To New Beginnings

I don’t know how Tinder or other dating apps are different from the arranged marriage match making process. I mean, of course, I know that the former is more like a hook up app and people don’t really get serious about the dates, or, do they? But I think they are the same. Let me tell you how – on Tinder, you just see a stranger’s photo and profile, Swipe, swipe, swipe and a match is made! You decide to hook up with him/her.

Arranged marriage, on the other hand, follows the same pattern. But it is a bit more dangerous because,
a. The family gets involved.
b. You cannot dump him after sometime because you are married to him.
c. And let’s just face it. Everything gets complicated when the family gets involved.

A wise man once told me that everyone in India gets married. At that time, I thought it was a horrible generalization. But, he turned out to be right. When I reached the age of 23, my parents thought that I had reached the next “important” stage of life and started the groom hunt. I am not going to lie. I was pretty excited. As a child, I have read tons of fairy tales and still believe that they can happen in real life. When the cruelty of the real world gets too much, romance novels have always been my secret place of escape. So, yes, I wanted to get married. I was ready to meet my Prince Charming. They showed me a bunch of photos and I chose him. Karthik was tall and fair skinned. He had straight hair and wore glasses. Let’s just say he was handsome and so I said yes to him. My parents favoured the other attributes like good pay, well placed in a corporate company and the fact that he has travelled around the world a few times. His profile on the matrimonial site did not give away a lot about him while mine practically said everything about me. So, I did not know what he liked or what he did other than writing codes. I am an architect and I have absolutely no clue on how an IT company works. The parents spoke and the horoscopes were matched. They arranged for us to meet.

I was anxious when they finally arrived home. All my relatives had gathered to see him and meet his family. I got ready before they could arrive, so I can peep from the balcony of my room. When he finally arrived and I saw him, I could feel the butterflies flying in my stomach. I was nervous and I was embarrassed with myself for that. I barely knew this person and I never expected to feel this way when I saw him. They introduced me to his parents. His parents asked about my work and if I would quit after I married their son. I didn’t even have to think the answer to that question. I said I wouldn’t, as my career is important to me. From the corner of my eyes, I saw him smile. The butterflies were back again. His mother sighed and looked at his father. I wasn’t sure if I upset her. I was hoping that if this works, I didn’t have to live with his parents.

‘This is our son, Karthik’ his father spoke. He had a warm smile. I turned to look at his son. He was already looking at me. I smiled at him and mustered a hi.

‘Hi’ he nodded and smiled. My heart was jumping in my throat. There was an awkward silence and he did not take his eyes off of me. I looked away for the fear of fainting infront of him. I clasped my fingers and sat there looking at nothing in particular.

I was hoping he would ask to speak alone but, he didn’t. My mother finally spoke. She said it would be better if Karthik and I spoke alone for some time. I wanted to hug her then. We went to our terrace and saw the sunset in silence. I finally spoke to break the silence. I told him everything about me and what I wanted to do with my life. He nodded and said, ‘uh-huh’ every now and then. He told me about his work after I asked him. But it ended after 2 sentences. He asked me if I would be fine if we lived alone after marriage as he was not interested in living with his parents. I wanted to squeal in joy but just said yes. That was the end of it. Things went really fast after that as he had to travel for a work assignment within a month. And we were married within 15 days of that first meet.

***

He came back from the official trip. He had asked me to stay at my parents until he returned, but, I wanted to move into our apartment and arrange everything. I was excited about the prospect of having a place for myself. As usual, he smiled. I really wished he talked more. I spent the three months he was away, arranging and decorating the apartment. We spoke once everyday and everytime we spoke; it was just the mundane stuff. He asked me about my day and I would do the same. He used to send me pics of the places he visited or videos of snowfall. When I responded to them, he wouldn’t reply or just send a smile or a wink emoji. At times, there were one line answers. I wondered if he really liked me when he married me. Sometimes when we spoke, I would be so urged to ask him that. But, I couldn’t.
There was a huge age difference between us. He was 31 and I was 23. Not that it mattered to me. I thought it could be because of that. I also thought he was probably an introvert. My mother told me that some people, unlike me, take time to open up. She asked me to be patient with him. But I was worried. I was worried because, he left as soon as we were married. He was on the other side of the globe and he didn’t seem to be excited about being married to me. But I decided to remain patient as my mother told me. I continued going to work which has always helped me to keep the devil at bay. I came back home and read a book or watched a movie or visited my parents. His parents came occasionally and I cooked for them. After the first encounter, I cursed my poor judgement as they seemed like nice people.

When he returned, I offered to pick him up from the airport. But he told me that he could handle it. Things didn’t change even after a week of his return. We were just two strangers who lived in an apartment together. He was always busy even after he returned home.

