ and Php. But how would I begin things with this chick who was unbelievably hot, had the technical know-how and was oozing with confidence. The night eventually slipped away, and when I woke up, the sun had filtered through my room. I got up, freshened myself and went out of the room. I couldn’t see Alka anywhere. There were so many people around, I cut my way through the hugging frenzy and loud cheerful notes of “congratulations” to the kitchen. Swati was making tea, I asked her for some coffee. She took me by my elbow to a corner and gave me a shrill taunt, ” for as long as I can remember, you gave me grief about how I put less milk in your coffee, and in less than 24 hours after your bride arrives, you are drinking black coffee.” For a split second, I was confused, but the next split second I figured out that Alka must’ve asked her for coffee saying I needed it. Out of nowhere, I asked her how did she sound like? “Ohho, like you don’t know. Oh so you need my opinion huh? She sounds exactly like she looks, beautiful”. I came out of the kitchen, not needing the coffee anymore. She lied, I thought, and didn’t even tell me about it. No, that was pretty clever, or maybe I was biased. Was it a good thing? She sounds beautiful.
The next few hours just vaporized right in front of my eyes. I did spot Alka eventually, she looked at me with relief and what I thought , a hint of apology. “She needs to go back”, my mom said. WHAT!? It was only coffee mother, it is no big deal. She is wonderful, you will see. I haven’t even heard her voice yet. “For the pagh-pheras,you have to drop her and then get her back by the nightfall. Don’t forget, you guys have a flight tonight.” Oh thank god, I hadn’t spoken any of my thoughts aloud.
So it was done then, my sister, a helper boy, Alka and I were to make a car journey to her house, a 30 minute drive. 30 minutes of silence which I somehow, enjoyed so much, that when Swati started cracking some of her stupid jokes, I wanted her to shut up. The environment at Alka’s house was no different than mine. Relatives flocking in, pushing me towards the dinning room, offering me different delicacies and asking me if I was comfortable, every second minute. Swati motioned to me. I had to take her shopping (some important stuff, i don’t even remember) while Alka stayed home and then we would pick her up and go home. I asked the helper boy to come with me. With over enthusiastic farewell, we left the street and into the market. Swati kept moving from shop to shop, asking my opinion on some cloth material or a particular cutlery set, I kept giving her nods here and there, kept making affirmative noises so she wouldn’t know that I was still stuck back in my room where Alka had held my gaze for the first time.
The shopping finished, and I asked (rather, pleaded) Swati to take the helper boy and go home on her own. I got them a cab and hence, began the first part of my well laid out plan. I was a little late to fetch Alka, on purpose, actually. I counted the seconds while she bid her goodbyes, some teary eyed goodbyes, some hopeful cheerful teasing goodbyes.
Finally She sat in my car, and we started driving. No body spoke. She was too busy playing with the corner of her saree, when I stopped the car and held the door for her.
“How about some of that coffee you like so much, before we go home?”, I said, trying very hard not to sound nervous. She looked overwhelmed.
We went inside the shop, there were quite a few people sitting already, lost in their own respective stories.
We took a corner table, I ordered a cappuccino for myself, and an espresso for the lady? I looked at her quizzically, She nodded.
The silence that followed now, was not that comfortable. I broke it. “I have never had a girlfriend before, not that, I expect you to not have had any boyfriends, I am not that kind of a guy, but you know, I am just saying… ” , I blurted. Maybe I shouldn’t have broken the silence.
She looked at me. The waiter came with our order thankfully, and filled the gaping graveyard lull.
“So, you have never had a girlfriend, like not even a crush?”, She said in, what I still believe, a magical voice. She had a playful smile on her lips.
“No”, I said embarrassed. She started laughing lightly at first, then I looked up and joined her in the laughter, It went louder and suddenly, the quiet corner of the coffee shop was the most happening one. At that instant, I knew that I had fallen victim to the most conniving predators. LOVE.
“How did you manage to convince Swati I wanted black coffee, I hate black coffee”,I said, her hand in mine, gliding our way to the car.
“Exactly, the way I will convince you in the times to come”, She winked.