ARRANGED MARRIAGE -
A POPULAR INDIAN ADVENTURE SPORT
The year 2014 brought many changes in my life. I stopped going to the institute as I had finished my classes. Now, I had to focus on my exam preparations only. Aaqil, my roommate, got a new job as DJ at a famous disco club in Jumeirah group’s hotel. So, he moved to the company’s accommodation. Madeena also joined his club after a few days. Dipen, my Nepali friend joined me as my new roommate.
Hritisha and me; came closer. Late night chats, hours of phone talks were ordinary for us. I had cleared my CPA, and she had started MBA from NIIT, Ghaziabad. We were more than just best friends. However, we were not exactly in the ‘couple’ zone even. We could not live without talking to each other for a whole day. I was fond of her. Sometimes I would feel that I really loved her. At other times, I was not sure. Whether it was friendship, love, Infatuation or just an Infection. It was hard for me to decide. I guess Hritisha too felt the same way for me. We were just enjoying our friendship.
The family pressure was increasing day by day. My parents thought I was getting old and if I did not get married within a year, no one would be ready to marry me.
One beautiful day, my father sent me photos and profiles of four girls of our Jain Jagruti Community. I pictured my father like Amitabh Bachhan of Kaun Banega Crorepati.
'Toh Bataie Siddhant ji, Aap kis se shaadi karna chahte hai? Aapke options hai A) Reema Shah B) Charu Mehta C) Mrinali Shah, yaa fir D) Ruchi Doshi.’
I have seen Charu Mehta and Mrinali Shah before in social functions and marriages when I was in India. I knew them a little bit. Reema Shah and Ruchi Doshi were new faces for me. Therefore, I denied the proposals of Charu and Mrinali and decided to use a fifty-fifty lifeline and choose A) Reema Shah and D) Ruchi Doshi.
However, my parents were not cool with my choice. I expected them to have the same reaction they wanted me to have a meeting with Reema and Charu; they did not like Ruchi much. I could not understand their logic behind sending me Ruchi’s picture if they were not too keen on her.
The problem with Ruchi was that she was not the usual girls one happens to see in a Jain Community. I noticed Ruchi's profile photo in which she wore a black sleeveless top, an adorable smile, loose hair but unmatched red nail paint. To be honest, I was attracted towards her. She belonged to Mumbai city. She was indeed what they called a pukka Mumbaikar.
I checked out Reema Shah’s profile picture next. She was average looking, yet she looked soberer than the other two.
I realized that it was unfair to reject a girl by seeing her appearance only. However, what could I do? I knew that looks do not matter but, when you have multiple-choice questions before you, you have to calculate every possibility to get the right answer. I knew my parents; they would agree with my choice. They always ended up with the sentence ‘if you are happy, we do not have any problem.’
My father provided me the contact numbers of Ruchi and Reema to allow me to initiate communication with them. The parents of the girls did not have any issue if I talked to their daughters over the phone or chat.
‘Hey, Siddhant here from Dubai’ I sent a text to Ruchi first on WhatsApp in the evening.
‘Hey, Siddhant here from Dubai’ the same text was sent to Reema too.
Ruchi’s ‘last seen’ was showing at 9:49 AM and the message was not delivered to her. Reema’s ‘last seen’ was invisible. The text was delivered to Reema, but she did not see it until the next hour. Meanwhile, I told Hritisha about my first two crushes in the virtual world. I had many crushes on female celebrities but not on any real girls whom I knew personally.
Hritisha congratulated me for my new adventure. I tried to make her jealous purposely, but she was enjoying when I was praising Ruchi and Reema at the same time. She asked me to send her their pictures. I forwarded her the same photos, which my father had sent me. She also liked Ruchi more than Reema.
'Wow, she is beautiful but very thin. You will choke her while trying to hug her. Lol,' Hritisha replied and praised Ruchi’s beauty.
'Ha Ha Ha, very funny, has lia maine, khush?' I replied.
'Funki, Funkiiii, fire brigade mangle tu' she replied.
I had a special connection with Hritisha. I could not get angry with her even after she hit extreme humiliation levels with me. I told her that I rejected two more girls before selecting Ruchi and Reema. I showed her their photos too.
‘Hmmmm. Good’ was the only reply I got from Hritisha. It was unexpected. I thought she would make fun of me, but she was quiet.
‘What happened? Why shant shant?’ I asked Hritisha.
‘Nothing re, just tired.’
‘Oksss. Sleepo then.’
‘Yup, Good Night’
I noticed that both Ruchi and Reema had not seen my text by then, so I slept without thinking further. I had a slight idea that Ruchi might not reciprocate. Therefore, I swung back to Hritisha.
On December 21, 2014, and around five in the evening here in Dubai, Ruchi replied after twenty hours for the first time with a ‘Hello.’
I stopped my office work, tapped WhatsApp on my phone, and within a minute I answered Ruchi by saying ‘hey, thanks for replying :).’
She paused the conversation a while.
I decided to continue the conversation. We both asked each other necessary things like educational qualifications, family details, plans, etc., etc.
‘Hey, you live in Dubai, right?’ Ruchi asked.
‘Yes I have been working and living here for last 4.5 years’ I replied.
‘Hi, Siddhant, Reema here’ within half a minute I got a response from Reema, which I had sent her the previous night.
I wondered whom to reply. One was my crush Ruchi and another was my parents’ choice. I played a safe game with both Ruchi and Reema for a week. I showed interest in the both of them at the same time.
Ruchi and Reema were poles apart. I found Ruchi quite open-minded and bubbly. She was the type of girl that I wanted, while Reema was the reserved type, a perfect homemaker who would only obey her husband and in-laws commands. It was hard to find a girl such as Reema in the 21st century, but definitely, she was not my kind of girl.
