They all say everyone has a partner assigned in heaven and everyone’s wedding takes place only when the time comes. It happens once and today is my wedding night!
I stand with the garland in my hand waiting for my groom to come and as I close my eyes and think, I feel I have been very fortunate in life. Whatever I desired came to me as a wrapped present.
Brought up in a Punjabi family and being the only child; my smile became surviving factor in the family. Though I have been the utmost pampered kid but at the same time I have been brought up with rich cultural values and given perspective horizons to cultivate my personality. Ever since I remember, I was the chirpy girl who lived a carefree life and unlike other girls of my age who were focused on building up their respective careers my main aim was to simply graduate and get married.
My parents never questioned on my decisions and always supported whatever I proposed to them. Then finally came the day when I introduced them to Rahul Arora, my beau for past three years- the love of my life. We had met at a family gathering and ever since we started liking each other and fell in a relationship. He was charismatic and good looking and had his own business. My life was a fairy tale or a Bollywood movie where ultimately there is a happy ending.
After some slight investigations on my parent’s side, they finally agreed for our marriage.
I was on the seventh heaven and there is nothing more that I could have asked from life. Our marriage was an event which seemed an everlasting event. A Big Fat Punjabi wedding since both our families belonged to upper class of the society that friends and relatives came in huge numbers to bless us.
Everyone blessed us for a life time of togetherness and happiness all through.
Rahul always said, “Ria, we met because we were meant to be together for life and beyond.”
And I just loved him more because of his confidence and his firm belief in our relationship.
But probably my fortune wasn’t that fortunate enough; probably somewhere I had committed some unpardonable mistake that god had to separate us. What could be more tragic in life than to part away from your husband a week after your marriage?
We were heading off to Switzerland for our honeymoon when our car crashed on our way to the airport. Both of us got heavily injured but my poor fate that I survived and he died within 24 hours of the accident.
I laid unconscious on the hospital bed unaware of how my life had absolutely changed within the 24 hours that went by and when I recovered a week later, I couldn’t accept the reality. My life had changed.
I was now not a newly-wed but a Widow.
I hadn’t recovered from the shock and the physical injuries that a new phase in life began with curses and abuses from my immediate family- my paternal as well as from my in-laws. Everyone blamed me for this incident and how inauspicious I was in Rahul’s life. No one stood and consoled me, no one comforted me, and no one sympathized. Everybody cried and cursed me as per the relationship they shared with Rahul- the same people who a week back had blessed us ‘as couple meant for each other’ . The same people, the same friends, the same relatives now blamed me for Rahul’s untimely death.
But everyone forgot my state of being. I was all alone in the world, miserable, injured and emotionally broken. All I could do then was stay quiet and cry on my destiny.
When my health improved and I came back to my husband’s house, I was devastated and shattered at the behavior of my family. All of them shunned me and my mother-in-law simply ordered to leave the house and asked me to return back to my parent’s home. She said I was an ill omen and the way I have killed Rahul, I’ll gradually kill all of them in this family. I’ll bring misfortune to the family and it was their worst decision to accept me as their daughter-in-law.
I begged, cried and apologized but even then they all became so heartless and brutal that they forcefully packed my belongings and threw me out of their house. I hadn’t recovered from all that had happened within these past few days and this was absolutely intolerable and unacceptable. The same relatives, who had welcomed me and had kept me like a princess, just changed in behavior and manner and became all evil.
Rahul’s death was not just a sad event in their lives but the saddest in mine. My life had come to a standstill but no single person in the entire family paid attention to this matter.
My parents took me back home and I felt that not everything has fallen apart. I was still fortunate enough that they were still there in this difficult phase of life. But the atmosphere in the family was different, I could sense it. Everybody seemed pretentious and all of them seemed to have questionable eyes.
Not a day had passed when my mother asked, “How long will you stay here? Ultimately you have to return to your in-law’s home and you should talk to them and solve your differences. We also have a reputation to maintain and no matter what happens a girl’s home after marriage is her husband’s.”
I couldn’t utter a word, was taken aback and my tears never seemed to stop.
Those parents who could do anything for my smile were now more determined on their public image than their daughter’s happiness.
I really couldn’t accept what was happening with me. My health wasn’t favorable and I was emotionally and psychologically disturbed. I started blaming myself and accepting that probably I killed my husband, probably it was my ill fate that affected his life. If we had not married probably he would have been alive today.
We Indian women only know how to lament on our misfortune or accept our fate. We never question nor fight back. We adhere to norms and learn to live. We learn to adjust, to compromise to sacrifice.
I had prepared myself that I’d return and live like a housemaid and serve them in order to undergo penance and probably this might create some respect and love in their eyes for me. I had made myself rigid and was ready to face the atrocities.
It was at this time that I realized how my fellow batch mates had struggled to secure a future and develop a career and I never took that seriously because I was too sure of a comfortable life ahead.
I made Rahul’s love my strength and stepped into the world where I stood weak, alone and helpless; clueless about the norms of the working society and with a baggage to create a space for myself in Rahul’s family.
After immense struggle and continuous pleading, I was accepted in the house but everyone possessed deep hatred for me. No one acknowledged my efforts and no one left any opportunity to criticize me.
A few months had passed and I had accepted and compromised. I woke up each day with a hope of recreating faith and failed, but I never stopped trying.
Then one day came Rahul’s childhood friend Sarthak Kalra who had been in Australia all this while unaware of his demise and came to give a surprise to him. He was shocked to know of his death and sympathized with Rahul’s parents.
