“Can’t anybody in this house function without having to call out to me” Vandana muttered aloud almost on the verge of throwing the spatula on the floor in frustration, but better sense prevailed. She was already going crazy cooking 3 separate dishes for breakfast with two variants in each one: the low salt and the regular salt. The family was a living example of diversity, just that the unity bit was non-existent. The common consensus was unheard of here and each one held on to their preferences firmly like the world would come apart if they gave up on their preferences. Vandana did not want any confusion or collision, hence she was careful to keep the poha, idli, parathas, and sandwiches in dishes of different colors and different corners of the table. The last thing she wanted to witness early in the morning was the idli aunt getting hold of the paratha cousin’s dish and then a war of words ensuing.
Vandana was exhausted and headed to the balcony with her cup of coffee. All she wanted now was some peace and no access to human voices, especially those calling out her name. As she was heading to the balcony, she heard the eldest aunt’s daughter calling “Babhi, are there any eggs in the fridge, I want to have them for breakfast.” Vandana kept walking ahead without a response. She wasn’t going to give up her stolen moments with coffee to go on the egg hunt, the girl can do that on her own, she will have such an awesome insta story content. Why spoil her opportunity, Vandana smiled as she entered the balcony.
She had hardly taken a sip of her warm coffee when she heard the most dreaded sound of it all, the turning of the doorknob, Vandana would have facepalmed herself if she hadn’t been holding the coffee mug. “Vandu. Here you are! I have been looking for you all over the house?” Pramod walked up to her prepared to give her a warm hug but retraced his steps looking at that expression on her face. In these 8 years, Pramod had grown familiar with this expression and knew it was time to be cautious.
“Vandu, why are you upset now. It’s our anniversary in a couple of days and this is the special 5, the whole house has geared up to celebrate. This is so special.” Pramod made a sorry attempt at calming his angry wife.
Vandana had tried her best to stay calm but her husband’s hand like always had ensured her best efforts didn’t last long. “I feel extremely special Pramod after spending two whole hours in the kitchen preparing breakfast and am so excited to get back and start the saga of lunch preparation. How I wish I hadn’t been foolish 5 years ago and not been scared of climbing down the third-floor balcony, I wouldn’t be upset today.” Vandana snapped back at Pramod.
“Vandu, relax why do you have to do everything on your own, get the others to help you. You won’t be so stressed. Please, can you stop berating yourself over not climbing down the third-floor balcony? You couldn’t walk without help in that pink lehenga; how would you have managed that feat.” Pramod was gloating at his comeback, but his joy was very short-lived.
“I got the others to help with yesterday’s lunch. I had planned to spend the afternoon chilling with Netflix, but thanks to 6 people cooking 4 dishes with two variants of each and ongoing competition for the best recipe for bhindi fry, I spent the afternoon scrubbing in the kitchen. That pink lehenga is the reason I wanted to run. How did I not realize, I was marrying an insensitive prick? Now get the house in order, looks like it’s hit by a typhoon. Anniversary break is what you said. 4 days have been spent in the lovely ambiance of the kitchen, let me soak in the ambiance to the fullest in the remaining two.” Vandana walked away fuming.
Pramod stood there staring at the door which had just been banged shut. The comeback over which he had been gloating a few minutes back had proved to be his bane. “I deserve this for speaking without using my brains. Of all the things, I had to think of that pink lehenga only for a comeback.” He was mumbling to himself. He couldn’t blame Vandana, this was their fifth anniversary, he had made such lovely plans. But, like always his family had made plans of their own. Like always they hadn’t bothered checking with him or Vandana. “What celebration will it be without the family” was his family’s oft-repeated motto. Celebrations could be calm and private was a concept alien to his family.
Pramod and Vandana and he had gotten to know each other. They had been batchmates in business school and it was their love for reading which had brought them together and the fact that they were both reserved in nature and loved calmness brought them closer.
Two years into the relationship, Vandana invited him home for Diwali celebrations. When he arrived at her doorstep, he was pleasantly surprised to see an elaborate rangoli at the entrance and strings of marigold framing the entrance. “The puja is a good three hours away and the preparations are already done”, he wondered. When he stepped into the house, what he saw was an immaculate house with the prettiest diyas, candle holders, and flower arrangements perfectly in place. Even the cushion covers and throws were in perfect order. The biggest surprise was seeing Vandana’s family in color-coordinated outfits.
He had seen such a picture-perfect Diwali celebration only in movies or magazines. He was immensely surprised such celebrations happen in reality as well. In his house, the arguments over the rangoli designs and the variety of flowers only took up most of the day and nothing looked prepared till the nth hour. A festive celebration with 5 people in attendance was unthinkable at his house.
He gelled well with Vandana’s family and when she announced to her family about their wanting to get married, her family was extremely happy for her. Now the actual tension set in, how was he going to introduce Vandana to his family?
Pramod had understood that Vandana’s calm disposition was probably the surroundings she had spent most of her life in. Even when her entire family of four was in the house, one had to cross-check to verify human presence. But his family was diametrically opposite. In fact, unlike Vandana, his was a large family. He was the youngest of four siblings and most of his extended family lived in the same city. Pramod’s family was close-knit and for every small occasion, his house would be filled with uncles, aunts, and cousins. but calmness was an alien concept in the house. Having grown up in-crowd and chaos, Pramod’s adapted his calm nature as the only means of finding quiet in the chaos. He had a loving family but again they never believed in expressing their emotions in a measured manner.
