A look into the life of a newly married couple, as they share their life instances…
I stirred slowly in the bed. My eyes were drooping but I fought them open. I saw sunlight streaking through the crack that the shades revealed. I took my cell phone from the nearby table and it showed 12:22 p.m.
I groaned. It’s past breakfast time or rather even for a quick brunch. I guess it must have been my hunger that woke me up. I tossed and rolled in the bed and saw my husband sleeping peacefully, uninterrupted.
I looked at him for two long minutes, seeing how he had curled up in the bed and listened to his rhythmic breathing and I realized I was in love with him, with his serene face.
Well, um, it’s just been a month since we (Prem and I) got married. It was an arranged marriage and two weeks into our wedding, we were on our honeymoon journey to tour Europe. And it’s only yesterday evening that we returned back to India, after two weeks of heaven-on-earth trip. Due to the jet lag, we were sleeping like logs.
Prem, two years and three months older than me, is fair, has a good built and is most ruggedly handsome. Yeah, he is deadly handsome! He might not be my ‘Prince Charming’ yet, he’ll be my ‘Enchanting Prince’. I ruffled his hair fondly and he stirred a little but made no attempt to open his eyes.
I removed myself from the bed and brushed my teeth. Even after I had bathed, Prem hadn’t got up. I quickly made some hurried lunch – scrambled eggs, rice and curry. Prem’s parents are supposed to lunch with us this afternoon and I’m pretty sure they might arrive anytime sooner. So, I went to the bedroom to wake him up.
“Prem,” I called out, pushing the shades aside.
I looked at the vast expanse of green pastures below. Well, our house is in the sixteenth floor of the high-rise apartments, so we can afford a grand view of the world anytime. Among the clustered group of houses, I felt our lives lost. I always favored independent villas but Prem had bought this house even before our marriage and it had cost him a lot of bucks.
I sighed deeply. This is not where I belonged to. I neither need his lavish financial status nor his luxurious home. I wish to live a simple life etched with joy. There’s nothing equivalent to the bliss that we derive from simple things. But, one has to accept changes. That’s how life is!
I sat down on the bed and placed a hand over his arm. It felt cold. I pressed my warm hand and he opened his eyes.
“Good morning!” he said stretching.
“Practically speaking, it’s ‘Good Afternoon!’” I said smiling.
He grinned before saying, “My wife’s face is always vivid enough like the sun. So, it’s difficult for me to guess what time of day it is, if she’s gonna block my window view.”
“You told my face was like the serene moon only yesterday night!” I argued.
“Oh, did I?” he asked laughing.
I threw a pillow at him. He laughed loudly and it was a mesmerizing laugh. I threw a romantic glance at him. He stopped laughing and led an imploring look into my eyes, if we could have some romance then.
“It’s past 1.30. Get up! Your parents might arrive sooner,” I said.
No sooner had I said that than the door bell rang.
“Go, go, go,” I urged.
I reached for the door and opened.
“Welcome to India,” my father-in-law said beaming.
I laughed, saying, “Thank you!”
“So, how was the tour?” my mother-in-law asked, winking.
“Exuberant!” I said, as they sat on the sofa.
“Where’s Prem?” she asked.
“Your son got up just now. He’s getting ready.”
Half an hour later, we were seated at the dining table and I served them lunch. That’s how the Indian tradition goes – a married woman serves her husband and elder people in the house, before she gets to eat.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t have enough time to cook elaborately,” I said.
“No, that’s fine. I know how it feels to be awake after jet travel. We’re glad that you managed to make a meal for us,” my mother-in-law said.
“Besides, it’s delicious!” Prem’s father praised, “Unlike my wife’s.”
That set us all in a merry mood.
“So, did you enjoy the honeymoon?” he asked.
Prem looked at me affectionately. I went near him, put an arm around his shoulder and said, “We had a blast! And we thank you for arranging the trip.”
“That was his idea,” his dad said, pointing out to him, “Even before the engagement, just after he saw you, he pestered us into buying those air tickets and tour package.”
“Really?” I asked surprised.
They nodded their heads and I looked at him. He grinned at me and winked.
“I love you,” I said aloud, forgetting his parents’ presence.
“Ahem,” his dad cleared his throat and I was brought to reality.
“We just wanted to check if you both are happy after the trip and that’s why we came today,” his mom said.
“That’s sweet of you,” Prem said, raising his eyebrows.
“What?” his mom asked, “Really, that’s the reason.”
“Now, come on, act nice,” I said, nudging him, “They’re concerned.”
“Chill! I was just kidding,” he said.
His parents left the house around five and I sat down to unpack our travel luggage, while he switched on the T.V. to watch cricket.
I unzipped the bag which had gifts like chocolates, perfumes, wallets and dresses, a few for us and a few to our family and friends, a custom India has, rooted to its culture. We Indians are always generous in bringing gifts back when we go abroad.
