arranged marriages, Fictional curry, Love

Arranged affair

Bijith Nair furtively tossed a sugar cube into his insipid tea, and tilted his head towards the right, from where he could get a clear view to the door of his kitchen.
He could see the slouched back of his wife; her round figure taking up every inch of the viewing space that the doorway allowed. The way her arms and elbows moved in measured swings, he predicted she was chopping something.
Noticing she hadn’t been keeping an eye on him, he quickly added another white lump to his tea and stirred it delicately, ensuring that the spoon didn’t hit the bottom or the circular-frame of his ceramic cup. The clanging would draw her attention.  
Somehow, today, he did not want her to know that he was finding it difficult to resist this sweet temptation that diabetes had long denied. Sugar reminded him of love and may be that’s how he felt now, but she didn’t need to know that, not yet. 
He was about to reach for his cup, when she called out to him, “Biju! Should I give you porridge or cornflakes for breakfast?”
“They both sound hmmm…,” Bijith struggled for a word, and after a few seconds of vacuous thinking, came up with “…very delicious! I can’t decide. Why don’t you choose my poison?”
It was meant to be sarcastic, but it almost, came across as complimentary. Why else, would she mutter a polite “Thanks”.
Krishna never got his sarcasm, but even after 42 years of marriage, Bijith hadn’t stopped trying. It made him feel accomplished and more involved in the decision-making at home. If Krishna ruled the house with an iron hand, Bijith liked to believe that he ruled the house with sarcasm, one that was mostly lost to her and his kids’ untrained ears. Nonetheless, he had made his point, and to Bijith that seemed more important. 

Now, sipping into the sweet concoction, he was reminded of the heady days of his youth, when love was not singularly bestowed on any one woman. Though most of them had either ended tragically or comically, except for the arrangement his parents had fixed with Krishna. Their marriage had always seemed like an amicably agreed upon deal. Nothing of real consequence, especially romantic, had ever been exchanged between Krishna and him. Suresh and Shiva happened to them during those rare occasions when they were overcome by passion or call it lust. Love was a word only hanging in the air; it all felt more like comfort. And yet in all these years, she had been the only one who mattered. Though, something always felt amiss. And until yesterday, he had never figured out what.
He smiled and got up from his dining seat, moving towards the large French window, which opened to his balcony.
Bijith never drank his tea at the table; it was always outside from where he could see the compound. And because his building shared space with a school, the ground was always home to children running amok either during PE class or recess.   
“What happened? Why exactly are you smiling to yourself?” Krishna asked, interrupting the string of thoughts running through his head.
“Nothing…just remembered something amusing,” he said, his mind straying again.
“Since yesterday, I have been noticing you…suddenly behaving strange.”
Krishna was sly, he knew. She could read him easily, or probably, he gave out too much. This time around, he had to act with caution or he’d risk letting her know.
“Stop over-thinking,” he said, “Breakfast ready? I need to step out in a while.”

Walking on the jagged pavement of Mumbai’s Fort area, inside the arched stone-walled gateway, Bijith thought of what happened yesterday. He met Sharda right here, while he was out on a stroll, like he was today. Sharda looked just like she had when he last saw her over 40 years ago. They had dated briefly, before she was married to an Army man. Though it had been a long time since, meeting her hadn’t felt strange at all. It all still seemed so familiar and fresh. It was hard not to draw comparisons with Krishna. Especially since the two women had once been close friends in college. Unlike his wife, whose skin fell into lose folds on her face, Sharda’s was still taut. The passing years had barely done her any damage. Only the silver strands that intermittently emerged from the long black of her hair, told the story of her ageing. She had been widowed five years ago, and lived alone in the city after having lost her only son in the battlefield.
They had promised to meet again today. He had been anticipating this moment since last night. She would come. They would smile. Somethings would be exchanged. An untold story would bloom again.

Sharda hadn’t disappointed; in fact, she had come before time.
“Hi,” he said. She could make out that he was nervous; Bijith was toying with his own hands. “I have been thinking about us since yesterday,” she said.
“So have I,” he muttered.
“Strange…we met again.”
“There’s always a reason,” he interjected.
She handed him a small note.
“This really helped me,” she said, “but I don’t think, it was meant for me.”
“Thank you Sharda.”
They hugged awkwardly. “Hope to meet you again,” he said, before they parted one last time.

That afternoon, when he got home, he slipped the note into a book that his wife had been reading. She would find it later; he cared little about her reaction. He just wanted her to know something that he himself had forgotten.

