I just don't get HER.
It was a warm sunny, breezy afternoon. The Malhotra farmhouse was filled with love, laughter and chaos. Well, obviously, Malhotra’s only son, Akash, was getting married. On this particular day was the auspicious Haldi Ceremony…a ceremony said to purify the body, mind and soul.
‘Come on, guys. Let’s get him. It’s payback time. I remember how he smeared my face at my Haldi ceremony. Now it’s my turn,’ Kartik wickedly remarked.
Kartik, Akash’s best man was also his best friend. His pillar of strength. His go-to person. Kartik and Akash went back a long, long way. They’re chaddi buddies. They grew up together. They had faced many ups and downs together. Dealt with heartbreaks, accidents, screw-ups and much much more. Together they had been there and done that.
Kartik was in high spirits when he had learned that his best friend was going to marry Myra, Akash’s college sweetheart. Kartik was even more thrilled to realise that he would be able to have the same fun at the wedding and all the other ceremonies, just like Akash did when Kartik married Shalini.
But Akash had gone over the top on Kartik’s Haldi ceremony, which made Kartik even more determined to make things even with his best and oldest friend.
Akash walked out the back door and stepped onto the lawn wearing a lemon yellow kurta pyjama. He saw awe in his mother’s eyes when he touched her feet for her blessing. ‘My son is finally getting married,’ his mother murmured as her eyes welled with tears.
‘Come on, Akash,’ His father called out. ‘Let’s get started. Everyone is waiting. Akash’s dad, Sunil Mahotra was known as SIR. He was a highly respected man and his reputation as a kind and fair man proceeded him wherever he went. People held him in high regard. The one thing Akash desired was to have a closer relationship with his father.
Sir, Akash’s father, always expected things to go well. He was very particular about life’s every little detail, very fussy about food and more importantly, he always made sure he was on time. As a father, who wanted nothing but the best for his child Mr Malhotra had felt it best to send his only son to boarding school. Akash had studied in an all-boys school and graduated from college, where he had stayed in the hostel. Akash was used to being pampered by his mother each time he came home to stay for the holidays. On the other hand, his father was often critical, strict and held high expectations from his son.
‘Come on, come on! Hurry up, Akash,’ his father called out.
All the close family members, friends, and relatives gathered around to inaugurate the Haldi ceremony. Akash’s friends, Kartik, Veeru and his cousin brother Angad pulled the groom’s leg and fooled around, making the crowd laugh good-naturedly.
The bar was open. The polished waiters walked around the farm, balancing trays of starters for the guests. ‘Make sure that every guest always has a glass in their hand,’ Sir said to the waiter. He was also well known for being a wonderful host.
Once the ceremony was over, Akash couldn’t take the pungent odours of turmeric, sandalwood and rosewater clinging to his face any longer and ran inside the house for a quick shower.
The ladies made themselves comfortable in the drawing-room, sipping on cocktails as the chatty banter went on. They were curious to know about the new bride, eager to hear some new gossip, the expenses of the wedding and the gifts given to the bride. They were keen to know every intimate detail and hoped for at least something scandalous.
After a lot of scrubbing and washing, Akash finally joined his gang of friends who were seated outside chatting with Mr Malhotra and the other relatives.
‘Chikna ho gaya hai humara launda (our boy is glowing),’ Kartik announced with a naughty grin as he saw Akash walking towards them.
‘Abe shaadi ho rahi hai humare bhai ki…Itna toh banta hai (Our dear brother is getting married… This is mandatory),’ Veeru added. ‘Only three days to go for the big day.’
‘What’s going on, guys? Already started without me,’ Akash smiled.
‘Obviously, we have a lot of stock to finish,’ Gaurav Bhaiya chuckled. ‘And we are just getting warmed up.’
‘ All set for the big day, Beta?’ Akash’s grandfather asked as he slowly took a seat on the garden chair.
‘Yes, of course, dadaji,’ Akash replied, grinning from ear to ear.
