Monday, May 18, 2015

Returned, with Thanks!

It was a typical Saturday evening: TV, phone and browsing were the only three things on my agenda, until I got a call from my best friend. I could call him that given how close we were from school days. Partially because he had helped me during my troubled times at school, he was a friend in need. Dhruv and I weren’t friends before that day, but the way he stood up for me and took responsibility for a crime I was falsely accused with, I was humbled. I had another reason to befriend him as well. I was new to the school, new to the city and had no friend of my own. I needed company. As childish as it may sound, the bond that formed for no concrete reason lasts till date.

Dhruv is not the perfect son one could ask for, as made his mother run for her life, cursing herself for bringing up a brat like him. His dad had given up hopes on him settling down in life, responsibly. He on the other hand chose the path to living life the fun way. His dad’s money and lavish lifestyle caught up on him early on and he was deep down under it to come out of it to reality. He cared for no job of his own and hadn’t thought of sharing his life with a partner beyond one night stands. I was a simple man with an ordinary lifestyle. Topper from school and college, joined the most coveted IT organization and now a project manager, earning well to live a simple life, saving for future, for me and future family. I believed in love. I hadn’t met the one yet, but haven’t be searching either. Dhruv and I were different, but respected each other and mutually trusted the friendship between us. Outside his phantom world, I was the only person he sincerely admired and wished to live like, but voluntarily chose not to. I would not approve of anyone like him, let alone befriend one, but he was my person, he was the company I longed for and got when no one else was around. I liked him for that sincerity and did not question him on his behavior.

Dhruv’s parents decided to get him hitched at the earliest and pass on the responsibility of fixing him right to the so called lucky girl. Arranged marriage was something off the cards for him, but he budged only to reduce the badgering at home. He had his escape routes planned. He knew he had me for support, rain or shine. The call was precisely for that. He wanted me to come along to see her with his family, if possible see if I would like her more and save him from the troubles of marriage. He has never given me an option. I have almost always obliged, this time being no different. 

The whole event was a good time off from a routine Saturday afternoon of more TV, phone and browsing routine. We were greeted by her parents, offered coffee and sweets and when we were bored of random talk, she was asked to come out of her room for us to have a look, however weird that may sound, blame the process. Maya, came in with no hustle. I looked at her for a second and gently turned away not wanting to have an opinion or influence on my best friend’s probably future wife. More importantly, I did not want to end up liking the girl myself. But I did. Not like, but fell in love the one second I had looked at her. I did not know she had too. Maya, a simple and elegant girl for her age, too simple for an event such as this, but too elegant to catch the attention of any honest man. She was drop dead gorgeous and needed have to show it off with extravagance. She looked at me the very same second and smiled, probably not knowing I wasn’t the one. To be honest, the smile made me nervous and look away. Dhruv’s family was happily chatting with her. To me she sounded melodious. Dhruv was supposed to talk to her alone. They were planning to go to the coffee shop nearby for a quick chat and he dragged me in at the last minute, asking me if I could join. She did not complain and I as always obliged. He was going to say a “No” and try asking if she would consider me instead. Before he could say anything, she blurted she was not ready yet and that she had done a quick background check on Dhruv and wouldn’t care to consider him given that he wasn’t financially independent. She proved to be the strong person she looked. She thanked us for the company and stormed out. I hadn’t spoken a word nor looked at her eye to eye the whole fifteen minutes we were there. 

Dhruv was both relieved and frustrated. Relieved that he didn’t have to fall into the marriage trap yet, frustrated that he was turned down and not the other way round that he could take a pride on. He wasn’t in love with her at any level, but he did think she was beautiful and wished he had met her outside the arranged marriage setup. The true friend he was, he checked with me if I was interested in her. I conveniently lied to him and hid my feelings. It would crush him to know I was madly in love with the girl who had hurt is male ego. I felt bad for myself that I wouldn’t pursue her for the same reason. 

A week passed and I had kept myself occupied enough to not give my mind a free second to think about Maya. Thanks to a heavily loaded work week and close family wedding to attend to. Family weddings always take a toll on your emotional stability from a relationship standpoint. The numerous questions on one’s relationship status, willingness to get married and suggestions on potential brides to be. I had always wanted to shy away from such a crowd, but my parents believed in family ties and I believed in them. This one wedding was different. I met my cousin Parth after ten years. I also met Maya, after seven long days. They were talking to each other, as if they had known each other for a long time. Parth waved at me and I was hesitant to reciprocate the welcome, but courtesy demanded I did and I did. I had always had my issues with him being the preferred grandchild to my grandparents. He was smarter in looks and education and nonetheless, he was their NRI grandson and I was just hanging around, around them. I was equally qualified but their typical South Indian contemporary outlook shunned them from accepting so. I had stopped expecting them to change their mindset. I had started getting used to proving my excellence primarily to my parents and occasionally to everyone else. I was happy for myself, beyond Parth can ever be. 

Parth and Maya were laughing about something when I reached their table. They had recently met at Maya’s place, thanks to both their fathers entering into a business partnership. They seemed to have hit it off and liking each other’s company. I did not want to interfere, I did not want anything more from this rendezvous myself. I stayed quite. Maya’s soft “Hi” and a generic enquiry on my life made me smile within, but Parth, the charmer had my answers for her and took my words away. I did not have the moment I deserved.  It was time and we bid goodbyes and exchanged phone numbers to stay in touch. I never did, involuntarily with Parth and intentionally with Maya. 

A month went by and I got a call from Maya one Saturday evening, when I was busy with random browsing. She asked me out for dinner and I couldn’t say know to her. I offered to meet her at the restaurant directly and when we did meet, I knew I wasn’t going to walk out before asking her hand in marriage. “It was my mistake to not have kept in touch after Dhruv episode. You were there, you were quiet and I was curious and had questions”, she hurriedly blurted out her agenda soon after we placed our orders to the waiter. I smiled and asked if her marriage with Parth has been fixed. She was shocked, I could say from her expression. I was shocked too, I had no clue I was going to ask her that right away. “How do you know? We hardly know each other”. She had it all written on her hasty way of speaking. She wanted to know from me about me and why she wanted to talk to me. She wanted to know from me, if she can say no to everything else happening around her. “I had liked you the very instant I saw you at our place. For a second I thought it was you who had come to see me and thanked my stars for me being fine with the whole ordeal. I had missed you right from the time I went out of the cafĂ© saying no to Dhruv”. I wanted to ask her what made her wait, but she was unstoppable, she continued talking. “Parth was a good friend. Got to know him just about the same time. I liked him and didn’t have a reason to say no when our parents asked. He was nice all along and perfect marriage material at that. I said yes and the wedding is fixed for next month”. I wanted to ask why bother to meet me now and talk about all this. She never gave me a chance to ask. “I thought I liked you as much. I would have said yes if you were alone the first time. But I never had the chance to know you better. I never gave you a chance. I never gave myself a chance to cherish that first feeling of love I had. I thought both of us deserved at least that”. I fell in love with her, all over again, for her attitude. But I wanted to ask what she was expecting me to do. She was ahead of me. “Do you think all this makes you wonder why I am even talking to you at this instance and I am better off with Parth?” She finally asked the question she had come all the way to ask. I had never been this serious before when I responded to her, “So what do you want to do, call Parth or your dad to call off the wedding?” and she had that thankful smile for the decision I had made for us. 

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