“It’s my life….. It’s my life…..” Bon Jovi’s voice reverberated through the restaurant. Some customers thumped their feet on the ground rhythmically. At the same time, some swung their heads in appreciation of the song, while a few couples too engrossed with themselves completely ignored the audio.
Raghav sat in a corner near the window. Since the place was crowded, the waiter was not very pleased with Raghav choosing a four-seater table.
“Sir, a cozy two-seater table is there,” he pointed to the other extreme of the hall. Raghav ignored him. ‘Do I owe an explanation to every Tom, Dick, and Harry as to why I have taken this table?’ He frowned.
But the waiter seemed to be an adamant guy who had probably vowed not to allow Raghav to have some time of his own.
“Sir, What can I get for you? It looks like you are waiting for someone. You have chosen a four-seater; obviously, you are expecting some guests. Maybe I can get you something till they arrive.” He pushed a menu card in front of Raghav. It looked like the syllabus book of post-graduation.
Raghav would have written a will giving his property to the waiter. Anything to be left undisturbed at the moment when he needed some peace.
In an attempt to shoo him off, Raghav ordered a Falooda.
“Shall I get one with Vanilla or Strawberry ice cream,” the waiter asked, testing Raghav’s Patience.
“Get me one with Vanilla,” Raghav said, not even looking at the menu card.
Raghav stared at the blob of vanilla ice cream that precariously floated over the falooda. He wasn’t sure why he had ordered it. A cup of coffee would have helped to keep his anxiety at bay as he impatiently waited for his friends, the three idiots or the three musketeers, or whatever you chose to call them.
Anshul, Karan, and Yogi; were to meet him at the restaurant in another fifteen minutes.
Well, Raghav had called them to discuss something important. That is what he had said over the phone to Anshul.
Raghav took a few sips of the falooda, trying not to bother the vanilla blob.
“Sir, would you like to have something to eat?” Raghav looked up to confront the same waiter who had asked this question three times in 15 minutes.
‘Why is he behaving like I have occupied his ancestral seat and chair?’ Raghav muttered, looking out of the window and simultaneously shaking his head to reply to the waiter’s question.
A wailing child at one of the tables triggered his petulance.
‘Why do people bring kids to the restaurant like this?’ he muttered.
He almost made a spontaneous decision to leave the place when he caught sight of Yogi’s car that could be easily spotted amongst a plethora of vehicles for its lousy maintenance.
“Hey, Rags, what happened, man? Why did you call for us urgently? You sounded genuinely sad and upset. What is bothering my dear friend?” Karan gave such a hard slap on his back that Raghav was about to fall over the falooda. He composed himself at the right moment.
“Sir, what can I get for you all?” The waiter was there even before the threesome had occupied their seats. Raghav had a good mind to get up and give him a sound spank. Sensing his waxing wrath, Anshul salvaged the situation and ordered three cups of coffee.
But the waiter was not the type to give up soon.
“Anything to eat, sir?” The waiter again triggered Raghav’s anger. The trio pacified him.
“What is wrong with you today? Come on, tell us why you called us all here?” Yogi asked, putting down his car keys.
“Stop looking at the blob of ice cream and come out with whatever you have to say,” Anshul shook Raghav by his shoulders.
“My parents had registered my name in a matrimonial site,” Rahav began hesitantly, knowing his friends well, and just as he had anticipated, the three of them burst into peals of laughter. A few customers looked askance at them in the restaurant. The child stopped wailing and smiled, exhibiting the only set of two teeth she had.
“If you guys are not going to give a patient ear to me, I don’t want to discuss the issue with you,” Raghav said in a choked voice.
“Sorry, ” said Anshul, suppressing a smirk, but the next moment burst into a riot of laughter. Raghav got up irately but soon sat, catching a glance of the waiter coming with three cups of steaming coffee.
“Ok,” said Yogi, “So one thing is confirmed, our Rags is getting married, and he is already having an issue with matrimony.” The laughter had got rather contagious.
Karan hushed the others. “Can’t you see our friend is sad, something is bothering him? Instead of being of some help, you guys are fooling around.” He tried enforcing a reprimanding tone to camouflage the smirk on his face.
“You be out with your problem, Rags,” Karan said, sipping on his coffee.
Feeling a bit relaxed, Raghav narrated his sob story.
“My parents entrusted me with the password of a matrimony site and asked me to browse through the profiles of eligible girls. I hardly found time with the project submission deadline dancing in my head. One lady messaged me in the meantime, saying she was interested in my profile.”
“You hadn’t uploaded your snap?” Yogi made an innocent face and enquired.
Not gauging the sarcasm in his friend’s tone, Raghav sincerely replied that he had uploaded his recent snap.
