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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Is Life Strange Or Do we Live Strangely?

“Hey Sandy! Look at this ring. I think it’s perfect for Meghna. What do u say?”

“Yes Sharat! It’s elegant with a single ruby mounted on a thin band of gold and it’s very beautiful! I think Meg will love it.”

“Great! Now that I have the ring, I can now propose to her. I hope she will say yes.”

“Of course, she will say yes. Don’t go worrying about it. Come! Let’s get it billed and leave. I am starving! We have been shopping for four hours.”

While Sharat was paying the money in the cash counter, Sandy i.e. Sandhya observed him. She chuckled slightly on seeing that he had a goofy grin on his face. Three years back, she didn’t even know Sharat. But now here she was, helping him purchase a ring for his girlfriend Meg aka Meghna.

“Hey Sandy! Come! Let’s go!” Sharat called her. Sandy nodded and followed him. Once they were outside the jewellery shop, Sharat embraced Sandy.

“I am so happy. Thank u so much for coming with me. Without you, I would have been a nervous wreck and end up not buying a ring. But thanks to your support, I got the perfect ring for my Meg!”

“You are most welcome. I am happy for u and Meg. Now that you are being thankful, why don’t u treat me for a lunch?”

“Sure, But I will decide the place. Is that okay?”

“Absolutely fine with me, as long as the place is decent”

They walked to the parking lot where Sharat’s brand new Chevrolet Spark was parked. After an hour of drive, Sharat reached the place.

He parked the car in the space between the last car and the barricade that was there to mark the end of the parking space, taking extra care.

He turned off the ignition and turned to see Sandy sleeping. Chuckling to himself, he gently woke her.

“Sandy. Wake up.” Sandy woke up but her eyes were still drooping.

“Where are we?” she rubbed her eyes, so that she will become fully awake. She observed the place and gave a squeal of delight.

Sharat chuckled and stepped out of the car as Sandy followed him and after few steps, they were standing in front of their favorite Restaurant “Enchanted Villa”. This was the restaurant where they had first met.

On entering the restaurant, they found that all tables except one were occupied and surprisingly that one happened to be the same table in which they were seated during their first meeting. They walked over to the table and sat down. They chose their favorite food and placed an order for the same. While they were waiting, Sandhya started laughing suddenly.

“What’s so funny, sandy?”

“I just remembered the expression on ur face when we met for first time and that got me laughing”

Sharat also started to laugh and it took a couple of minutes for them to control their laughter.

“Sharat! How did u know that I will like it if we come to this restaurant?”

“Do u even want an answer for that question? I was married to you for an year. Remember?”

“Yes, I perfectly remember that.”

“But am happy now that u r my friend now. Being a husband to u was a nightmare!!” Sharat said with a mock shiver.

“Hey! That’s not fair. If I remember exactly being a wife was a nightmare!. Don’t forget all those insinuations that Dad and Mom made against me!” Sandhya said. Sharat’s face became red with embarrassment.

“I am sorry. I forgot”

“Hey, I was just teasing u, just like u teased me.”

The food that they had ordered arrived and they started savoring their favorite dishes. Throughout the course of the meal their conversation was about their first meet.

“Hey Sharat. When I came for our first meet, I never thought that I will meet u again. But look at us now, here we are sitting at the same table and having our lunch. And u r one of my best friends now. Isn’t life strange?”

“Yeah Sandy! I will definitely agree with you. Life is Strange”

Part –II

Is   Life Strange Or Do We Live Strangely ?

                 Sharat and Sandy went to her house. Sharat had thought after the divorce,Sandy would move back with her parents. But she had surprised everyone by opting to stay separately. Her reason was that she didn’t want to be a burden to her parents who were living currently with her brother and that it was not respectful for her brother. She did visit them every weekend, offering to take care of  her parents, so that her brother could spend some time with his wife and kids.Sandy’s brother loved his parents very much and hence he couldn’t bear to live in a separate house without his parents. He  was lucky to have a wife who understood his wishes and didn’t have any qualms about it. Sandy had a very formal relationship with her brother. She had been very close with him during her childhood days . But then ,she had drifted apart and she was perfectly fine with it. When Sharat and Sandy informed her parents and brother about the divorce, her brother had been the only one who had been opposed to it. It had taken lot of effort from Sandy to calm him and make him see sense.

            Sandy’s new rental house was very comfortable. Sandy herself had gone for the house hunt  not accepting anyone’s help and it had finally been fruitful.
Sharat and Sandy entered the house and went to the balcony where there was a small divan. Sandy went to kitchen and prepared some coffee for both of them and went back to the balcony. Sharat was seated in one corner of the divan. He took his coffee mug from Sandy while Sandy settled on the divan. They sipped their coffee and reminisced all the events that happened in the past three years. Time flew by and neither of them noticed that it was already dusk as they were immersed in their conversation. Sandy  took the coffee mugs and went to the kitchen  to wash them  On her way back to the balcony she noticed that it was quarter past six in the evening. They had been talking  for three hours. She went to the balcony  and saw that Sharat was deep in thoughts.