‘Arre Dadaji, let the couple reach the honeymoon phase. Then we’ll ask him how he’s doing,’ Veeru laughed.
‘I swear, man. Life takes a U-turn after tying the knot. I remember when Shalini and I got married. It was about a week after we had come back from our honeymoon. I just about rejoined work. I remember coming back from work, opening the cupboard to take out a change of clothes. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the whole bottom shelf of the cupboard was full of handbags. Why do women need so many handbags? Did you know there are so many different types of handbags? Kartik explained. ‘There were at least ten to fifteen different types of handbags.
‘Oh, dude! Handbags,’ Angad rolled his eyes. ‘There’s a tote bag, a clutch, a hobo bag, shoulder bag, sling bag, a satchel, and I don’t even know all the names and the brands.’
‘What is a hobo bag?’ asked the puzzled groom to be.
‘It’s a bag which….’ Veeru said. ‘Why do you want to know anyway? Life is very simple for us men. We just use a wallet, and we’re done.
‘Another thing I don’t understand is why women love to put so many cushions on the sofa? Where the hell are we supposed to sit?’ Gaurav Bhaiya added. ‘I have told my wife time and time again. She says it looks nice. The drawing room looks done up. It makes the house look pretty. Where are we supposed to sit if the sofa is full of cushions?’
‘Hey hey…hang on….! Talking about the drawing-rooms. I don’t understand why my wife sits right in front of the television and talks on the phone? For God’s sake, leave the front seats for the people who want to watch television,’ Veeru complained, sipping on his pint of beer.
‘Boy! Are women that difficult to understand?’ Akash asked, sounding worried.
‘Bro, you’ve only been with one woman. And Myra is a wonderful girl. But everything changes after you get married. Trust me. You are the only one of us who isn’t married yet.
‘YET!’ Gaurav Bhaiya laughed.
‘Ok. I’m listening. But Myra and I have been dating since college,’ Akash explained.
‘It’s doesn’t matter. Once you share the bedroom, your whole world changes,’ Gaurav Bhaiya said.
‘Exactly, before I could throw my laundry everywhere. Keep the room a mess. I never had to clear up after myself. Yes, it used to drive my mother insane. But my mother never complained. She just knew that I would do it someday. But after you get married! I get dirty looks from Anamika if I don’t throw my socks in the laundry basket,’ Veeru said.
‘Dad, do you always feel the same way about women?’ Akash asked.
‘I don’t understand why women worry so much,’ Akash’s father said. ‘They are perpetually worried about something or other. If they have nothing to worry about, they will worry that they have nothing to worry about.’
‘Well, I don’t understand when men do something wrong; then it is the end of the world. But when women do something wrong, it’s justified?’ Kartik said. ‘My wife is so unpredictable. The tiniest thing can piss her off. And for things that matter, she’s doesn’t even seem to be bothered.’
‘And the shopping!’ Veeru added. ‘Oh my God!’
‘Women are not that bad. Worrying is ingrained in them. But really, they only mean well. I don’t know how my wife puts up with me. And how is she always so organised all the time?’ Angad added. ‘Leena and I have been married for ten years. We have two kids. And trust me. She handles everything so well. ‘Now I’ve learned that she knows what’s needed and I ask her a lot. Bloody hell, at times I think what did I do to deserve her.’
‘Aap toh bahut lucky hai bhaiya( you are very lucky brother),’ Kartik said. ‘Bhabhi bahut achi hai (My sister is law is very nice.).’
‘I got lucky, brother,’ Angad smiled proudly.
Just then, the group of men heard a baby howling. Their heads turned, and they saw their friend, Ravi walk in with his wife, Pooja and their toddler, Kiara.
The young men looked at each other as they watched the drama of handling a cranky toddler. Ravi made his wife and daughter comfortable inside the house, and he soon headed towards the group outside.
‘I bet you a thousand bucks that these guys fought on the way,’ Kartik said.
‘I’ll make that five thousand,’ Veeru chuckled.
