An offer she couldn't refuse!
by Hetal Joshi
"I am getting married today!"
This was the first thought that came into Neha’s mind the minute she opened her eyes, she sat up in bed with a jerk. A feeling of foreboding and anxiety settled into her mind, making her feel feverish…Marriage!
Her next thought was about Arjun, her fiancé. She was marrying her father’s best friend’s son. An arranged marriage?, In this day and time?, It was almost unique in its own… Neha thought ruefully.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Arjun , nor was she in love with someone else..but still…
Neha could’nt understand the reason for her apprehension.
“Arjun is a really nice guy,intelligent, good looking, educated and easy going and more over he belonged to a very good, respectable and wealthy family, a definition of the Perfect guy from any parents' standard for their daughter, over and above that the bonus of Arjuns father being Nehas fathers Best Friend..”
But how can you decide? 5 months! …after an acquaintance of only five months, how can you decide if you wish to spend the rest five decades or more with a person? Technically Neha had known Arjun all her life, or rather known about him all her life, all the tits and bits that she would here from her father…Last year when Amit Uncle (Arjuns Father) and Sangita Aunty(mother), had come to India after almost 16 years they had stayed with Neha’s family at their house as none of their family is currently in India.
During their stay Neha had grown really close to them, she really adored Arjun’s parents. Then, they had returned the next year with Arjun, with the express purpose of “Wife hunting…”as they had jokingly informed Neha’s parents. At that time Neha had never even imagined that this day would come, but it had, and now, within a few hours she would be married to Arjun!
And just like that, it was afternoon; Neha was sitting amidst a “chaos”, that was, her friends and cousins in the dressing room, all ready for the wedding. The doubts and worries of the morning, momentarily forgotten, in the laughter of her friends and family…after posing for atleast a million photographs in silly poses and atleast 15 aunties putting Nazar ka tikka behind her ears…Neha was almost impatient for the wedding to commence.
Neha took a deep breath, her best friend Bhumika sitting besides her squeezed her hand reassuringly,” its just the wedding jitters…every bride is entitled to them”…her other friends all laughed and passed comments about the wedding night and the usual after marriage woes….beyond the giggles and innuendoes Neha heard the faint sounds of the Dholaks… the wedding procession had reached the gates!
“Let’s go! Everyone!... the baaraat has come…lets go..”
Suddenly, her room was empty…the following silence felt like a blessing to Neha…all her friends and family surrounding her a minute ago had left to welcome the groom at the gates. Now in the last minutes before her life was going to change forever, Neha welcomed the silence…all the fears and thoughts of foreboding crowded her mind once again, overcome by the silence of the room and the voices in her head Neha finally faced the truth.
She was just like any other girl!
All the talk of being practical, independent, etc. was all bravado…and finally like a light bulb blinking over her head she realized the reason for all her fears…she wasn’t in love..the missing piece of the puzzle, “love”…she and Arjun were not in love. It was so simple,a sudden sense of calm settled over her as she accepted this truth. Yes, she wasn’t in love but she really really liked Arjun and respected him and their families had decided for them, it was a perfect match..and as people continuously said they made a handsome couple. Everything was perfect, and Neha had accepted these facts, It might have been an arranged marriage but it was’nt a soulless one, she and Arjun really were good together they had an affinity and a certain link, some people may even call it a spark and she hoped respect and admiration might someday lead to love. Having counseled herself into thinking that and reminding herself that “the best things in life required a risk, they didn’t just show up and shower you with everything you wanted, sometimes you just needed to take a leap of faith.” She was going to enter this relationship happily…with this firm thought in mind Neha smiled freely for the first time that day.
A knock sounded and her mom entered, “you look beautiful, beta!” She said in a tearful voice. And hugged Neha fiercely, “ I love you my baby, and I wish u find all the happiness that you deserve in life and more”, “ We have always been proud of you, you have been our support, comfort and confidant ….and I m sure you will make us proud in future too.god bless you “. The only reason Neha could control her tears was because she knew that if broke down her mother will too…so she resorted to the only weapon at hand..laughter. "Come on ma, don't be like this..all filmy..and anyways you jus wait I am going to make Arjun so fond of India that we will come down to India almost every month until you and dad are completely sick of us and send us packing…you remember when I was a kid I promised I would bring a Gharjamai..I m goin to work on that..” Saying this, Neha and her mother fell into gales of laughter..