            “Sharat”, She gently shook him. Sharat  came out of his reverie.
            “What Sandy?’
            “ Its 6:15 in the evening. At what time did u say u will be back to ma?”
            “ Oh God! Its 6:15? I have to rush! Mom’s gonna kill me. Bye Sandy!”. He jumped from the divan and rushed to door. He pulled it open and rushed to his. Within two minutes , he was on his way home. Sandy shook her head murmering that he will always be his momma’s boy.
 Sharat reached his home and as he parked his car inside, he saw his mom standing near the door. He looked at his watch and noticed that  he had been gone for 9 hours.He had informed his mom that he would be back by one in the afternoon.It was 7:00 pm now and he had forgotten to call up his mom and  update her that he would be late. He stepped out of the car and walked towards the door. He stepped past his mom and entered the home.  His mom closed the door and followed him into the house. He  entered the hall and took a seat in the sofa. He was patiently waiting for the onslaught  that he knew was coming.Several seconds ticked by . Ramya,Sharat’s mom took a deep breath and started her questioning.

“Where were u Sharat?”
Her voice was calm. Surprised, Sharat looked at his mother’s face and found her eyes filled with her anger. This was not like his mother. She can’t control her temper and all she needed to fly off the handle was just a little provocation.  She was very short tempered and it was on this character of hers that Sharat and Sandhya had relied on to carry out their plans and  they were successful too.
          “Sharat! I asked where were you?”. Ramya’s voice broke Sharat’s reverie.

          “ Ma, I just went to purchase a ring for Meghna. I told u already that I was planning to propose to her. “
         “You went to purchase a ring? Did u get one?  U have no idea in purchasing ornaments? Why didn’t u take me along with u? What do u know about purchasing a ring for a girl? Did u get one? If so , I just hope its doesn’t look bad!!!”

         “Chill ma! I didn’t go alone. I went with Sandhya”
        “Sandhya?”. Sharat scolded himself for mentioning Sandy’s name. His mom was still angry with her and blamed  her for the ruined marriage.
        “Yes, ma”
        “ Why did she come with you? Are you still not satisfied with how much she has ruined her life? I know she is not gonna let u live ur life happily. She is gonna hurt u and Meghna too.”
           “ Mom ! Will u stop ur rant? Please don’t bad mouth her anymore. U have already made lot of accusations against her. I don’t think she needs anymore.
She is a good woman ma and has become my best friend. Even Meghna adores her.We know for sure, that she is happy for us.”

  Ramya winced slightly when Sharat mentioned about the accusations but she didn’t give up.
            “What? U still trust her ?”
            “Yes ma. I do trust her. We got divorced because we knew that we didn’t fit in together. We tried our level best, but we just didn’t belong to each other.
It was not entirely her fault”
            “ Whatever! I am telling to u to be careful.”
            “Don’t worry ma. Nothing is gonna happen. Now do u want to see the ring or not?. Its okie  if u don’t want to, I perfectly understand.”
          Ramya  was still angry  but her passion for gold made her ask to look at the ring.
            “Show me the ring.”,Ramya said with a disgruntled look
           Sharat took the ring from the box and gave it to his mom. Ramya took it from Sharat and was immediately bowled over by its beauty. She felt a little proud about Sharat’s new ability to purchase ornaments, but she also remembered that it had  been Sandhya who had helped him out. She had to give credit to that girl  for this.
            “Its very beautiful Sharat. Meghna will definitely love it.”
            “Thanks ma. I know. By the way I was just wondering something . U didn’t start shouting like u always do when u are angry. How Come?”
            ‘Well, I have been going to meditation class for a week. I didn’t tell u that. Did I ?”
            “Meditation Class!!? Who are u and What have u done to my mom?”
            “Its just that I have been telling u for years to take up a meditation course. U never wanted to. But all of a sudden u tell me that u have been going to a class for a week . Its just I am amazed. Any specific reasons?”
            “ Well, yes there is a reason. Ever since u got divorced , I have always felt guilty to some extent ,thinking maybe my anger also played a part for ur marriage not working. When u told me about Meghna, I didn’t want that to happen again.”
            “ Ma, It was not ur fault . u know the reason for the break up.Sandy never felt angry when u shouted at her. She knew u didn’t mean anything,that u just were saying everything cause of ur anger.” Sharat remembered the statement he made a few minutes back and apologized for the same.
            “ I am sorry  about what I said couple of minutes back. I never meant it. You were not the reason for my failed marriage. Please don’t feel guilty about it.”

      Sharat hugged his mom. Ramya wept for sometime and then calmed herself and asked when he was gonna propose Meghna.Sharat replied that he wanted the day to be special and so he was gonna do it on her birthday which comes in the next week.

