Tangles & Ties : Chapter 6 : A Murk Called Marriage

{ If I had time and if I had my way, I would have replied to each one of you separately. I still try to do max… That is the extent to which I value each of my readers. Love you all. Thank you a just a small word before my love and gratitude… 

Stay blessed!

“Cool. But you don’t know all those things about me. Right?”

He faked a dirty smile, having lost once again to her in word game. He had been trying to tease her to ask if those character traits were ‘enough’ to get married to someone you know nothing about. Instead, she reversed the tease telling him that she might have indeed those characters traits. She laughed at that, with her sweet giggle mingling with the music being played in the music system in the car. Later, he chuckled too.

“You are impossible.” He murmured.

“That’s the whole point!! We practically know nothing about each other.”

“Exactly!”

His attention was diverted, as if he was thinking about something and he didn’t speak for a almost a minute, turning his face to look outside the car. He wasn’t smiling either. She snapped her fingers before his eyes once again, and brought him back to the present.

“Hey ? What are you thinking ?”

With a small smile, he nodded to disregard it. “Sometimes I feel that it is hard to know and love someone even if you stay with him or her for years.”

She twisted her lips in appreciation and raised one hand in a praising gesture, as she said, “Deep !”

“Thanks !”

“Bullshit !”

He made a face, “Come’on. Give me some credit.”

“Why?”

Twisting his lips, he justified, “I am a thinker…I just thought about a deep philosophy… that is why…”

“Okay, Mr. Malhotra… tell me what do you like the most about a girl.”

He thought for a second, rocking his legs at the car floor, and replied, “Simplicity, honesty, intelligence, trustworthiness…”

He could have added more had she not interrupted him, by a sharp remark, “Cut the crap ! None of it was mentioned in the classified column where your parents placed an advertisement for you. It said that they were looking for a ‘fair, good looking, professionally qualified, cultured, homely and convent educated Brahmin girl’ for you. That is why my parents applied for it.”

She quoted the matrimonial column word-by-word as if she had memorized the criteria laid down by his family. A regular feature in every classified matrimonial column.

“Gahh !” He cringed, clearly mortified, closed his eyes tightly and resting his elbows on his knees, he buried his face in his palms. She laughed hysterically at that act and wouldn’t stop laughing for some time. He removed his hands and stared at her as a lamb would stare at a lioness, pleading for mercy. It was well evident that she was not going to stop teasing him and he was not sure whether he should join her to enjoy it or leave the scene to save him from further embarrassment.

“Drop me at my hotel, please!”

She giggled more at this, “Wait. We haven’t talked yet. We’ll decide the solution to this problem… Then, I will drop you.  So… Well, where was I ? Yeah, your criteria DO NOT match with your parents’ criteria for an ideal girl for you. I fit in your parents’ maybe, but not yours. I mean, I am definitely intelligent and trustworthy but can’t say the same about being honest and simple. Sometimes, I’m not that.”

He murmured on a low note, “Stop it, please. My parents have embarrassed me enough. Imagine! They actually advertised to put me up for sale.”

“Not direct sale. It should better be called an ‘auction’….” She kept giggling as if genuinely amused.

“Urghh!! Thanks for making me feel worse. Can we please talk about something else ?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh at your expense… but we happen to be in such a situation that I can’t help it… anyway, forget it!” She tried to give him relief when she realised that she had pulled his leg, enough for today. “You can do the same… Your turn to embarrass me.”

He lifted one brow mischievously and deciding to be cruel, he asked, “Okay, tell me – Does India has chance to win this series against New Zealand ?”

“No, I don’t think so. Virat is hurt and not playing and Dhoni is already…..” She had started to speak when he raised his hands in air to stop her, “Nandini… Stop…Please stop!!”

“What happened ?” She was not happy being disturbed while giving a review on cricketing conditions on the ongoing series.

He was astounded, “Goshh!! You have answers to everything ? I mean, everything ? I asked that question just to tease you and you really started discussing in a big way.”

