Mehek looked at the mirror. She couldn’t recognize the image that reflected back. She turned towards the women in her overcrowded room and then again stole a glance at her reflection. She had been transformed into a beautiful and elegant looking bride. The new lehenga with the red glittering border looked stunning on her fair complexion. Her face had been changed from an average looking girl of a town into some model that featured in the posters of Indian bridal wear advertisements. The gold jewelry were too heavy. The long earrings pulled down her ear lobes and made her eyes watery with pain. At such times, her cousin came to her rescue to remove the water marks around her eyes without disturbing the heavy outline of kohl. How weird! Since childhood her cousin had been her sworn enemy, but the last week had been quite different. She had helped her with her dress, make-up and escorted her to bathrooms, handling the lower part of her heavy lehenga patiently. She had stood around her all through the previous night, battling with sleep and tending to her needs.
“It’s time!” announced a familiar voice.
Mehek turned on her chair. It was one of her aunts. The women in the room suddenly withdrew their respective works and gathered around her. They helped her to get up, adjusted her dress and jewelry one last time. Her aunt hurriedly dabbed the foundation powder on her face again. The sindoor slashed across the parting in her hair, somehow felt heavier than the time when it was actually being applied the previous night. Resisting the urge to scowl, she looked outside the door and wondered where her real family was.
“Where’s mom?” she asked her cousin, who went out of the room immediately to bring the person in question herself.
Her brother Raunak, came to her side and held her hand. She gave a watery smile and allowed him to take her outside the heavily decorated bungalow. Each step she took brought back old memories of her childhood. The room she had vacated was her special place where she had learned to dance and paint. The dining table used to be always full of people at night because her father insisted on everybody eating dinner together. Adjacent to it was the kitchen. She gave one brief glance towards it and repeated her question loudly,
Her brother pointed outside. Her mother was standing near the door. Her eyes were red and puffy. She had tirelessly worked throughout the previous week to make this marriage a never-to-be-forgotten-by-relatives event. She had hired the best beauticians of the town, interior decorators from the capital, wedding planners from Mumbai and the famous cooks from her hometown. But today, she stood alone by her father’s side. Both looking tired but satisfied. Mehek ran and hugged her. There were many people surrounding her, some from her own village, neighbours, relatives, her father’s colleagues and even her brother’s friends. Some relatives from the groom’s side smiled and nodded at the teary-eyed group. But Mehek didn’t care a bit. She hugged tightly every familiar face in sight. She jumped at her favourite aunt who whispered in her ear,
“Stop crying! You are ruining your make-up!”
She hugged her father and he escorted her to the BMW outside the gate. Her husband stood with his family (my family now, she repeated in her mind), his face unreadable but calm. The sight of the unfamiliar faces that stood patiently waiting for her to enter inside the car, made her feel vulnerable. She turned to her father and announced,
“I don’t want to go!”
He was startled. He patted her head and led her forward. Her mother came from behind and held her other hand. When she saw her mother, she remembered something. She pulled her closer and whispered,
“Check in that left wooden drawer of your cupboard. I have kept something there.”
With final nods and goodbyes, Mehek went away, crying and looking at the quickly diminishing sight of her family, outside the window of the car.
That night, amidst making preparations for guests and relatives, who were planning to go back to their homes, Mehek's mother finally got a chance to go to her room, very late at night. She pulled open her cupboard and checked the contents of the left drawer. There was a letter. She sat down on the bed, quickly opened the folded paper and started reading.
By the time you open this letter, I would have gone. I wanted to tell you this personally. But every time I thought of coming to you, I didn’t know who would cry first, you or me.
And trust me, both of us have cried like hell since last week, maybe months, since the time dad said yes to Hemant’s family.
Mom, I didn’t want to marry him. I just didn’t. I didn’t want to marry ever! This isn’t fair. This world is not fair. It just hit me like a bullet, this thing that I will have to move on to live with some other family. Call someone else a mom. Call some other man a dad. How is this fair? I lived so happily at my own home. We both fought, argued, didn’t talk to each other for days. But we both patched up later, did we not? I couldn’t bring it up to myself, that I could do such things with some other woman (future mom!). I have seen the tension between you and granny. And how dad gets sandwiched in between. But you always managed to find a way out to keep everybody happy and satisfied, including me! I just couldn’t imagine myself to be in your position and handling the things the way you do. I am afraid to take responsibilities mom. Ok, I agree. I was my class representative for straight two years and being the main lead of my project is fun (I enjoy it) but I never imagined how it would be, to be called as someone’s wife and daughter-in-law. Don't laugh but I didn't get any formal training for this! I was afraid I couldn't cope. I was scared mom.
That’s why I threw so much tantrums that day when Hemant came to meet dad. And the previous time when Hemant’s aunts came to meet me.
Was it too much to ask for? To live with my own family forever? Would have I been a burden on you and dad? Why should I leave my house when my brother gets to stay in the house forever! Is it my fault that I am a woman and not a man?!
And then I realized- had you not got married and took up responsibilities, I wouldn’t have had so many beautiful memories in my life with you! Where would I be today without you? People call me your daughter! And you worked towards it, you earned that respect from your beloved ones. You taught me, raised me, protected your children and made so many sacrifices in life. You never complained but moved on with a smile on your face.
I‘ll do my best for you mom. This is life, isn’t it? You move one step ahead and you are given new responsibilities. You yourself left your parents’ house and settled with dad. You made many compromises but made sure that your family was not troubled. I am really proud of you mom. And really fortunate to be your daughter. And now it’s time to share and pass on the same happiness I got from you to a new family. This makes me blush slightly and you would know why!
Tell dad a big thanks. My next letter would be addressed to him!
And lots of love to Raunak.
(P.S: Do you know mom, Raunak has a girlfriend that he chats for hours on Facebook? Check at 11pm in his room! )