Kanan's Cousin11 mins 428 11 mins 428
"Give me a break, Mom. I don’t want to meet Mr. Goel’s daughter. Arranged marriage just isn’t my thing. Why did you have to invite their family to my birthday, out of all the days?” Kanan and his mother argued for half an hour while I stood against the wall, wondering what I was doing in the middle of the mother-son’s heated exchange of words.
“The Goels’ are your Dad’s family friends, Kanan. It’s just that they lost contact in the last few years. Moreover, Sonam is a lovely girl. I expect you to behave.” Sheela aunty paused for a moment and looked at me. “Siddharth! Please try to put some sense into your cousin.” I nodded my head like a good boy, in attention to obey my aunt’s command.
“Aren’t you a year older than me? Why am I expected to get married at 28 while you can roam around freely at 29?” Kanan blasted at me the moment his mother was out of sight.
“That’s because I am not Arvind Sehgal’s blue-eyed boy. You are.” Kanan rolled his eyes in disgust.
On rare occasions, I just loved pulling his legs. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting? What’s the harm in meeting the girl once? It’s not like your parents are asking you to get married to her right away. If you don’t end up liking her, just say no.”
“Who knows? Maybe a Pandit has been invited to my birthday too. You don’t know how serious my parents are.”
“No matter how serious they might be, they won’t force their only son to get married to a girl of their choice. You’re just exaggerating things. It won’t be that bad. Just think of it as an adventure.”
“I am not interested in one, Mr. Puri. I wish I was in your place.” All I did was laugh at his weird antics.
My father and Kanan’s mother were siblings. We were close since childhood. But, the inner me always envied him. He was blessed with everything anybody could ask for. Rich parents, intelligence, good looks. For some reason, he was always the center of attention without even trying. Girls went gaga over him. When he was around, no girl ever bothered to even look at me. Most of the girls spoke to me just so they could be near him. He was Mr. Perfect, adored and admired by everyone in my family and outside. While he was working for his father’s real estate business, I was doing well as a freelance graphic designer. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel overshadowed by his personality.
Kanan’s birthday party was an extravagant affair, as usual. The only USP this time around was a girl whose mere mention had Kanan going into a tizzy. While he was fuming for no reason, I was having a gala time. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. Sonam Goel arrived with her family like a breath of fresh air; taking my mind and heart for a complete toss. I don’t know about Kanan, but I was definitely blown over at first glance. She had an aura that commanded respect. To say that she was beautiful would be an understatement. She was a combination of confident yet clumsy. I think it was the high heels that she had worn along with her peach Kurti and white palazzos that were bothering her. Frankly, I thought she wasn’t dressed appropriately for the occasion.
I don’t know why she had chosen to wear the heels. She didn’t really need them since she was tall enough. In fact, it made her look taller than Kanan. It wasn’t an issue for me as I was a few inches taller than both of them. Both the families were all smiles during the formal introductions. Even though I maintained my distance from the start, I couldn’t help but oversee that Sonam had eyes only for Kanan making me feel a bit jealous. He was one hell of a lucky chap!
I reminded myself immediately that she was here for him and not the other way around. Though Sonam and Kanan didn’t speak privately, the eye contact between them spoke leaps and bounds. Surely, Arvind uncle and Sheela aunty had chosen the best for their son. It made me wish I was in his place. Why weren’t the Goels’ my father’s family friends and not his? When the atmosphere in the party hall became unbearable for my poor little heart, I went outside for a smoke. I was trying to quit since the last few days but I couldn’t resist myself that day.
An old tree supported my back in the lawn. I must have puffed around 3 or 4 cigarettes in my chain of thoughts when the sound of a woman’s high heels startled me. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
“Aaaargh!!! My feet are killing me. I hate my life. Why are you like this, Sonam?” I don’t know why the girl was talking to herself.
Out of nowhere, Sonam’s high heels ended landing at my feet. Her face flushed with embarrassment the moment she saw me leaning against the tree. I smiled at her while she tried to search for words while looking at the grass. She probably hadn’t seen me.