Reema had stopped interacting within two days. She did not talk much about her. I said to my sister too that Reema was not responding openly. I did not get a chance to know more about her nature. She was not answering my questions properly. My sister too told me that Reema was the reserved type and that was probably the only reason why she would not open up. I found the reason utterly nonsensical. How else does a girl expect to get married to a guy, if she is not comfortable to interact?
I stopped talking to Reema after three days and instead continued my interaction with Ruchi who seems more interested in me.
After a week, my mother asked me whom I favored most between Reema and Ruchi. I thought it would be a very quick decision and I answered them that I liked both of them but I will reveal my final decision after meeting them face to face in a personal interview.
My parents were expecting from me to say YES to Reema for marriage instead of Ruchi.
After a few days of WhatsApp chat, Ruchi asked me to call her for the very first time, as she wanted to hear my voice.
I left my office without informing anyone and called Ruchi. I felt very positive after talking to her. I liked her open-mindedness and friendly behavior. We both were talking in Hindi in the beginning and then started speaking in Gujarati to feel more comfortable. I found Ruchi's Facebook profile. She had kept details of her profile hidden from people outside her friend list, except for her current profile pic, which she updated last in September 2013. She did not like to use Facebook much.
The next day, without any hesitation, I called Ruchi. She was at Borivali train station and was waiting for the next train. I could hear the announcement and the sounds of the crowd. I just imagined how tough it was for her to travel by Mumbai locals and metro. I heard a lot about the rush and the crush of Mumbai Local trains.
Ruchi told me that she always took the local train from Kandivali to Borivali and then a metro to the Andheri station for her office. She scolded me and ordered me to mug up her route as I asked her daily. I also told her to mug up my route as well that I took a metro from Al Fahidi to Burjunam in green line and then I take another metro towards Jebel Ali up to Burj Khalifa metro station for my office. She became quiet after hearing the Arabic names.
The days passed, Ruchi and I would talk three to four hours daily. Within a week we understood each other very well; I had accepted her moody nature; she had accepted my immature character.
On the other hand, I could not talk to Hritisha much. Our conversations became lesser and lesser. Sometimes we did not even move beyond the ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’. Entire days were spent talking to Ruchi. I had no idea what Hritisha might have felt all this while. I did not even wish her on Christmas.
At New Year’s Eve, Ruchi was very upset and angry because her best friend Kartik had made another plan with his fiancée, but not with her. She told me that they have not been talking to each other for over a week. I told her to wait for seventy-two hours. I read somewhere that, ‘if a person doesn't miss you within seventy-two hours after a breakup or some misunderstandings, He/she don’t care for you.’
Ruchi spent her whole New Year evening alone at home. She told me that she was feeling insecure quite about her and Kartik's friendship due to his engagement. I tried to make her understand that now that he is engaged, his life would be different. He could not give much attention to her.
Kartik messaged Ruchi after two days and apologized. She forgave him as per my psychological calculation of seventy-two hours. She would tell me stories of Kartik and herself. They both were friends since school days. He was the only best friend that Ruchi had. I was happier than Ruchi when they both became friends again.
I knew how precious childhood attachments could be. I understood that Ruchi’s happiness would forever be incomplete without Kartik. I also stated that I would never have any problems whatsoever, with their friendship, post our marriage.
The days passed. Within twenty-five days Ruchi and I had fought, we cared, we respected, and we shared each other past, present, and future. We both understood each other and accepted the way we were. I accepted Ruchi's angry and moody nature and she had accepted my Filmipanti and immature nature. I liked the way she used to say ‘Aaiyo Muruggan’ if something wrong happened. ‘Chal be bau pakav nai mane’ when I talked nonsense.
Ruchi used to hate the people of Gujarat as she found Gujaratis more emotional than practical. In spite of being a Gujarati, she was always pretending she was more a Mumbaikar and did not care much for Gujarat or its people. She even tried ignoring me several times, just so that we might not work out and then things would grow awkward between us. I knew that it was very dangerous to talk with Ruchi when she was not in the right mood. She did not talk with me for two days because her mom said NO to our marriage in the initial stage. I was continually calling and texting her. She got frustrated; told me to leave her alone, and would talk to me only when she would be in a good mood. I tried a lot to make her happy.
The days were coming close for my Annual vacation. Ruchi and I planned our first meeting. I told Ruchi that I would reach Ahmadabad on January 23, 2015, on Friday and we would meet on January 25, 2015, on Sunday as she had a day off.
I checked so many convenient options to reach on the 25th to Mumbai and come back to Ahmedabad on the 26th Morning before 7 am. However, I did not find any single convenient option, and we both got upset. Ruchi told me that she would come to Ahmedabad, but I said no, as I must come to Mumbai for Haji Ali as well. She asked me where I would stay in Mumbai. I told her that I would live at my Masi's home at Borivali.
We decided we would figure out the rest. I decided to bring my best friend Sunny with me so that I could tell my masi that I had come with him as he had some work in Mumbai and I wanted to go to Haji Ali. So Masi would not feel bad that I came here to meet a girl. However, I had told my parents the real reason behind the Mumbai trip.
On the other end, Hritisha had stopped texting me. She might have guessed my ignoring her and that might have hurt her. I texted her everything about the annual vacation dates, goa trip and the main purpose behind the Mumbai trip. She wished me back. However, there was a complete lack of excitement in her voice. I believed that it was perhaps because of her busy schedule and the promotion she had at Genpact a few days back. She was now Senior Process Associate.
January 22, 2015.
I was at Sharjah International Airport. I felt bad because both Hritisha and Ruchi did not wish me happy journey. Ruchi was busy with her friends' wedding shopping, but Hritisha was online. I forced Hritisha to wish me ‘Happy Journey’ and wish me luck for my Mumbai Trip.