She raised her brows accepting the compliment and shrugged, “You bet.”

He was truly, deeply baffled. “Do you always talk like this? This much???”

“Yeah. Always…” She nodded sweetly, “And you ? I know, you don’t.”

“God forbid, if I ever got married to someone like you… I’ll have to fix ear plugs and block the hearing pathway to survive! I can’t live with someone talking on and on, around me… I need peace…”

She made an irked face and gave a very dirty look to him, “I am never going to marry someone like you. I can’t live with a silent wall…who asks you to shut up!! I mean, you can still survive with those ear plugs… what will I do… tape myself?”

He reclined in his seat and sighed, “Honestly Nandini, I have never talked so much in my entire life, all words added together… the extent to which I have been talking since yesterday. And, now I feel drained… Early in the morning, I am already feeling tired!”

She picked up his phone from the dashboard and used it to whack on his arm, “You are mannerless! Do you know that? No girl will marry you!”

“Thank you!” He spoke with a forced smile, “I am okay with that!”

“But how do you manage at work ? I mean, yours is a creative field and you get in touch with actors, models, writers, directors, so many creative people, and clients too. How do you manage to interact when you don’t talk much?”

“That’s not difficult. Talking at work is something I ‘have’ to do and because it is strictly professional, you don’t find it a fight. There are set spiels…you have to recite them before everyone…  But when it is personal, I feel lost….”

“Ohh!!” She spoke as if she was reading him.

“What ?”

“That tells me that you are not ‘that’ inarticulate. You can definitely talk and express yourself when you want to. You just stop yourself, deliberately, from sharing your innermost thoughts, ideas and secrets to everyone.”

He was stunned at that. She had nailed at it.

“If you had difficulty in sharing your thoughts, you would have struggled at work too. But you are fine as long as it is professional and distant. As long as people don’t threaten your privacy. It doesn’t go well with you if someone tries to come too close to you. You are not comfortable sharing yourself. You are scared…”

He cleared his throat and shrugged, trying to end the discussion right there.

“Is that right?” She asked.

He didn’t reply back to her. Instead, he observed her. Her beautiful eyelashes laden with a hint of mascara and kajal, her lips stained in a colour which was a blend of beige and mocha, her high cheekbones, perfectly arched brows, and long, wavy silky tresses.

“Tell me, if I am right.” She demanded in determined words, “I want to know.”

“And I want to know the make of the perfume that you are wearing. It is so compelling… intoxicating actually !” He tried to flirt with a sensuous tone to his voice.

“Don’t try that smart trick of diverting the talk on me. And don’t dare flirt with me.”

“Okay, I have already told you a lot about me…Now, I will speak more only on one condition.”

“Which condition?” She asked.

“Tell me two things – 1. your reasons for not thinking about marriage. 2. your dreams about the future… Why do I feel that just like me, even you are running away from marriage. Like I said yesterday, that I don’t understand how an educated, independent girl with a mind of her own can’t talk to her parents about how she wants to spend her life and that she is not going to get married to any random guy, she knows nothing about…”

“The same appplies to you. You are independent, live alone, 27 years old and a strong personality. Why you can’t talk to your parents about what you want?”

“First you have to speak. What is the problem? Commitment issue?

“You tell me your problem… I will tell mine….”

“Is that a deal?”

“Looks like so!” She tilted her neck and shrugged.

“Deal it is… then!! I will speak after you do!”

She grimaced at that.Unable to judge whether she should share her part of the issue or let it go, she turned her face away. But hiding it would mean running away from the problem too. And she had had enough of that. She decided to be honest with him. Being fair to him was important for her peace of mind as well. She hesitated for a second before she started speaking, “It’s a long story.”

He used his eyes to assure her that he wasn’t going to judge her. He waited for her to continue but when she didn’t, he said, “I have time.”

“I’ve had my chance !”

