“So did the horoscopes match?” Shikha called up.
“Yes and No.”
“Meaning Harsha’s Punditji said Yes and Mamma’s said No.”
“Oh! Now what?”
“The boy’s side wins what else?”
“Your parents are okay with that?”
“Oh they are the ones so desperate to get me married. Mamma and Papa had a massive fight over the horoscope issue. Mamma had shown the horoscopes to the Punditji without telling Papa and now Papa is mad at Mamma for creating ‘trouble’ and Bhai is also upset.”
“Bhai believes in horoscopes or what?” Shikha was taken aback.
“No, not that. Just that he is worried about the fate of my marriage. If Mamma creates a fuss over the horoscope – the wedding wouldn’t happen and then what would happen to him and his darling Ritu’s wedding? Where would they find another groom for me? And on top of it Ritu might get mad, because Harsha is her find.”
“And that there’s worse.”
“What could be worse?”
“Apparently if the marriage goes through, Harsha will be involved in some difficult situation. And funnily both Punditjis agree on this point.”
“Wow, that’s tough. I guess the boy’s side won’t like to proceed now would they?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you hope?”
“I don’t know! I don’t want to get married period. If I have to Harsha is okay by me. I don’t want to repeat this rigmarole again with some new guy. Very stressful and embarrassing to be paraded in front of unknown guys while they pass comments about your hair, height weight color and scar.”
“Aww my poor Rajji. Don’t take it to heart. It happens to all girls.”
“Not to all girls. You didn’t have to…”
“That’s what you think!” Shikha cut in. “After the initial go ahead, Amu’s granny had second thoughts. She didn’t think I was beautiful enough for her handsome grandson. And,” she lowered her voice, “I think there was some issue of ‘gifts’ as well but my parents refused to tell me about it.”
“Issue about gifts?”
“Oho you are such a budhhoo Rajji. What all we will be gifting to them.”
“You mean dowry?” Rajani was scandalized.
“They call it gifting. Whatever you want to give your one and only daughter out of love and in blessing for her long happily wedded life.”
“That’s so medieval!”
“No my dear, very much the 21st century. After all we are a very traditional country, we believe in honoring customs and rituals. You won’t believe the amount of money my parents are spending on the wedding.”
Rajani’s heart sank. Shikha’s family was much better off financially than they were but how would Papa manage? Would Harsha also demand dowry? Was that why they had asked for her horoscope? And that bit about the ‘dosh’ in their future wedded life?
“Are they openly asking for stuff Shikhs?”
“No, not really. But things like family expects, beta likes, a matter of my status in the family. Just want to know what kind of car what color is being gifted so that they can color coordinate our dresses and some such stupid nonsense.”
“Car! They are demanding a car?”
“No no they aren’t demanding. They just want to know if we are giving. Otherwise they will buy and say it’s from the girl’s side for they don’t want their future daughter-in-law to be looked down upon. They don’t want anything but my happiness and two sets of clothes.”
“Did you talk to Amu about this?”
“I did once. He flew into a massive rage and said that I must have misunderstood. His parents aren’t like that. How dare I insult his family. He threatened to break off the nuptials.”
“Then his mother called up my mother and accused me of breaking up the family before we were married. God only knew what would happen after the wedding. They were only looking out for my comfort and happiness. They weren’t greedy or materialistic and so on and so forth. She shed buckets of tears. Mummy apologized over and over again. She made me apologize too.”
“Oh. You didn’t tell me all this.” Rajani was hurt. “So much happened and you didn’t share with me? I thought we were friends Shikhs.”
“I am telling you now aren’t I? Where was the scope to tell you? You had so much on your plate. I was so upset that I got fever. Amu and I didn’t speak for a few days. And then he called me up to soothe matters.”
“Oh that was sweet of him. So now everything is sorted?” Rajani asked hopefully. “They aren’t demanding car and stuff are they?”
“No, no they aren’t demanding anything. But for my ease and comfort, Papa is giving a white Dezire, a Whirlpool fully automatic washing machine, an LG microwave…”
“But Shikhs, you aren’t even going to be in India, why would you need all these things?”
“But I will come to India sometimes won’t I? Then Papa wouldn’t want me to walk to the market or wash clothes would he?”
“This is crazy.” Rajani was feeling dizzy.
“Yes, it is isn’t it? I had a huge bust up with my parents. They convinced me that they would have given all this in any case. Gifting was a societal requirement and my to be in-laws’ concerns were right. It was a question of their pride and place in society. I am their only daughter. It is their pleasure and honor. They have been saving for my wedding ever since I was born. I had no say in what they could or could not give. If I cared at all for them I should focus on building a relationship with Amu not fight over material things.”
“I hope things between you and Amujiju are back to normal?”
“Yeah,” Shikha said, “he sent me a huge box of foreign cosmetics. He bombarded with I am sorry cards, flowers, chocolates. And a cuddly teddy bear. But he said I couldn’t take it with me to the US as over there I would have my own live cuddly bear.” Shikha giggled.
“Oh that’s so sweet!”
“Yes,” Shikha simpered. “He is a sweetheart. I hated fighting with him. I am glad he made the first move and apologized so genuinely. I don’t care what his mother or granny says. And I am tired of shopping with Mummy. I wish you were here. When are you coming to Chandigarh?”
“That’s another issue. I talked to the college authorities, they aren’t willing to give me more than a week’s leave.”
“A week? But that’s hardly anything!”
“And Mamma is insisting that I take at least a month off from college. But I put my foot down and said maximum 9 days, including the weekends and if I fly down on Friday evening and come back the next Monday.”
“But that’s a very short time Rajji! There are so many rituals before and after the wedding and the honeymoon. What about that?”
“I have no idea. I can’t bunk college. They are very strict about attendance here, you know that.”
“What will happen if you do take a month off?”
“Anything from suspension to cancellation of summer vacations.”
“Oh that’s tough.”
“This is too much of a bother Shikhs I wish we could turn the clock to one month back and go back to leading carefree lives.”
“But that would mean no Amu!” Shikha wailed.
“God Shikhs you really are besotted with him! You are ready to ditch your forever friend for some unknown guy you haven’t even met?”
“Sometimes you don’t have to meet to feel connected. I am convinced we were meant to be. Just think of it Rajji, he is US, me in Chandigarh what were the chances of our meeting leave alone get married? But we did, didn’t we? And the connection we share is amazing, we compliment and complete each other.”
“Oh God Shikhs please don’t go all filmy on me. Makes me want to gag. What has happened to you! I can’t believe that this is the same person I spent all my life with – compliment and complete each other Nonsense!” Rajani was scathing. She made a rude sound.
Shikha heaved a huge sigh. “It’s true Rajji. Sometimes even I don’t recognize myself. It’s as if I am a different person, an alien being. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would miss a person so much that it’s like a physical ache. It’s really strange but I have stopped thinking of myself as a single unit, it’s always about ‘us’ now. Everything I do and think about is as us.”
“You have completely lost your marbles Shikhs!” Rajani was incredulous and quite clueless.
“Tum nahi samjhogi Rajji. Kuch kuch hota hai.”
Do keep the conversation flowing and before you go, some gyan from Hobbes.
Click here for Chapter 123: A Losing Battle