'Hmmm.' was the only reply I got from Hritisha.
As soon as I reached Ahmedabad Airport, I noticed my father with a white kurta and pajama standing quite far away. I waved my hand to him. He did not notice until a random uncle informed him that someone from inside the airport was waving his hands towards him. He also responded with the same. I guided him through sign language to wait near the Arrival gate.
After finishing customs and immigration processes, I finally came outside. I touched my father's feet. I asked about my mother, and he told me that she was waiting in the car, as she could not walk properly due to a leg injury. My father and I reached into the car. I touched my mother's feet and asked her about her health.
‘So what are your plans for your vacation?’ My father asked during our short car journey from the airport to home.
'Nothing much, Mumbai trip, then Goa Trip for one week and then a week of rest, that’s all.' I replied.
We discussed the weather and work environment in Dubai, the excitement of other family members and relatives. I reached my home. I noticed that my sister Drishti, Jigar Jiju and Heer had arrived at our residence the previous day. I hugged Drishti and Jiju and kissed Heer on her cheeks. My Baa woke up and came to the hall to greet me. I touched her feet and she blessed me.
‘Reached safely?’ Hritisha texted me.
‘Yup,’ I replied.
‘'Hmmm. When are you leaving for Mumbai?''
'Saturday evening, I mean tomorrow.'
'What about you? How was your day?'
As soon as I sent the text, she went offline immediately. The message was not delivered, and she did not come online for the rest of the day. I did not care much at that time; as I was so busy talking to Ruchi regarding the plans for our meeting.
It was already Saturday. Ruchi and I both were very excited. She took an off for half day. Tickets were not confirmed, and Sunny and I had not even planned another way to reach Mumbai. Thanks to my cousin Jimmy, that he arranged for two tickets of Garib Rath only for one way, and we booked a Volvo for the Sunday evening so that I could reach Ahmedabad before 7 am.
January 25, 2015
‘Reached Safely, See you soon’ I messaged Ruchi at 7:30 AM from my Masi's place.
I introduced Sunny to my masi and everyone else there.
‘We’ll meet after 11:30’ Ruchi replied after one and half-hour.
‘Tell u later bye Tc.’
‘K’ I replied. Sunny and I freshen up and got ready to leave.
We left sharp at 11.30. Rishab bhai, my cousin brother, got a rickshaw for us. We told him we would go first to Haji Ali then Mahalaxmi and then Siddhivinayak. Therefore, we hired the rickshaw up to Borivali station. After getting into the rickshaw, I called Ruchi, and she suggested me to come to Moksh Plaza, Borivali West. Sunny decided not to disturb us so he went directly to National Park and I hired another Rickshaw for Moksh Plaza. I told him not to wait for me for lunch.
I reached at Moksh Plaza by twelve. Ruchi told me it would take washer more than an hour as she had a parlor appointment for hair wash. I still remember how I used to tease her for not getting ready for me. She would brush me off with her favorite line, ‘Chal be pakav nai bau.’
One month has passed in a trifle, but it was getting more difficult to pass than one freaking hour. I was roaming around inside the mall. I went to the washroom more than ten times just to check my face, hair, and clothes. I wore my favorite Being Human Blue Jacket with blue jeans. I remembered to shave up.
‘Where are you, I am at the Gate of Moksh Plaza’ Ruchi called me after an hour.
‘Wait I will come upstairs’ I was in the basement.
I ran to the gate, my eyes searching for her. Finally, I saw Ruchi at the Security Check desk and my heart skipped several beats. A big smile lit up my face. She was simply wearing a light Pink t-shirt and black jeans. She noticed me. She came closer and the most awaited moment came. She greeted me by shaking my hand. The first touch sent shivers down my spine. We went to the basement, sat on a bench and started talking spontaneously, as we knew each other for a long time. After almost one hour of serious talking, we felt very comfortable with each other.
In between all the chit-chats, Ruchi told me that her best friend Kartik had broken his engagement the previous day, as he and the girl were not comfortable with each other. She showed me his pictures. He looked good, and she told me that Kartik was her only Hero. I felt bad, but I know there is nothing wrong to have a best friend of the opposite gender.
'Actually Siddhant, I want to tell you something. Ruchi said to me.
'Yeah sure, go ahead.' I said.
'I don't love you, actually.'
I was stunned. I could not figure out whether she was lying or just pulling my leg. I gave her a surprised look.
'Yes, you know Kartik Right? We both love each other since school. However, I was engaged to someone earlier because of family pressure and you know the consequences. We had started dating again. However, in two months, his relatives saw him with me at Nariman Point. Although our family members were aware, that Kartik and I were only friends, we did not escape their wrath. His parents lost their temper and forced him to be engaged immediately with someone else.''
I was listening to her carefully and tried to understand the merry-go-round love story of Ruchi and Kartik.
'Then why did you agree with your parents to send your bio data to my parents for marriage?' I asked.
‘I was angry with Kartik at that time. He also could not do anything due to family pressure. He did not have the guts like me to break his engagement. So I challenged him that I would marry someone else before him and I told my parents to send my bio data to your parents as soon as they came to know that your parents were looking for a girl for you’, Ruchi completed.
'Yesterday evening Kartik forced me to meet him. He wanted to tell something important to me. He informed me that finally he broke his engagement and he guaranteed me that he would marry me and only me. We got back together again.'
'Wow, why didn’t you inform me? I would not have come all the way to Mumbai, in the first place.'
'I tried calling you many times once I reached home. However, I guess you had already left for Mumbai. Your cellphone was switched off.'
'Hmmm. No problem.' I said.
The silence between us ensued. We did not talk for a while with each other. I realized that she was feeling guilty and was avoiding eye contact with me.
