She looked around and saw all familiar faces, the faces that she had been seeing for years together. She knew most of them there. Everyone there recognized her too yet she was lost. She felt like a complete stranger standing in that crowd. She had known them for years but she never understood them. She felt like a complete misfit in that crowd. She walked around with a glass in her hand, smiling at everyone who seemed to know her (though she hardly recognized a few). She acknowledged everyone’s presence and they returned the gesture.
“Have you thought anything about her wedding”? She heard someone ask her mother.
“Ofcourse we have. But you know this new age girls, they don’t want to get married till they are independent and all”.
“But she is 22. She will be completing her graduation this March and I heard that she already has a few job offers from college recruitments or something like that”.
“Yeah, she does. But she wants to work for a year before she gets married. We have been looking around for a guy if we do get someone worth we will get her married”.
“Oh! In that case, I do know a guy. He is from Bangalore, well educated and comes from a very good family…” she walked away from there with no interest what so ever in that topic.
“Anjali, come here”, she could hear one of her aunts calling. She turned to see who it was and met her auntPadma’s eye. She sighed and wished she hadn’t.
“Hello aunty. How are you”? She said with the fakest smile possible.
“I am absolutely fine dear and how are you”? She asked looking at her from top to bottom, surveying everything that was on her and its worth. That was her, she measured a persons worth with the money they had.
“I am doing fine too aunty”, she said and started to walk away.
“Wait there, this is a beautiful sari… you know I have bought one like this for my daughter but ofcourse a much better one and more costly too. You know, she doesn’t wear a sari that isn’t classy. I am not saying this isn’t nice”, she added in the end with a smile.
Anjali just managed a smile struggling to keep her fury inside. She had promised her parents she would behave and she intended to keep that promise atleast this time. She over the years had developed an image in her family circle that her parents weren’t proud off. She always said what she felt, she always spoke her mind, and she spoke about things that seemed like a taboo in her family. A girl being so independent wasn’t accepted in her family.
“Oh! Will you look at that!” her aunt exclaimed. Anjali looked in the direction and found her friends Saketh andPriya walking towards the empty chairs. Saketh was holding the baby Rohan, who looked so adorable that Anjalicouldn’t wait to go and give him a big kiss.
“Saketh is holding the baby while Priya is walking like a queen. What ever happened to dignity of men? A man is doing a women’s job”.
“What’s wrong with carrying your own baby”? Anjali asked not able to make sense of anything just said.
“It’s a women’s job to take care of the baby. It’s not a guy’s job. Our husbands never ever held our kids. I even heard he does house chores like cooking and cleaning. Now, our husbands…”
“Not all husbands are so inconsiderate”, Anjali said and walked away from there before she said anymore. She pitied Priya, everything she did would be written as wrong as she had gone ahead and married someone whom she loved not caring about his caste or background. The best part though was that her parents were open minded and accepted it, which she was sure wouldn’t have been possible if Priya’s parents belonged to her family.
She walked towards Priya and Saketh who were sitting with her Grand Pa.
“What do you think you are doing?” she said snatching the class away from her grandpa.
“Why aren’t you up on the dice, helping the bride?”
“You don’t have to keep an eye on me. I am 78 and I know how to take care of myself. You are nagging a lot just like my late wife”, he said like a child. This what Anjali loved in her Grandpa, his child like quality. She and her grandpa shared a special bond which very few understood. He was her best friend. She was a spitting replica of his mentality. They were different from the crowds yet never had an urge to walk with them. He had traveled around world and was broad minded which he passed on to her. He was eager to learn and changed with the changing times, holding on to the tradition. He was a perfect blend of east meets west.
Just then she saw one of her uncles walking towards them. She genuinely liked him and gave a smile. He was a sweet adorable man but a coward to say what he thinks, so even if he dint approve of something, he never voiced his opinion.
“Hello uncle”, he said while bending to touch her Grand father’s feet.
“Live a long life son”.
“How are you uncle”? He asked while dragging a chair between Anjali and her Grandpa.
“I am doing great except that my grand daughter tortures me and keeps an eye on what I eat and drink”.
“I have to. Your sugar levels have gone very high and I don’t like that”, she replied with anger in her voice.
“You have got a fine girl here. Are you planning on getting her married soon”, he said tapping her shoulder.
“Uncle, not you too”, she sighed.
“What! You are 22 now. Look at Preeti, she is just 19 and is getting married. Look how happy she is”, he said looking the wedding ceremony.
Preeti did look beautiful but Anjali knew this wasn’t what she wanted. She was being forced into this marriage. She had big dreams of being independent and earning before getting married. But she fell in love with a guy who dint belong to their caste and her parents thought that getting her married would be the only way to get her separated from him. She at 1st dint listen and rebelled but later on started giving into the emotions of her parents and decided to ruin her life for their happiness. Atleast that’s how Anjali saw that.
“She is making a huge compromise”, Anjali said at last.
“What she means is, Marriage is a compromise and we can’t deny that”, her Grandpa said, gesturing her not to say anything.
“She would be going to US and studying further. That’s a blessing. I better leave, my sister seems to be calling me”, he smiled and left.
“I hate sitting here and watching her go through this. Even yesterday night, she was crying. How can they think she will be moving on from Rishi so soon? He is a great guy, he would have made Preeti so happy. What is wrong if he belongs to some other caste? Who made these castes anyway? How can getting her married to someone else be the solution? Has anyone even asked her what her dreams are? Has anyone bothered to ask her if she even liked her husband, he is 10 years older than her God’s sake and look at him, and he is already going bald”?
“Calm down, will you? What can we do? We tried everything we could to get her out of this. She gave in, we can’t do anything now”, Saketh spoke at last.
“She shouldn’t have given in. She should have fought for that guy. Life Partner is the most important person in life and you should be the one choosing and caste or parents should not come in between. Promise me one thingAnjali; come what may, you will never compromise in your life, not especially in maters of life partner”.
“I promise you Grand Pa”.