Saturday, 4 January 2020

part 15 AR FF : "and then she said it"

part 15. The longest day of my life.

"Armaan?" I heard someone calling me. But the voice was very distant, so I ignored it. "Armaan?!" This time, the voice sounded irritated and angry.

"ARMAAN!! Saale, get up" A not so gentle smack followed the voice jolting me awake from my beauty sleep. Dazed and confused, I groped for my mobile. I groaned when the light in the room was switched on. I gasped when I checked the time. It was 3 in the morning!!

"Rahul, please switch the light off. I didn't even have a wink." I drawled, pulling the pillow to cover my face.

I heard faint sounds of the washroom door and then the wardrobe door. Puzzled at what was happening, I opened my eyes slowly to take a glance at the proceedings. I watched Rahul running to and fro in the room, putting on his vest, then his pant and then a white kurta. I wondered what was going on.

"Rahul, take these downstairs to Padma." Mom dashed in, with a large tray filled with coconut, some clothes and some other things. Strangely enough, she was in some new banaras saree. "Armaan!!!" She almost screamed in shock. "You are still not ready?"

"Huh?" I scratched my head in confusion, yawning in glory, somewhere wondering if its 3 am or 3 pm. Because, the wedding time is at 6.15 in the evening. So what was the commotion now? "Mom, why should I get ready now? Wedding's in the evening." I stifled yet another yawn.

Mom's eyes widened. "I told you there's a hawan at 4." Mom said angrily, switching off the AC and pulling the bed sheet away from me.

"Oh, I thought it is at 4 in the evening." I mumbled to myself. "Mom, can't I sleep? You all can carry on with that hawan." I told her, making my best puppy face.

I had barely slept last night. There was some ceremony yesterday evening with a pooja. Mom told me that I would be an official groom after that pooja. Almost all of our relatives were present for the pooja. They even presented me with new clothes. Throughout the pooja, I had been wondering why I was being made a groom that day when my wedding is the following day. Nevertheless, I did all the rituals, following the Pandit closely. It was almost 10pm when the ceremony was over, 12.30am by the time we had dinner and 1.30am by the time when all our relatives left home. We finally retired to our bedrooms at something around 2am. And now its less than an hour that I had been brutally woken up.

Not only me, even mom, Rahul and everyone followed the same schedule though I didn't know about Riddhima. I didn't meet her yesterday. Then how come they had that in themselves to wake up at such wee hours in the morning? Hell, in my language this time is still midnight.

"Yeah, why not?" Rahul quipped breaking my thoughts. "You better sleep the whole day. We'll find a new groom for Riddhima." He added; sarcasm over pouring in his words.

"Fine!!" I glared at him and dragged my body to the washroom.

"Go and see if Riddhima is ready." I heard mom's voice instructing Riddhima and peeked out of the washroom.

"Will Riddhima be there at the hawan too?" I asked, fumbling with my brush. "What's this hawan for?"

"Yeah, you both will do the hawan today. It's because of a problem in Riddhima's kundali." Mom said and ran out of the room, yelling something to someone. I recalled mom telling about this kundali problem a few days ago. Though I didn't quite understand all of it, I understood that we have to do some special poojas before and after the wedding. After the wedding, we have to go to Omkareshwar temple near Indore.

Taking a quick shower, putting on the clothes mom placed on the bed, I ran downstairs with my hair still dripping wet. The living room was empty. The maid then told me to go down to Padma aunty's house. The pooja had already started when I reached there. I found Riddhima in a cream color saree sitting beside the Pandit chanting something. Mom signaled me to come and sit beside her quietly.

Riddhima appeared tired, her eyes slightly red, swollen and she was blowing her red nose frequently. It appeared as if she didn't have any sleep last night. I then noticed her hands and legs covered with mehandi. She put on the jewellery mom had bought for her. I just sat there and stared at her. She looked at me suddenly after sometime. I smiled at her and so did she. Inspite of the tiredness, her face had the glow of a bride. Well, I had to admit that its true when people say that there would be a certain glow on bride's face during their marriage.

