Bittersweet

28 June 2014: Today was going to be a very special day for me; I wanted everything to be perfect. I was amazed at myself for having woken up way before the alarm went off. In and out of the shower in less than ten minutes and on my way to Richa’s house. Richa – my friend, confidant, and soul-sister in every sense of the word. I don’t remember a time before we became friends and cannot imagine a life without her. We went to school together and went on to go to University together as well. It was Richa’s wedding in less than 48 hours from now and there was so much more to finish. I had packed my bags for the next two days and was on my way to help her mother through the wedding frenzy. Richa was getting married to this amazingly good-natured and affable Doctor. I couldn’t have been happier. With not much traffic this wonderful morning, I sped through the Delhi roads and got to Richa’s place in record 13 minutes. I dashed into her room and saw her fast asleep, I was so tempted to wake her up but decided to be sweet and make her some tea instead. I tip-toed out of her room and went down towards the kitchen.

The house was abuzz with activities; there were baskets of flowers strewn around, coloured cloth and laces, trays of dry-fruits and sweets and about a dozen sarees that had to be packed. Whoever said arranging a wedding was easy. I found Sarita aunty and sneaked up behind her and gave her a warm hug, she turned around in fright but the minute she saw me she smiled, and her smile melted hearts. She held me for a minute and kissed me on my forehead. “Oh, thank god you are here beta”. I smiled and held her hand reassuringly. I saw a small tear fighting to roll down her cheek. I knew the angst and pain she was going through, Richa was not only her daughter but the reason for everyone’s smile in the house. She was something else. Suddenly Sarita aunty looked at me and said, “ Beta tu kab shaadi karegi?”. I laughed it off and said, “Aunty, abhi tho bahut time hain. I have so much more to do”. “Let me go wake up your darling princess now”. “ You can always do all that after you settle down also, beta. How long do you want to stay like this, alone?” I could hear Sarita aunty mumbling under her breath about my marriage as I walked into the kitchen. I wasn’t alone, I had Richa and her amazing family. Having lost my own family when I was in college, I had almost been adopted by Sarita aunty and Kushal Uncle. Come July, it would be 6 years of the accident that took away my parents and if not for Richa I wouldn’t have survived the loss. As the tea brewed, I stood there thinking about all that happened in the last 6 years in my life. I poured out the tea into her favourite mug, laid out some Parle-G biscuits on a plate and walked into her room with a huge smile on my face.

“Good morning, RICHA, rise and shine,” I said as I placed the tray near the bed. Richa purred like a cat and slowly sat up in bed and smiled. “I still cannot believe that I am getting married. It’s all actually happening. Is everyone downstairs going mad yet, if they aren’t already mad that is”, asked Richa and burst out laughing. “Oh everyone is extremely sane”, I said. I quickly checked my watch. I had to leave for the airport in twenty odd minutes to pick up our friends who were flying down from London for the wedding. I had a packed day ahead of me, airport-hotel-lunch-rehersal for the sangeet-parlour-pick up duty again-drive to venue. I was up for it all. We chit chatted for a while and then it was time to brace myself for the day ahead. I left Richa’s house and drove towards the airport.

I was looking forward to meeting everyone, this would be the first wedding since we all graduated, there was so much to catch up on. This was going to be one big party. I was feeling happy. I pulled into a parking slot at the airport and walked up to the arrival area. I loved coming to airports, I loved watching people at airports- the tears, smiles, sadness, hugs, and warmth. It was always a treat to be at the airport. A few minutes later there was squealing, screaming, hugs, back slaps, and smiles all around. I was truly happy to see them all in my city. I drove them to the place where they were all going to be staying, after helping them all settled I left for my next work.

I drove to the venue where the sangeet was scheduled to take place that evening, I finished all the last minute checks and headed to Richa’s house again. Once I got to Richa’s place everything was a crazy rush. People were all over, Richa was getting her make-up done, the house helps were loading the cars with baskets of sweets and dry fruits and gifts for the guests. I got myself lost in this wedding frenzy as well. Before I knew it we were on our way to the venue. I seemed to have lost track of when the evening begun and when it ended. All I remember was lying on bed that night and sleeping the minute my head hit the pillow.  I woke up to find Richa awake; she stood in the balcony with her cup of tea and was glowing. I had never seen a prettier bride. We spent the next half an hour standing in the balcony talking; we spoke of our crushes, of college, of what life held for us in the future and the wedding. I would certainly miss her once she was married and gone. Just as we finished our tea, Richa’s mother walked in and whisked Richa away to get her ready.

Over the next two hours, the frenzy peaked. While everyone outside the room seemed to be running round doing something or the other Richa and I sat in her room, taking it all in, just re-living the times we had spent there; laughing, crying, fighting. It was soon time to leave and we were out of the house and in the mandap. I stood beside Richa through her big day and saw her get married to the man of her dreams. Weeped with her and Sarita aunty at her vidaai, then stayed with Uncle and Aunty helping them out much after the last of the guests had left. It was almost 1.00 a.m. as I left the mandap and drove home. “Come home with us, beta,” Kushal uncle said to me. “It’s been a long day Uncle, I’ll go home and get some sleep. So should aunty and you,” I said.

It was a bitter-sweet feeling, I was happy and sad all at once. Happy that Richa was married and sad that she was gone. I drove in silence, didn’t bother switching on the music. The only noise I made was when I honked as I neared my apartment. The watchman swung the gate open and smiled at me. I half-heartedly smiled back and drove in. I parked and walked into the foyer, towards the lift. I got into the lift and saw myself in the mirror and smiled. A job well done, I thought to myself. I pulled out my keys and opened the door to my home. I stepped in and felt what I did every night when I returned home. I had returned to emptiness, I had returned to darkness.

Photo credits: Srivatsan Murali

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