mahimamishra

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Dilemma

DILEMMA

PREFACE

 

In our country we have an example like Ram Chandra, who gave away 14 years of his youth to keep the promise of his father, Shravan Kumar whose aim in life was to carry his old and feeble, blind parents on his shoulders and take them to all the holy places, Meera Bai who took the word of her mother and renounced the world for Shri Krishna, Gandhari who never questioned her parents for marrying her off to a blind person and who showed her conviction by never allowing herself to see the world that her husband could not see.

Are we able to imbibe the same virtues in our present generation? Do our children have the same conviction, the same gratitude, the same character??

CHAPTER 1

The red dot right on the centre of her forehead made her look like a goddess in anger with flashes of lightning emerging from the red centre.

The person looking back at her from the mirror seemed to be someone else from a different place and a different situation. Is this she? Has this been her lifelong dream? Did she ever want to see herself at this point where she was now? Was this her own doing or was destiny trying to play tricks and give her life a twist that she was not yet ready for? Too many questions were nagging her reverie while she moved like a zombie getting ready for getting married.

She checked her red scarf in place and slipped on the golden bangles while her mind wandered into the past when she was not expected to make decisions that would hold her responsible for destruction- or was it not? Was this a sensible decision she had taken and would she gradually realise that it was one of the intelligent steps she had taken in her life? She wasn’t sure.

It seemed to be just yesterday when she was a normal school girl whose ambition in life was to study and excel in a field which would help her become an independent person. To become a person who was not only responsible for her decisions but also had the capacity to choose the right ones.

“Mom, give me my lunch fast as I have to rush. I’m getting late for my class”  she said and barged into the drawing room and was suddenly shocked to see that a visitor was there sitting idly, leafing through a magazine waiting for probably her elder sister who was supposed to be going on an excursion with her friends to the famous Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. She was suddenly embarrassed of her startled look at this unexpected encounter with an unknown person in her own drawing room. She became uncomfortably aware of her short tunic and tomboyish appearance as this stranger was looking at her strangely. He was probably trying to guess who she was and maybe expecting a little courtesy from her. “Mae, beta have your food before you leave, this girl is always running around like wind, may god grant her some gravity and maturity.” That was the sound of her mother from inside. She left the room in a flurry and didn’t bother to greet the guest as she was convinced that it wasn’t her fault for no one had introduced her to him. She was getting late for her accounts class so she diverted her thoughts and ate quickly so that she could leave before anyone thought of introducing her to him. She hated all these formalities and never enjoyed meeting new people as it took a lot of effort to know them and trust them enough to be able to converse with them. She despised small talk and could never think of what to say when she didn’t know someone quite a lot.

She felt a pang of regret and wanted to drift back to her adolescent days when things were so simple and normal and life so uncomplicated. She longed for her uninhibited and cloistered self and felt a shudder on realising how she had changed over the years.

CHAPTER 2

She had got her graduation results and was quite pleased with her performance. She had matured a lot in these four years, but that didn’t imply that her innocence had corrupted. She had kept to herself even in those ever corrupting circumstances of the University where getting astray and losing sight of your goal is quite a common phenomenon.

Her friends teased her and called her names like, ‘Home bird’, ‘Ms. Righteous’, ‘18th Century, Behenji’ (behenji is sister in Hindi). But she did not care and considered them forlorn and aimless.

She was happy with her result and the first person she wanted to share this delightful news with was her father. Her father was a simple and honest man who had tried to imbibe the same virtues in his two daughters.

Mae loved her father the most, although she loved her mother too but it was a different kind of love. She felt a kind of vulnerability for her, wanted to protect her from the harsh world as she was too naive and delicate compared to the world in general. Mae was not only close to her mother as a friend but also felt more like a mother to her, herself. Although her mother understood her, and was her best friend, but for the finer things of life; she turned to her father. Sometimes it became too difficult for her to decide whom she loved more, therefore whenever such a thought crossed her mind she jerked it off deciding that she couldn’t live without either.