After an hour or so, Muski and Padma aunty escorted Riddhima to her room. Then Padmit asked me to sit infront of him. Then the pooja and hawan started again. After some time, Riddhima was made to sit beside me for the pooja. We chanted some manthras and then as Riddhima's guardian, Rahul was asked to do something. It's during this Pooja that I realized Sudha aunty and uncle were performing the rituals as my guardians.

"Mom, why aren't you doing the rituals?" I whispered to mom.

"Armaan, I couldn't do them because your father is not present. Now sit quite." Mom reprimanded me and sat behind me, guiding me throughout the rituals. Since I haven't attended any marriages in my family in details, I did face some problems trying to understand what I was supposed to do. But mom, made sure that everything went right.

At the end of the hawan, Pandit asked me and Riddhima to offer Kumkum, Turmeric and something else to the god, by pouring them into the fire. And that's when Riddhima broke into a fit of cough due to the smoke emancipated from the hawan. She coughed vigorously for 20 minutes, scaring the hell out of all of us. She coughed, sneezed and then blew her nose-everything happening simultaneously. I held her for her support when we stood up and that's when I realized the reason of her tired face. She was running fever. Her skin felt warm and slightly sweaty.

To my surprise, Sudha aunty asked Pandit to complete the ceremony quickly and took Riddhima to her room, with mom and Padma aunty following her worried. Shashank uncle brought some tablets for her and made her take them. He told that she would be fine if she had some rest for an hour or so. Sudha aunty instructed everyone to leave her room and asked Riddhima to sleep for some time. May be Sudha aunty was not as tough as she appeared to be, I thought.

It irritated me when they didn't allow me to meet Riddhima after the Pooja. Mom pulled me upstairs to our room when I tried arguing with Sudha aunty to let me see Riddhima once. "Why don't you understand when bhabhi says that you should not meet her before the wedding?" Mom reprimanded me, once we reached the room, leaving me sulking. "Now sleep for sometime if you want. It's going to be late in the night after the wedding. Then tomorrow early in the morning, we have to leave for Indore." She informed me before leaving the room.

Rahul stayed downstairs at Padma aunty's house, discussing the preparations with Shashank uncle. So I was left alone in the room. Changing my clothes, I lay down on the bed staring at the ceiling. It all felt surreal, suddenly. Everything's happening so fast. I wondered what Riddhima would be feeling now. Sighing, I glanced at the watch. It said 11.45 am. I closed my eyes hesitantly quickly aware of the fact that someone would come to wake me up for lunch. It, sure, is going to be the longest day of my life, I thought.

After a short nap and a quick lunch, everyone was on their toes to get ready for getting me married. Mom made me sit in our pooja room, where Sudha aunty did some aarti for me. Then they left me alone, ordering me not step out. Well, I kind of found it funny. Was I grounded on my day of wedding? Because I wasn't allowed to do anything -just sit and watch while I found mom, aunties and uncles running here and there. And Rahul and Muski-I didn't even know if they existed for I haven't seen them since the pooja in the morning.

Finally, as if answering my prayers, mom called me to come out. Soon two big Innova cars arrived, fully decorated with flowers. While stepping out of the lift, I spotted Rahul, Muski and Padma aunty with Shashank uncle taking Riddhima to one of the cars. I tried to sneak a peek at Riddhima but in vain. She was surrounded by all of them. Right enough, Raghu uncle smacked my head gently, asking me to look ahead.

Finally, I sat in the passenger seat, with mom, Sudha aunty, Raghu uncle in the back with the other relatives following us behind. As we approached Sanjeevani auditorium, my heart beat quicked in anticipation. I am getting married!! I still couldn't believe it. Six months ago, I didn't even think I would get married this early, let alone getting married to an already married woman. But with Riddhima's sudden entry into my life, everything changed drastically. First, I couldn't stand that emotional bond between her and mom. I still remember complaining about it to mom and Padma aunty. Then something transpired between us that I went ahead to take the decision to marry here. Then came a jolt in our little story. Those three months that I had been away from her did some strange things to me that I agreed to get married to her in a week. After that everything seemed to be in a rush. But strangely, I don't have any complains. My heart seemed to be at an odd peace with everything.