‘Guys, come on. Stop being such idiots,’ Akash frowned.
‘Hey, guys!’ Ravi said slowly. ‘Sorry, we’re late. Don’t even ask me why.’
‘All ok brother?’ Angad asked.
Ravi nodded. ‘Open me a pint of a beer, man. I’m so freakin’ tired.’
‘What’s the matter?’ Akash asked.
‘Dude, handling a cranky toddler is so hard. Her sleep cycle is all wonky. She hasn’t been eating properly. If I say anything to Pooja, she just snaps at me. Whatever input I give is pointless. She feels I don’t know anything about bringing up a child. It’s like I have no say in it at all. It’s so frustrating.’
‘Hey, relax. We’re all glad you’re here now,’ Akash said, putting his hand on Ravi’s shoulder.
‘Akash Bhai, tu soch le. Abhi bhi time hai(Bro, think about it. You still have time). We all can help you run away if you change your mind. If you don’t want to get married, we are here for you,’ Ravi exclaimed.
‘Oye! Chup kar salle(Oh, shut up you fool)!’ Sir said from behind. ‘For the first time, Akash has finally found someone. Even though it’s his first and last, let him also join our gang of hopeless morons.’
‘Tere bhi murga katne wala hai (You are also going to become a chicken ready to be slaughtered.),’ Ravi laughed.
‘Don’t stress yourself out, Ravi. Have a few beers. Chill maar. My wife freaks out when I drink. Just wait! Today, we will have a fight in the car on our way home. Anamika will start grumbling about my hooligan friends. Why do I drink? You don’t spend enough time with me. Sometimes I feel so guilty when I do things on my own. Anamika would say I thought we were supposed to do this together… Bla bla bla,’ Veeru said. ‘It’s all a part of the package of getting married.’
Akash looked at his Dadaji. ‘Can I get you anything? Are you comfortable?’
‘Yes, yes, of course. I’m drinking beer after months. Of course, I’m comfortable,’ Dadaji grinned.
‘Then why do you look like you have something to say?’ Akash asked.
‘Well, since we men are talking about women….I would like to say something too. When I was young I felt my wife used to undermine my potential,’ Dadaji said. ‘I felt she was a highly possessive and controlling lady and I felt she never allowed me to grow. Eventually, I stopped sharing things with her. I preferred keeping many things a secret. Our lives changed after that. We just grew apart. There was nothing left for us to talk about. I wasn’t interested in her life. And I didn’t want her to control my life. But she kept herself busy running the kitchen, doing all the household chores, and looking after the kids. I used to bury myself in my work. But you know I realised after she died that I had been wrong. I should have talked to her more and probably been more open about my feelings. What I didn’t realise was that she wanted to help me to be a better person. I wish I had done things differently with your Dadi. And the truth is that she was a wonderful, hardworking and loving person.’
‘Why didn’t you ever say anything before?’ Akash asked softly.
‘I don’t know, beta. Soon my time will also come. But I have to live with that regret and burden that I could have done things differently. She and I could have been happier together. But I was selfish. Hell, I still am. But I can’t change anything now, can I?’ Dadaji said, taking a sip of his chilled beer.
‘You need to learn to co-exist with each other. Trust, communication and loyalty are important parts of love. Love is nothing without action. You need to show it and express it,’ Dadaji explained.
‘Dadaji, senti mauhal mat bano(Grandpa, don’t make us all sentimental.),’ Kartik said. ‘But thank you for giving us an opportunity to see love and marriage in a different way.’
‘Guys, I’m planning to take my family for a holiday. But I can’t decide where to go,’ Kartik said, trying to lighten the mood. ‘But you know what the problem is. Shalini and I will sit together and decide where to go, what to do, and make ourselves an itinerary. Shalini would be all pumped and excited. But once we finally reach our destination, everything is the opposite. She just slows down. Her level of excitement is ten before we leave and on our holiday, it just becomes a two. I don’t get it. At the end of it, I feel it’s such a waste of time and energy to plan a holiday.’