When she reached home she found her father busy with some files on his desk. It was a holiday in his office but he had brought some work home as he had to finish one of his colleague’s work too, who was a little busy because of his daughter’s marriage. He was probably waiting for her but gave no signs of it. She understood him too well not to understand that. The moment she saw him she flung into his arms and kissed him on his cheek and laid the marksheet on his lap. He smiled and stroked her head and blessed her. She had an urge to touch his feet but as it was prohibited as a custom in her family to let daughters ouch the feet of their parents, she resisted the urge and kissed him on the other cheek.

Her elder sister Malini, entered the room in a beautiful white suit with a dainty lace on the neck and the sleeves. She looked stunningly beautiful and seemed to have dressed up for an occasion. She smiled at Mae and took the marksheet to see whether her guidance during the exams had helped Mae or not. She felt proud of her and smiled at her, “You’ve done it! Keep it up, although you could have done better than this, I know!” she winked at her younger sister with adoration.

“Where are you ready for princess?” asked Mae.

“She is going out for a party with some friends” informed their mother entering the room with a plate full of sweets. It was customary for their mother to make sweets for any special occasion, be it a festival, a birthday or a graduation day. So here she was. “Mom, I have passed with flying colours! See my marksheet” said Maeand placed the document in her hand taking the plate of sweets from her and putting a piece in her father’s mouth who was a great fan of sweets made by his loving and indulgent wife.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door and Mae got up to see who had come. She was surprised to see a handsome man with light hair and an angular mouth standing a bit slouched near the doorway. He had injured his hand and it was bleeding profusely. He looked pale and his fair locks were sticking on his forehead and neck in sweaty rings making him look more boyish and rather charming. She kept on looking at him for sometime and didn’t realise that he had started smiling now as the others approached the doorway too, to greet the guest.

He was a friend of Malini and had come to fetch her for the party and on the way just near the house he had met with an accident. Some young school kids were playing cricket on the streets and one of them darted out of a blind corner and in the effort to avoid hitting the child his scooter skid and he lost his balance.

His smile was full of pain and Mae realised that he must be in real pain because of his injury. Malini saw him and burst our worriedly, “Oh my God! What happened to you? Are you alright? How did you hurt yourself?”  By now, mother and father were also there and started enquiring about how he was feeling and mom told Mae to get the first aid box fast.

Father immediately called up their family doctor, Dr Kumar and told him to come as soon as he could. In the meantime mother started washing the wound with antiseptic solution and warm water. She asked Mae to get some warm milk with a pinch of turmeric in it. Bhuvanesh (that was the name of the fair youth) was getting quite embarrassed by now and was apologising for creating all the chaos.

“Don’t worry son, it’s not your fault. These children keep playing on the streets and cause trouble to all the passersby. We have a park in the colony but they still don’t help themselves to it. They create a nuisance on the streets, I fear someday there will be something unfortunate, if this continues. I hope your wound heals up fast. It was so unfortunate for you. Poor boy, he was just coming to pick up Malini for the party and see what trouble he has landed into.”

“Oh, it’s not a problem at all aunty. I am glad this happened otherwise I wouldn’t have got a chance to receive such affection from you. You are so caring. Malini and Mae are so fortunate to have a mother like you.” Mae handed him the turmeric milk and stood there watching how her mother was cleaning the wound picking out gently small pieces of stones that had forced their way into the flesh. Suddenly Bhuvnesh turned to her and said,“You have really grown up into a beautiful lady. I remember the last time I saw you, you looked so different.”

Mae felt a wave of heat near her ears on hearing this comment about herself. She knew she had plain looks and had no extraordinarily striking features to make her attractive or beautiful. She wanted to believe him for a moment but she was too honest a person to believe it, though she did feel a surge of gratitude for him. How easily had everyone accepted the comment except for her who was searing with embarrassment by now. She left the room on the pretext of getting some tea for everyone.

If only she could revert the time to those good old days, when she was so pious and pragmatic and life so beautiful. Over the years she realised that her emotional angle had grown out of proportion. Sometimes, some moments are tackled so unrealistically or so foolishly that looking back on them makes one doubt ones own sensibilities.

CHAPER 3

She returned home from college and saw that the house was locked and there was no one to greet her. What could be the engagement for her mom that she didn’t even leave a message for her about her absence from home. She was just wondering when she saw the neighbour’s eight year old daughter came running to her with a note. It was written by her mother. She had written that she had gone out with one of her friends as there was a saree-sale in Hazratganj and she would be late in the evening. The kid had the keys to her house. She thanked the kid and fished out a chocolate for her from her purse. The girl refused politely and smiled at her sweetly. Then she ran back to her house.

