Wednesday, November 23
“You can drop me here,” she said. “I’ll manage it from here.”
He stopped his scooter.
The sound of festive music was coming from a house a dozen meters ahead of them.
“Thank you for dropping me off.”
She stepped down the scooter.
“It’s alright,” he answered, keeping his eyes on her despite her shifty gaze. What else could he say ?
The noises of people gathered together were filling the air.
She looked him in the eyes for just a few moments then slowly walked away.
Surely, her parents would never let her out of the house again.
Each step took her closer to a fate that now seemed inevitable. That was inevitable.
Through the holes in the fence, she could see them all.
Her relatives who had come all the way for this day.
Her brother who was dancing and prancing around.
Her parents who stared at him dumbfounded.
And Madhav who quietly sat in a corner.
Madhav with a look of defeat.
Madhav who had to be hating her.
Her legs moved on their own.
She ran only a few steps before stopping, looking at him like a deer caught in headlights. Her eyes were frantically shifting between him and the ground as she adjusted her sari. She gave him a quick wave.
He just kept staring at her.
It was the moment it really hit him.
This was her house where the celebration was held.
This could only mean one thing.
She turned around and walked back, taking the smallest of steps.
The fear and uncertainty painted in her eyes was carved in his mind as it raced and roared.
He wished they had had more time.
But the minute she’d pass the gate, it would be all over. She would be out of his life.
What should he do, what should he do, what should he do ?
She gasped. He had called her ? He did not let her go ?
She ran toward him, the widest of smiles spreading on her face. As she stopped in front of him, it dropped.
He was not smiling.
“You’ve been following me for the past few days,” he said bluntly.
She pursed her lips.
“You turn up everywhere I go.”
His gaze was inflexible.
“Why ? What does it mean ?”
“Hm, I… I-I…”
She was done for.
“You followed me as soon as I left college today.”
Even if he was too late, he would ask them.
“And you were standing under my house until evening.”
Those questions that had burned his lips the past few weeks.
“Nan…hm...” she stammered, “nan...”
She was shivering all over.
“I don’t know why you’re doing all this,” he added with a slight shake of his head.
When you could have come to me...
She gave no answer but he kept on talking.
“And then you said…”
“Your family wants to get you out of the house.”
As if he was the one good with his words between the two of them.
She held his gaze, her eyes glistening.
He sighed internally.
Here goes nothing.
This was it , she thought .
Silence grew between them.
He had said his piece.
“And my family wants someone in.”
She froze at the words he had just spoken.
He leaned forward against his scooter’s dashboard, lowering himself at her eye level.
“I mean... my mother wants someone home.”
She looked at him, her eyes getting more and more teary by the second.
“She wants a daughter-in-law who’s smart and never scared of anyone…”
“Who’s not scared to go anywhere she wants…”
“Any time she wants.”
“Oh my !” She squeaked and hid her face in her hands. A smile pulled her lips up, her cheeks burning.
Could this be real ?
He couldn’t believe those words had come from his own mouth. But yet, they had.
And now he couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he looked at her .
He smiled even wider when he noticed what she held onto.
“Meenakshi… my handkerchief,” he held his hand out with a grin.
She pursed her lips and handed it back to him.
“I was going to give it back.”
He nodded. “Of course you were.”
She stared at him. She was beaming.
Suddenly, she removed her choli.
“Wait, what are you doing ?!”
She had a blue tee-shirt underneath… His blue tee-shirt.
“What ? How ? Where did you–”
“One day I’ll tell you,” she winked.
It should have shocked him. But seeing her in it made him beyond happy.
He started laughing and she laughed along.
He thought he had no chance with a woman like her.
He took her hand in his.
It turned out she had been his from the start.
“Nāṉ uṉṉai kātalikkiṟēṉ.”
And he had been hers.
“That’s how you say it in Tamil.”
Her eyes went wide.
“Oh myyy !” She squealed.
He was serious ! This was real !
She couldn’t stop jumping up and down, not letting go of his hand for a mere second.
She had found her knight in shining armor and He. Loved. Her.
As they walked toward her house to ask for her parents’ blessing, she was on cloud nine.
This topped all the dreams she’d ever had. And she’d had a lot.
They walked into her parents’ garden: it was a mess. Her relatives were lying around everywhere, asleep, and her brother was still dancing while chanting gibberish.
“Where have you been ?” he asked with a concerned look. “Are you alright ?!”
“Didn’t I tell you Meenakshi will be back soon !” Her father exclaimed. “And who is this with you..?”
“Oh hm… he’s…” she glanced at him , “he’s Surya.”
“And why is he here ?” her mother asked.
The young man he guessed was her brother had just fallen trying to climb up a wall.
“Nana, stop !” Her mother shouted at him.
“Celebrate good times, COME ON !” He sang out.