"Armaan?" Mom shook me slightly.

That's when I realized that we have reached the auditorium, with everyone waiting for me to step out of the car. Rahul grinned at me and came forward to escort me to the mandap.

"How is Riddhima?" I whispered in his ear.

"Fine. Slight fever." He whispered back.

After reaching the mandap, Pandit asked Rahul to go ahead with the ritual. I put my feet in a huge silver plate and he washed my feet. He then offered me the silk dhoti and a silk kurta he had bought for me. He was about to take my blessings as Pandit had directed but stopped and thought for a moment.

"No, you take my blessings. I am elder to you." He declared, standing to his full height. Everyone around us laughed, with Rahul grinning down at me. Shaking my head, I took his blessings. After all he is elder to me by three days.

Later, I was asked to change into the clothes given by Rahul- my wedding clothes. Raghu uncle helped me out with the dhoti. Coming back to the mandap, I was asked to chant few manthras. Throughout the rituals, I was waiting for my bride. I might sound desperate, but my racing pulse seemed to come down to its normal pace only at her presence. As if listening to my pleas, Pandit called for the bride and I was asked to stand.

To my utter disappointment, a white cloth was drawn infront of me- making us stand on either side of it shielding our faces. So much for wanting to have a glance at my bride, I sulked silently. I could only look at her saree, off-white and red.

Then after some more matras, Pandit asked me to put my palm forward. Reciting the mantras, he asked Rahul to place Riddhima's hand in mine and then asked me to pour water into the fire through Riddhima's hands after Rahul had done the same. I understood it was Kanyadaan. I glanced at mom. She smiled at me with teary eyes. I was somehow sure she wished dad was there. I wished the same too. Sudha aunty gave me a garland. Soon enough, the cloth between me and Riddhima was removed. I almost gasped.

Riddhima stood infront of me, her neck almost covered in gold, a waist band adorning her petite waist and hands totally covered with gold bangles almost upto her elbows. Her hair was tied back and a thin chain was present in the parting of her hair. She appeared so different, so ethereal and so beautiful that I couldn't tear my gaze away.

As I stood gawking at her beauty, she raised her head and looked at me. She smiled at me and that was all I needed. Everything seemed so right, so perfect with that smile of hers. My pulse came back to its normal speed and somehow I felt relaxed. She still appeared tired and her eyes were red, but that shy smile never left her face. I could feel myself smiling brightly. We placed the garlands around each other's neck amidst everyone's claps, cheering and blessings. We were showered with flower petals.

We then offered some more prayers, with Pandit reciting some more mantras. Later, I was asked to tie mangalsutra around Riddhima's neck. Pandit handed me the mangalsutra made with yellow thread, with two lockets.

"Beta, tie exactly three knots, not less not more, okay?" Pandit reminded me when I stood to tie it around Riddhima's neck.

I nodded at him and placed it around Riddhima neck tying three knots. Again, there was a round of applause and blessings followed by more flowers. While drawing back, I couldn't help but brush my fingers against Riddhima's slender neck. I felt her quiver slightly and winked at her when I sat back beside her. I then placed Sindoor on her forehead and in the parting of her hair.  Finally, I am a man with my wife sitting beside me.

Soon, the Pandit tied my silk stole with Riddhima's saree end and we took seven sacred rounds around the fire, with me holding Riddhima's hand in mine. It was still warm. Glancing at her I wondered if she could pull through the other rituals left. She appeared more tired than she was when she arrived at the mandap. May be it was due to the smoke around us or the crowd.