Mae was feeling lonely and depressed as she had had a small quarrel with her friends at the university. They had been talking about ‘Liberty granted to women- was it nurturing or spoiling?’ and as usual her male friends had brought the issue to personal levels and the subjective llittle topic turned into a heated argument. This was one reason why she never liked the company of men. She believed strongly that men cannot keep their personal and professional matters separate. How could she take the insult intended in the remark by her classmate. He said, “Women are as good as footwear and they look better near the feet of men. The moment you treat them like human beings they get out of hand and start dancing on your head. See, look at yourself, women of the earlier eras never spoke so arrogantly, like the way you are speaking. It’s all because of the freedom your parents have granted you. I am sure they will regret it someday. Better go home and learn  some household work, because that’s what is going to help you. All this eloquence of speech that you are flaunting is not going to get you a good husband……hahahahahahaha!!!”  saying this he started laughing and rolling on the floor holding his stomach. She thought he looked funny and pitiable. All she could say to him then was, “ you can laugh and roll on the floor like a fool because that’s where you will stay if you keep nurturing and imbibing such destructive thoughts in your mind.”

She was hurting after the incident and could not control her tears. She tore at her hair to distract her pain. All the way home, she had been thinking of the incident and now too she could not stop herself from letting her thoughts revert to the same issue. She was missing her elder sister a lot now as she was one person who knew exactly how to tackle a situation like this with dignity and poise. Had she been there now she could have taken her opinion on the matter and analysed the whole situation more maturely and more tactfully. She was lost in her thoughts when suddenly the doorbell rang and she felt irritated as she was not in a mood for small talk and formal encounters. As she was alone at home, she would have to take the responsibility of being a good host as that was the custom at her home. Courtesies and good manners never took a backseat and guests were equal to God. She reluctantly went towards the door.  She was approaching the door when what she saw from the window made her heart skip a beat. It was Bhuvnesh who was slouching near the window. She hesitated for a second and saw that he was about to turn around to retreat as he must have thought that no one was home.

She opened the door and as soon as he heard the click he turned around. He laughed a ringing laugh and said, “Oh hi Mae! I thought there was no one at home, I had come here to meet a friend in the hospital and while returning from there I thought I would meet you all too. I hope I am welcome.” He laughed again and entered the house. He looked innocent in white sleeves shirt and blue jeans. Mae wanted to turn him out as she was feeling a pang of hatred for all men on the earth. But she was bound by good manners to keep control of her emotions. She got him some hot tea and snacks and settled down on the sofa opposite to him.he sipped the tea and praised it and asked where the others were. “ Mom has gone for shopping, Malini has gone to the BCL for her research work and dad is in the office.” She sounded curt and sensed it immediately. “ you seem to be upset. Anything wrong? Can I help? Maybe you can share it with me.”

“No, there’s nothing of that sort. Infact I was just reading a book which made me a bit upset. I am sorry if I sounded rude. By the way, how is your friend now?”

“He is fine. He has been admitted for a small operation of appendicitis so there is nothing major to worry about. Well, Mae, if you don’t mind I have something to tell you, only if you don’t take it otherwise.”

She was suddenly inquisitive to know what it was and it made her feel a bit elated that he had chosen her to confide in. she had never had the company of good looking and mature men like Bhuvnesh. All men she knew were of her own age and she found them too immature for her association. He was a different case.

“What do you think of Malini and me together?” he asked.  She was dumbstruck at this question and did not know what to say. It wasn’t a long time since she had known him but she felt a kind of attraction which was alien to her comprehension. She felt a pang of envybut tried to control herself. After all what she felt for him was mere infatuation as this was her first encounter with a really good looking man. She smiled a little and said, “Won’t it be better if you ask Malini directly?”

“I don’t know why Mae, but I feel you will be the best person to convey my feelings to her. I feel I am in love with her, but to tell you the truth I am not too sure of it either. It might just be a passing phase. The kind of affection I feel for her is somewhat mixed. Sometimes I think she is a wonderful friend, sometimes I feel she is like my sister and sometimes like my mother. At times I feel she would prove to be an excellent wife for me and sometimes I feel guilty of thinking about her in those terms. Can you help me analyse what I exactly feel for her?”