It was dated July 19, 1971. It read:

Dear Sharda,
Thank you for the wedding invitation. Am glad you are moving on, and marrying that Army guy. I hope you have forgiven me for breaking your heart. I was so foolishly infatuated with you, that I had forgotten what it was to love. It’s funny how my wedding was eventually fixed with a friend of yours, who I didn’t bother to give a second glance while in college. We have been married for a month now and for once, I think am really in love. 
Am just saying that love happens, and mostly when we least expect. It doesn’t need to happen the way we would have wished it to happen, nor does it have to feel like how we want it to feel. I am so comfortably in love that Krishna doesn’t even know. May be, she might never know, but does it matter. I hope the same for you and your husband.   

Best wishes,
Bijith (and Krishna)


Love magnet!

Sometimes, love outsmarts you. Or rather, the people who love you, outsmart you. Especially, when you feel that there is only this much “love” that you could possibly receive in this lifetime, (may be a little less or more) and then suddenly “Love” comes knocking at your door and won’t leave until you realise that love in itself is limitless and that “people who love you” will ensure that you always have an appetite to receive more love, regardless of how much you think you can hold.  

Okay, so much said about love. (Already repeated the word eight times in one paragraph). Sigh! I am so overwhelmed that I think am going loony. 

Cutting my 27th birthday cake with baby Adya. If mom saw
this, she’d have some “wise words” for me.

But sweet things have happened over the last couple of weeks and the ones who have gone out of their way to make me happy (they know who they are…am not dropping names) probably realise why I am writing this particular post. Yes, because they were the source of all this love! And now that I have turned 27 – my number “9” year – it just feels like I owe them so much more than just a “thank you”. So, I shall pen down all that is running in my head because this influx is making my brain go numb.  

Well, it all started on July 24, the morning I was to arrive in Mumbai for a week-long break from Muscat. Two of my really close friends and my brother, welcomed me with hand-made garlands that they had meticulously stitched together while waiting for my predictably-delayed Air India flight to reach base. Since that day on, I’ve had little reason to not smile…thanks to all the wonderful and special people I met in my home city. It all seemed magical till it lasted and I really owe them for that.   

And yesterday, my friends in Muscat sealed this state of mine and gave it a sense of permanence. So, no matter what happens, I will never forget this day. I finally have an amusing “birthday story” to tell my kids, of how an “entire mall” conspired to wish me on the eve of the 27th year of my birth.    

The August 8th – one friend called it Jane Jayanthi and strangely, it turned out that way – surprise began with my close friends cum colleagues, asking me to join them at a mall to shop for an impending baby-shower of another co-worker. So I headed to the retail outlet at the mall with my lovely friend (the lady in red), and we were scanning through baby items while waiting for the rest to join us when a nine-year-old boy approached me from nowhere, asking: “Are you Jane?” 

I nodded, confused. The next second, he popped out a rose and an envelope: “Happy Birthday,” he said and sneakily escaped. 

I read the letter tucked inside the envelope. It said: 

“Jane is gonna go crazy…Seek the store where creativity meets cocoa. Linda and Elaine have something for you.”

With the surprise party, after the surprise
I looked at my friend; she stared at me blankly, trying so hard to look shocked and feign ignorance (great actor, must say). 
By now, I realised this was no “baby shower shopping”. “Well, you are on a trail birthday girl,” she warned. 

What followed was me hopping from a chocolate shop to a coffee house, then an Italian-stationery store and cake shop, before finally landing up at the food court, collecting clues, gifts and birthday wishes from store keepers on my way. 
At the end of it, I looked like a walking-talking goodie bag with a “Happy Birthday” balloon in tow, making all the kids at the mall envious of me. (For a change, someone was checking me out, even if it were babies…okay, very cougarish…sorry!)

The icing on the cake quite literally was the Irish coffee cake that was waiting for me, along with the “baby shower shoppers”. Apparently, the boy who handed me the rose recorded my entire treasure trail on the Nikon camera. I know now that he’d do a good job, when he has a girl friend. All in all, it was such an incredible day that it needed to be saved for posterity on this blog. 

To top it all, I received a message from “Notes from The Universe” (Read: in my inbox last night; it read:  

See, Jane? 
I told you everything was lining up for you; that the right people were headed your way; that the right things would be said; that you’d become a total love magnet; and that very little of this would be apparent as it was unfolding, yet in hindsight you’d see the stunning perfection. 
It’s just that right now, you’re mostly in the unfolding part. 
All is according to plan”

P.S. At the back of my head, am thinking, well…I think I am a “love magnet” after all!