Part III

On Meg’s Bday:
            Sandhya was in the kitchen placing candles on the cake that had been ordered for Meghna’s birthday. She looked at her watch and noticed that it was four minutes left for midnight. Sharat was waiting in Sandy’s room. He had come at 11:20 after Meghna slept. Meghna had been orphaned at a young age and she had been living in a hostel for the past six years. After Sandhya moved to a separate house, she had been asking Meghna to come and live with her. But Meghna though wanted to, didn’t accept. After a lot of persuasion from Sandy and Sharat, Meg relented and moved in with Sandhya last week. Sandhya and Sharat had planned for Meg’s birthday celebration together. Sandhya made all arrangements except the birthday cake order which was Sharat’s responsibility, who had correctly ordered for a black forest cake which was Meg’s favorite. When Sharat had arrived, he was very nervous as he had decided to propose to Meghna and so Sandy asked him to relax for some time in her room, while she went ahead with the decorations. It was almost only two minutes left till midnight.  She went to the hall and placed the cake on the table which had been decorated. She beckoned Sharat from her room to follow her and together they tiptoed into Meg’s room. She had a horn (noisemaker) that she had bought the other day. They went near the bed where Meghna was peacefully sleeping.  Sharat was standing on one side while Sandy slowly got onto the bed and as soon as she was near Meghna, she squeezed the horn in her ears. There was a blaring sound and Meghna immediately jerked awake and gave a scream.

            Sharat switched on the lights and Sandy started laughing on seeing the expression on Meg’s face. Meg who was still not fully awake had a confused expression as to what made her friend to prank her like this at the middle of the night. Meg didn’t realize that Sharat was also standing behind her, as she was facing Sandy. Not wanting to miss this opportunity to surprise Meg, Sharat bent down and whispered “Happy Birthday,Love”  in her ears while his arms held her. Meg wheeled around in surprise. Looking at the surprised expression and her eyes widened just like a small girl who has got her wish, Sharat was reminded why he was so madly in love with this gorgeous angel that he held in his arms.  Without realizing, he leaned forward and kissed on her soft lips. Meg’s eyes widened still more before closing, she responded to his kiss. Sandy who had stopped laughing by then silently left the room  with a grin to wait in the hall.

            Sharat and Meg broke their kiss after a minute.
            “Sharat. You know what? I liked the way u wished me now. I think you should keep wishing me the same way. I am sure that I will definitely wont mind it.” Meg  said with a wink.Sharat blushed a little before replying her.
            “Sure Meg! Anything for u!”
            They held on to each other and after a couple of minutes ,  they remembered Sandhya was there in the room and broke the embrace only to find that Sandy had left. They  left the bedroom to find Sandy and as soon as they entered the hall, Sandy rushed to Meg and hugged her.
            “Happy Birthday,Meg!”
            “Thank you Sandy!”
            “Now that u two are out of the lovey -dovey  mood, lets get on with celebration”
            Only then Meg that the hall has been decorated beautifully. She was amazed because there was not even a speck of decoration when she went to sleep. But now it had completely transformed.

            “Sandy! When did u do decorate the hall? I perfectly remember that it was not decorated before I went to sleep.”
            “After making sure u were in deep sleep, about one hour ago”
            “You are amazing Sandy! I have been living with you for about a week and you keep all these plans secret and not even showing any sign”
            “Gee! Thanks. Come now! Lets cut the cake”
            They went to the table where Sandhya lighted the candles placed on the cake.
                        “Hey Meg!  Close ur eyes and make a wish. Then blow the candles”
            Meg nodded her head and let them know that was what she was going to do. After making her wish, she opened her eyes and blew the candles. There was a round of applause from Sandy and Sharat. Meg took the  knife and made the first cut into her favorite blackforest cake. She took the piece and fed it to Sharat who  made a bite into it and gave the remaining half to her. Meg cut another piece and gave it to Sandy who accepted it and in turn gave another piece. After a round of cake munching , Sandy went to the kitchen where she had kept Meg’s present.
       “Time to open ur presents now, love”  Sharat said. He went to the cupboard and brought back a gift covered in blue wrappers.
        “Happy Birthday,love”, he wished her once more and offered his present to Meg. Meghna with equal curiosity of a child tore open the wrappers to find a square box. She opened the lid and found a gold chain with the charm as the letter M studded in ruby.  She loved it the moment her eyes fell on it. With her eyes filled with tears of gratitude, she hugged Sharat and kissed him. She broke the kiss and grinned from ear to ear.
            “ This is my way of saying Thanks .”
            “I like it” , Sharat replied.
            “The gift is wonderful . I love it . Can u put it on me?”
            “Sure, love”. Sharat unclasped the hook and put the chain around Meg’s neck, who turned around and raised her hair so that he can put it properly. Once done, Sharat turned her around and kissed on her forehead.
            “Hem hem” Sandy cleared her throat. On hearing that, Meg and Sharat jumped apart smiling sheepishly.
            “Its my turn to give ur gift now.” Sandy told. She was carrying two gifts wrapped in red. She gave the  bigger box first to Meghna. This time, Meg opened the gift  in a controlled manner. When she opened the box she found a beautiful silk saree  in sky blue.
            “ Thank u sandy!! Its very beautiful!”
            “You are welcome! But that’s not the only gift . Here u go ! This is the other one!” Sandy said as she handed the other box to Meg.
            Meghna opened the gift and found  a jewel box. She opened it to find a  pair of earrings  which was shaped like a flower and had a single sapphire in the center. It was very beautiful .
            “Sandy! You didn’t have to…” Befor Meg could finish what she was about to say, Sandy interrupted her.
            “Meg ! I don’t have to. But I wanted to get u this. I just hope u like it”
             “Like it ? I love it . But I really cant accept it.” Meg replied.
            “ Meg! U have become one of my best friend and also like my younger sister. U will have to accept this if u consider me  as ur friend.  U even love it. Please Meg!”
             Meg couldn’t refuse anymore. She hugged Sandy tightly and thanked her.
            Sharat was looking at therm .He was lucky to have these girls in his life, one as his  beloved and another his best friend. Yes, he was really lucky. The girls broke their embrace.
            “Hey guys! Thank u so much for the gifts. I like them very much.” Meg said.
            “Best is yet to come!” Sandy replied and turned to Sharat and mouthed “Terrace! Now!”
            Sharat understood. He took Meg’s arm and led her towards the terrace. Its Proposal Time!!

