The heat was oppressive on this dull summer afternoon. The lunch was ready to be served. The same sambaar and rasam today also, there seemed no excitement even in cuisine.
Sudha nonchalantly tossed away her mobile onto the couch. No messages from anybody and none whatsoever from him. Not even a single one. It has been twenty three days and not a word from him. “How can he be so careless, or may be ruthless was the apt word. The guy has no feelings!” Sudha murmured to herself. “Okay! Forget feelings. Why should anyone care too much for the feelings of a twenty seven year old average looking woman who does not have too many worldly merits to boast of? But one should have the basic courtesy and some sense of responsibility to at least inform someone who is waiting.”
She admitted to herself that her friend, Priya, was right. Priya had told Sudha umpteen times that she should be wary of her north Indian boyfriend. Priya had seen too many of them to trust them. They were all the same: braggarts, uncouth, too loud and most importantly unreliable.
Despite the many warnings by Priya and her own unsettled emotions, Sudha had still gone ahead and accepted the flamboyant proposal Dinesh had made almost a year ago. She clearly remembered how he had dropped on his knees and presented the two-flower bouquet. Although the style had seemed obsolete it was not unflattering. With Sudha’s not-so-high opinion of herself and an inferiority complex about her dark complexion she had been overjoyed at the prospect of a fair skinned boyfriend. And she could not overlook the attention and the regards he paid her on many instances.
Well! All that was immaterial now; what was important is the fact that they had successfully completed a year of courtship and she was sure he would be a good friend and a companion. And most importantly he was probably her only chance of a “love-marriage”.
The mobile ran to break her reverie. She startled and leaped at it imagining it to be a call from Dinesh. It was her mother.
“Sudha! I have been trying to reach you since morning, where have you been? Your phone is busy all the time” complained Mrs. Mohanan.
“Amma, I told you there were issues at office please stop calling me all the time”.
“Ok! We have to give an answer to that Madurai family today. They have called so many times. We all like the boy. Agree, he is a little dark but how does that matter!” chimed Mrs. Mohanan
“Aiyyoo Amma, why do we need to discuss this every time, I have told you I am not interested in anyone right now”, whined Sudha.
After some pleading arguments from her mother and some vehement refusals on her side she put down the phone. And her thoughts returned to Dinesh again. The last time they had met she had mentioned that it was time for their families to meet. She had asked him for his parents’ numbers. He had suddenly started talking about his office. Was he reluctant to share their number? And why? She had insisted that she would at least tell her parents but Dinesh had stopped her by saying that they should wait for the right time. Why did he hesitate to involve the family?
She also remembered the other time when they had gone to a restaurant for dinner. They were waiting for the meal to be served when a huge gathering of middle-aged women entered the hall chattering merrily and sharing kitty-party jokes, Dinesh had suddenly insisted that they leave the restaurant immediately saying that he did not want to be seen by his distant aunt who was in that group.
At that time Sudha had thought it only natural for anybody to avoid being spotted by an acquaintance while lunching or dining with a boyfriend or girlfriend. But today her heart was suspicious and was questioning Dinesh’s behaviour on these two instances. She felt indignant at herself for having ignored it earlier and for not confronting him that very instance.
She picked up the mobile again to check in case she had missed any messages. She checked her laptop again for messages. She made several attempts to call Dinesh’s number. But disappointment ruled everywhere.
She thought of a few of Dinesh’s friends whom she could call; Akash, Sujit or may be that girl Garima but Dinesh had never introduced her to anyone and she did not have anybody’s numbers. While despair was settling into her heart, her phone rang. She leaped at it. It was her sister, Lata.
“Sudha, what is this? Amma just told me that you are not saying anything about this Madurai boy. What is wrong? He earns 15 lakhs pa, is 6’2”, such good family. What is your problem now?”
Sudha’s chagrined response was, “I have already told Amma to stop bugging me about this. Now you don’t start ok?”
“What do you mean by ‘don’t start’? This is the fifth good alliance that you have refused. You..”
“Lata, I have already told you all that I AM NOT INTERESTED”.
“You cannot say ‘not interested’ and shrug it off. You have to give us a convincing reason.”
“I don’t have a good reason. OK? Just stop bringing up this subject. don’t want to get married that is it”
“Sudha, we are not your enemies. We have told you many times that if there is someone in your mind please tell us. Even if the person is from a different caste, we will agree.”
“OK! We will see all that later. Right now just stop bugging me”, said Sudha indignantly
“You are so unreasonable. We are being so good to you and your behaviour is so rude. Ten years ago I agreed to the first alliance that came my way. Here, we have done so much for you and you know how conservative the family is! Still we are ready to make exceptions for your sake and you are not even responding properly.”
“I cannot be like you. You are great ok? I am not. I do not want this Madurai guy or any other fellow. Just stop bothering me”, Sudha’s voice quavered as her eyes welled up with tears.
“Listen to me now. We are going to give a positive answer to this Madurai family by today evening. Sundar Anna says that he cannot wait any longer. He is very upset with your indifference. He said he might visit you tonight or tomorrow as he is in Vellore today. You can talk to him.” said Lata impatiently and cut the phone.
Short Story 'A Surprise' continued here.....