He couldn’t understand at the first instance but stayed quiet, thinking over her words and their possible meaning. She continued, “I mean, I’ve done that once before. I told them that I don’t believe in arranged marriages and that I will get married to the man of my choice. They were always supportive.”

He kept quiet and focused on her face, listening to her. She clearly appeared uneasy talking about it.

“I’ll summarize in short. Do you remember last night I had spoken about my relationships as…”

“3+1?”

“Yes… One of my college friends proposed marriage to me a few months back. He professed his love for me, I took some time to think but I was eventually carried away by this idea of love and all that shit… We decided to get married. When I told my parents about him, they were quite happy with my choice. Our parents met and the wedding was finalized. His parents were in UK, so they wanted us to get married even before final exams. Everything was set, invitations distributed, preparations completed, relatives arrived…,” She paused, as if her mind was somewhere else, saddened and lost.

“Then ?”

She continued to speak with her eyes focused on the steering wheel, where she scratched the rubber cover, with the nail of her index finger, her tone lowered, as if she was talking from a different time zone. “Then he called me, the night before the wedding ceremony…. to say that he didn’t understand me well… He said that he couldn’t imagine life with a gynaecologist…I would be busy all my life and he wanted someone more compatible… he was in a radiology so wanted a partner suited to his field….I didn’t understand honestly…but he said that he felt uneasy…. and it seemed to him that we were rushing into things by getting married….we have not given time to our relationship…… we belong to different branches and he doesn’t know if he can understand the commitments of my job….. We don’t know each other….and all that nonsense…..”

She stopped speaking after this and he stayed quiet too, to let her take some time to compose herself. Hardly few seconds later, she clicked her tongue as if discarding all previous thoughts and was back to looking at him with a smile on her face.

He had no idea how to react. So he took a deep breath and kept quiet. She was relieved that he was not offering sympathy like everyone else. She never discussed about this with anyone, but it hardly mattered because everyone, from their relatives to friends and neighbours, almost everyone, already knew about it and felt sorry for her.

Thankfully, Manik didn’t speak anything about it. No piece of advice, no display of concern for her, no extra efforts to show how he understands. He just stayed quiet for a while.

She picked up the bottle of water from the bottle stand of her car, drank from it and appeared relaxed. It relieved him a great deal as he was a case of ‘lost-mind’ in conditions like these and he was aware that he had always been miserable when stuck in a situation required to be handled in a sensitive way. Emotional moments left him feeling helpless. Seeing her comfortable now, made him feel better too.

“Thanks.” He said, clearing his throat.

She was confused at this. “Thanks for what ?”

“For not crying, right now. I’m at my worst when someone cries in front of me.” He spoke in a helpless tone.

Her smile had widened by now and soon laughter took it’s place when he told her how he had messed up many times, when consoling people who cried before him and had ended up making them feel more depressed.

“That was funny. But honestly, I never cried. Why should I cry over his loss? Loser!!” Her words resonated with the confidence in her voice, “I was just upset that he had to do it at the last moment. Imagine, you get the call a day before the marriage… with mehendi and all on your hands…and relatives staring at you with a weird look on their faces. My parents had to go through a lot. I don’t mind that he backed out of it… if only he could do it at an earlier date… would have been better…”

“Really?” He could get it now why she was asking him to refuse at the right time.

“Of course! I didn’t lose faith in humanity or relationships after this one incident. Why should I lose my positivity over one failed relationship? It’s not like I am scarred or something. I’m good. Just that, I don’t have the energy to go through the stress all over again.”

“When did this happen ?” He asked her.

“Six months back. Our courses had almost finished and we were waiting for Univ. exam dates. Then I got busy in exams and time flew away. I never got time to sulk as my studies were time consuming. Hospital took 18-20 hours of my day. I coped up well and was absolutely fine. But since then, my parents began searching for a groom for me on war-footing. Asking relatives to find a perfect match… responding to matrimonial columns… they are getting desperate …They have their reasons. One, they face questions and comments wherever they go, from random people asking about my wellbeing, to relatives advising on getting me married soon. My ma and papa are fed up of all those words of care and sympathy, expressions of pity and giggles of gossip. Two, they don’t want me to get depressed, which I’m not. Still they believe I might be or will eventually become depressed in near future. They are just being protective. They think that getting married will sort out my life for me.”