            Meg was confused as to what was happening. She looked behind her and found that Sandy was not following. They reached the terrace and stood in the center. Without wasting anymore time, Sharat went down on his knees. Meg eyes widened as she realized what was about to happen.
            “Meg , my love.  I love you so much. But I know that u love me more than I love you .  That makes me love u  even more. U have stood by me in all my decisions so far. I know some of those decisions were painful but u had faith in me and hence didn’t object to it. U have been waiting for a long time and that  wait has been painful too. U have shown me how much u love . Now I request u to give me a chance to show u how much I love u. I want to be with u throughout my life. U make me complete Meg.   Meg! Will u marry me? Will u give me the honor of being ur husband?”
            Meg nodded her head and screamed  “Yes!”
            Sharat slipped the ring on her finger and stood up. They embraced each other. Meg couldn’t believe that her wish had become true so soon.She was  in love and blissfully happy. This birthday has started wonderfully.  They went down to the hall where Sandy was waiting up. When Sandy saw them,she raised her eyebrows  “So?”. Meg raised her left  hand and waved  her hand in front of her. Sandy squealed and hugged her.
            “ I knew u would accept . Congratulations guys!. Time to celebrate ”. She dashed to the fridge and took the coco cola bottle.
            Grinning devilishly, she began to shake the bottle and making sure the bottle’s mouth was facing the couple ,she unscrewed the lid and splash! Sharat and Meg was covered in coke.  But there was more coke left in the bottle. Meg screeched and rushed at Sandy who took with the bottle clutched in her hand. She was overpowered by Meg in few seconds who grabbed the bottle and after making sure there was no way to escape, she repeated the same procedure with Sandy.

            “Ok ! I give up! Now we are equal. But still more coke is left. U want to drink or  …?” Meg understood what Sandy was implying.  She nodded her head in agreement. They turned towards Sharat who was sitting in the chair with his back to them. They silently went towards him and crept to his back .They shook the bottle  and then dumped the entire contents on to his head. He yelped and leapt from the chair and glared at the two who were grinning  identically.  They looked at each other and started laughing. Soon all three were  there on the floor  laughing their hearts out.Once they calmed down, they went to clean up themselves. Once they were finished,they went to the balcony and sat on the divan and talked till the dawn when they were overcome by tiredness ,they decided to head to bed.
Two weeks Later:
            Meghna came bounding into Sandy’s room. Sandy who was reading ‘Brisingr’ looked up.
            “ Hey Meg! What’s up?  You are positively glowing!” Meghna blushed.
            “ Hey Sandy. As u know I went to Sharat’s home today. We discussed with his mom and set  the date for the marriage. Its on august 25th.”
            “Wow! Meg! Congratulations! August 25th ,you said? We have only one month left. We have so much to do!!!”
            “ I know, its very soon. But we have decided to get married in a temple and then host a reception party for the people we know. U will be there for both? Wont u?”
            “What question is that ? Its gonna be the marriage of two of my best friends. I don’t think there is any other place on earth that I will to be.”
            “Paul will also be coming,right?
            On hearing the name Paul, Sandy’s heart felt like it had been pierced by an arrow. But she masked her pain very well and mumbled something in agreement. She wanted to tell the truth to Meghna , but it was not the right time.  For now she had the arrangements for the marriage to focus on. Rest of the things will have to wait.
            “Hey Sandy! By the way, we are going to dinner with Sharat in another one hour. So get Ready!”
            “That’s great! Its been a long time since we went out.”

At the hotel:
            “Hey Sandy! When do we tell mom that the marriage between u and me didn’t work out  because it was our plan.”
            “How about the day after your marriage party? By the way should we tell parents too,Sharat?”
            “We better do! I forgot to tell you.  Remember the day we purchased the ring for my love here, mom said that she felt guilty that she was the reason for u our failed marriage.” Sharat replied.
            “Why does she feels so ?” Meg  queried.
            Sandy understood the reason, so she answered Meg’s question.
            “Mom is a bit short tempered.  So we quarreled most of the times . Believe me ,those quarrels were all started wantedly for our plan to work out. She used to get so angry that made all sort of  statements against me . But it didn’t hurt me. What hurt me was the fact that I was causing so much distress to her. I loved her very much. Besides her temper, she is really a wonderful woman to be with.  But I had to quarrel with her to make her hate me and it will be easier for separation. But still she controlled her anger sometimes. But when she came to know that I will not be able to give birth to a child,that was the final straw for her.”

