Translated By Priya Arun
Shraddha’s brother came to know about us during a trip to India. He had asked me to meet him. He spoke Tamil with a NRI twang. He looked at me a like I was a worm. He interrogated me thoroughly. It appeared as if wondered how his sister fell in love with a vagrant like me. I guessed his displeasure right away. Quite obvious. Has there been a brother that approved of his sister’s lover instantly?
The next two days after that, Shraddha didn’t call me. Neither did she pick up my calls. I heard she hadn’t turned up at work too. Meera informed me that Shraddha’s brother had been creating a lot of trouble for her and also that Shraddha would call me later that night. I grew restless. I was itching to rush to her apartment and meet her. But I restrained myself. I didn’t want her to get into further trouble. She finally called me around 10 that night.
She whispered, “Shankar...I don’t know what to say. Things have gone pretty rough here. My brother doesn’t like you. I tried explaining things. He didn't listen. I keep trying to convince him but he gets violent... err...he hits me...You know something, no one’s ever hit me. Not once in my life.”
I was furious. “Really? That guy hit you? Shraddha, you’re not a kid. If it’s okay with you, I will marry you right away. Don’t worry. I can handle a dozen people like your brother.” I said the words alright but was a little anxious deep inside, even as I said it. Though some of my friends knew about it, I hadn’t yet told my family about Shraddha. I knew they wouldn’t disapprove of either Shraddha or my actions. Yet, I felt I shouldn’t do anything before I discussed it with them. But at that point, I didn’t have a choice. All I wanted was Shraddha and nothing else.
“I’ll tell you what Shankar. The more he opposes me, the more resilient I get. It makes me want you, no matter what... Listen. I’ve decided to speak to Dad. I can explain everything. And I’m sure he will understand. I know he will agree. And once that’s done, it’s just a cakewalk. Everything’s going to be just fine. Don’t you worry! Alright, got to go. Will talk to you tomorrow,” she hung up in a hurry.
While I was amazed at her courage during these difficult times, I also felt a little jittery. She was saying things that I should have told her. How was I going to spend the rest of my life with such a person, I wondered.
Meera would act as our messenger for the next two days. She would give me hourly updates over phone and I would meet her at her office in the evenings. “I really pity you buddy,” she would say.
All this felt new. I had often made fun of my friends stuck in similar situations. I had even told them to “just ditch the girl and move on, ‘coz its just not worth all the effort.” But now, I understood what they might have gone through.
I finally confessed the entire story to Amma one night. As always, she heard me through patiently. She then told me, “If you’re sure you can take good care of the girl, I don’t see why there should be a problem. I can talk to Appa. But there’s just one thing. You’ve been dreaming of doing films since ages. If you get married now, you will have to take on responsibilities. And that might mean putting your dreams in the back-burner. Are you sure you want to do that?”
Hmm...what she said, did make sense. Mine was quite a liberal-minded family. They never had any problems with either falling in love or choosing your own partner in marriage. But these were the people who dreamed my dreams along with me. They only knew my aspirations too well.
Day two. My phone rang in the middle of the night. It was Shraddha. I shook myself out of my deep sleep and answered it. I was greeted with a loud, “Yippeeeeeeeeee!” I could sense she was extremely excited about something but wasn’t sure what it was. I just waited for her to collect herself.
“I told you! I told you he would say yes. Didn’t I? My dad will always let me have what I wanted. He will never say no to me! You know what...I want to see you right now, this very minute. I want to give you a tight hug and a big kiss. Come home right now. As soon as you reach, just honk and I will run down to meet you. Okay?”
I checked the time. It was 3 in the morning. Was I sleeping? Could I ride my bike at such an unearthly hour? Was it okay by me? None of these questions seemed to cross her mind when she ordered me to come over. Though I was a little put off, the urge to meet her right then overpowered everything else at that moment.
I sneaked out of the the house, hopped on my bike and started off. It actually felt good. As I sped, the fresh, misty, clean breeze was all over my face just like Shraddha’s passionate kisses, knocking me breathless with happiness.
I reached her apartment and honked gently. She ran down in flash, clambered over me and held on to me like a baby. She showered me with kisses like there would be no tomorrow.
“I knew Daddy would not say ‘no’. All he asked me was, ‘Tutu...’—that’s how he calls me—‘do you really want him?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I do!’. That’s it! Job done! My darling daddy, the best! There was nothing my brother could do. Poor thing,” she giggled.
“Have you told your Dad everything about me?”
“Yes! Everything—even about your family.”
“Great! So, what next Shraddha? Maybe our families should meet now?”
“Yes, but first things first. Most important. Do you have a passport?”
“A passport? Well...must apply for one. But why?”
“Why? Because you need a passport to travel to the States, silly. Why else?” she asked me, looking surprised.
“And why would I travel to America now?”
“Obviously! You and I are going to move to America once we get married.”