“Is she pretty?” asked Anshul while blowing the hot coffee.
Raghav opened his phone and showed them the pic of a girl.
Not that one can reject her, but she wasn’t great-looking. For that matter, even Raghav was not some super handsome guy. The trio nodded, visualizing their friend’s wedding reception with this girl.
“She can’t be termed as charmingly beautiful, but she can’t be rejected either. What exactly is your problem?” Karan was getting rather impatient, and so was the waiter. He was once again at their table to take orders.
Yogi thought it would be best to spend a few bucks to do away with the pest for a while. “Two sandwiches,” he said without consulting the others. They didn’t seem to mind, for they were more engrossed in listening to Raghav.
“We chatted for a week and then realized that many of our ideas and thoughts had compatibility.” Raghav looked at the melting vanilla blob and stirred it with the straw.
“So, since a week, you were enjoying a chat with the girl?” Yogi looked at Raghav keenly.
“And now you called us for God knows what. By the way, what is her name?” Karan asked.
“Her original name is Maragathavalli, but they call her Mallika.”
“What?” screamed the three friends in unison. ” Where do South Indian’s get such archaic names?” they guffawed.
“Stop fooling around. The first daughter is named after the paternal grandmother, and that is how she got her name as Maragathavalli. But I told you guys she is called Mallika.” Raghav was upset.
“Ok, sorry, please tell us what Maragathavalli, aka Mallika says.” They coaxed Raghav to proceed
“She wanted us to meet in person, but then today her mother calls me and says she would also come along with her.”
“I told you this family nurtures old ideas. The name itself stands testimony for it,” Karan quipped.
“It is not that I mind her mother coming. Maybe the family nurtures conservative ideas, but the worst part is they want me to meet them at the Dadar railway station.”
Yogi was clutching his stomach soon after this. The waiter who came with the sandwich looked in awe as the three boys laughed their lungs out. He felt sorry for Raghav. He realized that Raghav must be the butt of their joke, for he was the only person not laughing.
“Listen, Raghav, why do you want to meet this girl? Why don’t you reject her instead? Come on, she is not the only girl in this universe to be your prospective bride.” Anshul argued, but Raghav shook his head.
“Listen, you are an IIT graduate. What is she?” Anshul got a bit serious now.
“She is also an IIT graduate in mechanics, three years younger than me.”
“Wow!!!” Karan rolled his eyes. Only someone like him, who had missed admissions to the prestigious institution by a few marks, knew how great it would be to call oneself it’s alumni.
“Now you are an IIT graduate, She is an IIT graduate. Then why are you looking so sad? Is it because the mother is coming with her to meet you?” Yogi asked, biting into the sandwich.
“If you do not want to meet her, say so. It looks like the railway station thing is bothering you. But it is a matter of perplexity. Why would someone want to meet a prospective groom in the railway station?”
“I can’t go back on this decision of meeting her. Her mother had already spoken to my parents. You all know they have been in the US with my sister for a couple of months. Somehow they feel convinced that this is a very decent family and I should meet the girl personally. And then also………” His friends caught him blushing. “I ….i….i ..I, too, liked the girl.” He looked down and drew articulate designs with the straw into the falooda.
“Ooooo…,” The trio rolled their eyes. “You mean you have fallen in love with Maragaa… whatever, even without seeing her. This is something superior to ‘Love at first sight.’ You will script History, my friend.”Anshul guffawed.
“Ok, now tell us what our role is? Do you want us to drive the mother away in pure Bollywood style? Yogi would be the best person to do that. He already looks like a ghost.” Karan gave his two-pence advice only to receive a kick in his foot.
“I need you all to come with me to the railway station just for some moral support. I don’t know why this railway station meeting gives me a weird feeling in the stomach.”Raghav pouted his lips.
“Yes, it is also giving me a weird feeling in the stomach and heart,” Karan agreed. “I hate railway stations,” he added as an afterthought, “But I will come.” He assured Raghav.
The boys finished the sandwiches and falooda, and coffee.
“Don’t pay this guy a single buck as tips,” Raghav said, gesturing to the waiter.
“Oh, come on, Raghav, he is only doing his duty.” Yogi put a twenty rupee note.
The schedule got fixed. Mallika and her mother would come from their house in Virar and wait at Dadar station platform number 4. The friends would stand at the overbridge and give remote moral support to Raghav.
Sunday morning saw the three idiots, who usually lazed around till 10 am, up early. They got ready to take their positions at the Dadar overbridge at 11.40 am sharp.
Anshul took a puff from his cigar as the Virar local approached Dadar station. It was noon, so the platform was not as crowded as it generally is. From the overbridge, the three friends could see Raghav greeting two women. The mother-daughter duo pair smiled too. Karan nodded his head and blinked his eye, gesturing to them.