Just then her dad came in and asked about the reason for the mother and daughter laughing so much and her mom repeated Neha’s claim of making Arjun a Gharjamai even her father started laughing..and kissing her forehead…said, "You will always be my heart, my little princess, lets go..its time to go to your prince”. Saying this, he took Neha’s arm and together all three left the room for the mandap.
As Neha walked down the aisle towards the mandap she could hear the singers singing traditional lagna geet..she felt her nerves returning, looking towards the mandap her eyes met those of Arjun’s, which were, like always, dancing with mischief..and as she stared he gave her an huge smile with an exaggerated wink, Neha felt a beginning of a smile on her own face and as she reached him Arjun stepped down from the mandap and took her hand and helped her onto the platform…and after the hast- medap they sat through the whole ceremony, holding hands.
The wedding was over.
All the other after marriage ceremonies were also over.
Neha was alone in the decorated room..for the wedding night.
All the fear and apprehension that had circled in her mind all day returned with full force…the decorated bed felt like the devil himself awaiting his offering.
“Giving yourself to a man in love was a different matter but giving yourself to your husband out of duty felt so cold…” terrified Neha felt all her anxiety and doubts return.
Neha was standing at the window staring out lost in though when Arjun entered the room quietly closing the door behind him, he walked upto her. Standing besides her, he too looked out the window …together they stood in silence. Neha felt herself calming a bit.. it was almost funny, here was the reason for her fears and his presence itself made her feel calmer..
Suddenly Arjun turned to her. "How about friends?”
“Huh?” Neha asked clue less
“How about friendship?” he asked again his lips slightly crinkled at the corners…Neha just looked at him blankly..
“What the hell is he talking about?” She thought to herself frantically.
“How about we start with friendship?” Arjun asked again smiling fully now,
“I mean we don’t know each other all that much and as we are married now and going to spend our lives together so how we start this journey is our choice, right? …so how about it?"
Neha felt a giddy feeling starting in her heart…when Arjun held out his hand raised an eyebrow and said” you know, I am not going to jump on you…? , she almost laughed out at that..Smiling shyly, she gave him her hand..
“Thats better, I was almost afraid you were going to reject my offer. then what would people say? All my charm and good looks and my own wife rejected me on my wedding day itself!…ahh poor me..” he pretended to wipe imaginary tears.
"You're crazy!" Neha finally could not help it and laughed out loud.
“You have a beautiful laugh you know, it was the first thing I noticed about you..the innocent laugh of a child!" He said solemnly, the smile still playing around his lips.
Neha was caught up in the intensity of his gaze and before she could properly comprehend it. He went on saying, “We leave for our honey moon tomorrow, so lets think of it as friends going on an holiday and then, well, we will see how things proceed..” He finished with a sheepish smile.
Neha found herself nodding.
He took her hand and lead her towards the sofa, asking her to wait..he went to his cupboard and brought out a small blue box. Handing it to her he said, ”Your wedding gift..go ahead open it!” He insisted.
Neha smiled at him, and pulled the ribbon. Inside she found a wrist watch..” its beautiful!, Thank u”. Arjun motioned her to turn it over. It had an inscription. "and it begins..” She looked at him questioningly, he sat down besides her and asked her to look inside..a small card was at the foot of the box.
“Life from tomorrow will be “Our life” for us to live it the way we want..together we will make it what we want. Our journey..the way we make it..and so now it begins… "Our story.”
For a minute all Neha could do was stare…as tears rolled down her cheeks…she looked up to find Arjun looking at her with so much love in his eyes…the missing piece of the puzzle!, finally found made the most beautiful picture, which was Neha’s future and she could see it all in Arjun’s eyes.
And quite naturally she went into his arms and they hugged tightly for a long long time…
They pulled back eventually and looked at each other, staring…finally they laughed…and laughed….hugging each other holding hands..they welcomed the future with eyes shinning with new hopes and dreams that they would see..TOGETHER! The End