I watched your retreating form in sullen silence.
Part of me wanted to run after you, grab you by the hand, and demand your number and a promise from you to meet up again. But I told that part of me to shut up. When I couldn’t even establish the prerequisites of an acquaintance with you, what were the chances that we would be anything more than a wisp of memory to each other?
How wrong I was!
I busied myself with my work. The rest of the day went by in a daze. I knew I wasn’t my usual self. I was fidgety, waspish, snarky, and even my regulars were complaining of my work. That made my boss mad and so, on an evening when I needed to get off earlier than usual, I had to work longer. I knew it wouldn’t go down well with Suhana and her parents, but suddenly I didn’t care about it. I didn’t care about anyone. I was having a male version of PMS and I was… well mad!
By the time I got done at the Salon it was already 8, and I was supposed to be at Suhana’s at 8. She had already called me several times, none of which I cared to pick up. I just shot her a message when I started for her place, “Busy day at work. Sorry. On my way.” I knew nothing I could say or do would matter anymore to them. Her Father always thought my life was a series of excuses – an excuse to not study well, an excuse to not work hard, an excuse to not be serious in life, an excuse not to be hitched... The list was long. And my late appearance would be pegged down to another excuse. So I had stopped caring a long time back about what they thought of me.
I made a stop at the only flower shop I could find that was still open. I bought them a bunch of flowers whose name I couldn’t even pronounce. And then I was on my way to her place. The traffic, of course, ensured I was later by a whole half hour so that by the time I reached their place, it was 9.30.
I rang the bell with a fluttering heart. I knew there would be stares and mutterings under the breath. But her Mom opened the door instead. Her Mom was genuinely sweet. The typical Indian wife, clad in Saris and docility. The kind who had devoted their lives to their family. She had only one problem with me. I was estranged from my family. And according to her, that was not a desirable trait in a typical Indian son-in-law. Neither was the fact that Suhana earned far more than me. Neither was the fact that I had voluntarily taken up a profession which people from poor backgrounds took up. Did I say she had just one problem with me? Ha!
“Hello Aunty, and Happy Anniversary. I’m sorry I got late…. Got held up at work…” I presented her the flowers which she accepted with a semi-gracious smile.
“Thank you, and I can understand, Bete. Weekends are very busy, Suhana tells me….Er, why don’t you sit down? I’ll get you some tea. Suhana and her Father are in the library discussing some paperwork, so there’s still time before dinner.” She smiled and motioned to the help to get the tea started, while she went away to put the flowers in something, I presumed.
And there I was, sitting alone, a lamb to the slaughter, staring at her opulent living room, the gaudy art, the over-stuffed cushions, the rich curtains and china and crystal, EVERYWHERE! I hated her place. It was as if every nook and corner of her house screamed for attention, to proclaim in shades of gaudy peach and golden tones how well-off they were, which they weren’t ironically. They were doing just fine. But some people just like to live big. And Suhana’s Father was one such man.
It was his voice that broke my meditation upon a particularly hideous piece of china, “Impossible! That is just impossible Suhana. You cannot imagine living alone with a man like that! Look at him! He’s a whole hour and a half late. Has no scruples whatsoever and no value for time.”
There was buzzing from Suhana. I walked up and went to the other side of the room where the Library’s door was, which was where the sounds were coming from. I made sure no one else was watching me eavesdrop.
“How can you even think of this? Do you know what he is? No matter which fancy term you use, he’s a NAI! A barber… Where do you think such a profession can take him? How will he provide for you? He’s a leech who’s latched on to you only because he knows you can earn well enough for the both of you, and of course you have my property….”
My ears were on fire. Every fiber within me was aching to break that door down and throttle him, but I stayed put, listening.
“Papa, please! He’s a very capable stylist. He’s the best at his Salon and he’s been getting good reviews…”
“Oh, don’t give me that. You’re already earning four times as much as he. Will he ever be able to catch up with you? Will he ever wear the pants in the family? No! And I tell you what… He’s already estranged from his family. So, he’s looking to move in with us after he marries you so he can feed off us, take it from me…”
Before Suhana could say anything in my defense (I knew she would have, I trusted her enough to know she would have) I barged in through that door and walked up straight to him, but Suhana blocked me physically. It was a smart move, because in hindsight, it would have come to blows had she not stopped me.
“Stop, please, both of you, STOP!” Her voice threatened tears and when I looked down at her, sure enough, I could see the promise of a deluge in her eyes. I reigned in my anger for her sake. But I had had enough! That was the last time that man belittled me.
“Don’t worry Suhana. I won’t say anything to your Father. I’ve been bred better than that. But I will tell you before him tonight that it’s over between us…” a loud gasp from Suhana, and something like a whoop escaped his mouth.
“No, no…. no, you can’t do this. Papa didn’t mean it…. Papa apologize to him!” But I had already started to walk out. She ran after me, and so did her Father, trying to hold her back from following me, “Let him go. He’s not worthy of you, not worthy of being associated with us. See how easily he let go of you? He’s not man enough!“
That was it!
I don’t know why I did what I did back when I heard him say so, but it was as if my conscious self suddenly tuned out and someone else took over. I was on autopilot. I took that hideous piece of china from the side-table and threw it as hard as I could on the curio cabinet closest to me which had numerous crystal bric-a-bracs. A deafening shattering and an explosion of glass followed, and my ears went numb.
Her Mother appeared from the kitchen, her mouth blubbering some gibberish you couldn’t fathom. Suhana was crumpled on the floor, crying hysterically for me, kicking and screaming at her Father to let go of her, while he himself was shaking visibly from the heat of his curses directed at me.
And strangely, in all that cacophony, that delirium, that catatonic state, I felt renewed. I felt like I had never lived before. I felt happy.
And the last thought that came to me as I walked away from Suhana’s, was of YOU….
To be continued…
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.
Picture Credits: http://www.pixabay.com