“I guess someone’s having a rough day today.” I stared at her till my heart’s content, until she looked up at me.
“I am really sorry. I didn’t know you were standing there. I hope you’re not hurt.” Sonam’s voice reflected her genuine concern.
“Nothing I can’t manage.”
“You’re Kanan’s cousin, right.” She looked at me with doubts.
I smiled. “Yes, I am. Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Sonam looked flustered. “Thanks. You must be Siddharth.” I nodded.
“Sheela aunty was telling me that you and Kanan are really close.”
“Yes, we have been since childhood. So, do you always talk to yourself or there’s something special about today?”
“I end up doing stupid things when I’m tense. Usually, I run away from people.”
“Who are you trying to run away from?”
“My mom and Kanan.” Never in my wildest dreams, had I imagined a girl trying to run away from Kanan.
“My mom wants me to talk to Kanan privately. And your cousin is making me nervous.”
“What’s there to be nervous about? Just be yourself. Just the way you are with me right now.”
“I wish it was that easy. The problem is Kanan’s making me nervous and you aren’t.” Ouch! That actually hurt. Sonam quickly chipped in. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say that you aren’t good looking.”
At least, she thought I was good looking. “I get your point, Sonam. But you will have to talk to him some or the other time. You just can’t run away from him. Better do it now rather than later.” My words somehow sparked confidence in her, making her think.
“I guess you’re right. Maybe I should go and talk to him.”
“Of Course, you should.”
Sonam quickly made a move but turned back a few seconds later.
“Thanks, Siddharth. If you don’t mind me asking, were you trying to run away from someone too?”
YOU. I wanted to tell her. Instead, I just smiled and shook my head in disapproval. She made her way back, her heels making some weird noises. The poor girl really didn’t know how to walk in heels.
A few minutes later, I composed my thoughts and went back to the party. It was best I followed my own advice. Kanan and Sonam sat talking to each other at a corner table while both sets of parents kept peering at their kids at regular intervals. While I couldn’t hear them conversing, something about them seemed off. While Sonam looked besotted, Kanan seemed withdrawn. Or was it that I wanted him to be? I ignored both of them throughout the night. Back at home, my mother hinted towards the fact that I should start thinking about marriage too. As if things weren’t complicated enough.
I barely slept that night, feeling guilty for being attracted to my best friend and cousin’s future wife. That was if Kanan did agree to get married to her. Or maybe if he rejected her, I had a chance. But would it be considered betrayal? Who was I kidding? Sonam would never look at me the way she was looking at Kanan.
The next day, I met him at the gym. Unlike other days, both of us were silent. While he seemed pretty pissed off for God knows what, guilt was killing me from inside. Yet, the devil in me gathered the courage to ask him a question I was dying to know the answer to.
“So, what did you think of Sonam yesterday?”
He didn’t look at me in the eye. “Who Sonam?”
I hit his head lightly from behind. “How many Sonams’ do you know, you idiot?”
“Shut up Siddharth! First, mom and dad drive me nuts and now you. One meeting isn’t enough to decide if I want to get married to her or not. All I can say is she seemed sweet.”
“You could meet her a couple of times and then decide.” The angel in me added.
“The girl’s a total klutz. She kept tripping and dropping everything she came in contact with.”
“I think that’s kinda cute.”
“So you think Sonam’s cute.”
“Yes……….No………I mean…….”I was horrified. Before I could say further, Kanan placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Relax. I was just joking. So, I heard she tripped on you as well.”
“If she told you that, all I can say is that she wears her clumsiness with pride. And that’s no reason for rejecting her.”
“Who told you that I am rejecting her?” Kanan flashed a wicked smile at me before leaving on his bike, shattering my dreams whatsoever.