I sighted the handbag that Prem had bought for me in London. I pulled out the leather bag and I remembered Prem’s dad telling me that the honeymoon was his plan.
“This is the perfect time. Ask him,” my mind ordered.
I was dying to ask him a question since our wedding, but didn’t find the right time. I felt it’s apt to ask him now.
I unearthed the scarf that I had gifted him, from the bag and went to the hall. He was seated on the couch. I set the kettle in the kitchen and brewed some coffee.
I brought two large mugs, filled them with coffee and went over to him. I pulled the remote away from his hand and switched the T.V. off.
“What was that for?” he asked eyeing the coffee mug in my hand. I gave it to him, not answering. Then, I sat down next to him, with my coffee in my hand.
“What’s this coffee now for?” he asked.
“A lot can happen over a cup of coffee,” I sang.
“Prem,” I said cuddling closer to him, “Thanks for arranging the trip.”
“Anything for you.”
“I want to ask you something,” I began.
He raised his eyebrows.
“Um, I dunno if you’ll like the question. But, I wish to know the truth. I want no secrets in our married life.”
I twirled the coffee mug in my hand.
“Were you in a relationship before our marriage?” I asked slowly.
He sighed and took a swig from his mug.
“I’m not gonna force you into telling. But I want you to tell me one day finally.”
“I knew at one point of time, I’d have to confess to someone. No, Anjali, you’re not forcing me. I wanted to tell you sometime sooner too.”
I took in a deep breath. So, he did fall in love with someone else before we got married.
“But promise me, this is not gonna affect our lives,” he asked me.
“Definitely not,” I said, placing a reassuring hand in his, “As a wife, I’m just naturally curious about your past. I’m gonna accept you as you’re now. Your story will not change my love for you.”
“Thanks,” he said, drinking some more coffee.
“So, pour out,” I said.
“I was in college first year, when I realized what love was. Her name was Anita, yeah, Anita.”
He paused, reminiscing those moments.
“I was in my tenth grade I guess, that time,” I said.
He acknowledged by nodding.
“We were, um, in the same class and got to know each other soon. Both of us realized how much we cared for each other and decided to plunge into a relationship. We dated for two years, and we were inseparable. But, things decided to fall apart when we were in the final year of college.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Ah, nothing big,” he said, giving a weak smile, “It started with silly fights and matters became worse. To be precise, we got bored with each other. I became aware, ours wasn’t love. I initiated the break-up but she was adamant not to leave me.”
As silence dropped in, I drank my coffee which was turning cold.
“She made my life look messy and I had to go through hell before she finally left me. She was just too possessive of me and she always had the upper hand and became bossy when we grew closer. Before we exited college, we broke-up eventually.”
I finished my coffee, place the mug aside and linked my arms with Prem’s.
“You still love her?” I asked.
“No,” he replied immediately, “Not anymore. Not after what she has put me through.”
“And don’t tell me you never considered another new relationship. I’m sure there would’ve been girls to catch their prey once they knew their bait’s condition.”
“Yes, there were many and though I considered a few, I never got into a relationship again.”
I rested my head on his shoulder.
“Sometimes, you know, it’s better to not to choose your own life partner.”
“Sometimes,” I said.
He pulled my hand and touched our engagement ring.
“You remember the day when I came to see you with my parents for the first time in your house?”
“That moment when I saw you, so elegantly draped in sari with an innocent face, I feared if I could prove to be your better half. A girl has already left me, thinking I wasn’t fit enough to provide a happy company and I felt I shouldn’t ruin someone else’s life.”
“Well, you ended up being my better half now.”
“That,” he said emphatically, “I decided to be, only after I had talked a few words with you privately in your room.”
“That’s still fresh in my memory.”
“So it is, for me too. Your caring voice indeed charmed me. And that’s how I consented with the marriage and I personally went to the jewelry shop to select the engagement ring.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t forget that moment when you had called me to meet at a restaurant for dinner and I was stunned when you showed me the ring.”
“I wanted to make sure beforehand that you liked the ring and that’s the reason I didn’t even tell my parents that I had bought the ring, before I showed you. I didn’t want you to wear a design that you didn’t like. If you hadn’t, I’d have exchanged and bought you some other ring.”
I lifted my head, looked into his eyes and said, “I love the ring as much as I love you.”
He kissed my forehead, “I realized that when you had said yes to the ring in the restaurant. You didn’t even see the ring for a single second, but you exclaimed you loved it and don’t think I never noticed that.”
“That’s true,” I said holding his hand, “I didn’t care a hoot about the ring. I knew that, if you had taken concern to show me the ring before engagement, without your parents’ even knowing that you had bought it; I thought it was pointless to see it anymore. Rather I saw your love.”
“I don’t know if I’m your Prince Charming but I know for sure you’re my Lady Charming,” he whispered in my ear.
I gave a smile, before saying, “But I’m not sure of that.”
“You’ll realize sooner.”
