She was dressed in a red choli and red lehenga the first time I saw her. I was sitting on a ridiculously huge red chair in the middle of the mandap, waiting for her to occupy the ridiculously huge empty red chair next to me. She was being carried in a doli by her uncles and brothers. I looked up and all the noise around me died. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Almond shaped eyes lined with thick black kohl with a sadness that was only seen if you closely observed her, pink cheeks, full lips and a slight smile. “We found you a good one na!”, my mother whispered to me. I pretended I didn’t hear her. I had never been in love but I knew I was in love. Suddenly she was standing opposite me (when did that happen?) and my friends nudged me up. She was standing and looking at me, and for the first time I was aware of myself. I tried to see what her eyes saw. A tall, lanky man in an off-white sherwani with hair oiled and neatly parted on one side. We were on the opposite poles of attraction.
She was the beautiful princess and I was the frog who would never turn into the prince. I knew how lucky I was!
The pandit chanted the mantras and we put a garland of flowers around each other. Everybody around us cheered. Isn’t it funny that at a wedding, random strangers sometimes seem happier than the bride and groom? I looked at her and she was smiling an ear to ear smile, but her eyes, oh her eyes, told me everything. They were searching for something or maybe someone. We sat down and the pandit started chanting again. I kept stealing glances at her all night.
The night came to an end and she bid goodbye to her parents. We sat in a car, decorated with roses and a heart shaped cardboard piece in the back which said ‘Just Married’. We were officially married now. I could feel her discomfort, her nervousness. I was nervous myself. How would this turn out?
“Rekha, are you comfortable?” , I asked. I loved the way her name rolled off my tongue. She looked at me shyly and nodded. The entire journey to her new house now was travelled in silence.
We reached my house and after all the customary rituals, we were alone in my room. She was in my room, she looked tired and out of place. I wanted to talk to her so badly. I went and sat next to her on the bed. She didn’t move and I took that as a good sign.
“Tell me about yourself”, I asked.
“Can I be honest?” I looked around the room and saw the clichéd ways of my life. I wanted her to change me for good. I knew the change wouldn’t come without pain.
“Yes, of course”, I said mustering all my courage.
She told me about him, everything about them and how she didn’t know if she could ever love me that much.
I was hurt, but not surprised. I hoped this would change with time. Hope is a funny emotion, it foolishly keeps you going. Sometimes it’s even the only emotion you live your life on.
It’s been 35 years since than night, I still hope for her to love as much as she loved him.
Photography By: Divyank Sinha