'Relax, it's okay. I did not get hurt. Do not blame yourself. If I were you, maybe I would have done the same thing.' I said.
She started crying and asked me to forgive her for her stupid behavior. I consoled her and asked her to stop crying. She apologized many times. I was broken and disheartened from inside, but I put up a brave exterior and did not make her realize that I was upset too. I was smiling and cracking jokes about her looks while she was crying.
‘Friends?’ She asked.
‘Of course, no doubt.’ I said.
‘You are such a sweet person Siddhant. I would surely have married you if I would not have fallen for this idiot bachha’ she said while kissing Kartik’s photo on her cell phone.
It was 1:30 PM. We both were starving. I asked Ruchi to have lunch with me at least, for the sake of our newfound friendship. She agreed, and we decide to go eat at a vegetarian restaurant named ‘Bhagwati Pure Veg Restaurant’ in Kandivali West. Sunny did not pick up the calls, so we both went alone.
Ruchi ordered my favorite Palak Paneer and Butter Naan. She asked the waiter for more onions, and I made a face that expressed by aversion towards them.
'Why? Do you want to kiss someone? That's why you won't eat onions?' she asked.
‘Yes Baka, that lucky girl would be you' I said in my mind.
I nodded and did not answer.
The waiter came with the bill after our delicious lunch date. Ruchi took the bill and said that she would pay as I came to meet her and she invited me for a so-called date. We argued a lot. The waiter was frustrated.
‘Okay, I have an Idea,’ I said
‘What?’ Ruchi asked.
‘Say YES to marry me.’
‘No,’ She said and laughed.
‘Fine, waiter, please separate the bill. I will pay mine, and she will pay hers.’
The waiter smiled and finally, I paid the bill after discussion tall debate. I saw a beautiful fingering seated on her ring finger. I just touched her again. She said that Kartik had proposed her the previous night with the beautiful ring. I praised it.
We finished lunch by 2.30 pm. I must visit Haji Ali dargah, and our return bus timing was 8.30 in the evening. Ruchi told me to hurry. I called Sunny to meet me at Borivali Station. I asked Ruchi to join us also but she refused as Forum, her younger sister was alone at home and has to prepare for the Republic Day. She decided to come with me up to Borivali station so that she could meet Sunny as well.
We reached Borivali Station. Ruchi went to buy tickets for us until Sunny came. I introduced Ruchi to him. Ruchi came with us up to the platform. The train had arrived and Ruchi started running. Sunny and I could not because we are not Mumbaikars. We were not into the habit of climbing up a speeding train. Ruchi shouted on me to run because if we missed this one, there would be no train till the next eight minutes. Really? Eight minutes only? Mumbaikars were surely conscious about time.
Finally, all of us managed to catch the train on time. Sunny Jumped inside first and luckily he got two seats. I stood outside. I wanted to hug Ruchi, I wanted to kiss her on her forehead, and I wanted her to hold my hand tightly. She was shivering and crying again. The train started whistling. I was about to jump but I could not. Without thinking anything, I just hugged her, and she hugged me back.
‘Bye and sorry again’ Ruchi whispered in my ears.
‘It’s okay, and take care of yourself’ I said.
I said a final ‘bye’ and jumped into the train. I was happy, but there was a tinge of sadness too.
‘Ruchi Calling’ appeared on my phone.
‘Hello, achha sambhad, Just get down to Mahalaxmi Station and from there take a taxi to Haji Ali; don’t even think of walking all the way.’ She said
‘Okay madam, aur koi order?’ I asked.
‘No. Just take care and call me when you reach Andheri; I will come to meet you again at Borivali Station, okay?’ She said.
‘Why? Hum Aapke Hai Kaun?’
‘Chal be bas, have bau pakav nai sala filmy and chhote sallu.’
I told her I would let her know once I would reach Andheri Station while coming back to Borivali. I disconnected the call.
We reached Haji Ali as she had instructed. I visited Haji Ali in 2010 on my way back from an interview. The view of Haji Ali Dargah was mesmerizing. The flower and chadar shops, the music of Haji Ali Baba’s qawwali in almost all the stores, a crowd of non-Muslim devotees more than Muslim ones, the sea on both sides made my mind very peaceful. Sunny had visited Hajji Ali for the first time, so he started taking photos as usual.
We reached the dargah. I offer the chaddar, which I bought from a shop. There was a wall in which people could tie a thin red thread and asked Haji Ali Baba to fulfill our Mannat. As soon as I tied my red thread, I started crying. I burst into tears. Sunny noticed me, but he could not say anything. An old person who was waiting for me to finish my prayer consoled me and told me Hajji Ali Baba would take care of mine and would release all my problems soon.
Sunny asked me why I was crying inside the dargah when we both were having some food at Haji Ali Café, outside the dargah. I told him everything about Ruchi’s decision and her situation. He said that Ruchi made a fool out of me and used me as a toy she could play with for amusement. I did not totally agreed with his words, but yes! I realized that she had no hard feelings for me.
It did not tak me seventy-two hours. I had forgotten Ruchi within seventy-two minutes. It was anyways an infatuation from my side. Of course, I was hurt in the beginning, but not for long.
I called Ruchi from Andheri Station with very little intent. She told me she could not come as she was at Inorbit Mall for some shopping and would come to meet me at the office of Neeta Travels from where we had to catch our bus to Ahmedabad.
Sunny and I left at 8:00 PM after having dinner at Masi’s home.
‘I’m leaving, see u after half an hour’ I sent a text to Ruchi.
She replied that she would not come as she was still at the mall with Kartik and could not reach Borivali in Time. She apologized many times again.
‘Good Bye’ was the final words from my side to her.
I sent sad-faced stickers and emoticons to Hritisha while returning to Ahmedabad.