“Well, I thank you profusely then for that trust on me. Mr. Prem.”
“OK, Mrs. Prem, now it’s your turn to answer to the same question that you had asked me.”
I pulled myself away from him, took away his coffee mug, picked mine and went to the kitchen.
“You said, there’s not gonna be secrets in our married life,” he yelled behind me.
I returned with the scarf in my hand now.
“Yes, I remember saying that,” I said, draping the scarf round his neck.
“Then, play a fair game. Pour out your story.”
“I never had a story,” I said, still adjusting the scarf.
“Jokes apart,” he said.
I pulled him closer by the scarf’s end and we were face to face.
“I never fell in love with anyone until I met you.”
“What? Don’t tell me you never had an infatuation, crush or a puppy love. I’m not gonna buy that,” he said backing away from my grasp.
“But that’s the truth,” I said finally.
“You want me to believe that?”
“That’s your wish,” I said and let go of the scarf, “The scarf suits you.”
I went and stood in the balcony, looking at the sun slowly shedding its radiance and slinking away as darkness was about to reign in.
“Really?” he asked me after what seemed to be about a minute, “Really, were you never in a relationship?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” I said, entering the hall again.
“Is that possible?”
“If you’re determined not to have one, yeah, then it’s possible,” I said waving a finger at him.
“Prem, I was never into this ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ thing,” I began, making double quotes in the air, “Not that I don’t appreciate it, but then I wasn’t willing to indulge in that pleasure.”
“Oh,” he muttered.
“I was basically a non attractive girl…”
“Don’t you say that Lady Charming,” he interrupted.
“Okay, but that was not the sole reason. See, when you told, you were in college first year, I immediately said I was in the tenth grade. That’s how I was, you know. Right from my eighth grade, whenever I moved to the next grade, I’d say to myself, my would-be is right now in two or three grades higher than me.”
“Yeah I was, three grades higher,” he said realizing.
“And I guess, that’s what I’ve said when I was in my tenth or eleventh grade, that my future husband is in college now and that he’s already moved on to the next stage of his life while I was still in school.”
“You were worried about that?” he asked giggling.
“Yes. That’s very likely me.”
“Hmm. Go on.”
“So, um, I was never interested in boys and was very much willing to marry the guy whom my parents pointed out. I was just afraid to test a relationship. What if it went wrong? What if we didn’t love each other anymore? I mean, it might mean absurd to you but I knew I’d never be able to handle a break-up as bravely as you did. I knew, it was not the path for me to survive. I rather feared broken hearts than getting involved in a relationship.”
“OK, but I’m pretty sure, there’d have been guys who wanted to be in a relationship with you.”
I slumped onto the couch next to him, taking my old position.
“Yeah, I did have a few stalkers but not as many as you had. But I made myself clear, that I’d never be in a relationship till my wedding.”
I closed my eyes.
“You know what the reason was?” I asked, but didn’t wait for an answer, “It’s because I want to present myself and my heart, clean and pure to my husband. I wish to show him that, I had that place in my heart reserved only for him. I can’t take anyone else in that position and if things fell apart as it did for you, I’d find it rather difficult to accept someone new and make love again.”
I opened my eyes slowly and saw Prem astounded by my little speech.
“I didn’t want someone to mess my life. But, still, I was afraid. People could love and then say ‘No, you’re not perfect for me.’ They had a chance. But I didn’t. For me, it’s just ‘once and forever‘ or ‘quit and live alone‘. And I did take that risk.”
After a long pause, I continued:
“Every girl really has that Prince Charming dream and I did too. I admit it. But I just don’t know…” I searched for the right words, “I wanted my husband to know, though I didn’t know who he was, I lived my premarital life, dreaming only of him.”
Prem was silent for a while.
He moved closer to me and took my hands once again.
“Anjali, I don’t know if this life of ours is gonna be smooth throughout. I can’t guarantee that…”
“Of course,” I butted in.
“We might have fights and disagreements too. But I’ll vouch you that we’ll do fine. Things will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”
“Good anecdote,” I said smiling.
“Whatever!” he said, “Look I didn’t marry you for the looks. I’m making myself clear now.”
“So did I.”
“I know that. Beauty dies as we age. But I’m just happy that I let go off Anita and even more glad that I got the best girl as my life partner. You know I should’ve waited. But past is past. A man can love a thousand girls, but only a real man can love a girl in thousand ways.”
“Wow! That’s simply romantic!” I exclaimed, amazed.
“Is it?” he asked.
“Yeah, though I haven’t witnessed at least one in those thousand ways of yours till now.”
He laughed quietly and looked out towards the sky.
“The sun’s setting in and the time is all mine to show you my thousand ways,” he said his lips nearing mine.
I drew in a deep breath and closed my eyes. I felt his breathing over my nose and he brushed aside a few strands of hair before he cupped my face with his hands. My heart skipped a beat, while I remembered his words, “Things will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end…”