Ritu could hear her mother wail from the next room. ‘I don’t know what I have done wrong? Why is God doing this to my daughter?!!’ wailed her mother and the sobs continued. But strangely enough, unlike the other times of facing refusal from a prospective groom’s family, Ritu was not feeling sad at all. All she had was a little pool of happy feeling at the pit of her stomach. The happiness was slowly spreading all over to engulf her whole being. Her mother entered the room in a tear-stained avatar to console her. To say the least she was surprised to see the happiness on Ritu’s face. She was sure that grief had affected her weirdly. ‘Beta, it’s all right! You put on the face pack and then take a bath. There will be better news coming our ways soon’, consoled her mother. ‘I know’ was all Ritu said.
She was suddenly feeling liberated. She was not sad at all. For five long years Ritu had held her breath to find that perfect guy in the marriage market. She had met hundreds of men, boys and even uncles, who were all ready to marry her. Luckily or unluckily, something went wrong each time and the marriage did not take place finally. Today was also such a day, when Ajay’s family had called in the morning to inform her mother that they were not ready to proceed with the marriage.
Ajay Ahuja was not the most sought after bachelor in town. But he had a simplicity about him that made Ritu notice him. She had met Ajay a month back, through some common relatives. He was an average guy with a well secured job, plans for the future and a confidence about him. Ritu had thought that there might be a chance of a little something happening between them. He looked like an average Punjabi guy, but had intelligent eyes, that seemed to be full of honesty to Ritu. Since their meeting, she had prayed at least a thousand times to God to make this proposal work out. She had always been extra sweet with his parents whenever they had met. Last week they had come to see her and had told that they would finalize their decision and let them know over phone. And there stands the decision: Rejected yet again.
For the first time in her life, Ritu accepted her life as it was. She did not cry or blame herself. She realized that she could not keep hurting the person she loved the most. That person was she herself. She was suddenly happy to be living with her parents and living the kind of life she was. All of a sudden, she realized that she was waiting with bated breath, for her certain life to change into an uncertain one. She had no clue what marriage had in store for her. There was no guarantee that all will be well after marriage. Running after the mirage of marriage she was losing on her real life.
Last time she checked she was 24 and today she would turn 29 next month. She sat before the mirror and looked at her image. Age was not evident on her face but there was a sadness, a shadow of defeat at having left behind in the race of marriage. All her plans were at stake, she could not change her job let alone move to another city because she could get married any minute. She could not go on a vacation because it was not decent for single girls of her age to roam about alone, especially when her marriage could be fixed any day. Her mother selected the weddings she attended and the parties too, in the hope of finding that perfect guy. On such occasions, Ritu was not allowed to be herself, she had to be dressed as a would-be-daughter-in-law and behave very properly.
'Oh…!' exclaimed Ritu aloud, exasperated with her own thoughts. Too many things were clouding her thought process. First things first; she first needed a vacation or a something to break the monotony of her routine life. Once back from it, she would apply for a better job and in the criteria for location she will not specify any specific place. She was open to relocation. Ritu felt a burden go down her shoulders. She was happy to meet her real self: the carefree, happy girl, who was somehow getting lost in the marriage market. She felt a new confidence surround her as she got ready for office. Everything was perfect. She prayed to God before leaving the house. In her prayers, she couldn’t thank God enough for what he had given her.
An idea struck her and she dashed into her parents’ room to announce: ‘We will go to a movie today, Papa. I will get the tickets. Both of you should be ready when I get back’. Her mother was a little surprised seeing Ritu so happy. However, she also felt relieved to see happiness in her face after so many years. She was tempted to ask what had happened suddenly, but she restrained herself replying, ‘That will be really nice…. Of course… we will be ready’. ‘Beta…. Don’t waste so much money. Why don’t you go with your friends? You won’t enjoy with old people like us’ added her father affectionately. ‘No Papa, I want to go with you two please!’ insisted Ritu. Her father saw the genuine request in her eyes and nodded consent. Satisfied she left for office.
