The bells on her anklets and the pebbles on the lakeside made a strange music as she walked on them. The snow-white marble temple with the intricate carvings seemed to enchant her. She stood at the temple door, watching it with awe. The fragrance of the incense seemed to intoxicate her senses. How blissfully peaceful it was here, she thought.
“Hi Simran, penny for your thoughts”, a familiar voice broke her trail of thoughts. “I didn’t mean to disturb you, but you seemed so lost, I thought I must bring you back to this world”, Rahul said with a smile. He had heard that Simran had come down for a holiday cum wedding from USA and, as if automatically, his feet seemed to follow her.
“So nice to see you”, she could not stop her beaming smile. They both sat down on the bench next to the lakeside. The shimmering of the lake seemed like stars twinkling in daylight. “So how’s life being treating you?” she asked him. She could sense a slight sadness in his smile, “Just as it would when a loved one has left you”. There was an uncomfortable silence between them.
The noise in the house was deafening. Not surprising considering it was a wedding house in India, but Simran had got so used to the silence abroad, that the noise seemed alien. “How does this colour look on me?” It was Aunt Preeta. “Good”, replied Simran. Aunt Preeta could sense that Simran was not her normal self. The bubbly girl, full of life, that she had bid goodbye to, four years ago seemed suddenly to have become a very serious mature woman. She tried to probe the matter, but Simran just smiled and said “All is well”.
Simran was happily married to her sweetheart Sonu, an IT professional in USA. It was love at first sight. A dinner at a common friends place; dance and “can I drop you home” and “what are you doing today” kind of things. Within three weeks of having met him, she had become his wife. It was a dream come true for Simran except that she felt that she had broken Rahul’s heart. Rahul and she were great friends. But, Rahul had never stated his love for her. Though she knew she loved him greatly, Indian tradition never allowed a girl to voice her feelings.
Her mind again wandered. The Coffee House smelt good. As she entered, a hand waved at her. The familiar face of Rahul, but he did not look his usual jovial self. He decided to come straight to the point. He said, “Simran, I think I am very late, but I must tell you that I always loved you and always will.” “Now that you have already decided to lead your life with someone else, all I can say is that always remember that I am your friend for life and I will love you always, no matter what happens”, saying this he pressed her hand. The moment seemed to be blissful. “Have a wonderful life, dear.” He said as they parted ways.
The captain’s voice on the microphone announcing the landing of the flight in New York brought Simran back to the present. As Sonu had to report back at work, the honeymoon was postponed. Sonu’s house looked beautiful. The garden seemed to have flowers of almost every colour on earth. He knocked the door. “Hi, darling, So nice to have you back.” This was followed by a passionate hug and a kiss. “Simran, this is my best friend Annette, and Annette this is my wife from India, Simran.” said Sonu. Simran could not believe her eyes. She had heard of such stories from friends, but could not believe it was happening to her.
When Sonu and Simran were alone, she confronted him. She asked him,” If you already had a girlfriend, then why did you marry me?” “Oh darling, it’s simple. She wanted me to get converted to Christianity, which I did not want. After all, it’s a matter of convenience. It happens everywhere. The only difference is that in India you do it on the sly, remember that light eyed boy hovering around you at your wedding, and here we are open about it.” Simran could not believe her ears. Sonu was accusing her of having an affair with Rahul. If only he knew the truth!
Simran made up her mind to take things as they came. There wasn’t much she could do. She signed up for a dance and drama school just to keep her mind away from her problems. One evening, when she was watching TV, the phone rang. An American voice on the other side called to ask for her details and told her that he was from the Police Department and her husband had met with an accident and was admitted to the City Hospital. Simran immediately caught a cab and within minutes was at the hospital. An emergency operation was performed and the doctor informed Simran that Sonu was out of danger, but would need a long time to heal as he had multiple fractures on his right leg.
The days passed into months and years. Sonu was recovering slowly and Simran seemed to spend all her waking hours with him. Meanwhile Annette had gone to California with the excuse that her father was ill and needed her there. One evening when they were in the garden, Sonu told her, “Simran, I truly appreciate all you have done for me. You are my saviour. Thanks for everything.” The love between them seemed to have blossomed again and things were fine.
Just when things seemed to have settled down, one day as Simran returned from the grocery store, she found Annette and a 3 year old girl in her living room with Sonu. From their expressions, Simran sensed that something was wrong. Sonu explained to her that Annette said that the little girl was his daughter and that for admission to the school she needed a marriage certificate. The only way out would be that on mutual consent, Simran and he get a divorce on paper, and he gets married to Annette. Simran felt as if her world was falling apart once again. She kept a straight face, and informed Sonu that she was planning a visit to India for her cousin’s wedding in the next week and after that she could give her decision.
Simran had been narrating all this to Rahul at the lakeside. She did not realize when the tears had started rolling down her cheeks. Rahul held her close and said, “Simran dear, this time do only what your heart tells you.”
Simran’s mobile phone rang. It was Sonu. He seemed excited. “Hi sweetheart, I have great news for you. Annette now says that the baby is not mine and she told a lie to get a legitimate name for her child.”
He continued, “So darling when are you coming home, I can’t wait to see you in my arms.” “Never”, was all she said and disconnected the phone.