"You are sure you that she is the one for you?" asked Ravi.
"Yeah...she is gotta be the one." replied Siddharth.
"Dude. You know her for how long...maybe a month?"
"Yeah. Maybe less, but not more."
"And you have not even met her once?"
"When I was in US, my parents fixed the alliance. It was all web chat and phone calls and so on. And when I landed here, I met her at the airport."
"You gotta be kidding me man."
"Oh cmon Ravi. Don't make so much fuss out of it. You don't expect me to escort her all around chennai, eat bajji in the beach, drink cold drink with a shared straw and all that mushy-mushy stuff like in the movies. In today's busy life, almost half of the marriages happen on the fly. You think working people have all the time in the world to run around the tree and sing songs in foreign locations?"
"Look Sid. You are my best friend. I wish the best for you and nothing else. But I get a feeling that you should know what you are getting into."
"Oh cmon. Mom sent me her photo and I liked her. We talked few times and we seemed to like each other. I have come here on vacation, get my visa renewed, will get married, get her a Visa and go back to US with her. As Simple as that."
"Sid. This is not some goddamn project implementation. You have to spend the rest of your whole life with her. Have you even thought about that?"
"Yeah I did. And I think she is perfect for me."
"Oh you do? And what does she think?"
"I think it is a mutual admiration. That is why we are getting married in less than a week buddy."
"Tell me something Sid. What is her favorite color?"
"Why does it matter?"
"Just answer me. What is her favorite color?"
Siddharth paused. Infact apart from her academic details, family background and few childhood incidents which she recited and he half-heatedly listened over phone, he didn't know anything about her.
"Oh cmon Ravi. These are just general stuff."
"Exactly my point. These are general stuff about her that even her friend or her college mate could tell you. But you are going to be her life partner and you don't know these little details. Sid, life is all but a big collection of small moments of happiness. And these small moments are derived from the smallest details about the person with whom you are going to spend your life with."
Siddharth remained silent.
"You have to know if she prefers salwaar to jeans, she likes Ganesha or Vishnu, loves Shahrukh or Brad Pitt, plays cricket or tennis, wakes up early or late, prefers gold or silver, eats vadai or Pizza. Frankly, have you ever bothered to ask these?"
"You were just talking about yourself right? Where you studied, where you work, your pay scale, your boring manager, your nagging client...all the blah blah was about you right?"
"And when she told you something about her, either you were half listening and working on your comp or half-asleep on the way to bed. So precisely, you practically don't know a shred of information about her."
"The truth is you don't know her Sid. I am not asking you to cancel your marriage. I am just asking you to make it work."
"So you are free today evening?" Siddharth asked Shobhana over the phone.
She was pleasantly surprised. Just for sake of tradition she asked her mom to go out with him although even she had decided that whatever be the answer she was going to meet him. She decided that it was now or never for her.....to tell him the truth.
Sid drove his Ford Esteem over to her office and picked her up. They exchanged pleasantries and she sat next to him in the front seat. They remained silent for most of the journey which was interrupted by the Radio Mirchi RJ with his old jokes and new songs.
She was wearing an orange color chudidaar with some rajasthani mirror work on it and a matching light green color dupatta. She had a small bindi on her forehead which was not big enough to warrant attention and not too small enough to be unnoticed. Sid was not sure if she was using Christian Dior or Mont Blanc as he was still not very much accustomed to women's perfume tastes. She had painted her toes with darker shade of pink which almost matched her black sandals. Possibly only women could think of all permutations and combinations of colors to bejewel their body.
He was coming to Marina after almost 2 years. In the mean time he had been to Hawaaii, Florida, Chaupati beach, but Marina was one place where he felt like home. It was home.
The smell of Mirchi Bajji and jasmine garland, the fake fortune teller who herself was not sure where her next morsel of food would come from, the balloon shooter who hoped that his customers miss as many as possible to stay in business, the paav bhaji and bhel puri waala who wondered when America's recession will come to an end so that their business would boom again, the kid selling chick peas to lovers (illicit or true or time-pass), the ice cream vendor, the Frisbee players, the beach cricket batsman who was wondering if the next ball would be a bouncer or full-toss, the traffic police looking for illegal couple to make some dough, the cargo ship which looked far across like smaller than a paper boat, little children getting wet in the waves without any shame or fear, adults just washing their feet and looking back regularly to check if their slippers were safe. The beach was so full of life and characters.
But that was not what Sid had come for. He wanted to talk to Shobhana and know her. Like most introvert men, he waited for the other person to start some conversation. He coughed and smiled at her. She smiled. Well...that was a good start.
Before he could open his mouth and talk to her she shot back.
"Siddharth. I have to tell you something."
He looked with an eagerness of a student facing his final year exam papers.
"I want you to know something before we get married. I was in love with a boy in my college days and we were close to getting married."
First ball. Clean bowled.
To be completed on Feb 13th