A Short Story
Sathya always dreamed of marrying a beautiful and intelligent woman, who could be traditional, yet, modern in her approach towards life. It seemed to be an unlikely or impossible combination. However, his mother used to bring him out of his imagination, by reminding many times about an old promise made to his uncle, that he would marry her daughter, Shilpa.
It was many years back, when she was born, his mother made a promise to her brother. And then Sathya was only two years old. Sathya had seen her long time back, and then she was in school. Also his uncle’s place was in a remote village, which was about 120 kms from his modern city.
“A promise made has to be fulfilled,” His mother kept reminding whenever she served him food at the dinning table.
“At least let him have his break fast peacefully,” His father said, munching idle with tasty chutney. “I think he should be given the choice whether to marry her or not.” He added.
“Mom, I think dad is right!” Sathya said, pleased with the support from his father.
“No!” She said. “He has to marry her only!”
Sathya always tried his best to change the topic, try to run away from it. But it always followed him like his own shadow, behind. A stupid promise made by his mother when he was just two years old. Now, he was twenty-six, and although the time limit for fulfilment of that promise was past, yet, it lingered into the present and seemed to threaten his coming future.
Sathya’s mother mentioned a firm date for the trip to that fateful village, Sathya protested, “It doesn’t concern to me, your twenty-six year old promise.”
“You were only two years old then.” She said.
“You should have got me married to her then. At least, I wouldn’t have protested then.” He said.
“I would’ve done that if I had known that this day would come.” She said.
Mother looked triumphant with Sathya secure by her side in the bus, his father sat behind them, as he always loved the window seat. The passengers were mostly from villages on the way, returning back to their villages. It was a pleasant trip as the bus passed through many villages, crossed many fields, gazing cattle and sheep, bullock carts, even a bridge upon a river. Finally, the bus reached its destination, his uncle’s village. His uncle was waiting for them eagerly.
“Welcome to our village!” He cried, patting him hard on back of his shoulder. “You have grown up into a handsome young man.” He commented, patting again.
“Only to marry your stupid daughter,” Sathya murmured.
“What did you say?” He asked.
“Never mind! Sathya, that is the temple on the top of the hill in which me and your mother got married.” His father said, pointing his finger to a temple on the top of the hill.
Sathya didn’t bother to look in that direction. Suddenly, his uncle’s hand landed on his shoulder once again. “Well, that is where you and Shilpa are going to get married as well.” He added. Now, Sathya looked at the distant temple on the top of the hill.
When they reached the house, almost entire village had assembled outside his uncle’s house to have a glimpse at Sathya’s face. They started murmuring among themselves as they went in. Sathya’s aunty came with snacks and cool drinks. Sathya was not in a mood to have anything. Shilpa came with her relatives and sat on a mat, before them, with her head bowed down.
“Why don’t you lift your face and see her?” His mother said, pinching him.
“Ouch! Don’t pinch me like that!” Sathya said, lifting his face and looking in her direction. He was surprised and astonished. It was as if his woman of dreams had come and sat before him. He kept staring at her with his mouth open. His mother pinched him again.
“So do you like her?” She asked, looking at his face eagerly for his approval.
“I…err..yes.” Sathya replied.
Shilpa still bowed her head and kept looking at the floor.
“Shilpa dear, lift your face and see him,” His aunty said. She lifted her face and stared angrily at him.
“Do you like him?” Her mother asked.
“No!” She cried, getting up and rushing inside.
Sathya was shocked and he didn’t know how to react to this situation. He didn’t even know whether to be happy or sad at the turn of the event. They came to know that Shilpa had loved a local boy by name, Arun and wanted to marry him only, about this, her parents came to know only now. Sathya’s mother decided to leave that place immediately. Though, his uncle requested them to stay back for a few days.
“Keep seeing, I’ll find a better girl than your daughter for my son. Also send me the wedding invitation of your daughter. As I would like to see the face of the monkey your silly daughter is going to marry.” His mother shouted, getting into the bus, which was about to leave for the city.
“Sure, I’m really sorry for what had happened.” His uncle said. “Sathya, please don’t feel bad for what had happened.” His uncle cried, as the bus started to move.
“No…Uncle…bye.” Sathya cried, peeping through the window. He didn’t bother to see that a girl was seated at the window seat next to him.
His mother and father sat before him. He had to sit next to this girl as the bus was crowded.
“I’ll start looking for a girl from tomorrow itself. What does he think? Is his daughter some Apsara or what?” His mother said, aloud.
“Sathya, I don’t mind even if you marry a girl from another religion, as long as you like her and she is nice to you.” His father said, looking back at him.
“Shut up, will you?” His mother cried, looking at her husband annoyed.
The girl seated besides him started giggling over hearing their conversation. He took out a novel from his bag to read. He didn’t know when he fell asleep reading, as his head landed upon her shoulder in sleep. He felt someone patting on his face.
“Excuse me, Sathya,” She said.
“Yes?!? I’m sorry..” He said, opening his eyes and looking at her for the first time in this journey.
“Can I borrow your book?” She asked, smiling at him.
“Sure,” He said, giving it to her. She was beautiful and young.
“If you don’t mind, may I know what happened?” She asked, turning the pages of the novel, and looking at him curiously. He started telling her the whole story. She couldn’t control herself laughing.
“Sathya, couldn’t you find another seat in this bus?” His annoyed mother asked.
“Mom, can’t you see the whole bus is crowded?” He replied.
“Well, I have seen Shilpa and Arun. I stay in this village and I am going back to city where I am working.” She said.
“How does that Arun look like? Is he handsome?” Sathya’s mother asked, turning back and looking at her.
“Well, aunty, like a monkey..” She replied, giggling.
“Very good! It serves him right!” She said pleased.
“Sathya, I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to complete this novel by the time we reach our destination. Please give me your contact number so that I can return it when I complete reading. You know, I wanted to read this book very badly and it was not available anywhere.” She said, “By the way, my name is Roopa.”
“Sure,” He said, writing his contact number on the last page of that book in her hand.
“Thank you.” She said, shaking his hand. “Friends?” She asked.
“Sure.” He said, smiling at her.
Again, she seemed to be like the woman from his dreams and fascination. They kept chatting with each other like long lost friends. Time just flew in their company. Later, when they reached home.
“Son, shall I speak to that girl’s father?” asked his father.
Sathya just smiled at him and his mother said nothing.