On seeing me, he first thought I was a maid, but then he turned red with anger when he got to know I was Rahul’s wife. He questioned Rahul’s parents and had a heated argument on their myths and how could they blame an innocent for their son’s death. He tried to made them realize that I was an innocent and had become vulnerable and a victim after Rahul’s death.
My father-in-law stopped him by saying that it was our private affair and he shouldn’t interfere.
Sarthak left then, but he returned after a few days. He was not as welcomed then but he apologized for his behavior and things became normal again.
I noticed that Sarthak was now a frequent visitor at our place and he tried to counsel Rahul’s parents about me and it started working. They were now better in conduct and didn’t abuse me. He said that they should think about me from a broader perspective. He said I was young and I should work outside so that I could be financially independent and live a better life.
For me he became an angelic spirit, someone, whom I believe Rahul had himself sent as a messenger.
It wasn’t an easy task for Sarthak to convince my in-laws to permit me to study further or indulge in any occupation. They were ignorant about me and all they could see me was in a confined domestic space.
I was also not ready to work outside. I had lost all my confidence and as such didn’t possess any qualities. I had never worked in my life and I was clueless about how the society works.
After a lot of counseling, Sarthak placed me as a receptionist in his own company where I learnt the work and he also enrolled me in a part time master’s program so that I can study further and create better prospects for myself. Nobody was supportive of my endeavor and the hard work that I had put in. I managed home and work and toiled to please my relatives.
Struggling to construct my identity another three years had passed. I was now a much more professional and a confident woman. But I was still a widow, still an ill omen, still a miss-fate.
I was never taken to any auspicious occasion and I was always confined within home. I had lost all my beauty, high spirit and zeal. I was a robotic machine who just worked at office and at home.
I had made peace with my life and was contended. I had denounced all happiness and the faculties which exercised it.
One fine day, approached Sarthak with another man and his parents. It was his elder brother Rohit Kalra. He introduced his family and created a healthy atmosphere.
I was blown into pieces when his parents presented a marriage proposal for their elder son with me.
I didn’t listen to anything and just screamed loud.
It was the first time I had voiced my repressed anger for years.
I said, “What if I am a Widow. I have my own Individual status. My husband is dead but that doesn’t mean I am ready for another marriage. I might be alone but I live for him, for his family. Sarthak- I am thankful to you that you elevated my status in society and made me a stronger woman but that doesn’t mean I’d do whatever pleases you. To even think of such a match is the worst thing you could do to your best friend. A Hindu widow undergoes penance all through her life and to even think of another man is the sin she would commit. I beg you to please leave me alone.”
He tried to calm me down but I had lost my temper by then and went inside running.
This matter became the gossip of the family and I was again accused of and reminded about how inauspicious I was. They repeatedly criticized me that I’d also kill Rohit, like I killed Rahul. My life became much more miserable and I again lost all the dignity and respect that I had earned.
I felt how easy it becomes to target a weak, vulnerable woman. I never proposed this marriage but even then I became the target of all the taunts and humiliation.
But Sarthak had some magical spirit in him. He didn’t lose hope and despite my repeated denial he somehow convinced me to at least meet his brother and discuss about such a union and to think on why was he forcing her to re-marry.
I was ready with an answer as to what I would say to Rohit and when we met and he started conversing, I was amazed.
I felt he was Rahul incarnate. The way he looked at me, the way his thought process worked and the way he justified his proposal.
Like Rahul always said, Rohit too affirmed me by saying, “Ria, we met because we were meant to be together for life and beyond.”
I couldn’t stop my tears from trickling down.
I told him all I went through and what Rahul means to me and that I still love him.
Rohit said, “I know. I can feel your pain and I want to share it with you. You deserve much more than this suffering. You deserve to be loved.”
That moment for me was as if Rahul had returned back to life.
But even then I gathered myself back and appreciated his endeavor and apologized that I couldn’t be with him and left.
As it is said you can fight with everything but destiny. What is destined is bound to happen.
Few months had gone by and this had become a faded issue. Every one forgot about this incident.
Life was moving at its pace. Then one day came my parents who had disowned me for the sake of their public reputation and apologized for their unsupportive behavior. I was happy to have them back in life. My in-laws also respected me and praised me for how I have nurtured their family.
Now both of them together apologized for what happened and blessed me with all happiness.
I felt I was the most fortunate girl. I had earned back everything.
Then they all sat together and made me understand how important it is to have a companion and How I deserve to experience marital bliss. They begged me in the name of Rahul and pleaded to provide an opportunity to them to undergo penance by re-marrying me and assuring my future.
Everything was arranged and ultimately I was engaged to Rohit Kalra because all this while he was the one who had brought the two families together and crafted the fortune for me that I had lost.
Any woman in the role of a bride is the epitome of beauty and I am experiencing this for the second time. As I wait for the rituals to start I sit thinking of how fortunate or unfortunate I am that life has bestowed on me a second chance.
Matrimony in Hindu community is such a celebratory and grandiose event but when it is for a second time, it becomes a questionable issue. Today everything is as same as it was seven years back when I was getting married to Rahul Arora. Today still everything is same but that my groom has changed, it is Rohit Kalra. Sometimes it feels a beautiful dream but now I wish that when I open my eyes it stays a beautiful reality.
Indeed, a second chance is a blessing and through Rohit, Rahul has returned back in life. My fortune has returned back in life.
(This story has been published in an anthology I AM A WOMAN by Sanmati Publishers in 2015.)