I paused for a while when he said that.
“Em sir? Drop aa?” my cousin’s question pierced me very hard.
While my heart longed to take it further my brain warned me that there is no slightest hope of my parents’ approval for this. We reached my cousin’s house but my thoughts dint cease. My cousin’s pre-wedding ritual was everything but fun. Every single couple reminded me of her and I was constantly imagining myself with her in their shoes. I talked to the girl whom my dad had asked me to meet but something didn’t feel right. I should have decently dropped Sneha after knowing her rather than just after knowing that she cannot speak.
I wooed Sneha without her notice for several days. I also met her in our gang hangouts and interacted with her. Every little thing I knew about her impressed me and my fondness for her grew thicker. Decision making was again hard because I knew I loved her and that my parents wouldn’t approve it.
“Karthik? Did you like Paddu?” My mother was asking me about my uncle’s daughter on phone.
“Not very much.”
“Why? What’s wrong with her?”
“Umm..err..she is short.” I lied.
“Short? Uh? You’ve always liked girls who sing. And that girl sings really well.”
Sing? I was waiting for a chance to tell my mom about a girl who cannot speak, let alone sing.
“What? Karthik come on, won’t you tell mummy what happened?”
“Actually ..I think I like another girl.”
“See..I told you he has a girlfriend.” I could hear my grandmother chuckle in the background.
“Who is she?” My mother turned serious.
“Surya’s schoolmate. I know her through friends.”
“Mom, She is a very nice girl. Well read, pretty and comes from a good family.”
“And?” I knew what my mom was asking.
“There’s only one problem.”
“What is it?”
“Umm..She cannot speak.”
“You’re nuts Karthik. This is not happening. Its okay if you don’t like Paddu but please don’t do this to us.”
Actually the last few sentences were the ones which I kept on repeating until my mom gave up on me. Strangely, my father opined that they should at least consider my proposal. And like in every other Indian home, we both convinced my mom who said her decision would be final and of course, unbiased. The next two duties I had were to win Sneha’s heart and make her win my mother’s heart.
“Go tell her dude. What are you waiting for?” My cousin’s question was too easy.
“What I am saying is don’t waste time and try to expedite this whole thing. What if some other Karthik likes her on her way back to Hyd?” She had a point.
“Spare us some privacy tomorrow. I shall meet her before you guys come to the garden top restaurant.” We had planned a farewell party to our recently wed cousin.
“Okay your Majesty. We shall arrive late to hear the good news.”
Suddenly I felt butterflies in my stomach. What if she rejected my proposal?
“Why would she say NO? You are learned, comfortably well-off and of course smart. To top all this, you come with the NRI tag” Though I knew I was all that, I felt good to hear it from her mouth.
“Stop it now and wish me luck”.
Sneha was sitting alone on a bench with a hand on her chin. I always found Sneha’s face pleasant despite of the gloom around her. May be I loved her for that. I went to her and wished her a hi which she reciprocated.
“Are you waiting for Pavan and friends?” She nodded her head.
I rehearsed several times on how to get to the proposal line. I thought I would ask her why she cried and then tell her that breaking her engagement was the right decision. Then I would tell her how priceless she is. Then I would propose my love to her. Neatly woven.
I had to start a conversation somehow.
“Hey..I am sorry I smiled at you that day when you were crying. I dint find it funny. I found it cute instead.” She had a beautiful expression which read “your apology is accepted”.
“Are you still upset that it has been called off?” She looked at me with a shocked expression and her eyes were about to get wet any moment. May be she was upset that I was aware of her secret.
“Trust me. Whatever has happened ,is the best thing that can happen to you ever.” She managed a smile.
“Someone worthy must be waiting somewhere.” I said that aloud and “right in front of you” to myself. She smiled again, this time more heartfelt. I had to let out “the” line next but I balked. The silence between us was so intense that I could hear my heartbeat. I was known to be a blunt and outspoken person who never hesitates to speak his mind but there I was tongue less about something that HAD to be conveyed somehow.
“Why don’t you… I mean… Why didn’t you… Didn’t you ever like a guy? Why this arranged marriage crap?” I blabbered some nonsense. She shrugged her shoulders.
“I think you should. It will be good for you. Compatibility guaranteed.” She folded her hands and looked at me with “Really?” expression on her face.
“Yeah. Believe me. I won’t let someone come into my life just because my mom/dad had asked her to. One reason why I am seeing a girl.” I said that without taking my eyes off her.
She gestured “who?”
I mustered courage and slowly said “It is you.” She shook her head and looked away from me.
It was evident from her face that she was shocked and what pained even more was that she didn’t like what I said.
“Its ok if u don’t like me. I am not born to impress people.” My male ego got hurt. My statement was rude and it brought tears to her eyes. None of us looked at each other until Pavan and others arrived. Even later, we behaved like strangers. My cousin understood the scene and dint ask any details. I looked at her when we got ready to leave. She was in her own world as usual.