“The girl looks perfect for our Raghav. Look, even she has a pair of thick glasses like him. They will have kids born with spectacles and eventually become IIT graduates or postgraduates too.” Sermoned Yogi.
“Shut up, and watch what is going on.”
Karan reprimanded him.
They were amused to see the three walk, with the mother in the middle. They say in the temple of Lord Shiva, the Nandi(Bull) Is in between the devotees and the shrine. “The apt simile for this lady would be the bull,” Karan said as he moved towards his left to get a proper glimpse of what the mother-daughter pair were up to.
The three sat on a bench in the station, with the same order as they walked.
“Dude! This boy called us for moral support, but he is now oblivious of our presence. Look how he is talking to both of them with all smiles.” Karan nudged the other two.
They saw how Raghav was straining his neck to have a proper glimpse of Mallika.
“I feel like giving a spank to this old female. Why on earth has she come in between the two youngsters. I would have outright asked her to leave if I were the prospective groom.” Grumbled Anshul.
“Now they are moving towards the railway canteen. I suppose, even snacks of railways they eat,” Anshul could not stop laughing.
They waited patiently for another hour. The three debated why the girl’s mother was keen on meeting the prospective bridegroom in a railway station.
“Maybe her father was a station master and died while crossing the track,” Anshul suggested.
“No, nobody would want to remember a place fondly for some mishap.” Yogi shook his head.
“Or maybe the couple had found this girl abandoned in the railway platform and might have adopted her.” Karan put forward another theory.
They put theories and postulates forward, one after the other. Though none fitted the groove properly, it helped them while away their time.
“Looks like this Rags has forgotten us. Wonder what he is discussing with the two ladies? Or are they gluttons eating every snack available in the canteen? Poor Raghav, his pocket will have a big hole today.” The three laughed.
Fed up of waiting, the three decided to call Raghav, and just then, Raghav’s message beeped in Karan’s phone.
‘Guys, I will be with you in another ten minutes.’
Soon after, the restaurant where the three met was upturned into a chaotic place. The trio screamed and guffawed at their friend.
“You mean to say she was born in a railway station?” Anshul clutched his stomach and rolled into peals of laughter.
“Ya, and that is why her mother considers the railway station an auspicious place.” Raghav blinked innocently.
“She was a prematurely born baby. Her parents did not expect her to be born early. They had undertaken a train journey to visit Tirupati on the behest of some elders in the family.” Raghav was explaining like he was a lecturer teaching three students.
“And then her mother went into labor while on the train. They got down at Renigunta, and Mallika was born there. Fortunately, a gynecologist traveled on the same train and helped deliver the baby at the railway hospital.”
“And then?” asked Karan, sure that there was something more to this railway station story.
“An astrologer predicted that since she was born in a railway station, the place is like a haven to her. As if to consolidate his prediction, Mallika soon took her first step as a one-year-old baby in a railway station while the family was traveling to Chennai.” Raghav looked delighted, and all the melancholy the trio had seen on his face a couple of days ago had vanished into thin air.
“And then the news of her getting admission to IIT was conveyed to them by her uncle while they were waiting on a railway platform to board a train.” Raghav rolled his eyes.
Even as the trio began to get rather bored of the adventures of Mallika’s family, Raghav continued. He was blushing again.
“Stop blushing, and tell us what is making you squirm like this?” Yogi planted a slap on Raghav’s cheeks.
As if this jolted him from some reverie, Raghav shook his head. “And when the family was traveling to Tirupati to take lord Venkateshwara’s blessings before they planned to look out for a suitable groom for Mallika, they met a couple as co-passengers. It was through them that they got my matrimony ID. It seems they had also liked my profile but my horoscope did not match with that of their daughter’s.”
“Is the wedding also going to be conducted in the railway station?” Karan quipped, trying in vain to control his laughter.
But ignoring the sarcasm, Raghav replied. “Yes, they have a venue in mind where the premises has been structured like a train. It is a restaurant which also has a wedding hall.”
“Are they expecting your parents to come by train from the US?” Yogi bit into a samosa, stuffing it in his mouth to avoid bursting into a fit of laughter.
“Shut up, don’t make fun.” Raghav made a face.
Karan, who was unusually quiet, had a very valid question, “Have they planned the nuptials too in a train or railway waiting room.”
Raghav blushed yet again, turning red on his face. “We are going to Jammu for a honeymoon on the very evening after the wedding. We will travel by the Jammu Tavi express, and her mother said she would book a coupe for our first night.”
The laughter mania got so intense after this that the restaurant people and customers also began laughing.
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