The Secret To Happiness

The Secret To Happiness

7 mins 9.1K 7 mins 9.1K

Whoever said, happiness cannot be bought! Well that might be true, but it certainly can be taught, practised and perfected. It's quite a simple exercise, an easy part of your daily routine. Look at yourself in the mirror. Stretch your jaws so wide that your sad eyes can happily hide in the crinkles of your pretty face. And bing! There you go… Smiling. Happy.

The wide arch of her jaws was turning wider as she accepted the gifts and greetings, praises and blessings from friends, family and well wishers. Draped in a heavy Banarasi saree, the golden jewellery shimmering in the bright lights of the antique chandelier, stood the shy bride, smiling meekly; supposedly my best friend of ten years who seemed almost a stranger to me.

'Had God wanted women to be covered from head to toe, they would have come, enclosed in shells! Just like the snails, you know! Had God wanted women not to think, they would be born without a brain! Like amoeba or something! Had God wanted women to be always protected by men, every girl would have been born along with a male bodyguard, like conjoined twins, to protect her! But as I see myself now and as I see the women all around me…. I don't find any of the above happening! So it seems it's not God but people like us, who cook up their own version of the ideal woman with the ingredients of their own sick choice!’, the auditorium exploded with applause as she concluded her fiery speech.

'You were superb Nidhi,' I hugged her as she descended from the stage. 'I am just so proud of whatever you had just said'.

'You are Riya, aren't you? Nidhi's best friend', I was brought back from my reverie by the voice of one of Nidhi's aunt.

'Good that she is finally getting married. Girls nowadays think just because they earn they are as good as a man… Huh! Every woman needs a man to look after her'. There was already a tornado building up in my head, and I was in no mood for this whirlwind. So I just smiled at her and trying hard to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, replied 'Yes aunty …. You are absolutely right. Men complete us.' Had Shila been here, she would have definitely winked and started giggling at this.

Ting! I checked my phone.

'Hey how is it going? All OK?', Shila pinged in Whatsapp.

'See…. No respect for elders nowadays …. I am talking to you and see you are busy with your phone.'

'Oh sorry aunty …. Please tell'

'Tell what? I am sure your parents should have already told you a thousand times'

And thus began another lecturing session of 'A hundred and one reasons of why (not) to tie the knot'. Finally as aunty went on to gorge on the greasy kebabs and pakoras, I managed to escape and check the phone again.

Two messages from Tanmay; ‘Missing you’, ‘Love you’.

‘Love you too’, I replied.

One message from Shravan.

Shravan: 'Is it over?'

Me: 'Not yet'

Shravan: 'Oh my god! I can't believe it's happening. How will I live without her'

Me: 'I know it's difficult for you Shravan… but that's what you had both decided. None of your families were ok with it.'

Shravan: 'I know…. But it's impossible to believe… will you do me a favour Riya?'

Me: 'What?'

Shravan: 'Can you send me a photo of her? She must be the most beautiful bride ever…. Isn't it?'

'Please please send'

'Are you there?Riya?'

Me: 'Yes'

Shravan: 'One last thing…. Is she happy?'

That's when I stopped replying. I looked back at her, she was giggling at something one of her cousins had just said. Suddenly there was some commotion at the main entrance.

'The groom has arrived', announced an elderly man.

The next moment, there were tides of people rushing towards the entry gate to get a glimpse of the Man. Finally, my friend was alone. At once I rushed to her.

'Hey! Are you OK?', I said.

'Yes… Why what happened?', she replied.

I hesitated and finally revealed, 'Shravan had pinged me'

'Ohh… what did he say?'

I showed her our conversation. She read it and then we sat in silence.

'So…are you… are you happy?'

She stared at me for a while but didn't say anything.

Then she finally asked, 'What do you think?'

'I don't know. I mean you look so happy. It's hard to decide if its a lie. I mean logically speaking I know you can't be happy. You had to leave the man you loved because your family would not accept a marwari groom.

And now in sometime you will become the wife of a total stranger. So of course you cannot be happy. But then I look at you, greeting everyone,laughing out loud and that is when I don’t know anymore. The girl I knew for so long, hated hypocrisy and pretense. I can't imagine her to be faking all these.'

'Maybe I am not', she said after thinking for some time.

'Then are you really happy?'

'Well, truth is even I don't know. This morning I woke up and found myself surrounded with so many people, telling me how lucky I am. My parents, who had not talked to me for the past six months, after they had come to know about Shravan, have been hugging me tight and crying every now and then. That certainly made me happy. Ever since I have been meeting people, who are so happy for me, people who have taken time out of their busy schedule to be a part of my special day. How can I not be happy and let them down? These people, rituals, celebrations, decorations, laughter, gossip - these are the only things real now. Everything else seems to be a long forgotten dream of a distant past.'

With that our conversation came to an end as everyone returned, accompanied by the groom and his family.. It was finally time for the rituals to begin.

‘Nidhi Roy weds Arun Sanyal’, the wedding banner read.

Below, the priest was chanting the hymns as Nidhi and Arun sat side by side in front of the holy fire. Fire, I thought. The fire that burns to light. Just like my friend.

It was almost three'o'clock in the morning when I finally returned to my one bedroom flat in Salt lake. My head, heart and soul were all in a turmoil. Couldn't have I done something more to help her? Couldn’t have I tried harder to convince her parents to accept Shravan? Or maybe convinced her not to marry Arun so soon? Have I been as good a friend to her as she has always been to me? As all these thoughts clouded my brain, my eyes suddenly fell on the papers scattered all over the bed. And a heavy weight settled on my heart. I had to submit my final research paper in a week's time and I was nowhere close. The wedding had already consumed so much of my time in the last few weeks, I had hardly made any progress. And oh god it is Tanmay's birthday this Wednesday… and I have a flight to catch to Bangalore to spend the day with him. Another day wasted. These are the times I totally regret the silly decisions that I make; so romantic in thought and disastrous in practice. I collected all the papers from the bed and arranged them. I would have to start working on them tomorrow. But first I needed some peace of mind, a respite from these murderous thoughts....

....Which was,in fact, quite easy, because I have my little secret too. Here is how it goes.

Think of all the problems in your life. Think of all the probable solutions. Then believe them to be true. So then I lay down, lying to myself (or may be not!)….It can't be so bad after all. Arun seems to be quite a decent guy, good natured and well settled. At least now she has a husband to look after her. She will start her life afresh and will be happy. I should stop worrying about her and sleep. There is work to be done. And Tanmay’s gift…. With that I dozed off to sleep. Happy.

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