Arranged Marriage11 mins 33 11 mins 33
Pushpa had a pile of newspapers in front of her. She had stacked them on the centre table, to go through them on the weekly holiday, when without hurry, and scurry, she could give time to select the best bride for her son. Prakash was now working in a good reputable international firm and was drawing a good salary. He had completed his studies abroad. But unfortunately, he had got involved in a relationship in the UK, with an English girl. He had been deeply in love, but his love was not reciprocated, and left him scarred and disillusioned when she started having affairs with all and sundry.
When he came back to India, Prakash had not got over the trauma. His feelings had become numb; He had become insensitive to emotions, and mental affliction, because of the nervous breakdown he had suffered in the past. Immediately after the break-up, on the rebound, he had agreed to get married, but his feelings had fossilized, and there had been nothing to offer his wife. He had been mentally hardened after he had been subjected to humiliation and rejection by Eva, the love of his life. He had given her his unstinting love and devotion, but she had reciprocated with indifference and betrayal. He had made up his mind that never in his life would he be so naive as to give his heart to anyone. He had become bitter and resentful.
He had been so angry that he had blocked Eva’s phone number on his mobile phone. Every time she tried to message him, he had deleted it without even reading it. She had then started posting letters to him, which he had thrown into the drawer in his closet, where the pile had grown day by day, without his having opened a single letter. Eva had underestimated him. She had taken him for granted. She was mistaken! If she considered that he was like a little puppy to go after her, wagging its tail, even if she kicked it, and hurt it brutally. No, not he! She should have known better than to have disparaged and belittled him.
Prakash’s mother felt if she could get him married, perhaps it would heal his wound. Pushpa had asked him for his concurrence, and he had replied that he was indifferent to her proposal, as after losing the love of his life, nothing mattered. Prakash was often absentminded and reticent. His mother was determined to get him back to his normal, cheerful self again.
There were so many applicants, each better than the other. It was very difficult to select. She and Prakash visited the families of the girls, and after a lot of close scrutinies and analyzing the pros and cons, they selected a candidate who seemed to be just perfect for Prakash. What happened to be her plus point was, she was bubbling with energy, was vivacious and high spirited. Pushpa had someone like her on her mind, to cheer up her son.
The wedding took place with all the glitter and glamour. The bride looked stunningly beautiful. She won over the hearts of all the invitees by her sweet smile and bright personality. Pushpa was elated that she had been able to select the right girl for her son.
Minakshi, their new daughter-in-law was like a sunbeam lighting up their lives. She flitted around the flat, filling Prakash’s parents with contentment, happiness and pride. It was very much needed as both of them had crossed the age of seventy. Pushpa noticed also that now Prakash was less strung up, and edgy. But this composure did not last for long.
Not even a month had elapsed after the wedding when Minakshi seemed to have become a different person. Prakash would complain that he could not concentrate on his work in the office, because he would be very sleepy. He was not being able to sleep all night, as Minakshi would sing and dance till the wee hours. She was suffering from insomnia and had an irresistible urge to expend her extra energy. This went on for days. It was then that Prakash wanted to sleep in a different room in order to be able to work. Pushpa told Minakshi very diplomatically, not to disturb her son in the night, but that she should go to the sitting room if she wanted to dance. After this, things were working out quite well. But some other problems cropped up.
All of a sudden, Minakshi changed into an unfamiliar individual. She was no more the effervescent, happy-go-lucky personality. She started sitting quietly in the bedroom, on a sofa in the corner, without any interaction with anybody in the family. Prakash tried to get her to talk, but with no success. Pushpa became worried to see the girl in this state. She would not even look up when she went to talk to her. But what got Pushpa’s pressure up was when Minakshi refused to eat for three days consecutively. She took the tray up herself with all the delicacies she presumed she would like. But she got a shock when Minakshi started yelling that if her mother- in–law did not stop pestering her, she would throw the food at her face. Pushpa then made the mistake of trying to coax her by saying, “See, you have not eaten for three days, you will become weak.” As soon as she had said this, Minakshi got up, grabbed the tray from her, and overturned it on Pushpa’s head.
Pushpa was not prepared for such an onslaught, and as the hot dal and chicken curry ran down her neck and seeped into her dress, she retraced her steps with horror. Transparent blisters appeared in a matter of seconds, but she had no time to survey the damage done. After her demonstration of maniacal temper, Minakshi burst out crying. What was disconcerting, that she went on, and on, and there was no way of stopping the spasmodic outbursts. Prakash tried to pacify her, and with a lot of patience offered her many options, which would make her feel better, but she blatantly let the family know, that she did not want anything from them, and neither did she want their company.
At this juncture, granny intervened and gave a suggestion, which the family welcomed with great relief, as for them, there was nothing more to do. She said that as Minakshi had looked especially attractive on the wedding day, somebody must have cast an evil eye, and the outcome was the unnatural behaviour. Therefore the Tantric Sadhus should be summoned to negate the evil effect. So it was that the sadhus arrived. They lit a fire, and after a lot of incantations, they burnt dried red chillies and hoisted up lemons and slippers to ward off the evil. Then they even struck Minakshi with a broom to exorcise the evil. But Minakshi reacted in a dead stupor, and the family wrung their hands in utter helplessness and frustration.