“What do you think ?”

She looked at him straight in the eye and replied, “I’m not defined by my marital status and I don’t rely on someone else, particularly a man, to make me feel complete or worthwhile. I want to focus on my career right now, whether I’m married or not. But my parents are worried that my broken marriage will keep hurting me.”

“Hence, justifying the need to pack and dispose you off at the earliest?” He teased her.

“That’s so mean of you!” She smiled too and then, drew a deep breath in, nodding in agreement, “But somewhere that’s true. Plus, there is a long line of cousins, waiting for me to get married as they are next in the line. Ours is a joint family, you see! And I’m the oldest from the next generation. Hence, the need to dispose me off as soon as possible.”

He tried not to smile at the way she repeated his sentence in a similar tone as him.

“So, this is my story. My parents will go on finding guys for me, if I say no to you and I’ll have to meet everyone…This is the reason, why I don’t want to be the one who says ‘no’ to every effort my parents make for me. I’ve put them through enough.”

“But that wasn’t your fault.”

“I know. But he was my choice, isn’t it ? And I chose a wrong person. There must have been some major miscommunication, otherwise, he backed out at last moment and I had no idea that he could do this. I was busy in wedding preparations. I didn’t even realize how far he was, emotionally I mean. So, in a way, it’s my fault too. My parents stood by me in both situations… when I decided to get married and when it was broken…”

He studied her eyes for a long time after she stopped speaking. She raised her eyebrows in a questioning manner when she found him lost deep in thought. He nodded. “Now, I get it…”

She chirped, “No, that is not all… The first guy I told you, the teacher who wanted to be extra cozy with me… and a few more incidents with friends… like one of my older cousins getting married to the guy selected by her parents, got divorced after an year as they were just not compatible… all this was good enough to scare me away from marriage…I’m not ready for that kind of emotional investment, right now… Maybe later… but it’s too much work… So, I want to take time… and in future, I may… or maybe not…” She shrugged casually with that.

“Hmm! Justified it is. And what do you want to do till then?”

Her eyes twinkled as she spoke about her future career dreams. “There is this hospital in Chennai. They offer advanced fellowships in Obstetric practices and IVF technologies. The entrance exams are tough and the course is coveted one. For next 6 months, I want to prepare for the same and do those fellowships for next 2 years. Later, I want to go to a developed country, probably UK or US for a couple of fellowships. Maybe, by then, if at all, I find someone I might be willing to spend my life with, I’ll get married. Otherwise, I don’t mind staying unmarried and devoting my life to hospital and patients, instead of getting married to a wrong guy.”

He nodded, “You seem to be very clear about your future.”

“Just like you!” She tilted her neck.

“Do you want to know why I am running away from marriage?”

“I’m sure, you must have your own valid reasons. But, if you are not comfortable talking about it, it doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter.” He stressed on the little sentence and continued, “It matters to me. I want to tell you why I can’t think of marriage right now.”

“Is it because of that girl? Your ex,  who called you emotionally unavailable?”

“Partially, yes! Thanks to Sonalika… her name…now I know my problems. She is not the entire reason. She was right that I am not capable of a relationship. I don’t have that softness in me. But then… It’s true that I am a workaholic and a sleepoholic… I can sleep all day, without asking what the other wants and when I am awake… I work non stop … I am poor at social skills and I don’t know how to talk… so I don’t see myself ready for the murk called marriage…anytime soon. It is extremely disturbing to have someone around you with her nonsense when you are focusing on your goals!!

“Excuse me!” She was offended, and she glared at him angrily.