Sometimes he made coffee and breakfast in the mornings. We ate in silence and left to work. Sometimes he offered to drop me at my office. But then I would kill someone if I had to sit in silence even in the car. It felt like I was married to the silent monk. I thought this was one of the reasons he wanted us to live alone. That way he didn’t have to feign intimacy.

One evening when he came out of the shower, I was sitting on the couch and reading my favourite book.

‘Do you read?’ he asked pointing at my book. That was the first thing I told him when we spoke. I told him that I love books. It was on my matrimonial profile. I wanted to throw the hard bound book at him. I didn’t respond. He went to our bedroom and came back with the book and showed me the cover. It was the same book I was reading. I smiled.

‘Are you reading it for the first time?’ He asked as he sat on the couch next to me. His presence made me nervous. I folded my legs and hugged the book to my chest.

‘uuh… no, no. I have already read this a couple of times. Although it’s very depressing, I just think it’s a beautiful book’ I said.

‘I couldn’t get to the climax the first time I read it’ he chuckled. ‘So, I read it again. No luck. I am hoping I could this time’ I didn’t respond to that either.

‘So who is your favourite character?’ He asked after a few minutes of awkward silence. The sudden change in him surprised me. It angered me too.

‘So, you CAN talk!’ I said and gasped.

He laughed and told me that he’s been preoccupied with work. He told me that it happens to him when he gets busy with work and now that he is married, he is working on it. And infact, he was planning for a surprise and I will know about it soon. I just sat there staring at him.

‘I am sorry’ he pinched his ears. I couldn’t help but smile.
‘Willem’ I said after sometime.
‘What?’
‘Willem is my favourite character’ and we spent the next 2 hours discussing about the book.

I told him how the book ended and he mocked anger for that. We continued discussing about other books and music. I realized that we had lost track of time. I told him that, I hadn’t started cooking yet and got up to go to the kitchen. He held my hand as I got up and asked me if we should go to a restaurant. I told him that we should maybe order in and that’s what we did. ‘

We finished our dinner while he spoke about the various places he’s visited and about his work. I found it very interesting. He wasn’t writing codes. I loved his voice. I loved how he raised his eyebrows everytime he tried to explain something he couldn’t. I love the way he looked at me. Like, I was the only one that mattered when I spoke. I loved everything about him. I loved even his silence.

After dinner, he walked to the storeroom ‘I was going to convert this into a wine cellar or an alcohol bar’ he threw his hands up as he walked to the storeroom. ‘But then, I didn’t have time. I was just too busy. I hate myself for that sometimes. Hah!’

‘Well, I can say that the feeling is mutual’ I said from the couch.

He returned with a bottle of wine.
‘I truly, really apologize for the way I treated you all these days’ he said and placed the wine bottle on the center table.
‘ummm… Karthik’
‘Priya?’ he smiled and bowed. I laughed.
‘I have never tried’ I shrugged and raised my eyebrows. He went to the kitchen and got the wine glasses out.
‘Do you want to?’ He asked. I sat there contemplating when he placed the glasses infront of us and poured wine in both of them.
‘Should I?’ I asked.
‘Only if you want to’ he pushed a wisp of hair that had fallen on his forehead and picked his glass. I took the glass. He brought his to mine and clinked it. ‘To books, music and new beginnings’ he smiled.

I took a sip and the warm liquid slid down my throat. After sometime, I told him that I also wanted to try vodka someday. He told me that, I can try it now and brought a bottle of vodka and poured into my glass. It was nothing like what I thought. It was very bitter and pungent. I sneezed and coughed a couple of times when I attempted to drink it. He laughed. After drinking 2 more glasses, I told him that he was handsome. And although it defied all logic, I liked him inspite of knowing next to nothing about him. He took the glass away from me and held my hand. He pulled me a little closer to him.

‘We have a library; you know?’ he said.
‘Like, here?’ I asked surprised. I was quite dazed.
‘mm-hmm’ he said and smiled.
‘Oh my God! Where?’ I asked and looked around. ‘It’s on the first floor. Have you noticed a door that’s always locked?’ He asked.
‘Yes. I thought you kept the photos of your ex there’ I snorted.
‘What?’ he laughed. ‘No. No! what?’ he laughed. ‘And I did take my time to get over my ex. But no, I do not have a shrine for her!’ he laughed again and drank from his glass. ‘You watch a lot of movies’ he added.
‘Hey, I love watching movies and there are all sorts of weirdos. Just so you know!’ I shrugged and looked at him. We were sitting very close to each other and his arms were around my shoulder.
‘Do you want to see the library?’ He asked.
‘No. I like it here. Now.’ I leaned on his shoulder and felt his cheek on my head.
‘Shall I ask you something?’
‘mmm?’
‘Do you miss her?’ I asked.
‘I did’ he said
‘Do you miss her now?’ I asked.
‘No. I like how I feel when you are with me. This moment and the times I see you when I return home everyday’ he said.

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