“You have explained it yourself Bhuvi, see, what is the relationship of a wife and husband?’

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, that if you think of her as a mother, sister, friend, lover and above all a wonderful person then she is the perfect one to be your wife. A soul mate should be one who can communicate with you on all levels. If you think she understands you so well, you should go ahead and propose her for marriage. I am not saying this because she is my sister, in fact this is my opinion after reading your affection for her. In this spurious world, finding your true love is a fortune encounter. Grab it!” she winked at him with adoration. She suddenly felt a surge of emotion for him and imagined him as her brother in law. Yes, Malini deserved the best and that’s what he was. The best!

She was feeling lighter after the conversation as by confiding in her, Bhuvnesh had shown a kind of respect to her., and that’s what she had been longing for after feeling humiliated and disgusted with the incident at the University earlier that day.

“I think you are right but I need your help because whenever I try to say something to her I start feeling guilty. It makes me feel that I would be disrespecting her by suggesting an association of this kind. I hope you will take my proposal to her and let me know what she thinks of it.”

“Will you Mae?” He moved forward and took her hand in his and pressed it lightly, with a pleading look on his face.

Mae got a little uncomfortable with the grasp. She got up and walked towards the door into the balcony. She needed some fresh air as a sense of exhilaration had gone through her spine with his touch. She should get the hold of her emotions if she wanted things to move in the right direction.

She smiled weakly and looked at Bhuvnesh who had also followed her to the balcony. “Yes I will,” she said.

CHAPTER 4

“How could he Mae? How could he? Doesn’t he have brains to differentiate between love and friendship?  And I thought he was a mature and intelligent person who knows his priorities in life. He has spoilt everything. I always thought that atleast there is one man who can think beyond Adam and Eve.” Malini was really upset and tears were streaming down her face incessantly. She looked so innocent and pure in her grief that Mae thought that it was a serious crime on Bhuvi’s part to have thought of trying an association which would result in spoiling their sacred bond. Mae and her family had a lot of expectations from Malini as she had always been a brilliant scholar throughout her academic life and the passion she had for her research work in ‘Literary Criticism’ was exemplary. She wanted to console her sister but didn’t know how. She admired and envied her for being so near perfect, be it in looks or character. Her determination was worth a salute in Mae’s eyes for even a good looking and exceptionally charming person like Bhuvi had not been able to deter her from her dreams.

“Don’t worry Malini, I will explain it to him and things will resume to their normal self. Nothing will get spoilt. He can still be your best friend, even if you turn down his proposal. What if you don’t want him as your life partner? That doesn’t mean that you consider worthless. It is important that the way you express your point of view doesn’t spoil anything.” She was feeling a bit guilty for being a go between for this.

“No Mae, you don’t know. Nothing can be alright now. You are too young to understand this male mentality. If I turn down his proposal, I will surely lose him as a friend too. Well, even if I don’t express my inability to accept him I still have lost him because I can never be so free with him in the future.” She stomped her foot in anger and hurt.

“It seems I have lost my best friend forever!” she said sternly with an air of finality.

Mae stood on the terrace holding her hand for a long time. They watched the twinkling stars coming up one after the other. First twinkling weakly and as the night became darker their twinkle became brighter. They had watched these twinkling stars many times together but that evening became a memory forever. Sometimes when we look back at our past some incidents stand out so vivid that you don’t feel the transgressed time in between.

She wiped her tears away and realised that there were many moments of proximity between them but that one evening had croseed the years between them. She felt that she had suddenly grown up to her that evening.

CHAPTER 5

One day Mae was in the kitchen helping her mother as usual for the dinner. The most important conversations between Mae and her mother took place while they were in the kitchen. Mother found a kind of solace in her kitchen which made her more confident and vibrant than other times. She had been chewing on a thought for quite some time now and wanted to share it with someone. She knew that Mae was an intelligent girl but she felt a hitch in discussing this with her because she thought that it might be too early an exposure for Mae to such matters. Children grow up the last for their parents. The whole world comes to know when the children come of age but parents due to their love are blinded to the fact. That was the reason why she couldn’t bring herself to discuss this matter with her husband as well. He was fiercely possessive of his children.