            “What? What did u say just now? You cant …?” Meg asked her.
            Sandy bit her tongue and cursed her for not being careful of what she was speaking.
            “Yup,that’s true . Ofcourse,Sharat knew before marriage and that information was the main ammunition”, Sandy was embarrassed to continue.
            “But its all over now. I am  gonna get married to my beloved Meg and I know ur marriage with Paul also is on the cards. Its only a matter of time.” Sharat said.
            Not again, Sandy thought. Why did they had to bring him up now? She wanted to cry out that Paul was not hers anymore. He had not been her for more than  a year.  But she faked a smile and mumbled something in agreement. She would have to wait . Its gonna be a long night.
            “Hey guys!  I have been wanting to ask u for a long time. Which one of u came up with that plan?” Meg asked them.
            “It was me !”  Sandy replied.
            “what made u do that?” Meg asked again
            “ I will tell u. Well, my parents and sharat’s mom had decided to go ahead with the marriage proposal. U know, I was in love with Paul and Sharat here was in love with you.  So we met up and when we came to know that we had the same intention, which was  stopping the marriage, I had this sudden idea and then rest u know is history.”
            “ If I had not known this will work out, I would have called it as a stupid plan, but then seeing the results as we desired, all I could say its brilliant and u really do have some guts ,Sandy” Meg replied.
            “Thanks! But I don’t think this would have turned out well without your support” Sandy said
            “I definitely agree!” Sharat said.
            “So a toast to us?” Sandy asked . Sharat and Meg nodded  and all three raised their glasses and drank the champagne.


August 25th,in Sandy’s home:

It was 3:00 AM in the morning. Sandy woke up to the sound of the alarm . Today was a big day for her best friends. Sharat and Meghna are getting married. Finally, their dream is gonna come true. Sandy was very happy for them. Rubbing away the sleep from her eyes, she went to Meghna’s room to wake her up.

Knocking on the door, she called Meghna to wake up.

“ Meg! Wake up . Its already 3:00.”,.Meg opened the door immediately. Meg was nervous. Sandy understood that Meghna was experiencing the pre wedding jitters.

“Hey gal, how u feeling?” Sandy asked. Meg just nodded her head. Sandy went near her and hugged her so that she will become relaxed. Meg hugged her tight in return.

“Sandy, I am so scared. What if something goes wrong ? What if I make a fool of myself? What if sharat’s mom does not like me.? Am I worthy to be with Sharat ?”

Meg just couldn’t hold all her meaningless fears inside. She continued blabbering.

“Hey Sweetheart, You don’t have to worry. I will be there by your side. Everything will be fine . Nothing will go wrong. You will be perfect. You will not do anything stupid to make a fool of yourself. Don’t worry about ma liking u. You are sweet and understanding girl. Ma will definitely like u very much. And for ur question about worthiness, Sharat is really lucky to have u. So quit worrying. Focus on the marriage, MARRIAGE. U are gonna get married sweetheart.” , Sandy hugged again.

“You think so?” Meg asked.

“I know so. Now come on, we have to get u dressed up and we need to be there at seven sharp. We have only few hours left sweetheart.”

It took some more time for Meg to become relaxed. Once Sandy was sure that Meg is relaxed, she laid out some cosmetics used before bath. Meg applied those cosmetics and went to take a shower. Meanwhile, Sandy laid out the beautiful red kanchivaram silk saree, on the bed making sure there is no crease in the saree. She went to her room and opened her locker and took out all the jewels that she had bought for Meghna. With the jewels in hand, she again went back to Meghna’s room. She kept the jewel boxes next to the saree. She then opened the kit bag and took out cosmetics for make up. Meghna had decided that she wanted only little make up. Sandy had agreed with her ,as she herself was not much fond of it. Making sure that everything needed was ready, she sat on the bed waiting for Meghna to come out. Her thoughts meanwhile strayed into the conversation that she had with Paul last night. It was around 12 PM when she got the call. She was actually surprised when she saw his number.

After twenty minutes Meghna came out and the door’s creaking noise broke Sandy’s train of thoughts. She smiled on seeing Meg.

“Meg, come on lets get u ready for Sharat.” Meg blushed on hearing this. Sandy started with the make up session, once she was half done , Sandy helped Meg to wear the saree. After that she finished with rest of the make up. She then proceeded with braiding the hair. She kept smiling the whole time and humming some tune.After half an hour she finished with Meghna and saw that time was nearly 5:30. It takes forty five mins to reach the temple from home. She led Meghna to the hall and switched on the fan and asked her to sit and relax for sometime . She dashed to her own room to get ready. After twenty minutes, she came out of her room in a blue silk saree. She went to the pooja room and lit a lamp. She prayed that the wedding should happen without any hiccups. She took some kumkum and kept on her forehead.She took some in her hand and went to the hall. She then gave it to Meghna. Looking at Meghna, Sandhya was happy. Meghna was looking very beautiful. Out of habit, Sandhya took some kaajal from her eyes and kept a tiny tiny dot on Meghna’s cheek.

