~ 6 ~
I had met many men who wanted to marry me, but never a man who broke down and cried, holding a pair of red booties. Maybe it was the moment that moved me. Maybe it was instinct. I went over to him and held his hand. After a few minutes, he stopped crying and looked at me, almost embarrassed.
“I’m so sorry. I was just overwhelmed by the memories again. You may think it was weak of me to do so, but I couldn’t…”
I started to laugh helplessly hearing his explanation. We were sitting on the balcony of my house. My mother came upstairs just then, hearing me laugh. It was the first time after the divorce that I had laughed like that. In that moment, I felt like my old self again. Like how I had laughed when Ninad, my best friend had been around. The man just sat there, looking at me confusedly.
“I didn’t mean to laugh at you, Janak,” I told him, once I had got my laughter under control. “Is it okay if I call you that?” When he nodded, I continued. “I don’t believe in that nonsense. Crying is not a sign of weakness. It’s quite alright for anyone to cry, even men. After all, look at who I had married earlier. The man was all seriousness, no acceptance of other emotions. He turned out to be the cruelest man I have met so far. Maybe it’s a step towards healing for you. It’s okay. If I’d been in your shoes, I might have reacted to those booties the same way. I understand.”
The ice broken, we had chatted more informally after that. I came to know he was a businessman. His family owned a clothing company, and he managed the HR side of it, mainly. He had a Masters degree. He had been married to his first wife Radhika for 3 years when the tragedy had struck. At the moment, he stayed alone. His house was three streets away from mine. He had a good sense of humor when he wasn’t thinking of what had happened. He could easily make me laugh. And his laughter was as infectious as Ninad’s had been.
By the time he had left, telling me to take my time on the decision, it was night. After dinner, Amma came to my room, and asked me about my thoughts on the alliance.
“I don’t know yet. But I have a good feeling about him, Amma. He’s easy to talk with, not very serious or unemotional. He has a good sense of humor when he isn’t thinking about the past. I’ll tell him I want to meet him a few times more before making a final decision.”
Janak had agreed to that request without any hesitation. Over the next three “dates”, I found out more about him, and told him much about my past too. He told me he was an ardent reader of Ruskin Bond’s books; that his proudest moment was when he collected a prize for the best written book review during his school days; that his favorite food was chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream, which was my favorite as well. I told him about Ninad, the college memories, as well as the accident that had taken him away from me. I told him about the night that had decided the fate of my previous marriage, something only my parents and Ana knew about.
At the end of the third date, I told him my answer. I accepted the proposal. He was happy to hear that.
“It’s a good choice, Smriti,” Amma told me when I told her and Appa about the decision. “You’re young. It’s not the time to brood over the past. Janak seems to be a better choice than…”
She left the sentence midway, perhaps not to upset me by taking the ex’s name.
“Maybe he’s right. Maybe I can help him to heal, and he can help me to as well. We’ll take it one step at a time.”
“And maybe he can be your ‘happily ever after’, right?” she asked, smiling.
I didn’t know what to tell her. The notion of ‘happily ever after’ still felt like wishful thinking at that moment.
(© Vinay Leo R. @ I Rhyme Without Reason, 6th August 2016)