Everyone in her home was happy. Women busy cluttering crockery in the kitchen, men busy discussing finances in the living room, and kids running across the house. Well everyone was happy except her, despite the fact that it was her marriage that had infused such liveliness in her home.
It was almost so sudden. Naina had just come back from a vacation, when her mom had told her that a family is coming over for dinner, to meet her. Naina had almost shouted in protest. The prospective groom, Gautam, was a fine looking guy. But Naina was too angry to even give him a look. She silently waited for the evening to pass away; and prayed reverently that he disapproves her. But as it was destined to be; he said yes. They requested early marriage, and her parents heartily approved.
Its not that, Naina did not protest at home. When she protested, her parents asked her, “why are you rejecting Gautam? He is educated, well-settled, and good looking as well.”, “Is there someone else? If there is, tell me now. ” Naina had no answer these questions, even though there was someone else…a guy whom she had once seen in the college fest. It was love at first sight for Naina…since then she had dreamt of marrying him. The only problem was that after that fest, Naina had never ever seen that boy again. She did not even know his name. So how she could tell her parents about him? Naina was in a fix…there was no one who could ever understand her.
Today was the day of her marriage; but happiness was miles away from her. Since adolescence she had dreamt her wedding; but when the day came her dream boy was not there. The day she saw him, she had never ever thought of anyone else. She thought about him all the day; and dreamt of him during the night. Naina cried desperately, “Godd!! Why did I have to fall in love with a person whom I could never meet again?”
Naina was ready as a bride. She glanced at the mirror…she made a beautiful bride. When her mom came to take her, Naina closed her eyes and thought about her dreamboy and silently said Goodbye to him. Like any bride would do, Naina lowered her eyes while walking upto the stage. But unlike any bride, she had anger and disappointment in her eyes. After exchanging garlands, she and Gautam were made to sit. People around them were dancing …but Naina was very uncomfortable…and then suddenly she saw him. Yeah it was him ,., he was dancing among the group of boys. Naina saw him an eyeful. For so many months, she had waited to see this face. He was so tall and good looking…like Greek God. The flash of cameras brought her to present. She realized that she was someone else’s now. A silent tear trickled down Naina’s cheeks.
Naina’s marriage solemnized smoothly. It was the time to leave her parents home. Naina cried like a child. She did not want to go…wanted time to go back and make her small enough to hide in her mother’s lap. But she had to go…On her way to Gautam’s home, she was crying uncontrollably in the car. Gautam tried to console her on the way and tried his best to make her feel comfortable. Naina’s agony was increased by the fact that her dream man was sitting in the same car as theirs; but alas on the wrong seat. His name was Shekhar and he was the best pal of Gautam.
Naina was sitting in her new bedroom. The room had been decorated with flowers and fragrance, which came as a cruel reminder to her about her new life and the fact that she would be expected to give herself to a stranger. She had decided that she would not let Gautam touch her. She had met the man of her dreams…and that she could not love anybody else. She would rather die than sleeping with a stranger. Suddenly Gautam entered the room; and Naina jerkily stood up from the bed. She was tensed up and her hand curled up in a fist. There was an awkward silence; when Gautam told her to sit down. Gautam had a deep voice and his posture was very calm and confident. He went to wash room and changed into his nightsuit. Very coolly he told her to get comfortable. After settling down, Gautam came and sat besides Naina and said, “Naina, welcome to my life!! I know it was too quick and we haven’t had any chance to know each other….but you know that’s how destiny had for us. But now we have time to know each other. Before we embark upon our journey together, lets try and be friends first. Unless we are good friends, we cannot be good spouses. More than being your husband, I want to be your life partner. I feel your awkwardness, and don’t want to impose myself on you. I will wait for the day when you come to me and say that you love me; you will always find me with open arms.” He then took her hand and kissed it lightly. And then he said, “You must be tired. We will talk tomorrow. Sleep well dear.” Naina was dumbfounded … slowly she lied down next to Gautam. How and when did Gautam hear her heart’s voice, she wondered…But she felt a sense of relief…She was tired and took seconds to doze off to sleep.
Next few days, every night Gautam and Naina talked about each other. Naina opened up to Gautam. Every night they would talk about their life, education, friends, and aspirations; but would sleep apart. On their honeymoon too, Gautam never approached her. Yet she could always feel his loving eyes on her. She knew he yearned for her; but she always chose to ignore it. She liked Gautam; but when it came to love, Shekhar’s face would smile in her thoughts. Naina would watch her marriage CDs over and over again, to watch Shekhar. Sometimes she would imagine how life would have been, had she married Shekhar. She asked Gautam a few questions about Shekhar, subtly enough to avoid suspicions.
