Those dark clouds devoured the crisp morning sky. I stood in the balcony, sipping my coffee, watching the entire process. I loved the way the entire atmosphere changed in the matter of seconds. I always found this weather romantic. The climate cooled down and the cool breeze hit my face. It was rejuvenating. I closed my eyes and took another sip of my coffee. Somehow, it always tasted better in rains.
While I enjoyed the downpour, the breeze trespassed into my house and targeted the newspaper. It flew and it’s pages scattered in the hall. I turned, kept the coffee mug on the table and ran behind it. I collected the pages, assembled it, neatly folded it and kept in on the table. I kept my diary on it so that it doesn’t fly off again. I guess, the breeze was in the mood to play. It galloped and entered the pages of my diary. The pages flipped open and her photograph slided out and fell on the floor.
I closed the diary and picked the photograph up. I put my glasses on and looked at her. She looked gorgeous as she smiled at me. Dressed in a white saree with a pearl string round her neck, she looked like an angel. I turned the picture. On the backside, there was a date scribbled with a note which read, ‘I belong to you… With lots of love, hugs and kisses- Sunaina.‘ I turned the photograph to look at her again. She was still smiling. I brought the picture close to my face and kissed it. I removed my glasses and placed them over my head. I came back to the drawing room and sat on the sofa. I don’t know for how long I was staring at the photograph. I began recollecting some old lost memories.
Sunaina… The name really suited her. She had beautiful striking eyes. The moment she looked at me while handing over the tea cup, I knew I was in love. She was five years younger to me but that did not matter. I felt a connection with her, which I could not explain. She was beautiful. There was no doubt about it, but her manners, her body language, her etiquettes were mesmerising. I was just out of college and had joined a bank as a probationary officer. Parents were coaxing me to settle down and after a lot of pursuation, I had decided that I will settle down with a girl of their choice. Sunaina was the third on their list. The previous two girls had rejected me as I did not look modern and my dressing sense was too old fashioned. I never knew that a well ironed shirt and a pair of pants were already out of style and made a man look like a ‘DHAKKAN‘. Sunaina was different. She did not refuse the proposal after the first meet. She wanted to meet me and talk to me. We exchanged numbers and I called her two days later. We decided to meet at a local café.
It was drizzling on the day of the meet. The sky was clouded and it was cool. I was waiting outside the café for her. She reached five minutes late. She apologised politely for the same and I stared deep in her eyes. She had outlined her eyes with Kohl and it gave me goosebumps. She was wearing a pink lipshade and it complimented her wheatish skin. She was also wearing a small bindi and it accentuated her eyebrows. I could not take my eyes off her face. It made her uncomfortable. She cleared her throat and adjusted her dupatta. I blinked and woke up from the trance. I felt sheepish but she was kind enough not to make me feel guilty for my flamboyance. She went inside the café and I followed her. She chose a table in the corner and I held the chair out for her. After she was seated, I sat in the chair opposite her. We ordered for coffee and buns. No one spoke for a while. I was nervous and so was she. The waiter came with the order and placed it on our table. The aroma of the filter coffee and the steam emanating from the buns made me forget my nervousness for a while. I decided to break the ice.
“So Sunaina… What are your hobbies?” I asked her the stereotypical question as I took a small bite of the bun. The way she looked at me gave me the idea that she was expecting it. She replied politely and slowly we got into a conversation. We spoke on different issues. From politics to movies to books to food that we loved. I realised that we had a lot in common. The discussion went on for an hour and half. It was still pouring outside and I wanted the time to stand still. Of course, she would have to leave and my heart was sinking with that thought. I didn’t want her to go. Our conversation continued for some more time. “Well, it is late. I should go now.” Sunaina softly said after she looked at her watch. I nodded pretending that I understood.
I paid the bill and we came outside the café. It was raining profusely. “Should I drop you home?” I asked. “No. I will take a rickshaw. Thank you.” She said. Luckily, the rickshaw stand was close by. I waved out and called a rickshaw for her. As we were quietly waiting for the rickshaw to turn and come to the café, I decided to take my chance. I looked at her. She was looking at the rain. Suddenly she turned and looked at me. “Ahem…huhhh… Duhh… Errrr…” I fumbled. “Sorry…You want to ask anything?” Sunaina asked me suppressing her smile. “Yeah… I mean… I do want to ask you something.” I became nervous again. “Sure! Ask na!!” Sunaina said staring at me. “Errrr… Well!! I wanted to tell you that I really like you. Will you like to meet me again?” I asked looking at the floor.