“Mae, do you think Bhuvnesh would be a good son in law for us?” she said, trying to concentrate on the cumin seeds which were dancing with pleasure in the heated oil in the frying pan.

Mae was flabbergasted on hearing this. She tried to search her mother’s face to decipher what made her say this but could only see a smile of apprehension on her innocent face.

“I have been thinking about this since that day when he met with an accident near our house. I think he is a very cultured boy and really likes Malini, what do you think?  Now she was looking at her directly.

“He is a nice guy undoubtedly mother, but the sad news is that Malini doesn’t love him and got very  hurt and upset when I suggested the same thing to her.” She said simply.

“You suggested this to her? So you too think that he would be a great match for Malini, don’t you?”

“Undoubtedly he would be a great husband to herbut I also feel that we should try not to push Malini into anything that we would regret later.”

“Do you know the reason for her refusal to the proposal?” asked mother.

“Maybe she has never thought of him on those lines but I can’t say that for sure. I don’t exactly know the reason for her refusal.” She felt sad as she had built hopes of getting Bhuvi as a family member through her sister. It would be great to have him as a brother in law as she felt so comfortable in his company and enjoyed his courteous and chivalrous ways.

Mother looked a bit depressed now. Mae bent down and ticked her foot which was one of her most common ways of making her mother laugh. She could resist a tickle anywhere except her feet and she burst out laughing the moment she got the sensation of a tickle there.

“Don’t worry mother, I think we should give her some space. She will understand with time that Bhuvi loves her and that she would be happy with him.” She smiled at her mother with motherly affection.

As the memory flashed across she felt as if somebody had walked on her grave suddenly. She was really missing her mother now. How kind and caring she had always been to her. Her mother had loved her unconditionally and what had she done? She couldn’t stop her tears from flowing down her face, through her neck and forming a pool in the dimples of her shoulders.

CHAPTER 6

That day they were sitting in a coffee shop in Hazratganj, when she announced to Bhuvi that Malini had refused his proposal. He had insisted on meeting her away from home as he did not want to face the other members of the family before knowing what Malini’s decision was. He had been apprehensive ever since he had brought up the issue. It seemed to her that in his heart he knew the answer.

“I think you should give her some time. I don’t think she is ready yet to accept you other than as a very good friend. I am sure with time she will realise how much you love her and then things can be worked out. Please don’t take it as a put down, I am sure we will be pleased to have you as a part of our family.” She attempted a weak smile.

He suddenly looked very relaxed and laughed one of his ringing laughs. He took a deep breath and said aloud, “ In a way, I am happy Mae!”  Mae looked at him confused, perplexed and lost. He decided to avoid that look completely. He became as vivacious as ever and started to decide what to eat and asked Mae too to order something special for herself.  As there was no other option she started searching the menu for something appetizing. Seeing him relieved she was feeling a bit relaxed too. “Do you know Mae…” the way he pronounced her name made her blush everytime she heard it. She felt that she was someone important and really special.  “…there’s a difference between our table and the other tables in this restaurant?” he said with a grin.

“And what is that?”

“The other tables have one rose each in the flower vases while our table has two!”

“Two?” she frowned looking puzzled. “But there’s just one on our table too!”

“But from where I am sitting I can see two” he said looking deep into her eyes. On realising the subtle compliment she blushed till she felt her face burning with heated embarrassment. She was not used to compliments because till now all her friends had treated her just like another boy among them as she was so tomboyish and did not exactly fall among the feminine kinds.

She was feeling light again and thought that even though Malini had rejected his proposal, he could still be a friend of hers and she could share her thoughts with him. She liked his company as he made her feel really special. She thought he was the only guy she knew who had so much maturity, sense of humour and respect for women.

“ I will be a perfect hen-pecked husband,” he would chuckle now and then. Mae giggled girlishly at such comments.

Mae was not a feminist as such but she strongly believed in the equality of sexes. The simple fact that Bhuvnesh treated people as individuals rather than categorizing them as men, women rich, poor, black, white and so on; made her feel more comfortable with him. They met more often in coffee shops and shopping malls now, avoiding places frequented by the family members of both.

