My Soulmate Stranger
by Bhargavi Srinivasan
“Take care of your health Kalpana... call me twice a week....and now call me once you reach the transit airport... did you get me?” and as the instructions were going on incessantly from my mother I was slowly nodding at her with tears clouding my eyes. Ram was holding my hand firmly giving me a feeling of warmth and assurance that there is nothing that I have to fret about. While he was excited about our colourful married life ahead I was anxious. It has been two weeks since I was married to Ram. He works as a business analyst in a software firm in Washington, USA and has been residing there for more than seven years since he pursued his Masters degree. Ours was a typical arranged Indian marriage more specifically Tamil Brahmin wedding. My parents had acquainted with his family through a marriage broker. All I had got to see was Ram’s photograph and a few international phone calls from him before we actually met for the wedding. I have never stayed away from my parents ever since my childhood and after twenty two years for the first time I was travelling with a stranger to an alien land and probably would get to see my parents only after two or three years. I was melancholy and the feeling of this estrangement from my parents was choking me. As I was walking towards the queue to collect our boarding pass I took a final glimpse of my parents waving at me, proud and elated at the fact of marrying their daughter to an ideal NRI groom of their choice, they stood there cheerfully bidding me an adieu.
After twenty two hours of a gruelling flight journey we finally reached Ram’s apartment. A perfect 2 BHK duplex apartment in the heart of the bustle life of the down town, extremely tidy, well lit, finely furnished and adorned by archaic artefacts collected so precisely by Ram gave a luminous glow to the house. Ram carried my bags inside and walked me through the house helping me settle down. He was making persistent efforts to make me feel at home while I was feeling like a child lost in some unknown terrain. A week passed by and Ram returned to work after a long vacation. A mundane routine as I packed his lunch box and sent him off to office, staying home all day long in solitude doing some monotonous house hold chores though most of them were automated, zipping through some English entertainment channels on the television during the rest of the time and waiting for him to be back home from work made my life all the more listless and gloomy. I used to call my mom every night and Ram never uttered a word against the telephone expenses I incurred. He knew that I was like a newly born infant out from a protective womb into a world so different, crying and wailing throwing up tantrums trying to cope up with the frustrations of adapting to changes, to a new ambience... He was a calm, composed man with immense endurance and faith on his plethora of love on me which he knew will eventually heal my pain and fear of dwelling away from my parents.
“I have a couple of meetings today, so I may be a little late than normal... If you are too bored staying home just take a walk around the neighbourhood and make some new friends... but be careful and don’t stay out long in the dark...” as Ram told, I watched him leave to his office on his black Honda Accord. At half past five in the evening when I was almost done with my work for
the day I thought I might visit the neighbourhood... It has almost been more than four months since I came to this foreign land but never explored outside unless Ram was with me. It was fascinating to venture this new place all alone and I strode fast through each of the streets, crossed multiple lanes, shopped a little, ate at a food joint and with a sense of gratification of having accomplished something big for the first time, I turned my wrist to learn the time. I was appalled to know it was half past eight and I have spent almost three hours on the American roads oblivious of everything around me. I decided to speed back to my house before Ram returns from office. As I galloped towards home carrying some plastics bags with the goods that I shopped that day, I unknowingly took a wrong turn and got lost in the down town... I finally hit a ruined garage at the dead end of a lane. There were a bunch of hooligans sitting at the garage and having a roar of laughter over something when they noticed me standing baffled, uncertain about my route to home. They gaped at me lecherously and as they marched towards me I was petrified, perspiring hard and before they could even utter a word I ran opposite to that road. My feet carried me as fast it could, without even looking back I sped indefinitely like an insane dog and bumped into someone in the darkness. There I saw the stranger of my life who appeared as the angel in disguise... I embraced Ram and burst into tears...
“I was home and saw the door was locked so came out looking for you... What happened to you and where have you been all this while?” as I heard him ask me questions in a perturbed tone, I narrated the mind harrowing incident. I cuddled in his arms as he soothened me and took me home. I sat on the couch still not out of the obnoxious moment in my life, Ram offered me a glass of water to drink, sat beside me and caressed me on my forehead “It’s alright Kalpana...Don’t be afraid anymore...I am right here with you.” I felt my mother in his warmth and my father in his fortitude. This was the moment for the very first time I did not miss my parents even once. I slept with his arms around me feeling so secured.
Next morning I woke up late and jolted off my bed realizing it was late for Ram to his office... As I ran down towards the dining I saw Ram sitting across the table with breakfast prepared and kept. I also saw another plate covered with a lid. He insisted me to open the lid and there I saw a beautiful birthday cake with a portrait of my face on it.
“Happy Birthday Kalpana! I wanted to surprise you last night but after all the commotion that happened I was not sure if you were in a mood for a celebration. You were sound asleep in the morning so for a change thought I would prepare the breakfast for you on your birthday. Hope you like it...“
It was the perfect time and never wished if there would be any other better moment. As I stood there with a pile of emotions pounding through my heart, I hugged Ram, looked into his eyes and told “I love you.”
With a lot of glee and a bit of coy in his eyes, Ram smiled at me and kissed me spreading magical vibes all through me. I found my soulmate as I saw the stranger in me vanish forever. ***