“Meg! U look so beautiful.”

“Thanks Sandy”

The clock striked and the time was 6:00 AM. It was time to leave. She took the car keys ,her cellphone which she then put into the handbag. Both of them came out. Sandy locked the door and within five minutes,they were on the way to the temple. Thankfully,there was less traffic and so she was able to reach the temple within half an hour.

In the Temple:

Meghna stepped out of the car and waited for Sandy to lock the car so that can go inside the temple. She was getting a bit nervous again. Sandy took her handbag and locked the car. Both of them went inside the temple to the mandap where the marriage was to take place. They reached the mandap and found that Sharat, Ma and some of their relatives were already there. When Ramya,Sharat’s mom saw Sandhya she got angry , but she didn’t want to spoil anything and so controlled her anger. Meghna went near her and got her blessings. Sandy didn’t miss the anger that was there on ma’s face for a minute. She fought the urge to tell Sharat’s mom everything at that moment. But then they had decided to wait till day after the reception party. She then went to Sharat and congratulated him .

“Hey Sharat, Congrats! So ur dream finally gonna come true. I am so happy for u.”

“Thanks Sandy. Yeah , Finally!” Sharat laughed. Sandy’s cell rang. She excused herself and attended the call. It was her dad.

“Hello Sandhya”

“Hello pa, Tell me. Where are u? U guys are coming right?”

“Yeah ma, we are on our way. Just wanted to know the muhurtham”

“Its from 7:45 -9, pa. Ma and brother also coming na?”

“Okie ma. Yeah ma Sandhya. They are also coming. We will be there in another forty five mins.”

“Okie pa. Fine”

“I’ll cut the call now ma.”

“Okie pa”

Sandy disconnected the call. She turned to Sharat and mouthed that it was her dad. Before she could tell anything more. Her cell rang again. It was Paul, this time.

“Hello, Sandhya?”

“Hello Paul, Yeah tell me.”

“Are u sure, Sandhya? Do we need to come?”

“Paul, I told u last night itself. They have invited u for the wedding. U should respect that. So please do come.”

“I know Sandhya, but still they don’t know anything about what happened right? Is it wise?”

“They will have to know some day Paul; I don’t know whether I will be able to tell them myself. Its better they ask. But I will have to tell them only after the reception party. Till then, they will have to be patient if they want to know.”

“Okie. Whatever!”

“Where are you? Have you started?”

“Yeah we are on our way.”

“Okie, then. Fine”

She disconnected the call. She was very nervous. It had been a long time since she last met Paul. She shrugged off the nervousness and tuned her thoughts into focusing on the marriage. She noticed that Sharat was looking at her with a worried face and realized that her face must have shown her anxiety.

“Hey Sandy, What happened? Who called ?”

“It was Paul, Sharat. He said he was on his way.”

“Oh then I think it was just a lover’s quarrel that made u tensed. Am I right?” Sharat winked at her.

“Sharat! Nothing like that. Come on boy, here comes the pandit. Time for u to sit in the mandap and behave like a good boy. ” Sandhya smiled back at him. There was a familiar pang of pain in her heart.

“ Okie.” They went back to the mandap. Meghna was already seated in the mandap. Sharat went and sat beside her. Unable to resist himself, he bent down and whispered in Meghna’s ears.

“Hey sweetheart, U are looking gorgeous. I love u.”

Meghna blushed and replied back “I love u too honey. U don’t look bad yourself”.

The pandit cleared his throat and the two lovers came back to the reality. Sharat’s mom was happy to see her son happy.

Both the bride and bridegroom started reciting the mantras under the pandit’s guidance. After some time, Sandhya’s parents along with her brother and sister in law and their kid, akhil arrived. Sharat’s mom received them. No one seemed to be expressing their disagreement. Sandhya was pretty amazed to see her mom getting along with Sharat’s mom as if nothing had happened between them. Sandhya was happy and smiled at her brother and sister in law. Akhil came and stood near Sandy holding her hand. Sandy smiled at him and hugged him.

The time was already 8:15. The holy thread was placed over two coconuts on a plate filled with rice mixed in turmeric and passed around to the people gathered to get their blessings.

Sandhya looked at the watch. Paul is yet to arrive. Just when she was thinking about him, she saw him coming . A girl in green saree was coming behind and she was holding a baby in her arms. All the emotions that Sandhya had been dumping inside her heart were threatening to come out of her. She looked at Sharat and Meghna and noticed that they were immersed in the ritual. Thankfully, they didn’t notice. Her eyes went back again to Paul. Sandy thought “Here is the man that I love coming along with his wife and kid to attend my ex-husband’s marriage. What a weird life!” She greeted Paul and his wife Gowri with a smile on her face. She asked Akhil to stand in front of her. She got the baby from Gowri and held it in her arms. It was a girl baby and was looking beautiful. She kissed the baby on her forehead.

