November 5, 2010

Chapter 1 – The Dark Night

Here's my Diwali gift to all of you.. the continuation of the story...

If you haven't read the prologue, read it here.

The story continues below...


Chapter 1. Then.

“Where’s the groom di? Yengayen onna ditch panitaara?” Priya teased Shalini as she dipped a piece of loose cotton in the lemon and sugar mix and dabbed it on the elaborate mehendi pattern drawn by the experts on Shalini’s right arm. This kept the pattern “wet” and ideally potent to really colour the skin a deep red tattoo of sorts. The mehendi artistes were now working on Shalini’s feet. Mehendi or henna was a huge part of the bridal look in Indian weddings. And Bharath and Shalini’s wedding was no different. Though it wasn’t a traditional part of south-Indian weddings, Shalini was hugely fond of it and had insisted on having a small gathering of close friends and family to share the occasion with her. And so the mehendi function in which the bride, her friends and family wore the henna to celebrate the impeding wedding was 2 days before the actual festivites of the elaborate 3-day Brahmin wedding started. The terrace of Shalini’s home in Chennai was alight with shamiyana pandals and colorfully dressed women relatives and kids scattered around with their arms spread out as the henna in green decorated their palms. The bride was the only one who got her arms and legs decorated. The men were in the cordoned-off corner that served the food for the guests. The husbands lovingly fed their wives, the dads fed their daughters and all in all it was a loud, memorable, cacophony of sounds. The groom’s party was yet-to-arrive. And somewhere in the elaborate, random scattered loops of lovely designs, feathers of peacocks, flowers and leaves on Shalini’s hands was hidden Bharath’s name. And as the tradition demanded, he couldn’t marry his wife-to-be till he found his own name hidden in her mehendi.

“Who knows? I said 4 pm to him. What time is it?” Shalini asked, pretending to be nonchalant  while clearly failing, looked at the back of her hand to see the design.

“It’s close to 5.” Gitanjali answered while directing Priya to a spot on Shalini’s mehendi where the green paste had flaked off to reveal the glow of the orange beneath. Another folklore dictated that the “darker” the bride’s mehendi the more she was going to be loved and nurtured by her in-laws. Actually it had to do with the heat of one’s body. In which case Shalini had no doubt that hers was going to be super dark red.

Just then there was a commotion at the doorway to the terrace. The groom’s party had arrived. The attention had shifted to the narrow entranceway as Shalini’s parents hurried over to welcome Bharath and his family to the terrace. Bharath greeted everyone politely and this was his first exposure to many of Shalini’s relatives who had come in for the wedding festivities from different parts of the world. Shalini’s father was busy introducing his mappillai to all, but the groom’s eyes immediately sought Shalini in the crowd. Which was hardly difficult at all. She was the cynosure of the gathering and looked quite lovely in a beautifully embroidered ghagra-choli that she’d specially bought for the occasion. She was busy pretending not to notice that her groom had arrived looking particularly appealing himself in a crisp new maroon kurtha pyjama. After exchanging pleasantries with everyone, Bharath excused himself and walked over to Shalini. Her friends instantly retreated, giving them the illusion of privacy while being in enough proximity to tease.

“Hi Shalini.” Bharath said.

After 2 moments of nothingness, she graced him from beneath her made-up eyes and long lashes.

“Hi..." A pause and then "You’re late.” Her voice betrayed the slightest tinge of annoyance.

“I know. But you know how it is." He paused and then added "You look amazing”, while drinking in all of her that he could just by looking at her.

This was followed by a few teasing coughs and giggles from the backdrop of her friends. And before she could respond, they were flocked by both sets of parents. Bharath’s mother came over to Shalini, greeted her and did a quick gesture to remove dhrishti or the evil eye from the young couple. She then presented her daughter-in-law to be with a lovely garnet necklace which she proceeded to add to Shalini’s already-bejeweled neck seeing as Shalini sat there with her arms outspread so as to not get the mehendi on her clothes or anything else in her proximity. Shalini smiled shyly and participated in the conversation in response to her to-be-mother-in-law’s question as to if she’d received her wedding sari’s blouses from the tailor.