‘What happened? Why are you sad? All Okay? How was your meeting with Ruchi?’ She replied within a minute and asked four questions in one sentence.
I also told her in brief, about what had really happened to me.
‘I wanted to tell you, in the beginning, to not get all emotional about her; she might break your heart. However, I did not want to act the guardian here. It was your personal issue.’ Hritisha replied.
‘Hum dono ke bich me personal issues kab se matter karne lage? You should tell me without hesitation. I honestly believe you are my best buddy.’ I replied.
‘Best buddy? How many times did you text me or called me while chatting with Ruchi? I noticed you were online but you never tried sending me a text, neither did you tell me what was happening between you and Ruchi.’
‘I am sorry’ I said.
‘You had better be sorry my friend.’
I sent a sad smiley.
‘Come on! We were not in a relationship. So don’t have to be the Devdas type’ Hritisha asked.
‘In a bus, going back to Ahmedabad’ I said.
‘Hmmm… Don’t stress yourself. Just have a good sleep. Good night.’
I loved Hritisha’s nature. She never got too angry with me. She always forgave me within a few minutes. I thanked God for giving me a best friend like Hritisha. A broad smile spread on my face and I slept peacefully. Ruchi was out of my life, my mind, my heart.
I reached sharply at 7:30 in the morning to my home. Sunny hired another cab to reach his home. My family members were waiting for my arrival in Ahmedabad after my meeting with Ruchi. They were expecting NO for Ruchi from my side. Jiju noticed my face and caught me.
Baa offered me water, but I denied.
‘Chal fresh thayi jaa, cha Pani Patavi de,’ Mom told me to get fresh.
‘Hmm,’ I replied.
After getting fresh, we gathered around the table for a complete Gujarati style breakfast. I noticed fafda jalebi and methi gota, khakhra, and thepla on the table. Although I was upset, I could never say no to a Gujarati breakfast.
‘Papa, please arrange for a meeting with Reema and her family,’ I told to my father.
A broad smile spread across their faces. Finally, they had heard the sweet little words they had always wanted to hear.
‘Hmm. It has already being fixed. Today evening.’ Dad replied.
My father had supernatural powers to read people within a short period. I was his son. He could read my mind faster than anyone else’s could. He was right; he was doubtful about Ruchi since the beginning. Though, it had nothing to do with her character but rather her compatibility with me.
Parents are always right.
I opened my WhatsApp after getting a shower.
‘Reached home safely bhai’ there was a text from Sunny.
‘Me too bhai’ I replied.
A 'Good Morning' text from Hritisha as well. She wished me good morning 5:45 in the morning - her breakfast time. Her ‘last seen’ was also at the same time. She wished me and went offline. I wished her back.
It was about to be 11 pm, and I knew that Hritisha would come online again for her lunch break. I waited until 12, but she did not come online. Even my message was not delivered to her.
‘We have to be at Reema's place by 6 pm. Please be ready,’ Drishti, told me
I nodded. I told my mom not to cook lunch for me as I have had a heavy breakfast. She said she would make, I could eat later. I went upstairs to my room. I checked my WhatsApp again. The message was still pending to Hritisha. I opened my laptop and started watching Ek Deewana tha. A movie about a Marathi Hindu boy who fell in love with Malayalam Christian girl. It was kind of my ‘bad mood’ movie. The movie always inspires me a lot.
‘Hey. Sorry, today I forgot to bring my mobile during lunch break’ Hritisha sent me a text after seeing my ‘good morning’ wish.
‘It’s okay,’ I replied with smileys.
‘You are alright, na?’ She asked.
‘Yup balak. Btw one more head hunting today.’
‘My parents have fixed a meeting with Reema in the evening along with her parents at her home.’
‘Lol! Aish hai tumhari toh.’
‘Kya Aish? I don't understand Reema. I can't judge her properly. ‘
‘Don't worry, just meet her once, maybe she will feel comfortable in person with you.’
‘Hmm... let's see.’
‘Hmm... Chalo... I'll buzz you once I reach home.’
My parents asked me to wear a formal shirt and trouser as If I would be attending a job interview. I had only a single pair of formal shirt and trousers. Rest everything in my cupboard were from Being Human be it t-shirts, sweaters, or jeans. My mom properly ironed my plain maroon shirt and black trouser. I folded the shirt's cuff up till the elbow. My father asked me to button up the cuff and to behave like a gentleman. He also told me to remove my specs as he thought girls do not like boys who wear specs. It was a high-end newly fashioned Gucci Glass. Although I do not have any power, I liked to wear specs with anti-clear glasses. Many of my colleagues and friends told me that I look like a mature young man in specs. However, for my dad, mature meant someone who has crossed the thirty-five years mark. I removed my specs.
Papa and mother settled in the front seat of our new Hyundai Eon which I gifted my parents in last year’s Navratri. Papa paid extra money to the RTO and chose a number plate according to my birth date as a return gift to me.
‘Mama, see the GJ-01-RA-8289, your birth date,’ Heer said to me pointing the number plate.
‘Yes beta, I have seen already,’ I told her.
I, Drishti, Baa and little Heer squeezed into the backseats. Jiju decided to come directly to Reema's home. My phone rang. 'Hritisha Calling' was displayed on my screen while we were heading to our destination. I could not figure out why she had called.
‘Hi, how are you,’ She said.
‘Good. You say,’ I replied.
‘Nothing, met Reema?’ she asked.
‘Not yet, we are on the way actually.’
‘Hmm. okay okay. Will it take time?’
‘I don't know exactly,’
‘Hmmm. let me know once you finished.’
I noticed that Papa was looking at me through the rear mirror. He was curious to know with whom I was talking to.
‘Okay, is liye call kiya tha?’
‘Naa naa, Aiven hi,’ she said.
‘Okay then, see you.’