Finally, Pandit asked us to take the blessings from our elders. With Sudha aunty standing by our side, I contemplated on taking her blessings first or mom's. But thankfully, she signaled me o take blessings from mom. Mom beamed at us when we took her blessings by touching her feet. She pulled us into a tight hug. We then took the blessings of other elders in our family. Riddhima insisted on taking blessings from Rahul. He was slightly embarrassed when we touched his feet but blessed us. I engulfed him a rib crashing hug. I was sure his eyes held slight tears when he hugged Riddhima affectionately.

Later, Shashank uncle arranged for two huge chairs infront of the mandap and asked us to sit ,there for a while. while the guests arrived to congratulate us and bless us followed by the photo session. Muski stood behind us to take care of all the gifts.

That's when I noticed my colleagues- Archana, Srinivas along with Ankit. Ankit almost pounced on me when he approached us. I introduced them to Riddhima and mom. They handed us an envelope and asked Riddhima to open it. I had a vague idea what it would be. And Riddhima's flushed face confirmed it. It's a honeymoon package to Kerala which we can avail in an year from the date of issue. That's the gift we give every person who gets married in our office. It would be on behalf of all the colleagues.

Soon the guests left for the dinner and the photographers insisted on taking few snaps of me and Riddhima alone. They made us stand in different poses-sometimes with my hand around her waist or me hugging her. I had held her before, but now that we were married, I felt slightly different. Something did change between us in the last few hours. I, somehow, felt more connected with her. By the end of our private photo session, Riddhima was red around her face blushing profusely, standing close to me with the photographers gawking at us.

Riddhima slumped, exhausted onto the chair when everything was over. She appeared extremely tired, weariness evident on her face. So was I but I had some stamina left in me. I held her hand and squeezed it when she closed her eyes.

"Are you fine, Riddhima?" I asked her, worried.

"I am fine. Just feeling tired." She replied with a small voice.

Rahul and Muski came running to us with badam milk and fruit salad. I smiled at them thankfully.

"Have them. After sometime, you can have dinner." Muski said. "And Riddhima, dad asked you to take this medicine." She gave Riddhima a tablet. Uncle might have noticed her fatigue.

After sometime, they left us. Almost all the guests left except for our relatives. It was me and Riddhima, sitting infront of the mandap, all alone with her hand still in mine. After few silent moments, I glanced at Riddhima and found her staring at the mandap with a lost look on her face. I wondered what she had on her mind that brought a shy smile to her lips. She might be reminiscing the last few hours. I cleared my throat to catch her attention. She looked at me slightly startled.

"What are you thinking?" I asked softly. I haven't talked to her since yesterday. I was glad that now I had this little time for us.

She shook her head and turned back to the mandap. "It all feels like a dream. I was never this happy in my life before. Thank you so much." She whispered. I knew she meant the words. And it meant a lot to me.

"The pleasure is all mine." I entwined our fingers.

Before we could talk more, Muski called us for dinner. When we stood up, Riddhima staggered back into my arms. She held her head and closed her eyes.

"Are you fine? We can sit for some time." I held her tight, supporting her weight against my body. She didn't answer me, just stood still for few seconds. I checked her forehead which was still warm and so was her body.

"I am fine now." She opened her eyes and stood by herself. "I just felt dizzy for a moment."

"Are you sure?" I asked her, not satisfied. She gave a weak smile and nodded. Still frowning, I held her by her waist and slowly guided her down the steps on the mandap leading us to the dining section. I walked slowly, taking small steps to make it easy for Riddhima.

Mom came to us almost running when we entered the dining section. She understood the scenario looking at Riddhima's face. She quickly ordered for the waiters to serve us food. All our family members sat around us, all of us eating quickly. Mom said there was one more pooja to be performed back at home. Muski, being the nautanki she is, made us feed each other. Amidst the teasing from our cousins and the embarrassments of facing them amidst our relatives, we had our dinner.

