It was the marriage of my best friend’s daughter today.
The guests of the event had all assembled to witness it and the very near and dear to the family waited eagerly to witness the auspicious moment. The convention hall beside the temple was lively with the chit chats of people peeping into what each did with his\her life and the conversations leading to many varied facial gestures cropping up – happy, sad, proud, jealous, contented and so on.
I sat alone in one of the corners watching all this go by and more importantly giving rest to my limbs that had turned tired as a result of running errands for the marriage arrangements from the past few days.
I looked at Kavya and her father in the mandap. How happy both were – One, that his last big responsibility was nearing its end and the other, for turning a new page in her life book. She looked so cute in her red bridal dress, smiling shyly beside the bridegroom and nodding to the tunes of the priest. A motherless child, whom I had seen grow up since her childhood into a responsible matured lady – time did fly by. The flashes of Kavya running to me demanding for a chocolate and me treating her with the best ones in the country, seemed still fresh.
‘Uncle uncle…… I want more chocolates’ Kavya would say and I would reply ‘If you eat more, your teeth will spoil and the doctor will then give you injections’ and there she disappeared in a snap back to comb her favorite doll whose one blue eye slept.
A worried mind soon pulled me back to the present reminding me of the agony that was awaiting in my city.
I was a wealthy businessman leading an extravagant life, turning every wish of my daughter and wife, using the cash that walked happily into my bank account. But the bad luck that felt jealous, had smiled six months back putting the whole business into unexpected losses. One by one every asset owned got liquidated to pay out the business debts and even the house too was up on auction. Seeing the roof disappearing, I sent my wife and daughter to in-laws’ place. The auctioned house turned eighty percent of the debtors away but the remaining twenty showed me the real worth of those pieces of paper.
Very soon, I had received a notice to pay up the remaining debts within the next sixty days. I was born to those, who taught me never to bow the head down for any help, come what may. I kept my in laws out of this, turning down their several help requests including that came from wife. I was in the last week of this sixty days and not honoring this notice would throw open the doors of prison.
I decided to spend this last week of independence, back in my native village with my friend Krishna who had invited me for his daughter’s wedding. Krishna belonging to a middle class family, was a happy contented man. He was the only reason I visited my native every year on his birthday to celebrate our friendship on that one day and then disappear into each others life for the next 364 sunsets.
With very little money in hand I set forward. I reached his home the next day and seeing him, I quickly hugged him tightly and the emotions of embrace reciprocated.
“Where’s my chocolate uncle?” Kavya asked me smilingly.
I replied ‘Now it’s your turn to offer sweets to me, Big girl’ to which she shyly smiled. She picked up my bag and directed me towards the guest bedroom.
As the days in the week passed, both the humble father and daughter made the place a heaven around. But the lonely dark skies brought nightmares of the prison – A dirty place frequented with rodents, the food served looked unhygienic and plain, the scary looking crooks who had lost respect for humanity and mankind and more than anything, all this affecting the life of my precious daughter – she turned lonely, depressed and hurt.
On one of the nights, as the same dream shook me out of the sleep, a cool breeze gushed into my room and put me on to my feet and a strange dark thought invaded my mind. It made me walk into Krishna’s room. He was in a deep slumber. I neared the cupboard and slowly opened it to find the cash and jewelry lying in the corner. I carefully invaded them and put them into my bag and tiptoed out of the house gates.
I walked and walked, drowned in the thoughts of happy faces of wife and daughter, until I reached the railway station. All I had to do now is step into a third new life with them using the invaded money in a new town, unknown to none.
As I waited for some train to turn by, the invaded dark thoughts slowly started taking leave of me and as I came to my senses, I just looked around. Shucks!, what had I done. The ‘all his life’ hard earned money which smelled the sweat of my friend’s blood, was resting in my bag and seemed to look sad and crying too.
Was this the way to fix compensation for all those chocolates that I gifted her since childhood? What had happened to my ego and the lessons of my elders who had taught me not to beg, how did I loose myself?.
I knew what to do and I quickly ran towards my friend’s home twice my speed. As I reached, I found the house was calm and silent the way I had left it. I heaved a sigh of relief and safely returned the notes and metal back to its place. I went back to my room and the guilt quickly put me into a peaceful sleep.
The loud sound of drums woke me up from the drowned thoughts. The groom had tied the final knot. The whole atmosphere rejoiced and tears of joy, laughter, smiles, claps and whistles surrounded. I rose up and departed to my room for a quick rest.
After an hour or so, Kavya came into my room with a smiling face. Kavya bowed down to touch my feet and raised her head.
‘Uncle, thanks for showing me this day. I knew for sure you would return back that night. Hope everything is alright at your end?’
I stood shocked and the throat went dry. I didn’t have the courage to look into her eyes. My hands managed to place my hands on her head to bless.
I followed her out of the room and took her back to the father and her in-laws. As they became busy with the other programs, I slowly distanced from them and gave one last look of Kavya and my dear friend Krishna. I walked away carefully into the street to catch the train to my city where the prison awaited me.
The nightmare of the prison was far better than the tears of my friend’s daughter. I embraced the pain that would engulf my daughter, soon.
As the train started to chug, the song on one of the radio of a co-passenger played.
“Meri zindagi saavari……….Yaara teri yaari ko, maine toh khuda maana, yaad karegi duniya tera mera afsaana………”