Phew! I couldn’t believe my luck. Why the hell did I have to ask him about Sonam? Kanan was my family, my own blood and she was someone I had just met. It was common sense where my loyalty should be. Whether or not Kanan chose to be with her, I didn’t stand a chance whatsoever. My mind was pretty clear on that and I kept myself busy engrossed in my work. In the weeks that followed by, I met him a few times, ensuring I didn’t mention her anywhere. But, he did tell me that he met her on a couple of occasions. I usually ignored the topic, not going much into the details. But I couldn’t avoid listening whenever he brought it up. Neither did he praise her nor did he criticize her. It wasn’t easy to figure out how he actually felt about her.
The following Sunday, Kanan and I decided to go bowling. While I was an early bird, he was a latecomer. This time around, it was the opposite. I ended up being 15 minutes late at the bowling alley and was shocked to see Sonam standing at the entrance with Kanan. I had no idea she would be here. She was all smiles as soon as she saw me.
“Look who’s late this time. And you call me a latecomer.” I ignored his comments.
“Hi, Kanan. Hi Sonam. How are you?”
“I am doing great, Siddharth. It’s such a pleasure to see you after so long.” Sonam looked vibrant in a yellow top and blue jeans, minus the heels; confident as ever.
“The pleasure is all mine, dear. You’re looking lovely today.” The words spurted from my mouth and I regretted it instantly.
“Thanks, Siddharth.” She looked at me awkwardly.
“Bro, you’re forgetting I’m right in front of you.” He placed his hand on my shoulder and took me in a corner as she walked behind us.
I whispered in Kanan’s ear. “Why didn’t you tell me Sonam is accompanying us today?”
“Why? Is there a problem?”
“Of Course not.” Of Course, I had a problem. I couldn’t control myself around her.
“We had decided beforehand but Sonam wanted to meet me too. She was okay if you tagged along with us. So I didn’t ditch both of you.”
We played a few bowling as well as arcade games. Surprisingly, Sonam was better at bowling than us guys. It turned me on. As it is, I was controlling my urge to stare at her. After getting bored, we decided to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. Before we could settle down, Kanan left me and Sonam alone to take an important call. I decided to break the awkward silence.
“So, how are things going on with Kanan?” Her face turned pale.
“It’s okay. It’s all new.”
“As long as both of you are getting along, then there’s nothing to worry about.”
“I don’t know. We are really different people who want different things from life. At times, I feel Kanan’s really not into me. Maybe, he is seeing someone else.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Still, I tried reassuring her. She seemed sad.
“Kanan doesn’t open up easily with everyone. But once you get to know him, there’s no looking back. You’re just imagining things. I mean, look at you. Who wouldn’t want to be with you?”
Sonam let out a fake smile. “Thanks, Siddharth. I hope what you’re saying is true. But I always trust my gut instinct.”
“Don’t worry. Everything will turn out……………” “So, what have you guys been up to?”Kanan came back and sat next to Sonam.
“We were just talking about you.” Both of us spoke together.
“I hope all good things and no secrets, brother.”
I smiled at him and then at Sonam.
She kept quiet through the entire dinner time while Kanan and I were busy talking. I really didn’t get a chance to talk to him about Sonam’s doubts as both of them left together.
Turns out, she had been right all along. A few days later, he admitted the truth himself to Sonam as well as his parents. When I confronted Kanan, he told me that he realized his feelings for a girl called Neha after meeting Sonam. A part of me was happy. But I couldn’t help but feel bad for the girl who was heartbroken.
If I had her contact number, I would have called her immediately just to enquire if she was okay. I couldn’t forget Sonam’s sad face for days. If I could meet her just once! Kanan’s parents were quite unhappy too. They had to accept his choice eventually.
A few weeks later, fate played a major role. On one of my visits to a client’s office, I happened to meet Sonam who worked for that ad agency. She smiled on seeing me. Despite the smile on her face, her eyes looked sad. I wanted to ask her many questions. But I couldn’t ask a single one. Maybe, one day, I would. For her; right now I was just Kanan’s cousin.