When we got ready to leave, Padma aunty pushed Rahul ahead infront of our car demanding money for him for serving me as Riddhima's brother. He just grinned at me and put his hand forward. Mom came to me and gave me a small box. I opened it and found a gold chain. Smiling at Rahul, I placed it around his neck and hugged him tight. And it was 12.30 in the midnight by the time we left for home.


Sudha aunty did the aarti for Riddhima and me when we reached home. Padma aunty brought a silver bowl filled with rice. Riddhima kicked it gently and finally entered our home placing her right foot first as my wife – Mrs. Riddhima Armaan Malllik. Though her eyes were dropping she patiently did all the rituals. They took her us to the pooja room and asked Riddhima to light the lamp infront of the God. Later mom gave me a mangalsutra made of black beads and asked me to place it around Riddhima's neck.

Then they took us to the balcony and asked me to show some constellation to Riddhima, apparently called as Sapta Rishi Mandal. They told me that we can retire to our bedroom only if I found the stars. I was mortified at that.  How on earth am I supposed to know where that constellation was! Since it was a summer night, the sky was brightly lit with stars. I stood in the balcony gaping at the sky wondering what on earth I was supposed to do. I stole a glance at Riddhima raising my brow but she just shrugged her shoulders stifling a yawn.

The aunties laughed out from behind us. Sudha aunty smacked my head fondly and pointed at some stars. Neither did I understand which direction she was pointing nor did I find the constellation. Nevertheless, I pointed the same to Riddhima who looked ever so confused. But in dire need of rest, we just nodded our heads at the aunties. They laughed at us again and Padma aunty untied the knot of my stole and Riddhima's saree.

Riddhima and I sat on the couch in the living room. Sudha aunty and Raghu uncle offered us new clothes. We took their blessings and soon all of our relatives left with only Padma aunty, Sudha aunty, Shashank uncle, Raghu unckle, Muski staying back with us along with Rahul. Mom, with the aunties, disappeared into the kitchen.

Both the uncles sat on the bean bags talking about the wedding and the guests that arrived. Rahul and Muski joined them chatting away in glory. I wondered if they needed sleep or not. I looked down at my left shoulder when I felt some weight on it. I found Riddhima leaning onto me with her eyes already closed. I checked her forehead, it didn't feel warm and I was glad. I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her closer for a comfortable position. Even my eyes stung due to lack of sleep.

Just them the three ladies emerged out of the kitchen with a sweet box and something else in their hands. I contemplated if I should wake Riddhima. But mom signaled me for a no. I let her be and took a bite of the sweet they offered. Sudha aunty kneeled infront of Riddhima and pulled the mangalsutra out from Riddhima's saree. She placed some kumkum and turmeric powder on the lockets.

Finally when mom said that we could go and sleep, I tried to wake Riddhima gently patting her cheek. But she woke up with a start and stood up immediately looking guilty.

"I am sorry. I don't know when I closed my eyes." She apologized, her voice almost choking.

Mom immediately hugged her and rubbed her back. "Its fine. We just sat in the living room till everyone left." Mom consoled her. Looking at them, I couldn't help but think what Ekta Kapoor would do if she witnessed the bond between mom and her daughter-in-law. "Go and sleep now."

Riddhima nodded at her and turned to look at me. I smiled at her and stood up to leave to our bedroom. Muski let Riddhima go to the room but stopped me, putting her hand forward. I rolled my eyes and at her and she grinned.

"I bought you a mobile. What else do you want?" I asked.

"That's different from this." She said frowning. Then a devilish smile crept upto her lips. "Think about it. If I don't get my money, Riddhima will be alone in that room of yours."

Shaking my head, I looked back at mom for help. Neither did I have my wallet nor any money with me. She smiled at me and gave me a bunch of thousand rupee notes. My eyes widened at the sight of the notes. Muski made a good fortune out of my wedding, I thought. But she pulled the notes from my hand and ran away yelling a cheerful 'good night'. I blew her a kiss and made my way towards my bedroom after wishing good night to everyone.