“Sorry! Don’t take offence, but I am THAT straightforward about certain things. I cannot attend a friend’s wedding ‘just-because-he-will-feel-bad’…like you did today! My time is precious and I don’t waste it!”

She nodded, “I can’t even say that I understand you!”

“Because, we are different. You are that sweet, cute girl, who thinks about everyone else., before you! I am not!! Come on… tell me…think like a professional… like a busy doctor… when you are working towards your fellowships and trainings, would you allow anyone to disturb you!”

She observed him keenly and said, “No!”

“Marriage is that! Exactly THAT!! A disturbance! It’s okay to do it with a person you love… ONLY after you have achieved your goals… but right now?? With a stranger?? How can we afford it??”

She added, “Where you are supposed to be responsible for so many things done jointly! Together.”

“Exactly!!” He nodded. He knew that she would understand that as she was sailing in the same boat.  He continued, “I mean, I can’t sweet-talk, take a girl for outings, dinners or holidays, give her gifts… I don’t understand the concept of gifts and romantic moments… I don’t understand what do people do on candle light dinners?… I find it boring…  I don’t know how to compliment a girl, or know what she is thinking about? How to pacify her when she gets angry… going according to someone’s likes, dislikes… Goshhh!!! All that is so much hard work… I am happy alone…”

“I feel the same. I’m happy alone… why should I live with someone else? Take care of his home… his family… suffer someone’s tantrums, likes, dislikes… choice of food… idea of holidays or fun… it seems suffocating now…. I want to study… I want to go up in my career… After marriage, no one is going to give me peace and liberty to do my own thing… it will always be in sync with his and his family’s wishes… And why should I go to a stranger’s home to stay…IN his room !! Urgghh!! And use the same washroom??!! … Even the idea is cringe worthy…”

“Sharing the space in cupboard…sharing the space on bed… I mean… everyday?! Even when you are not…”

She rolled her eyes, and smacked on his arm, leaving him whining,”Ouch!”

“But that is the truth… I agree on that…” She continued, “Why should I change my plans and decisions for someone else… why should I ask people when and where can I go or not… I’ll have to take permission for everything… “

“The responsibility of kids… shit…”

“Bearing kids…Ufff!!! I see pregnant women all day in the hospital. It feels awesome to deliver someone else’s baby… but I get scared of that shit when I think of myself!”

“Grocery shopping? Attending relatives functions…hosting dinners… soiled nappies…  vaccinations… festivals…”

“Cooking… cleaning… shopping…”

“Constant nagging…”

“Constant blaming…”

“Life solo is such a bliss…”

“Exactly!… No interference…”

“No questions..”

“No expectations…”

“No complaints…”

“No disappointments…”

“No crying, creating a scene… asking for explanations…”

“Unmarried, you can go with your friends and paint the town red, with no one questioning you.”

“Alone… You can play video games all day… you can sleep all day, when you are not working… you can eat and park yourself in front of TV watching sports…marriage takes away all of that…”

“I know,” She winced, “When there is no one to bother you, you can travel the world… you can explore life… you can pursue your passions… you can explore different professions…”

“Really? You want to do that??”He was surprised.

Nandini was excited at his question. She unlocked her phone and showed him a folder with coffee destinations of the world, travels brochures with different subfolders and files… her love- guru videos made with friends… her folder of bucket lists…

“You know, after I complete my fellowships, I want to go to Austria and settle down there…. maybe in my forties….I will open a coffee shop there, a book-cafe, and a florist shop… and become an agony aunt, advising people on matters of love…”

He looked at her with a horrified expression on his face, “My God!! You are crazy, you know that?!! And imaginnnee… my parents were getting me married to you!… Thank God, I was saved in time.”

She laughed heartily at that.

Don’t worry. It wouldn’t have reached that stage. You and me are never going to get married!”

………………………………………

Tangles & Ties: Chapter 7: Innocent Lies

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice

  2. Anonymous says:

    Loving this story

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