‘See you. All the best’ she said.
I disconnected the call and dad asked me with whom I was talking to. I told him I was talking to one of my female friend named Hritisha whom I had met in Dubai during CPA classes. He wanted to confirm that whether I was talking to Ruchi or not. Mom was curious to know how the girl on the phone came to know I was going to meet Reema. I told her that I had informed her in the evening.
Finally, we reached our final destination, Paldi. I was shivering, as it was my first official meeting for an arranged marriage, with my parents accompanying me. I had listened to all the funny stories of first meetings that people in arranged marriages had told me; I laughed at their plight then, and now, I was made to ride the same pony. We all came out from the car. Jiju already reached before us.
‘Rajesh bhai, ahiya ahiya, upar’ a bald man shouted to my dad from the third floor's veranda.
‘Ohh-ho, Suresh bhai. Aaie aaie,’ Papa told him.
I saw two little girls with the noisy bald man. They waved their hands at me and ran back inside the home.
‘Kaun chhe be aa talklo,’ I quietly asked my mom who the man was.
Jiju and Drishti laughed at my words.
‘Oye evu naa bolay, taro thava vada mamaji chhe,’ mother laughed and told me that he was going to be my would-be maternal uncle.
We were climbing the stairs up to the third floor. I asked Jiju whether I should touch the feet of elders or not. Jiju joked and told me that if I would like Reema at first sight and would decide to marry her, then I must. Papa laughed at me and asked me to simply do a ‘Jai Jinendra’ as Jains do and nothing besides.
We entered Reema’s home. There were five adults at her home. The noisy bald man, his wife and his two little daughters, Reema’s mother, father and her brother. It was a typical Gujarati Jain’s family home. An embroidered frame of Navkar Mantra on the wall, Shri Ghantakarn Mahavir Bhagwan’s photo near the door. A picture frame of Palitana Jain Temple with a watch, Shankheshwar Parshwanatha Bhagwan’s photo frame on another wall, and one of their family member’s photos on a corner table who had probably taken Diksha and got converted into a Jain Maharaj Saheb (Saint).
Both families greeted each other with a ‘Jai Jinendra’. The star of the evening was me. I felt like a celebrity. Everyone from Reema’s family was staring me as if I was an alien. Whenever I made eye contact with any of her family members, they gave me a creepy smile. One by one I looked at everyone, tolerated their awkward expressions and decided not to look at them again. It was an awkward situation for me. I knew that I was rude to Reema’s family, but I did not have any option. Arranged marriage meetings were a completely new ball game for me.
Five minutes into the meeting and it felt as if I was watching a game of tennis. ‘Our Reema is a very shy girl; she always looks down and respects everyone.’
‘Really? Why does she look down always? Did she lose a coin on the floor?
‘Our Siddhant is also a gentleman. He never shouts’. The stroke came from my mother. Shouting was our family’s signature tone.
The ladies, four women, my mother, Drishti, Reema’ mother and the wife of noisy bald person had already started the match. Now it was gentlemen's turn.
‘Our Siddhant’s job is very peaceful. Sharp eight to five job. All the employees must leave at five. It was his boss’s order.’ Papa continued the game.
‘Plus Friday-Saturday off’ Jiju hit the ball.
‘Excellent! Very good. Our Reema’s office environment is also very peaceful. They provide unlimited tea and coffee’ the bald noisy gut spoke and by ‘spoke’, I meant ‘shouted’. I wanted to tell him that all companies provide free tea and coffee.
‘Yes. And direct bus service to her office is also available.’ Her father said. He made sense this time.
Heer and another two little girls went inside the room to play. The wife of the noisy bald man did not speak a word. She was very quiet. Perhaps, she was making up for her husband vocal strength.
The game was on. Both of our parents were boasting about their respective children. I was just smiling at everyone’s questions, answers, and reactions. They already knew about my work and salary before through one of our mutual relatives. Therefore, we avoided any discussions in that zone.
I was wondering where the female star of the evening was?
Reema's father whispered in her brother's ear. He got up and went inside the room.
‘Aave chhe,’ Reema's brother, told to his father.
Within seconds, the female star of the evening, the Reema Shah appeared. I thought she would come exactly like the way they show in movies and daily TV soaps, with a tray of samosas and teacups, wearing saree, etc. However, it seemed as if she was not willing to make any effort to look presentable. She was in her regular attire, which could be best defined as ‘house clothes’. I guessed that even her parents did not ask her to put on some makeup and jewelry for the guests. My parents, on the other hand, bother so much about the way I looked; it was almost as if I was appearing for an audition!
She looked quite different compared to the photos, which my father sent to me. She looked good, actually. Long untied hair, red color kurti, and black jeans were perfectly matching with her Wheatish complexion. Reema greeted my family members with Jai Jinendra! She did not look at me even and did not even go by a ‘hello’. Was I invisible to her, or was she purposely being rude?
‘She is Reema, our girl,’ her noisy uncle quipped.
He sounded like an older version of Raghu Ram from the show Roadies.
He was quite an interfering person, who would not even shut up when the women talked.
‘And he is Siddhant,’ my father said to Reema.
‘Hello,’ She said to me, and I replied with the same gesture.
The families again started talking with each other. Reema and I kept quiet. We had eye contacts twice. She had the looks of a murderer. I wondered why.
After fifteen minutes, Reema's mother asked me if I wanted to ask any question to Reema. What? I had heard that the boy and the girl are asked to go talk in a separate room or meet somewhere else to talk. How can I ask her questions in front of everyone?
‘Andar moklo banne ne, eklama’ that noisy bald person shouted and asked Reema's mother to send both of us into the room, alone. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart. Reema's brother asked me to follow him and Reema. He entered the room first, switched on the lights, fan, and offered me a chair to sit.
