in Stories

Happy Friendship Day: A Short Story

“Okay, Maa! If you want me to see the girl, I will.” I finally gave in to the nagging.

I was three years into a job, had my own place, about the ‘marriageable age’ and was seeing no one. I was the perfect recipe for an arranged marriage and it seemed I was raised just for the job.

The next Sunday we were at the Singhs. Mr Baldev Singh, the patriarch, was the DCP of my city. His wife, Binita Singh was a lecturer at the city college of commerce. Their daughter Vaidehi, was a B.Com (Hons.) and soon going to be my wife.

Theoretically, arrange marriages are about families setting you up with a girl. You meet the girl and decide if you can be life-long partners or not. Theory in itself is terrifying enough, but the practical is soul-ripping.

While I was talking to Vaidehi in her room, my mother was already into forging life-long relationships with the Singhs. I ‘kind of’ liked her but did I want to marry her? Who could tell in 15 minutes? It takes people more than that to decide on the ingredients of a Subway sandwich!

“So, did you like her?” My mother was all worked up, and the interrogation started as soon as we left their premises.

“Umm, yeah.” I was still unsure.

“Wow! This is exciting. As it turns out, her Mama ji is your uncle’s colleague. In fact, he is a senior and friends with your uncle’s boss plus Singh ji is himself the DCP. A whole family of beaurocrats. I could not have imagined a better match for you.”

I could sense my mother had moved beyond the marriage planning and was into the stage when you are imagining conversations on a third anniversary.

She continued her charade,”I should say yes, right? You liked her na? I think this would be perfect!”

I was thinking. As any rational decision maker, I was analysing the scenarios. The factors were right there – I was of age, well-settled in a job, had my place and wasn’t seeing anyone. It is so amazing when you plug out the emotions out of decision making; it seems all too easy.

“I don’t know Maa. She has to like me too!” I had almost made up my mind. She was pretty, educated and I didn’t have anybody anyways, and this would finally stop my mother nagging the hell out of me.

The Singhs were surprisingly elated at my nod and with their approval, it was festive time in my family and theirs.

I was married within the coming six weeks and after a week at my family home, I was off with Vaidehi to Bangalore.

A few weeks passed by. I was getting back to my job again, and she was most probably, adjusting to a new life. We were two months into our marriage and were still practically strangers. There was no love-making. There was no love, to start with and we barely had a heartfelt conversation.

We were in bed; I shut down my laptop while she was still reading. I was lying in bed, with a girl. I thought maybe, the whole ‘being friends first’ strategy isn’t working out, and we needed to become lovers directly.

I stretched my leg and in a nonchalant manner touched her leg with it. I could feel the sparks. Sadly, she just felt my leg and moved hers away. I knew how the night was going to end up. I was lousy at confrontations and in the same nonchalant manner pulled my leg back to my blanket and dozed off to sleep while forming entirely rational explanations of why my lawfully wedded wife won’t make physical contacts with me.

A role-change, a hectic project and a hefty appraisal later, I was eight months into my love-less marriage. My office had gifted me with a couple’s vacation trip to Mauritius. I had to do something with it.

“You know what, I think postponing our honeymoon was a really bad decision on my part.” I started the discussion which I could hopefully steer towards the vacation tickets.

“It was my decision, not yours and I am thankful to you every bit.”

“Hmm. I remember now; it was yours. I cannot think of the reason you gave me. What was the reason again?”

“You want to know the reason I gave you or the real reason? I think I have deliberated too long. You have the right to know.”

I was not ready for this. Maybe I will never be. I assumed it was time we had this discussion.

“I would like the real reason.”

“I know this discussion is not going to end well and at the outset I want to clarify; it has nothing to do with you.”

“Okay, now you are frightening me. That’s all.”

“The real reason we.. I postponed our honeymoon or could never get physical with you is just one – I love someone else.”

I couldn’t say I didn’t expect it to be a reason. If there were any other guy in my place, he would have directly asked her. But it was me there, who believed in marriages, relationships and other crap.

“I know I had no right to ruin your life like this, but I had no other option. After you had gone back from my place, I opened up to my dad about this guy I was in love with. He was my college senior. My dad’s reply was – he would get him killed and nobody would know.”

She had started crying. It was the only honest emotion I had seen in her, in the past year I had known her. She was the real Vaidehi, right there.

She continued, “I tried to forget him. I really did. I tried to be a dutiful wife but whenever you touched me, my emotions repelled.”

I kept the tickets I was holding, on the table. I was surprisingly calm. Maybe I was secretely preparing for this.

“So what do you want me to do?” I asked her.

“Nothing.” She replied.

“Nothing? After all this? You understand that this marriage was a sham all over and now it’s out there in the open, and I am supposed to do nothing?” I got a bit worked up. It was natural after all.

“I don’t know what to do. If I had known better, I wouldn’t have even married you in the first place.”

“Do you still talk to him?”

“He calls me often. I pick up once in a while.”

“Do you still love him?”

“I don’t believe it but yes.”

“Would you want to marry him?”

“What are you saying? It would be a disaster. My dad would never let this happen.”

“Vaidehi, listen. Marriages are meant to find people who can be happy with each other. In this one, I see the groom clueless and the bride crying. Now, would he marry you?”

“He was ready even then.”

“We will meet the lawyer tomorrow and you may go live with him till the formalities sort out.”

She was looking at me with disbelief.

“And one last thing” I picked up the envelope from the table, “Happy Friendship Day.”