An old lady in a wheelchair –her grandmother ?– was laughing and clapping hysterically.
“What is going on here ?” She exclaimed at the sight of her brother doing… whatever dance this was. “Is he drunk at my engagement ?!”
Her gaze crossed his and he tried his hardest not to laugh.
“CELEBRATION !” her brother shouted.
“What am I supposed to do with those children ?!” Her mother threw her hands in the air and left with a loud huff, her father in tow.
Followed by Madhav.
She turned to him, looking like she wanted to say something but ran after the other man instead.
“Hey !” Her brother yelled at him from the ground. “Welcome to the family !”
He gave him a nod, holding back a snicker.
She had left him behind with no explanation. She supposed the chaotic situation they had walked into was enough as it was.
She joined Madhav inside and led him to her room without a word. As the door closed behind them, he turned away from her.
She opened her mouth, trying to come up with something, anything.
He turned back to her, mouth agape.
Then away, pacing around the room.
His eyes bore into hers.
Not a single word was uttered.
Not a single sound.
His hurt and confused gaze said all that was needed.
She stared back, not daring to move.
Suddenly, he took her in his arms, his body shaken by quiet sobs.
Very gently, she patted his shoulder.
And just like that, he regained his composure and left the room.
He had been waiting for no more than fifteen minutes. But they felt like hours.
Bouncing from one foot to the other.
Pacing around the garden as her brother and grandmother were laughing and yelling nonsense.
Stepping over sleeping guests as he was thinking. And thinking. And thinking again.
What would he tell her parents ? He, the man who had come out of nowhere on their daughter's engagement day.
“I love your daughter” ?
“I am a proper man” ?
“I will protect her” ?
He paused, his heart beating to the rhythm of his own breath.
“She’s the light of my day.”
He snapped out of it.
Madhav was holding out his hand towards him.
“Thank you,” he said back, shaking it.
This brief exchange was charged with mutual understanding.
She had joined him and Madhav in the garden. As they were shaking hands, she was looking between the both of them expectantly.
“I’m sure we’ll cross ways again in life,” Madhav then told her in a calm voice.
“Stay happy,” he added, a faint smile on his lips.
“Thank you, Madhav.” She smiled back. “You too.”
You deserve it.
She didn't want to make it any more difficult, but she hoped deep in her heart that the best was yet to come for him.
“I'll take my leave.” His voice hoarse.
And on those last words, he left.
She pierced right through him with her hopeful eyes.
“My parents are inside.”
His brain froze for the span of a second.
“Let’s go,” he muttered.
She took his hand in hers and led the way.
Her parents were sitting on the couch in the living room, her mother hanging her head low and her father dozing off.
As she stopped in front of them, holding his hand proudly, her mother's eyes went wide.
She shook her husband who startled awake and nodded toward them.
Her father froze at the sight.
This was now or never.
He looked at her . She gave him a small nod.
He then bowed and touched their feet.
“What now ?” her mother exclaimed.
This was the moment.
The culmination of months of pining and a whirlwind of a day.
“I want to marry your daughter.”
Wednesday, March 21
“What about those ?”
She was showing him a fruit stand as they walked across the market together.
“Why do you always want me to paint bananas ?”
Who would've thought that a few months later, she would be there with the man of her dreams.
“I was thinking more about dessert but you can paint them too if you’d like,” she shrugged.
And that this man would be her husband.
“You already bought a dozen of those last time.”
“Because they’re tasty, Surya !” she feigned indignation.
He snorted and gently pulled her away from the stand.
“You could even paint over them with blue…” she sighed in defeat.
He shook his head, a small smile pulling the corner of his lips up. “You can't make blue out of yellow, Meenakshi.”
This seemed like the most normal thing in the world.
“Are you coming to bed ?” she asked him.
It was already late at night but he was still painting.
She softly put her hands on his shoulders.
“You changed color ?”
The different hues of blue on the extremities melted into a green shade in the center of the canvas.
“I started with yellow in the center then progressively added the blue.”
“Oh my ! Really ?” Her voice went in a higher pitch. “Are you sick ?”
“No !” He laughed. “It just… felt right.”
Just like her .
“Well, I love to see you so inspired,” she leaned her head on his.
Every day he was in awe of how she had slid into his life.
“You know you can't make blue out of yellow...” he said.
In awe of how perfectly they fit together.
“But...” she had a spark in her eyes, “you can make green !”
In awe of her.
“Surya,” she sat into his lap.
“Meenakshi,” he took her hand in his, kissing her knuckles.
She beamed at him.
“Nāṉ uṉṉai kātalikkiṟēṉ.”
And just like that, his heart melted.
“Listen and you will hear a sweet story in the air,
It conveys itself through the breeze, if you listen carefully.
My heart is like the petals of flowers,
The atmosphere is fresh like dawn.
The stars glittering in the day, they are all shining upon you,
Count them if you can.”