by Renuka Balakrishnan
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Sudha burst into tears. Her heart sank and her knees felt weak at the thought of confronting her brother. Sundar Anna was 13 years elder to her and had taken on as the head of the family when her father passed away when she was only 10. He was a loving, caring elder brother but had a terrible temper. She, although aggressive and defiant herself, was terrified of him.
Her mind raced back to her childhood when she had been an accomplice in stealing a box of sweets from her aunt’s place. Once her involvement was confirmed, the mere look Anna had given her had froze her. And a few years ago, she had helped a friend elope her rigid, unrelenting family. Anna had come to know of it through his friends. He had come home fuming and would have burned down the house if her mother and sister-in-law had not intervened and pacified him.
She would have never been able to muster the courage to tell Anna about Dinesh and herself. And now when there seem so many uncertainties about Dinesh’s affections for her, how was she to face him? And what excuse can be given for refusing any other alliance? He would skin her alive.
Sudha nervously pondered over her situation. She first thought of confiding in her sister? No. That has never helped. And she and Lata were never close. She was nearly 9 years elder to Sudha and an aloof, distant sort of a person. She was an ideal daughter who agreed to everything that was told to her. Never questioned, never challenged authority and most importantly never argued. On one or two occasions in the past when she had confided in Lata she had only ended up being reprimanded by her. No, she must wait and when Dinesh and she are ready she will talk to her family. The thought provided little consolation as Dinesh had been impossible to trace in the past twenty three days.
She felt desperate and called his mobile again. Not reachable. She suddenly remembered that Dinesh had a yahoo account, not much in use now, and she knew the password to it. (She had tried the same password on his Gmail account but it had not worked).She decided to log into it to see if there has been some activity. Although it had been long since he had stopped using it.
She caught hold of her laptop. The machine took several minutes to boot. She feverishly punched in the keys to establish the connection and open the website. The page is up but will the password work? The numerous seconds it took to refresh seemed like a hundred years to her. The password worked! She glanced through the pile of forty odd unread mails. One caught her eye, it was from a ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.Sudha opened it nervously. The mail, sent on May 22nd, read as
“My dearest Dinnuu, Loved being with you today. So 25th of June? WOW!! Can’t wait for the wedding bells darling!”
Sudha felt her heart sink in the agitation of the moment. Her fingers trembled and her mouth went dry with the distress that engulfed her. She felt nauseous and feared she might collapse. Today was the 25th of June. And while she is pining for Dinesh and desperately trying to reach him that guy is probably finalising a marriage proposal with a ‘sweetiedolly’!
How could she have been so blind in love? How could she have taken the warnings of her friends so lightly? How could she have ignored Dinesh’s refusal to introduce her to his friends and family? He has probably changed his mobile number to prevent her from calling him. She felt her heart sink into the pit of her stomach and started weeping loudly.
At that moment the doorbell rang. Sudha was so preoccupied that she did not hear it at the first time. It rang once more. It jolted her. Her first reaction was to dry up her tears. Who could it be at two ‘o’ clock in the afternoon? May be some courier boy who has come with the phone bill. She moved towards the door in a trance when suddenly she stood motionless. A frightening thought had occurred to her. What if it was her Anna? Lata had said he was in Vellore and might visit her today. Although Lata had said tonight or tomorrow morning but there was always a chance his work was done sooner than expected and he had decided to drop by. She felt so gripped by fear that she could not move.
The bell rang for the third time and she decided to face her fate. She unlatched the lock and opened the door. A cry of disbelief and surprise escaped her. She was not sure how she should receive her guests. For her guests were Dinesh and his elder sister Manju. She recognized Manju as she had seen her in a family photograph. Dinesh had a big smile on his face and a huge bouquet of flowers.
“Surprise Sudha! I know you are upset with me for not contacting you in the past few weeks. You might have seen the TV coverage of the huge landslide in my area. All the telephone and internet lines are down and I could not call you. Moreover, Manju and I were planning this surprise so I decided to wait till today before contacting you” said Dinesh.
He hugged Manju closely and added, “Meet Manju, my dearest sister. And next week my parents will also be here and we will be ready to approach your family. So how did you like my surprise darling? ”
A thousand questions ran through her mind though she could ask none. She wept profusely and Dinesh and Manju embraced her. All she could mumble incoherently in her confused yet relieved state was, “Then who is ‘email@example.com’?”
“Hey, that is my email id. But why do you ask?” asked Manju.
A flood of relief ran through her heart. The state in which she had opened the door and the state in which they were now entering the house now were diagonally opposite. She had thought she would not live to see the next day in one state and in the other she felt her spirits so elevated and the future so promising that she found it hard to bear the tremendous joy.
“Sudha, before we talk about anything else, is it possible to arrange for something to eat? We have not had the chance to stop anywhere and are famished” said Manju sheepishly.
The table was quickly laid out for lunch. The ‘same old’ sambaar and rasam were devoured by three happily chattering people.
“Sudha, the food is so tasty, specially the rasam.” quipped Manju
“I liked the sambar more.” observed Dinesh.
Sudha smiled to herself and agreed that the ‘boring’ cuisine was indeed delicious. ******