I sat on the chair, and Reema sat on the bed. We were facing each other now for the very first time. I prayed in my head so she would take the initiative.
‘Hi,’ I took the initiative.
‘Hi,’ she smiled.
‘So? How's your day?’ I asked.
‘Fine.’ She replied.
‘So today you took a day off from office?’ I asked her.
‘No’ she replied.
There was a biting silence of half a minute. I moved my eyes all over the room, waiting for her question to come. It did not.
‘So how’s job?’ I took the initiative again.
‘Fine’, she replied.
‘Okk. What you do in your job?’ I asked.
‘Accounts’, she replied.
‘What's in accounts?’ I asked.
‘Means?’ She asked
‘I mean day to day transactions or up to finalization?’
‘Haan what? Finalization?’
‘Then must be a day to day transactions.’
‘Good. Enjoying at the job?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
What the hell. Why she could not speak more than one word.
‘Which kind of accountancy? Trade or non-trade?’ I asked.
‘Means?’ She asked me.
‘Leave it,’ I said.
‘Okay,’ she replied.
Her one-word answers were irritating me. It was as if she had sworn to someone that she would not speak beyond a single word. After a few minutes, it was me again, who broke the silence.
‘So what did you study?’ I asked.
‘BCA’ she replied.
‘BCA? Then how are you in the job of an accountant?’ I got confused. Her qualification had no connection with the kind of job she was in.
She just smiled. Before the interaction session would turn into a job interview, I changed the topic.
‘So you know already that I stay in Dubai. Right?’
‘So would u like to settle down abroad?’ I asked.
‘Good. What’s your expectation from your life partner?’ I asked.
‘I haven't made such a list’ finally, she spoke more than one word.
‘Still. Every girl has a dream boy, like MY KIND OF MAN.’
‘No. I don't have.’
I could not figure out whether she was unhappy regarding marriage with me or she was genuinely an introvert. It is not very difficult to figure out a person’s interest level from their facial expressions. Although she was giving one-word answers, she was smiling. I tried to read her mind by asking stupid but related questions.
‘Okay so tell me, who is your favorite actor?’ I asked.
‘I don't have a particular choice,’ she said.
As expected, she was not interested in answering. I had to do the honors.
‘Toh pan, Salman Khan?’
‘Haan’ She replied
Thank god, she likes the tough and charming man. I decided to examine more. I had already decided in my mind that I would not marry her. I was just enjoying.
‘Even Ranbir Kapoor is also good,’ I said.
Okay. Therefore, she had a thing for the thin and chocolatey.
‘How about Shahid Kapoor?’ I asked.
‘He is also nice.’
I figured she liked cute guys with boyish charm. She was not upfront or aggressive. She had one fixed answer to all my questions. A simple ‘yes’. I liked the game.
‘So, what’s your favorite movie?’ I asked.
‘Not anything in particular.’
‘Hmmmm. Let me guess, DDLJ?’ I asked.
‘Okay, so you like love stories?’
‘How about a Wednesday. Did you like it?’
The session was now becoming monotonous and tiring for me. I so wanted to get up and leave, but that would have been very inappropriate. After almost two minutes of awkward silence, I asked her if she had in question in mind for me. However, she denied. Eventually, we both got up and left the dark room. She directly went to the kitchen, and I went and sat on the sofa again. I looked at jiju. He raised his eyebrows to ask how the interview was. A plastic smile was all I had for the question. We all left Reema's home.
‘Shu thayu? Kem chup chhe?’ Papa asked me why I was silent.
‘He is angry,’ Jiju replied him.
‘Kem?’ My mother enquired why.
I told them the entire episode. I told them that we did not hit off and I could not understand her properly. Neither was she interested in my question nor did she had one for me. There was a continued silence in the car and none of us spoke anything.
Papa's phone rang while we were having dinner at The Honest Restaurant, Paldi. His phone was with me. I saw ‘Dinesh Bhai Paldi’ flash on his mobile. Reema’s father had called. I handed over the phone to my papa.
‘Jai Jinendra Saheb’ Papa greeted Dinesh Bhai.
We all looked at each other, and Mother India whispered in my ears that He might call to get an answer whether I liked Reema or not. I told my father to say NO by sign language while he was talking over the phone.
‘Haan, badhu saru chhe aam toh. But Siddhant didn't like her much.’
Good shot Papa. I took a breath and started eating the delicious pav bhaji.
‘Shu? Haaan. He is saying that Reema is not talking much. He couldn’t figure out her likes and dislikes.’
Heer asked me to give her a bite of my pav bhaji. I fed her, and I was listening to my Papa.
‘Evu chhe? Don't worry. I will ask Siddhant again.’ Papa said to Dinesh Bhai.
I looked at Drishti and gave her a harsh look, as she was the only one with whom I had the complete right to show my anger in public.
‘Okay. I will ask him about his schedule tomorrow and tell him to meet Reema one more time.’ Papa said.
What the hell! Why should I meet her one more time when everything was clear?
‘Okay, chalo. Jai Jinendra’, Papa disconnected the call.
He asked me about my schedule for the next day. I informed him that I would be free the whole day.
‘What happened?’ My Mother India asked Papa.
‘Nothing. Reema's father was saying that it was the first time for Reema. She was quite nervous. That's why she couldn't talk much. Let Siddhant and Reema meet one more time. Not at anyone's home, but any restaurant or cafe when only both of them can spend some time alone, without family.’
‘Hmmm. Sacchi vaat,’ Drishti said.
‘What Sacchi vaat? Papa, it was the first time for me also. I was not nervous; I was confident. I tried my best to make her comfortable. But, she couldn't.’
‘Possible Siddhant, she is a girl. It takes time for a girl to open up in front of any stranger boy.’ Jiju argued.