“Oh yes, Amma. Finally I received them. These tailors these days are more important than the bride and groom during the wedding season. Orey tension. I hardly thought I would get everything on time. But luckily he got everything done very well.” Shalini said enthusiastically.

Bharath’s mother glowed at being addressed as “Amma” by her daughter-in-law to be. It was significant of the bond they were going to share in this relationship. She was like a second daughter to her, next to her own, Preethi. They were lucky to have found Shalini for Bharath this early in the matrimonial process. She was a beautiful, talented young girl and well suited to marry Bharath. But Bharath was a catch himself, Mrs Shankar reflected with reasonable pride. After all he was young, handsome, well-placed and had just invested in a flat on the brand-new multiplex in Gandhi Nagar. All before his 28th birthday. Mrs Shankar was very proud of her son as she should have been. And now as the elders steered the conversation into some other topics, she caught the young couple stealing glances at each other and it took her back to her own days of ponnu paakardhu, the formality where the boy’s family came to visit the girl. Back in her day she’d hardly dared to see her now-husband, Mr Shankar at all even as she’d served him and his entire family filter kaapi. And in those days the bride was expected to sing on cue, do namaskaram to the entire groom party and what not. These days it was relatively easy for these young girls. They were just as qualified and independent which gave them the liberty to draft their own rules and everything. Shalini was placed well at TCS as an IT programmer and she’d heard she was a Gold Medalist too. But she was also very well-behaved with no airs about her. Other than that the kids these days chose to live in separate apartments by themselves even if it was in the same city as their parents. This was unheard-of in her day and age. But that was how it was going to be for this generation anyway. Mrs Shankar could still remember how 3 months ago she had chanced upon Shalini's photo on Tamilmatrimony, she had prayed her kula deivam, Vaitheeswarar that Bharath and Shalini’s horoscopes matched and that she’d be able to fix her son up with this girl. And it had all gone very smoothly indeed. Mrs and Mr Shivaraman, Shalini’s parents were very nice people too and arranging the marriage had been a complete breeze. Mrs Shankar wiped the single tear that had formed at the corner of her eye with the edge of her pallu.

Bharath was examining Shalini’s right arm now. And he was taking his time. He was supposed to be finding his name on the patterns. He’d instantly spotted the “H”. He traced it along the curve of her arm with his eyes and found the rest of the letters. But he wasn’t going to be pointing them out anytime soon. He took pleasure in watching her anxious expression as he delicately held her arm while supposedly searching for the letters, twisting it gently this way and that.

“Come on, Anna! I can help you if you want! I see the “R”!” Preethi, his little sister urged.

“Oh Preethi!” Priya chided. “Can’t you see that your brother is enjoying himself in not finding the letters?” she teased.

Preethi turned bright red. Being 8 years younger than her brother meant she was pretty backward in the romance department. Shalini had turned pink too. And at that instant when Bharath was admiring his wife-to-be, she looked up and into his eyes and just as quickly, away. And Bharath knew he’d never forget this moment for as long as he lived.


To be continued. Opinions welcomed.


Gayathri Krish said...

Hey nice story!!!! Beautiful portrayal of Tamil Brahmin arranged marriages!!!
I can relate to every bit of this story except the Mehendi part ;)

Jaya said...

Gayathri-> Thank you!!! I hope you realize that it's a work in progress and will continue out here in the blog. Yes, the mehendi thing is more northie but these days it is there in every South Indian wedding too! Thanks for visiting and the comment.

Hint to all - Click on the "short story" tag to be able to read all the related posts together!

Anonymous said...

flashback :) waiting anxiously for the story now!

Googler said...

OMG I am hooked! Plz post the rest soon. Awesome work!

Neena George said...

Wuz waiting :)

Sherin George said...

cant wait for chapter 2

Jaya said...

Anon->Thanks!! Yes.. Chapter 2 is coming soon on MindBlogging.. keep watching!

Googler-> Thank you!! Yes yes, it's coming up soon enough!

Neena, Sherin-> Thank you so much; It is to follow up shortly!

Thanks everyone and watch this space!

Femba Girl said...

Waiting for the next chapter Jay!

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