Occassionally, when he visited their house, the atmosphere bcame tense as even though Malini tried to converse with him freely like before but she could never rule out the fact that he had hurt her feelings. Their relationship has soured and Malini tried to avoid him as much as she could.

Since Malini had no interest in him anymore so mother too treated him with formality. She liked his manners but she had stopped caring a lot as she no longer hoped to see a son in law in him. Father as usual was his silent self in case he was at home while he visited. In short, the whole scenario had changed and Bhuvnesh had become a taboo topic at home. The more everyone ignored him, the more Mae felt a sympathetic affection for him.

CHAPTER 7

“I want to say something to you.”

“What?”

“I hope you will understand. I just couldn’t help it.”

“Please be more specific Bhuvi”

“Mae, I think  I have fallen in love with you.”

“Oh my god! Not again!” she couldn’t control her laughter. She laughed till there were tears in her eyes. She was sure this was one of his pranks on her as he was a real prankster and loved to play practical jokes on people. She was afraid of becoming aa victim to this prank as this would be much more to her than just a prank. She had developed a real soft corner for him. She knew that she was ordinary looking and had no exceptional talents to make a charming and attractive person like him to fall in love with her. She had believed that her love for him will remain one sided and as long as she could have his company she didn’t mind that.

“Bhuvi, please drop me home, I am getting late.” She suddenly got up from the seat of the almost empty cinema hall. They had come to watch a movie that had proved to be a complete disaster. They had come for that particular movie five times in the last two weeks. Flop movies don’t pull crowds and that’s what they wanted. A place that was secluded and gave them a chance to talk and spend time together without being constantly nagged by the thought  of being recognised by familiar people.

All through her way back and then at home she kept on thinking of what he had said to her. Had he been joking? But could he be so insensitive? She had always thought that they were great friends and he really understood her. Why did he say such a thing? Was he aware that she had actually started liking him? Well, he must have been joking. After all, what credentials did she have to qualify for such an association with him? He was too good for her. He was better suited for Malini and isn’t that what she had always wanted? How could she think of falling in love with someone whom she had seen as a brother in law once? No, no. what was happening to her? He had played a prank and she had started building mountains out of a molehill.

She decided to call him up immediately and sort things out. A small misunderstanding would ruin their whole beautiful relationship. She wanted to know the truth.

“Bhuvi,  can you please explain why you said, whatever you said in the cinema hall today?”

“Mae, can I meet you? I think I need to talk to you in detail before you decide anything.”

CHAPTER 8

“ Mae, has anybody ever told you that you are very attractive? Mae, has anybody ever told you that your mischievous smile has the capacity to lighten up an entire life? Mae, do you know how special you are even though you don’t have any special talents. Your ordinariness is so rare. Your humility is not your drawback, it’s the best asset you have. You don’t know how good you are ad that is what makes you even better.” He heaved a sigh and Mae saw a tear gleaming in his eye.

“I love you Mae, and that’s the truth.” His lips were quivering with the fervour of his emotions. He was wringing her scarf around his finger and tugging hard at it in his effort to control himself.

Mae’s face got all creased up in the effort to control her tears. She looked like a baby who needed her mother right away. This was not true. Did she deserve this? How could she handle this? What will she tell Malini? The thought of Malini brought her back to the presentn situation. She said, “but a few months ago, you said you were in love with Malini.?”

“I wasn’t sure then.”

“ What if you realise the same thing about me in a few months’ time?”

“Mae, if you don’t love me you can say so directly, but please don’t distrust me.” He said. His eyes were moist again. That was it. This can’t be a fake proposal. He was telling the truth and she wanted to protect him from any hurt or pain. She took his hand and buried it in her bosom. She felt a shiver run down her spine as she had never been so close with a man before. She knew it in her heart suddenly that he was the one she was made for. “I love you too, my baby” she whispered and kissed his fingers.

She had made her decision. She wanted to go ahead with this relationship as she was completely convinced of his love now. She would have to devise the correct plan for breaking this news to her family, especially to Malini.

As for now she was feeling on top of the world with such a great looking man in her arms who not only loved her but also considered her the most special person in his life. She hadn’t even dreamt of such an association for herself.

CHAPTER 9

“Malini, what have you thought about Bhuvnesh?”

“What is there to think about?”