She turned back to the bride and bridegroom . It was time to tie the knot. She gave the baby back to Gowri and went near Meghna. Sharat took the holy thread in his hands and started tying it around Meghna’s neck. Sandhya helped him to tie it properly. The people gathered for the occasion threw the rice mixed in turmeric powder as their blessings for the couple. Once the three knots were tied. Sandhya hugged Meghna and kissed on her cheek. She was very happy. Meghna and Sharat were beaming.

The pandit again gained their attention and they started on some more rituals. At around 9:15 , the marriage ceremony was completely over. Sandhya asked Paul and Gowri to wait for some time so that they can wish the couples . She took Akhil with her and went to her mom. After talking for sometime with her mom, she went to the pandit who was preparing to leave and thanked him for doing the ceremony and gave him the money that they had decided on. The pandit thanked her and left. She turned back and found that the relatives who had gathered had already left. Only her mom,dad,brother,sis-in law,akhil,Sharat’s mom and Paul and his wife were remaining along with the couples. Meghna and Sharat was oblivious of the others. She noticed that Paul was feeling out of place and getting impatient. She decided it was time. She went to Paul and Gowri and together they went to Sharat and Meghna.

“Hem,Hem” ,Sandhya cleared her throat to get the attention of the couples. Meghna and Sharat turned and smiled sheepishly.

“Good, now that u are aware of the presence of the others, some one would like to wish u”. Sandy said and stepped aside.

“Hey Sharat and Meghna! Congratulations guys! Am happy for u guys.” Paul said.

“Thanks Paul” Sharat and Meghna said in a chorus.

“Congratulations, Sharat and Congratulations Meghna” , Gowri said hesitantly.

“Er Thank you” Sharat and Meghna said.

“Oh guys , u don’t know my wife? Do u?. This is Gowri” Paul said.

“Wife? When did you get married?” Sharat asked Paul. Meghna turned around searching for Sandhya . She was confused. Paul’s wife?

“About an year and half back mate” Paul replied.

“Oh , am forgetting my manners, sorry. Hi Gowri. It is nice to meet you. Sorry, I was just surprised as I didn’t know Paul had got married. The last time I saw him , he was still single.” Sharat said . He was confused but he didn’t show it on his face. He was angry with Sandhya too. What had been going on?

“Nice to meet u too,Sharat.”

Sandhya came to Meghna who was giving a confused stare and whispered “ I will explain everything later. I promise.”

Meghna, just nodded her head and greeted Gowri. Sharat saw Sandy standing beside Meghna. He could see the pain in her face. He wanted to know everything. Sandy went near him and hugged him and then told him

“Sharat , I know u are confused and angry. I will explain everything later. Please. This is not the right time.”

Sharat just nodded his head. After sometime,Sandhya’s family left and followed by them Paul left along with his wife.

The remaining was Sharat’s mom , the newly married couple and Sandhya. Sharat’s mom said that it was time for them to leave.

Sharat and Meghna , both of them in a confused state stood staring at Sandhya. Sandhya knew the reason for the stares. She told them that she will explain everything to them the day after the reception party and asked them to be a bit patient. They just nodded and left with Ramya.

Sandhya was left alone. She left the temple and went towards her car. She got in and drove home straight. A tornado of emotions was building in her heart. She didn’t want to think about anything. She drove her car in a daze. Within sometime, she had reached her home. She went inside the house. The memories were haunting her. She couldn’t bear it anymore. She lay on the bed and cried aloud. It seemed as if a dam had broken and there was no end for the tears. She cried herself to sleep.

August 26th, In the Party Hall:

It was 7:30 in the evening and the reception party had started. Both Sharat and Sandhya were sitting in a chair on the dais.

People had started arriving and wishing them. It was scheduled to go on till 8:30. In the morning , they had been angry and had not called Sandy. But then they later their concern for her overcame those emotions and made them call her. But she hadn’t picked up. They had been calling continuously but she didn’t attend any of their calls. They stopped calling her after sometime as she will be coming to the reception party anyways. But now already half an hour gone , still they couldn’t see any sign of her.

Two Hours Later:

It was 9:30 and the party was over. Sandy had not come. Meghna and Sharat were worried. They called her again but still she didn’t pick up. They wanted to see her but it was already late and they had to vacate the party hall and do the settlement. So they decided to go and meet her the next day.

August 27th , 10:00 AM, In Sandy’s house:

Sharat and Meg arrived at Sandy’s house. They rang the door bell and waited for sometime. But Sandy didn’t open the door. They rang several times but no response came. Meg suddenly remembered she had another key to the house. She opened her purse and took the key.

“Sharat, I have a key . Open with this.” She handed over the key to Sharat. With the help of the key Sharat unlocked the door and entered the house. It was dark inside. Meghna came behind him. Both of them called out Sandy’s name aloud but got no response. Meghna went to Sandy’s room. She saw Sandy lying on the bed and noticed that she was still in the same saree that she was wearing on 25th. She went near Sandy to wake her up.When she touched Sandy’s arm , it was very hot.

“Sharat! Come over here!” Meghna called. Sharat sensing some urgency in her voice dashed to Sandy’s bedroom.