Their wedding was much as he had expected and to the utter shock of Vandana was a completely chaotic affair from the word go. Vandana had enjoyed the welcome she received from his family on her first visit to their house. Some of his cousins and his two elder siblings had specially come down to meet her. Though she was overwhelmed at the attention she received, she had felt it would be unfair to complain when she was being showered with love, but this shower soon began to drench her and that’s when the problem began.
Pramod and Vandana’s families had starkly opposites mindsets and preferences and the discussions over the wedding arrangements proved to be nothing less than a fully charged parliamentary debate. While Vandana and her family had been insistent on a low-key wedding with only close family and friends, Pramod’s family could not understand why would anyone want to keep wedding celebrations low-key. To them, it was sacrilegious not to celebrate a wedding without shor-sharaba. Like always Pramod’s voice got lost in the crowd. But eventually, Pramod and Vandana discovered that, in this war of preferences between their families, their wedding was turning into everything that they did not want it to be, and looking at how upset Vandana was, Pramod had said “Vandu, they are our family, what should we do run away? The happy glint he had seen in her eyes had left him very worried.
Pramod had breathed a sigh of relief when a consensus had been finally reached between the families on the venue, menu, and guest list. But the happiness had been short-lived. His mom and aunts felt a saree would look too simple for the main event and insisted that Vandana wear a lehenga and Vandana was upset about her choice of outfit had been being vetoed. It had taken considerable negotiation skills from his end to convince her to wear the saree for the wedding and agree to a lehenga. She finally agreed but the glitzy pink lehenga that his mom and aunts chose was the kind of outfit she would never step out in, she hated shimmery and sequined outfits. The noisy and delayed baraat had already caused more than enough tension at Vandana’s house and coupled with the anger of having to wear the shimmery outfit, she had messaged him “I am planning to run away”. Pramod saw the message when he had just been seated at the mandap and his tension had peaked. He had even persuaded the Pandit to get the rituals completed on a fast-forward mode. He could not trust this girl.
The years after the wedding hadn’t exactly been smooth, especially with Vandana not used to the chaos and crowd. She was used to living in a household which functioned in a planned and structured manner and his house had never been very fond of planning. The chaotic way of functioning only got to her nerves. After considerable effort, they had reached a middle ground, though Vandana was not entirely happy with the arrangement. Initially, though Vandana felt happy at the enthusiasm with which each festival, birthday, and anniversary was celebrated in the family, over time she had started longing for quieter celebrations. She had sarcastically asked Pramod on their third anniversary “What does a romantic anniversary celebration look like?” He wouldn’t deny, it had pinched him. They deserved to spend time by themselves, he couldn’t remember the last time just the two of them had set out in peace.
Their fourth wedding anniversary had been spent indoors, thanks to the lockdown. But it was celebrated in full spirit, but Pramod and Vandana’s wish for a quiet celebration by themselves remained just that a wish. This year Pramod had been particular to meticulously plan every detail, even asking Vandana to apply for leave in advance, and then to his utter shock just two days before he was to whisk her to the surprise getaway, the whole of his extended clan had arrived at their house. Grand plans were being made for their anniversary celebrations, a pooja, a dance night and a whole gamut of plans were being shared, but like always, nobody had checked with him. “It was a surprise stupid if we told you in advance, how will it remain a surprise” his eldest sister chided him. Pramod wasn’t sure, he had been shocked or surprised.
Pramod had been trying to clean the house in compliance with Vandana’s instruction, but since the past two hours, he had only been trying with no success. Either the kids would start jumping on the just made-up bed or somebody would plop a huge pile of laundry. The newspaper would not get in order, as it kept getting passed around the house. Finally, Pramod gave up plonked himself on the couch, when he saw his angry wife glaring at the children playing on the veranda. He looked in the direction and saw them playing mercilessly with her rose saplings.
That evening, Pramod and Vandana were sitting in two opposite corners of the room. Vandana had been planning for months and eagerly waiting for this week, but here she was spending it being angry and irritated. Looking at Pramod she felt sorry for him, how was he to blame? She felt bad about treating him like her punching bag. She could see him sitting at the other end of the room looking grumpy and upset. She had almost got up to go and give him a hug when her sister-in-law took a seat beside her and started teasing her about the fact that on the eve of their anniversary why were they sitting miles apart. Not wanting to create a scene, Vandana politely smiled and walked away. She headed to her favourite balcony. A few minutes later she felt a hand on her shoulder, “What is it Pramod?” she asked him a tad irritated.
“How do you know it’s me? Pramod responded in surprised
Vandana turned around and glared at him.
“I know you are angry and I know all the plans have been washed out and I know we badly need a break from this chaos. Let’s run away Vandu” Pramod said holding her hand.
There was that same happy glint in her eyes that Pramod had seen, all those years ago, only this time he seemed to share that glint. They gleefully ran out from the back entrance and zoomed out on the bike for the quiet celebration they longed for.
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