‘Hmmm,’ I never argued with Jiju. He was my best advisor.
Finally, after a hectic discussion, I agreed to meet Reema one more time. I dropped a ‘Good night’ message to Hritisha. Her ‘last seen’ showed ‘2 hours ago’. She replied me at 11:00 PM, but I had already half way into the dream world.
The next day, I called Reema to meet me at Cafe Coffee Day, Behind GLSIC, and Law Garden. I reached before time just to recollect the memories of my old college days. Almost six years passed since I had left my college; everything was same except tafree with friends.
I parked my bike at the gate of SMPIC College. Suddenly a girl, whose entire face and the head were covered in a dupatta, parked her black Honda Activa exactly beside me and said ‘Hi’ to me. I was a little shocked and baffled due to her terrorist-like appearance. I greeted her back. Slowly slowly, the girl uncovered her face. She was Reema Shah.
To cover their faces and heads with dupatta was the signature of Amdavadi girls.
We shook hands and went inside the CCD. The initial awkward silences were customary. I had made up my mind that I could not marry the girl who was unable to express her views and feelings. We ordered two cappuccinos. I broke the ice again, as usual, by asking about her health and family. She still stuck to her one-word answers.
‘Reema, I hope you are aware why we met yesterday and why we are here today. Right?’ I asked her.
‘Yes. I know very well Siddhant.’ Rema replied.
‘Thank God! Then please speak something, ask me something, be comfortable. I am not the dominating or intimidating type. I liked you before, but you were not expressive that's why I held back.’
‘Hmmm. You are right.’
‘Why are you not saying anything, is there any problem? Do you like someone else?’
‘No Siddhant, nothing like that.’
‘Then, you don't like me?’
‘No again. You are a very sweet guy.’
‘Then what's the problem? Tell me openly. I will not be hurt if you tell me the truth. I will understand your situation.’
As soon as I finished my sentence, Hritisha called me. I excused myself and went outside to answer her call. I told her that I was with Reema and would call her once I am free.
‘Okay bye. Enjoy’ Hritisha disconnected the call. I understood she was terribly upset. I got back to Reema. When I reached our table, I noticed two cappuccinos lying there.
‘So, tell me the truth,’ I asked Reema while sipping my coffee.
She started crying. No one could see her crying, as she was not facing the other fellows in CCD.
‘What happened? Stop crying please.’
I offered her a tissue. She wiped her tears. I asked her to have coffee first and then we could continue our talk if she would agree.
‘I am not ready for this marriage Siddhant,’ she said after the first sip of her coffee.
‘Okay. So you too like someone else?’ I asked.
‘Me too means?’ She asked.
How could I tell her that only two days before a girl named Ruchi rejected me for the same reason?
‘Ignore Ignore. You continue.’
‘I don't want to marry as of now. I want to settle down in Canada. I have already started preparing documentation. I want to study there, want to settle over there.’
‘Not in Dubai?’ I asked.
‘I don't know much about Dubai, so I can't say. However, yes, I have many friends and family members in Canada. So it would be easy for me to settle down over there.’
‘Point. So, that was why you weren’t talking much?’ I asked.
‘Yes. I was just trying my best to hear a NO from your side. I found you as a person of friendly nature. You can get along easily with anyone and honestly even I liked you.’
‘Thank you very much for the compliment’, I shook her hand.
‘It's okay. I remember once you had told about your kind of girl. One who is equally comfortable in a temple, as she is in a discotheque.’
‘Yup. That's my priority. I don't want a girl who only feels comfortable in either a mandir or a discotheque. She has to be both the saint and the sinner!’
‘Yup. So, basically, you want a girl who, even after becoming your wife, would not stop being your girlfriend?’ She asked.
‘You caught me, and you stopped talking to me. You didn’t even talk to me when we met.’
‘Yes. This time you caught me’ she laughed.
‘So let me guess, your parents don't want you to settle down in Canada and is forcing you to get married?’
‘Yes. Too much pressure on me.’
‘No worries. Shit happens! Oops! Sorry for the words’, I said.
We both finished our coffee. I paid the bill to the waiter. There was a minute of awkward silence.
‘So let’s go from here,’ I said to Reema.
She nodded. We left CCD and reached near our vehicles. She took out her long hand socks, sunglass, and the dupatta to cover her again. I also sat on my bike and started it.
‘So what to do now?’ I asked her.
‘It's your call Siddhant. I do not want to force you to say NO to me. But I would be glad if you took the right decision.’
Girls have the super power to trap the boys with their diplomatic answers. Sometimes I think what would have happened if a woman was behind the NIKE brand? Their logo must be reading, ‘Just do it because it's the right thing to do. In any case, you don't understand our situation. You just think about yourself’
‘Don't worry. I won't reveal the main reason. You can say Siddhant did not like my nature. We both were uncomfortable with each other, even today. I would also say the same. Story over.’
‘Really? Will you say this?’
‘Yes. No worries’ I said.
‘Thank you Siddhant, you are a savior.’
‘Thank you very much.’
‘Bye then. Keep in touch’ She said.
We smiled at each other and shook hands. She resumed her terrorist look by covering her entire face, barring the eyes, with her dupatta. I kick-started my bike. She took the way to Paldi, and I took the way to New Ranip. I was smiling while riding. Two thumbs down in two days!
I reached home; I told my parents what we had earlier decided; that we were not comfortable with each other. Papa called Reema's father and asked him to close our chapter immediately. Papa returned from the call and informed me that Reema’s father too felt it was the right thing for the two families to do since Reema too confessed that she was not comfortable with me.
‘Thank you very much Siddhant. You owe me one.’ Reema sent me a text on WhatsApp. I simply replied with a smiley. It was the last chat for the both of us.
( To Be Continued... )