“ See, if you still don’t love him, I will go ahead and propose to him.” She laughed out loud searching her elder sister’s face for some clue.

“Oh Mae, please don’t talk this garbage right now. I am too busy with my research paper as I have to submit it by February end and I am still on the first draft. Can you please hep me arrange some stuff here? My table is a mess and I cannot concentrate on anything.” Malini was busy shuffling her papers with a look of concern on her face. Mae joined her and didn’t know how to bring up the issue again, but she was convinced and rather relieved that Malini had not developed a feeling of love for Bhuvi, although this is what she had prayed for just a few months ago.

After the sheets were settled, Malini sat down with a small smile on her face. She looked intently at Mae and sid, “Baby, you seem to have grown up suddenly. What is it? All’s well? She winked at her. “You don’t seem to need my advice these days.”

Mae, averted her gaze and said weakly, “ Can this ever happen? You have been my friend, philosopher and guide and I have never taken any decisions without consulting you. I know you are busy, so I bother you a little less these days but that doesn’t mean I don’t need your advice.” She suddenly wanted to hug her sister but couldn’t bring herself to it.

“Okay! I know you are busy, so I will not engage you anymore in useless jabbering.” She got up and started towards the door.

“Mae, I know you are intelligent. I don’t need to tell you this, but in case you have something for Bhuvnesh, think it over. I think you deserve somebody better. You are the best and that’s what you deserve. Never underestimate yourself.” Her sister was looking at her directly. Mae attempted a weak smile and left. She was feeling very uncomfortable under the gaze of her affectionate sister today.

She fixed a meeting with Bhuvi and they discussed this at length. “We have to get married as soon as possible.” He said looking at her thoughtfully.

“ But_but_Bhuvi___ like this ___ I mean___ I am not sure____” she fumbled for words.

“Aren’t you sure of my love?”

“ Of course I am. But cant we wait till our families agree to it? Why don’t you discuss with your parents before we decide anything?

“Oh Mae! Forget it. You don’t know my mother. She really loves me a lot. She thinks I am as handsome as Tom Cruise and I deserve Angelina Jolie. She will never agree to this” He grinned as he said this. She felt a bit confused with the underlying sarcasm but she jerked the thought away.

CHAPTER 10

She was ready for marriage and she had nobody around her. She was waiting for Bhuvi at his friend’s place and they were going to get married that day.

Is this how she hadwanted to get married? She thought of her father who had never refused her anything. They were not so well-off but still her father had never let them want for anything. He had gone to an extent of spoiling his two daughters by providing them whatever they had asked for.

We are so prompt in judging our elders. Yes,he was definitely wrong in spoiling his daughters but could he expect a similar unquestioning adulation from them?  His love for his daughters was unconditional and almost indulgent…but hers? SELFISH.

She remembered her mother’s innocent face with her child like expressions looking at her with a lot of pain in her eyes. She never wanted to hurt her mother.  Her vulnerable mother would never be able to bear the blow.

Did her parents deserve this in return for the unrestricted, abounding love that they had showered on her? Where are her dreams? Did she dream of a lost life like this? Did she ever dream of a life where her parents, her loving sister were not a part ofit? Did she not want to become a respectable person who would do her parents proud? Would this act of hers do her parents proud? Had she become so selfish that she could not think beyond her own personal happiness? Was she absolutely sure she would never regret this step of hers in life? Was this the right time to take a decision like this?

“Our parents will accept this relationship with time. You know parents can never be angry with their children for a long time. One day or the other they will accept us and our decision.” Bhuvnesh’s words were ringing in her ears.

So that is how we take the incomparable love of our parents?—for granted!!

That is what they deserve in return for their lifelong sacrifices?___ ingratitude!!

No, this wasn’t the way she thought. She cannot do this. She wasn’t so selfish. Mae was thinking fast now. Her vision was getting clearer. She had made her decision. She could  meet her eye in the full length mirror right in front of her.

“Dear Bhuvi,

I am sorry for backing out at the last moment out of this, but I am sure you will understand. I don’t want any happiness without our families being a part of it.

If you really love me you can talk to your mother and explain to her that Mae is your Angelina!!

If our relationship is meant to be, our parents will definitely agree to it.

I hope you will understand.

Mae”

She folded the note and kept it under the pillow.