“What happened Meg?” Sharat asked.

“Her body temperature is too high. Looks like she is having a fever. I am not able to wake her up. Call up the doc.”

“Okie Meg. U stay here with her. I will get the doc.”

“Come soon!”

“Okie”. Sharat rushed out of the door. Within 15 mins he was back with the doctor. The doctor checked Sandy and gave an injection to reduce the temperature. He prescribed some medicines and instructed to give the same as per his directions .

It took a week for Sandy to recover completely and the whole week Sharat and Meghna had been taking turns to take care of her.

Sep 4th, Sandy’s house:

The hall was occupied by Sandhya’s family which included her parents,bro,sis-in-law and Sharat’s mom. No one knew why they were asked to come. Sandy, Meg and Sharat was in the room discussing on how to start the conversation with them. They left the room and came to the hall and stood in front of the assembled family . Sandy took a deep breath and started the conversation.

“I know u all are confused as to the reason for this gathering. Sharat and Myself have something to confess to u guys.”

“What is it ma ?” asked her dad.

“Well dad, u think that my marriage with Sharat was arranged by u and Ramya Ma. But that’s not the truth. It was arranged by us.”

“What are u saying Sandhya? I don’t understand”, Sandhya’s brother queried her.

“Ya brother. Well u see this is what happened. When Sharat’s alliance came , I know u guys were very happy with it. But I was not. U see I was in love with a person and wanted to marry him. So I decided to meet Sharat to convince him to reject me. But when we met, I happened to know that he too was not interested in this marriage as he was in love with Meghna. We knew for sure that u guys wont allow love marriage. Even if we were able to stop this alliance ,there was no surety that we would have been do the same with other alliances that come our way. So I had a sudden idea of why not myself and Sharat get married and then later divorce. After that we will be able to marry the person we wish. I told this to Sharat. He thought about it and he was fine with it . We then told Meghna and my lover about my plan. They too agreed after a lot of persuasion.” Sandy stopped.

“The marriage happened. But we were not husband and wife ,but friends. The quarrels between mom and Sandhya were all started just to make my mom angry so that she will come to hate Sandy and it will be easier for divorce. But every time sandy quarreled, she would end up feeling sad for causing so much distress. But still we had to stick to our plan. But when mom came to know that Sandy will not be able to give birth , that was the final tear. Mom felt she had been betrayed and that led to our plan get executed. We are telling u this because, we wanted u not to feel guilty. It was not ur fault for our failed marriage. It was planned by us. U may think it as a stupid plan. But it worked for us. We didn’t mean to hurt u.” Sharat completed.

The whole hall was in complete silence. No one spoke. Finally Ramya, Sharat’s mom broke the silence.

“Sandhya,come here ma.” Sandy went near her. Ramya hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. Sandy was taken by surprise but was happy and hugged her back.

“Ma, I am so sorry for fighting with u all the time . Please forgive me .”

“Its okie child. I forgive u. When I look at how happy my son is now, I can definitely forgive you.”

“Sandhya” Her dad called her.

“Yes dad”

“We know about Meghna now. Tell us about the person u r in love with. We can arrange for ur marriage now.”

“No pa . I cant marry him now. He is already married to someone else.” Sandy replied.

“Some one else?”

“yeah uncle, someone called Gowri. Even I didn’t know . Looks like Sandy has more things to explain.” Sharat replied.

Sandy closed her eyes. Here it goes .

“yeah, well I will tell. I was Paul’s second love. He was already in love with a girl named gowri who was forced to marry someone else. After her , Paul and myself fell in love with each other. While I was planning my marriage with Sharat and then divorce. Gowri got a divorce from her husband and came back to Paul. I didn’t know any of this. I got married to Sharat and one day when I went to Paul’s home, I found them together in bed. I was angry. He explained that he already said that cant marry to Gowri, and she had been okie with it. But then that day they had been drinking together and Paul realized that his love for Gowri didn’t die. We didn’t talk for a while. After some months we got to know Gowri was pregnant. I ordered Paul to marry Gowri and even signed as a witness in their marriage. He was still in love with her and I knew he was happy with her. That made me happy even though it was painful. U remember those days Sharat , when I was feeling depressed. It was because of this. I didn’t tell u any of this cause I didn’t want u to think about anyother option. I waited all these days just to make sure everything happens as per our plans atleast to u . I am very happy now.” Sandy finished with tears.

Sharat embraced her,while Meghna too came and it was a group hug. After sometime Sandy calmed herself.

“Well that was strange” Sandy’s bro said.

“Life is Strange,mate” Sharat replied.

“I don’t think so Sharat. I think we live Strangely. All the things that happened was because of our decisions. If we had taken decision like others, it would have been different. Instead we took a strange decision and we see the consequences. Life is not strange. It us who live strangely.” Sandy replied.

“so what are u gonna do now” Sharat asked

“Carry on with my work . For now I have all of u . Maybe later I will some one who loves me back and I get to be with him “ Sandy replied

“Good Idea” Sharat said.

“I know. I always have brilliant ideas.” Sandy replied with a wink.

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