Just before entering my bedroom, I stood infront of the closed door and took a deep breath. I didn't know what to expect but I knew neither of us were ready for anything above what we shared. Everything felt strange now that I was standing at the door of room, one step away from it. The reason behind it being my wife was already inside the room. I felt something weird, may be like nervous and something else.

Nevertheless, I opened the door and stepped in, closing the door behind me. Looking at the sight infront of me, I didn't understand how to react. I stood still near the door for a couple of moments and then chuckled. My wife of few hours old was sleeping, lying across the bed, curled into herself. She didn't change her saree. Neither did she take off her jewellery. I guessed she dozed off without realizing it.

All the nervousness, I felt a couple of moments ago flew out of the window and I laughed silently. Shaking my head, I walked to the wardrobe and pulled out my track pants and a cotton T-shirt. I went into the washroom to get rid of the dhoti. I placed my clothes on the table beside our bed and walked to the bed.

Sitting beside her, I pondered if I should fix her position. After a thought, I moved her a bit so she was sleeping in the right direction. She moved a little but didn't wake up and I understood how tired she was. I checked her forehead once again and it was of normal temperature. I switched on the ac, switching the tube-light off; I switched the bed lamp on and lay down beside her.

As Riddhima changed her sides, her bangles made a rhythmic sound which gave me an odd satisfaction. I turned to face her and stared at her. She appeared quite peaceful while sleeping, except for the frown on her forehead. Then I noticed the heavy jewellery on her body and wondered if he could sleep with everything on. But she needed a few hours of deep rest so she would be able to move around tomorrow. Hesitating for a moment, I moved closer to her and slowly removed her waist band from around her waist. She sighed and turned to the other side with her back facing me.

My heart went into a mad frenzy at the sight of almost her bare back -thanks to her deep neck blouse. I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths calming my pulse. She then turned around facing me, and I noticed her tugging at the necklaces around her neck frowning. Smiling at her, I bent over her and tried to open the knot of her necklaces. She smelt of flowers, smoke from the hawan and a faint perfume. Inhaling it to my heart's fill, I removed her necklaces from her neck. I placed all of them on the table beside the bed.

She heaved a deep sigh and snuggled up against me moving closer. I froze when she placed her head on my shoulder with her warm breath kissing my neck sensually. It was more than what I could bargain for. Who would have thought that this simple, introvert is capable of creating such a havoc in my life, mind and heart. Atleast I didn't; when I met her. And now we came to a point where we landed in the same bed. I didn't know what was in store for us in future. But I was sure, we would be happy in each other's company.

 I eased my hand out so she could place her head comfortable on my shoulder and she almost immediately adjusted her position. I turned towards her and looked down at her face which was slightly tilted up. Overcome with some emotion alien to me, I kissed her forehead and pulled her closer wrapping my hand around her waist.

I didn't know what we would have done, had she been awake. Now that she was asleep and snuggled up against me, why not take some chance!! Inspite of the ac in the room, I felt warm with her body pressed up against mine. Thinking about the temptations that started to take a form in my brain, I closed my eyes ready to fly away to some world where only my wife and me existed.

You got a smile so bright
You know you could have been a candle
I'm holding you so tight
You know you could have been a handle
The way you swept me off my feet
You know you could have been a broom
The way you smell so sweet
You know you could have been some perfume
Well you could have been anything that you want to
And I can tell
The way you do the things you do

As pretty as you are
You know you could have been a flower
Your good looks was a minute
You know that you could have been an hour
The way you stole my heart
You know you could have been a cuckoo
And baby you're so smart
You know you could have been a schoolbook
Well you could have been anything that you want to
And I can tell
The way you do the things you do

You make my life so rich
You know you should have been some money
Baby you're so sweet
You know you should have been some honey
Well you could have been anything that you want to
And I can tell
The way you do the things you do

You  really sweep me off my feet
You make my life complete
You make my life so bright
You make me feel alright

[The Way You Do the Things You Do -The temptations]


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