One evening Gautam called her to get ready for a party. His office mates had thrown a dinner party for them. The moment they entered the room, everyone encircled them and starting clapping for them. Naina was flustered with the attention and respect that was being showered on them. Slowly, she realized it was all due to Gautam. They all loved him immensely. Gautam started introducing her to everyone. His bosses hugged him and talked highly about him. Gautam gelled in any group and dominated the conversation. His knowledge showed in his observations and comments. For a moment, Naina could feel pride and happiness welling inside her. She felt so proud of Gautam. She was observing him intently, when a strange hand touched her shoulder. Naina turned back to find Shekhar smiling at her. Naina’s heart skipped a beat; she could not believe it was him. She greeted him; moments later she observed that Shekhar was drunk and had not taken off his hand from her shoulder and was gradually pressing her shoulder with more force. Naina’s smile faded into anxiety and she looked for Gautam amidst the crowd. Gautam saw her anxious face from a distance, and rushed towards her. He politely took Shekhar away and gestured Naina to calm down. Once Shekhar was gone, Gautam apologized to her on Shekhar’s behalf. He told her that Shekhar was not in his senses; otherwise would never have misbehaved with her. After that Gautam did not leave her side for a moment.
That evening Gautam took Naina to the dance floor. He danced very well; suddenly he brought her close. Naina could feel strange energy coming out of his body. She became acutely aware of his sexuality and when she looked up at his face, she found him quite handsome. For some time she just wanted to keep looking at him; but when Gautam looked at her quizzingly, she looked away. That whole night, Naina could not think about Shekhar; everytime she thought about him, the moment on the dancing floor would come back to her. And she was confused as well: Was Shekhar really like that? Did he deliberately trouble her? Was he a chronic alcoholic?
After a few days, Gautam told Naina that Shekhar had invited them for dinner. Strangely enough Naina was not very happy. She tried to shrug off the memories of that day; but they kept coming back to confuse her. But by the evening Naina convinced herself to give him another chance. In the evening, Naina took extra care to dress herself. She could feel Gautam’s appreciative glances; but that day, for the first time, she spotted a look of sadness in his eyes. He was depressed…for a moment her heart went out to him. She knew, it was over a month now since they got married, but the distance amongst them were the same. A guilty feeling gnawed her heart; but she again chose to ignore it. All she thought about was Shekhar. When they reached Shekhar’s apartment, she was impressed by the place wherein he lived. He welcomed them warmly. Shekhar had invited few more guests. Shekhar introduced her to Sara, his live-in girlfriend. Naina went blank, she had never realized the distances between her and Shekhar.
All evening Naina observed Sara. Sara was a pretty girl, who seemed to care a lot for Shekhar. But Shekhar was more interested in his drinks rather than his girl friend. At times he ignored Sara completely to flirt with his friends’ wife. Time and again he made few sexists comments too. “What an MCP” she wondered. While at the same time, Naina had complete attention from Gautam. By the end of the party, Shekhar was quite drunk, and was not in a condition to see them off. Sara, his girlfriend, apologized on his behalf.
For next few days, Gautam became very quiet. Deep in her hearts, Naina knew the reason for his aloofness; but could not gather herself to go near him. His silence was baffling her. Her inlaws had also observed his silence and asked her. Naina had no answer. When she asked him, he politely evaded answering the question. His response came down to monosyllables. Naina felt lonely and depressed. She had got used to talking and sharing with Gautam. She yearned to see him smile and be his normal self. Things became unbearable for her. One morning her patience snapped and she shouted at Gautam for not wearing the shirt that she had selected for him. Gautam did not say a word to her. He silently went to his office. The whole day Naina felt guilty; she wanted to say sorry to him. She planned a nice dinner for him, prepared all his favorite dishes. Naina eagerly waited for Gautam; but there was no sign of him. Urged by her mom-in-law, she tried calling him, but he was not reachable. Naina despaired; she called up his office. They told him that he had left a couple of hours before. Naina panicked; but she could hardly do anything. She desperately waited for Gautam to be back.
It was almost midnight but no sign of Gautam. And then the phone rang. It was a stranger on the other side, informing that Gautam has met with an accident and that he was admitted in a critical condition in local hospital. Naina heart stopped…she felt as if she would faint. She along with Gautam’s parents rushed to the hospital. Upon reaching hospital Naina rushed to the emergency room; saw Shekhar in a critical condition. He was unconscious and was being taken out from operation theatre. But Naina’s eyes were looking desperately for Gautam. And then she saw Gautam standing with the doctor; his shirt was stained with blood and had a bandage on his forehead. He was talking intently to the doctor. The moment Naina saw Gautam, she ran towards him. She clung to him tightly, and started crying. She was inconsolable. She thought about nothing – that it was a hospital, that her in-laws were there and the fact that it was Shekhar, whom she supposedly loved so much, was the one who was critically injured. She just knew that she had almost lost Gautam; but she still had him with her. Gautam smiled down at her; and took her to a corner to console her. He assured her that he was fine. It was Shekhar who was critically injured.
On the way back, Naina realized that her life was changed forever. She knew that she had fallen in love with Gautam and just could not afford to lose him. She wanted him more than anything else in her life. All the distance among them had vanished in one moment. That night when Gautam entered the room, Naina was waiting for him. She ran into his arms, and whispered “I love you dear,” in his ears.