It was Pushpa, who now thought of asking Minakshi’s parents for help. They took the information about their daughter’s eccentric behaviour, very casually. Then they revealed the deep, dark, secret about Minakshi. She was evidently suffering from bipolar disorder, in which one has swings of moods; at times they are extremely energetic, and cheerful, at others, they lose their motivation, their appetite, and even try to inflict harm on themselves physically, so much so as to commit suicide.The worst part of the information was that this disorder is incurable. One may be treated by a psychotherapist, or take medication, but at intervals, there will be an acute relapse of the problem. All this revelation came like a thunderbolt for the family. Pushpa was distressed because of the likelihood of the girl taking her own life under a spell of depression, but also because the family could land up behind bars for murder. It was gross deception by Minakshi’s parents, not to have disclosed the girl’s medical problems before marriage.
The family sat down and tried to come to a decision, as what would be the best action for them to take. Prakash felt it would be a massive responsibility, to keep her protected, and safe, all through life. He said it would be better for him to take a divorce. The decision was conveyed to Minakshi’s parents, and with a heavy heart and regret, they parted from their daughter–in –law.
Prakash was terribly disillusioned about women. They had cheated on him. He had been duped and nearly strangulated by one recently, and now that he had freed himself from the octopus-like tentacles, which had held him in a suffocating coil of marriage, he breathed the air of freedom. No more would he get himself entangled in the obnoxious and poisonous web of females. He remembered the letters still lurking in his closet. He would then and there make a bonfire of them, and burn to ashes all memories of the past. Anything to do with the opposite sex he would consign to the furnace.
He walked into his bedroom, in a ruthless mood. He felt like tearing those epistles into minute fragments to give vent to his stifled bitterness, and feeling of hurt. He sat down on the chair with such vehemence, that it creaked and groaned with the impact. To get the steam out of his system, he pulled out the drawer too with so much savagery, that it landed on the floor, disgorging envelopes of all sizes and hues. One by one, he picked them up, and bit by bit he tore them into a thousand pieces. From one of the envelopes, a photograph fell out. It was a picture of Eva. He could not look away, as it was of her, her face sodden with tears.
He couldn’t figure out how on seeing her crying, his heart melted, the hardened heart, insensitive to pain!
Now that he had seen her in tears, he had to know the reason, as he could not bear to see her suffering. In the letter, she had explained, that she did not expect their relationship would take such a tragic turn. She had read that to arouse one’s paramour's love, one had to make him jealous. She had been pretending all the time, that she was having a fling with other men, but she only wanted Prakash to love her more. If he kept on not replying, or if she could never get in touch with him, she would remain a spinster all her life.
Reading her letter written three months back, he wondered whether she would pick up his phone call, aggrieved for having ignored her, even after she had explained her actions, and had bared her heart to him. Now with a heart overflowing with love, which had surged like an ocean at full tide, he nervously dialled her number. He was ever so confident that there would be no hurdle this time, and their relationship would end in, “they lived happily ever after.”
Prakash felt himself trembling with emotion. His heart was racing as if he had to board the flight, which was about to take off in a few minutes, and he had to cover a few miles in his car to the airport. Unaccountably he felt the sides of his temple throbbing as if the armed forces were playing the war drum. To calm his nerves, he took ten deep breaths. He could hear the buzzing of the phone on the other end. The phone went on and on ringing, but there was no response. He started feeling restless, then impatient, and finally agitated. Why was Eva not answering the call?!
Prakash was desperate and he tried umpteen times to get her, but every time he was disappointed. Late in the evening, she responded. She had apparently left her phone in the house, and had gone to work. They had so much to talk about. But Prakash was nervous about telling her about his marriage. So after they had exchanged all the details of their lives during the time when they had been away from each other, Prakash built up his courage to disclose to Eva about his marriage to Minakshi. But as soon as he told her that he had got married, in a matter of seconds, the entire edifice of their relationship came crumbling down, shattered and devastated, as if it had been struck by a nuclear bomb. Prakash could not even tell her that his, and Minakshi’s marriage had ended, and they would be divorced shortly. The words had hardly come out of his mouth, when Eva- with a loud choking sound, disconnected the phone, with a heart-rending exclamation, “How could you, Prakash?!” These last words of Eva’s echoed in his head all the time and lashed him till he felt exhausted and weak. Prakash tried to contact her for the next two weeks, all through the day, but Eva would not pick up the phone.
Their beautiful relationship came to a tragic end, and left two souls, passionately in love with each other, miles apart, not only literally, but also figuratively!
Prakash realized that for him there was only one way out. Immediately he bought a flight ticket for the UK and arrived there the next day. Eva was surprised to see Prakash at the door, but before she could react, he had taken her in his arms, and the whole world became a distant blur. There was not a word which was said, but the intensity of the vibrations which flowed between them conveyed the enormity of their love.