There was a long pause. “The rickshaw is here. I should be going home. It was nice meeting you Arjun.” She said as she opened her umbrella. My heart sank. “Yes sure!! Take care. Good bye Sunaina.” I said. I was surprised that even after every possible effort I put in, I could not hide my disappointment. Sunaina gave me a smile. She reached into her bag and pulled out an envelope. “Take this…” she said as she handed it to me. “Please open it only after I leave. Alright?” She pleaded. “Sure!!” Was all I could say. She sat in the rickshaw and although I expected her to look out of the window and wave good bye, nothing of that sort happened. She kept looking straight and the rickshaw left from the café.
I was disappointed as I didn’t know what to do. I looked at the envelope and weighed it. It was light. I started thinking about for the contents of it. I finally came to a conclusion that she has written an apology and has given reasons as to why she cannot marry. Dejected, I ran towards my car, unlocked it and sat inside. I tossed the envelope aside. I started the car and drove towards my house.
It took me 20 minutes to reach home. I parked my car but I did not get out. I sat staring at the envelope. Finally, I decided to open it. I ripped the envelope and pulled the contents out. It contained a letter folded in half. I opened it and began reading…
I always find it difficult to express myself. I realised that you liked me. Being a girl and that too having been raised in a family with traditional values, I cannot cross limits. You did not realize, but my cousin brothers was sitting three tables away from ours, watching us. I did what was told. Ordered coffee, didn’t eat much (although I love food), kept a low voice, didn’t stare at you etc. etc. Well, the report of this meet would reach my parents before I would reach home. I want them to be happy. I love them. Sometimes being a girl is tough. You have to make choices. Especially between what I love and my family and for me family always comes first. My family believes in following certain rules and traditions. To their horror, I was born a rebel. I questioned their norms, their traditions. Finally there was a day when I gave up. Decided to go along with the flow. Dared not to speak to boys, stick to studies and never ventured out of the house for any activity. My friends would invite me for parties and to have fun and I would always deny. For them, I was too shy and introvert. But I was not. I respected my family more than anything else.
My life changed when after graduation my father started searching for grooms. I wanted to do a job. Complete my post graduation. But I was not given the chance. Anyways…
I wouldn’t have given you this letter if you had behaved like some pompous, rich, arrogant brat. Your simplicity has touched my heart. For once in many many years, I have stepped out of my comfort zone. I know my parents will wait for another four to five days to convey my answer to you, but I wanted to be the first one to tell you that I really like you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I am a simple person and I know that you are too. I want to hold your hand and walk through this complicated journey called life.
I realised I had tears in my eyes. I put the letter in the envelope and went home. My mother did inquire about the date, but I told her to wait till there is a response from Sunaina’s side.
Things unfolded the way Sunaina had predicted. Her family contacted our family in five days and conveyed Sunaina’s answer. I could not stop smiling. I admired the girl for her brilliance. She took care of her feelings and her family’s sentiments.
Our marrige was fixed in December. With her family’s permission I would take Sunaina out for lunch or coffee (knowing that her cousins are keeping a close watch over us). We would pretend that we are keeping a distance, but we would exchange letters which conveyed our love. In one such letter she had given me the photograph that I now held in my hand. I smiled at it, kissed it again and kept it in my diary.
“Who is she??” Natasha asked. I was taken aback as I did not expect her to come home so soon. Natasha went to my diary, turned the pages and removed Sunaina’s picture. “I saw you put this in. Who is She? She is very pretty!!” Natasha said staring at the photograph.
“That my dear girl is your grand mommy. That is how she looked when she was young.” Simran said as she entered. Rahul, my son in law followed her. They touched my feet and seeked my blessings.
“Chalo get fresh, lunch is ready. Pappa… Are you alright?” Simran asked looking at me.
“Yes Seemu… Rains make me nostalgic…” I replied as I stared at Sunaina’s photo in a white saree with a string of pearls around her neck, hanging on our wall. She was still smiling at me!!