‘Bro, try going for a holiday with a toddler and a wife who drive you up the wall,’ Ravi added. ‘I went for a weekend getaway last Friday. Oh, God! Pooja was too busy looking after Kiara, making her play with her and doing all sorts of activities. I felt I was there just because they needed someone to drive them down. By the evening Kiara was cranky because she had been too busy playing all day and hadn’t slept in the afternoon. Later that evening, Pooja was again too busy with her. Finally, Pooja got Kiara to sleep. I was so happy and thought that we could have some time together. But Pooja was too tired, and she also slept. That was when I did the group video call with you guys. Remember?’
‘Yeah, but that was the first night,’ Angad said. ‘Then what happened?’
‘The next morning, Kiara woke up at seven. Pooja pushed me out of bed. I was hungover since I had too much to drink the previous night. Pooja and I ended up having a huge fight,’ Ravi rolled his eyes. ‘I don’t understand her temper? She’s so hard to understand. She would taunt me, fight, and make everything so difficult.
‘Maybe you should have another child,’ Akash suggested.
‘Are you mad? Ek bahut hai yaar (one is enough),’ Ravi replied.
‘Can you not relate to what Dadaji just said a while ago. Why don’t you try walking in her shoes for once and then maybe you would get a bigger picture. Why don’t you step up and start taking responsibility rather than just grumbling about it.’
‘Guys, listen to all of you. You have only grumbled, winged and whinnied about your wives
and families. Why can’t you be happy with what you have? Why can’t you be grateful? Why
can’t you understand that what you have is amazing and life couldn’t get any better? Why
can’t you just accept your wife’s flaws? Come on, it’s not like you guys are perfect husbands.
There isn’t anything called perfect,’ Akash said.
‘Stop being such a bore. You just wait until you get married. And you too will be grumbling about Myra. I’ll give it a few weeks,’ Kartik mumbled.
‘I need to take a leak,’ Veeru said.
‘Don’t forget to put the seat back down. My mom is so fussy about the toilet seat,’ Akash called out.
‘Why do we always need to put the seat down? Why can’t we just leave it up? We, always have to lift before we pee. And then do they expect us to put the toilet seat back down?’ Veeru said.
‘It’s just good manners,’ Akash rolled his eyes. ‘Imagine falling in the toilet when you have to sit down and they always have sit down.’
Just then, Akash’s phone rang. It was a video call. Akash smiled, jumped up from his chair and walked a few steps away and answered the call. It was Myra. She was smiling, looking gorgeous in a colourful silk saree.
‘All done?’ Akash asked.
‘Yes. It took forever. But it’s all dried now. And I’ve taken it all off,’ Myra smiled.
‘Show me,’ Akash said eagerly, staring at his phone screen.
‘No, you can see my Mehendi at the wedding,’ Myra said.
‘Just a quick glimpse,’ he pleaded.
‘Oh ok,’ Myra agreed as she showed him her elegant hand elaborately decorated with the intricate Mehendi design.
‘You look so beautiful, Myra,’ Akash whispered.
Myra blushed. ‘How’s your party going?’
‘Oh, it’s still going on. Myra. I want to say something,’ Akash said.
‘What is it?’ she asked hesitantly.
‘No matter what happens. I will love you and take care of you through thick and thin.’
Myra smiled. ‘I know you will. But why are you saying this out of the blue?’
‘It’s a guy thing. I just wanted you to know that’s all,’ Akash said.
‘Men are weird,’ Myra said.
‘So are women,’ Akash added. ‘Trust me, I’ve heard so much this afternoon. But don’t worry, we are two weirdos in love, ready to start the next chapter together.’
‘I can’t wait to marry you, Akash,’ Myra smiled.
‘Me too. I’ll see you at our wedding.’
‘You better not make me wait too long,’ Myra giggled, rolling her eyes.
‘I won’t. I can’t wait,’ Akash smiled and cut the call.