Reaching office, she first uncluttered her desk, which was full of stick-on notes, loose sheets of paper, files, pens and what not. She had kept the desk that way thinking that she would be married soon and move to another place and perhaps another office, thus postponing the cleaning of her desk. While in the act of sorting out things, Ritu smiled at herself thinking how foolish she had been. She had practically stopped living, waiting for each day to pass so that the next day would bring some better proposal for her. She looked around and noticed, maybe for the first time, that there were quite a few new faces in office. ‘Am I blind?’ she thought aloud. She had missed so much on her life already. She felt as if she had got back from an emotional coma and waited eagerly to soak in the surroundings as much as she could. Before she could feel, the day’s work wrapped up and it was time to go home. She quickly logged in to get the movie tickets from the theater’s website. Being a weekday there was hardly any rush. She booked the tickets and headed home.
She took a cab instead of waiting for the bus and gave directions to the driver to reach her home. Sitting there, she thought how long had it been when she had last broken her routine. She smiled as the wind lashed at her face and hair, blowing it into a mess. Reaching, she rushed through the stairs and stood outside their flat, ringing the bell impatiently many times. The door clicked open, ‘Mamma, how long do you take….’ she stopped mid-sentence to see Ajay’s parents sitting in their living room sofa. Her mother’s expression was grim; she nudged Ritu at the elbow, indicating her to greet them. ‘Namaste!’ was all she could manage looking at their direction.
Ajay’s mother started saying: ‘I was telling your mother, how nice a girl Ritu is….. It was just a little misunderstanding that made us call in the morning. Actually we realized that Pammy’s family was not as cultured and good like yours. We decided to marry Ajay here itself. Ajay is also liking this house.’ Cultured and good meant wealthy, that means they must have increased their demands on her parents. She looked up to see her father sitting sheepishly beside her mother. Even Ajay was the same, thought Ritu. When they had first met, she thought that Ajay had a personality of his own but even he could not take a strong decision.
She glanced at her watch and saw that time was running out, the show was in half an hour’s time. ‘Actually Aunty, we had a plan for the movie today. Maybe we could talk about this tomorrow. The show will start in half an hour’s time. If you don’t mind, I want to be there with my parents’ Ajay’s mother was scandalized at the request. She was too surprised to say anything. Ritu’s mother started to say something but her father squeezed her hand indicating her to stay silent. ‘Oh…ho…We had completely forgotten about that movie. In the morning itself, Ritu had requested us to go with her’ added her father with a confident smile. Ajay’s parents shot up to their feet, seeing no imminent invitation of prolonging their stay, they shuffled towards the door, forced a smile on their faces and started to leave. ‘Please do come again!’ added Ritu with a genuine smile. Ajay’s mother forced a smile and left.
Ritu’s mother was surprised at the sudden change in her daughter and before she could say anything Ritu pulled her by the hand saying: ‘Come on, you two…. I will never forgive you if I miss the first scene of the movie.’ Laughing, the trio left to rush to the movie hall.
Movie, popcorn and dinner at a restaurant sealed the day with a happy ending note. Even her mother was not complaining and not even for once did she bring up the Ajay episode.
Content with the day, Ritu enjoyed a good night’s sleep and was awake early the next morning to prepare for office. The phone was ringing in the hall. Ritu had no mood of picking it up; she lazed around the balcony with her cup of tea.‘Ritu…. Get the phone. It’s for you’ shouted her mother from the adjacent room.
‘For me??…Who wants to talk to me now…?’ muttered Ritu under her breath picking up the receiver.
‘Hello? Ritu?’ asked the heavy, manly voice.
‘Yes…’ answered Ritu curiously.
‘This is Ajay here. Can I talk to you regarding something…?’ A bit flustered and a little blushing she replied back: ‘Yeah…sure…!’