Ruhi raised a trembling hand to her warm cheek.
“He dared to kiss me? He dared do that?”
She pushed the blinds aside and took a guarded peek at the parking lot. He was waiting for her, leaning against the hood of his car, his eyes trained on the window, darned confident she’d be there. He raised his fingers to his lips and blew a kiss. Then seeing her stunned expression, he grinned, waved, and drove away.
“Gosh!” She came away from the window and leaned against the wall for support, lightheaded. He seems to know exactly how I feel! “Why? Oh why did I have to give myself away! Why couldn’t I keep my feelings in check?” she berated herself.
Ruhi, it had to happen sometime or the other. You aren’t an ace in deception, are you?
“No I’m not! But I could have been more careful! Damnit!” She kicked the dishwasher shut. “He manages to aggravate me all the time! I, I just couldn’t help myself!” She discarded the coffee dregs into the stainless steel trash can, and it slammed close with a loud clang that made her jump.
“Now I’ll always be at a disadvantage in his presence. He may not even take anything I say seriously. He’ll likely laugh it away. I cannot let him do so while I’m still undecided!”
She continued to fret while pacing the floor. “What am I to do? I feel so alone and helpless. Nobody knows how complicated our relationship is, and I can’t tell them without putting his reputation in jeopardy.”
She called home. “Mama?” she ventured after some hesitation.
16: Sweetest Taboo
Anand was true to his word. At the hastily constructed mandap in the backyard of the Mishra house, he took over the responsibility of Shreya from her father in his own highly capable hands.
The bride glowed as she and the groom were showered with blessings. And at the auspicious hour to the thunderous sounds of the nadaswaram and drums, Anand tied the mangalsutra around Shreya’s neck. The knots were then reinforced by his cousin sister and the bride became officially a part of his family.
Khanak eyes shone bright through a veil of tears as she watched her best friend grasp her cousin’s hand and take the seven vows around the sacred fire.
She felt at peace despite her sorrow. Shreya wouldn’t have found a better husband and perhaps Anand wouldn’t have found a better wife. It was time for her to move on.
“Anand is one lucky guy.”
The tiny hair follicles on the nape of her neck pricked and stood erect as she felt his voice drip like rich honey into her ear.
She closed her eyes, letting the warmth seep throughout her being. She had missed him, oh how she had missed him.
Trying not to let her tone belay her excitement, she said, “Yes, anyone who marries a girl like my cousin is very lucky indeed.”
“I didn’t mean to say that. He is lucky because he has you for a friend.”
‘The one who makes your pulse race..makes your heart sing with joy..’
“He was more a friend to me than I was ever to him.” She mused then said abruptly. “Let’s go..we are done here.”
They struck a deal: if she really would taste the pizza and not just stare at it, he’d be willing to give Two and a Half Men a look- see. Ruhi was pleasantly surprised.
But Shaan wasn’t. He truly hated the sitcom; in fact, he was repelled by it. Not just due to Ashton’s ubiquitous presence; he did not help matters by displaying a bare naked torso during most of the show but also because he essentially wrecked Shaan’s prospects when he proposed divorce to his wife in order to chase after other skirts unhampered.
Blast! Why does every mainstream American consider marital infidelity such a given thing that it has become standard subject matter for prime-time TV? It’s so funny; it’s pathetic! He moaned, clutching his head with his hands.
“Do you have a headache?”
“Yes, I do. I can’t watch this crap anymore!”
“Hmm…I thought you were fond of this so-called crap.”
“No, I find it utterly ridiculous,” he said, pointing the remote at the TV.
“No, wait! I want to see how his wife reacts.” Excited, Ruhi forced his arm out of the way. “Oh my god!” She fell back laughing on the couch when she saw Ashton’s rejected spouse drive her car through the wall of his house.
“Yes, you could call it funny, I suppose,” Shaan said, looking dejectedly at the screen. It was amusing in a sad way. Ashton’s wife looked like she needed stat psychiatric assistance while he looked like what he was: a dimwit and an utter fool!
“I am willing to marry you Anand.”
He looked up and stared disbelievingly at Khanak. “Did I really hear what you just said?”
Her lips attempted a bright smile but her facial muscles refused to cooperate. “Yes..I will marry you if that’d make you happy and ..and Shreya would be free to lead her life the way she is supposed to.”
He got up to his feet and stepped up close crowding her in. “Leave Shreya out of it! I want to know about you! Would it make you happy?”
False words couldn’t cover up the anguish brewing inside. “Of course! I will be happy..after all I’ll be spending the rest of my life with my best friend…right?”
All at once Anand threw his head back and burst into a fit of merry laughter and it filled Khanak with trepidation.
“You will never grow up will you Khanak? Though we have all graduated into adulthood, even your precious Shreya…you still remain a little girl of eleven whose favorite pastime is playing hide and seek with her chums. No Khanak! I won’t let you off this lightly, you can’t deceive me..I can read you through and through!”
His smile vanished as his hands clamped down on her arms, and she felt his fingers mark her bones, yet she didn’t squirm. There was something in his eyes she had never encountered before and it scared her. “I don’t want you to be just a friend, I want you to be much more than that…I want you to be my wife, my lover..Someone I can share my sorrows and joys with..I want to be your everything. Can you see me in that guise Khanak?”
She didn’t think he’d like her answer..but they’d always been honest with each other. “Perhaps I could.”
Pics taken on the Santa Monica Pier-Edits by Emrys
Carnival of Life
As the earth spins
And time rolls on
Affection becomes an obligation
Lines deepen into wrinkles
The present becomes the past
And the past history
Front in line steps back
As the weary spine sags towards the ground
The carnival of life stops for no one
It simply goes on
Navratri (in Sanskrit meaning Nine Nights) is the celebration of the feminine divine. During this festival nine forms of Shakti or Devi are worshiped. She is the ultimate embodiment of creative energy and celebrating her is considered most auspicious. This is one of the most important festivals of the Hindus and is celebrated all over India and the opportunity arrives twice a year: in the beginning of spring and autumn.
Just as India is a land of many languages and cultures, the celebration of Navratri too takes various forms. In West Bengal, the last four days are celebrated as Durga Puja where exquisitely decorated life size clay dolls of the Goddess depicted as slaying the demon Mahisasura are set up and on the fifth day are immersed in the river.
In Maharashtra and Gujarat, the festival is celebrated with the energetic Garba and Dandiya Raas dances.
In South India steps are set up and decorated with dolls in an arrangement called Golu.
The festival culminates in on the tenth day in Vijayadashami meaning ‘victory on the tenth day’ which refers to Lord Rama’s victory over the ten headed demon Ravana as well as that of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasura.