To err is human 

To err is human 

“Get married and go your way, Maya. This is a marriage of convenience, so that your mother’s wish is fulfilled and your dreams too come true.” 

Maya’s loud laughter made the guests turn their heads and look at her in wonder.

It was a deliberate act, obviously!

Has this bride gone crazy?

“Uncourteous!” Someone murmured.

“How absurd! No etiquette.” jeered a guest.

“Hey, it is alright. She is amused and we cannot deny her the right to express, it is a constitutional right.” A young dude pitched in to ‘save’ her from censure.

Maya’s mother eyed her in sheer disbelief. Her father hid a smile. She tried to fathom the message in their eyes. The duo seemed amused.

Was her daughter challenging her decision? What audacity!

“I wish I could knock that sneer from her face,” Sneha murmured to herself.

Hoping to find some solace in her husband’s company she turned to him only to find him enjoying the situation. Her anger knew no bounds. How dare he humiliate her? Has he hatched a plan to crush her on this day?

‘He can’t be so heartless,’ she tried to assure herself.

The groom arrived at the flower-decked doorway. The excitement intensified on seeing the horse-mounted, six feet tall, ‘not dark’ yet handsome groom.

Maya turned towards the door and in flash of a second crossed the threshold and disappeared into darkness.

The entry of the groom and the exit of the bride happened simultaneously.

Mr. Sinha gaped at the doorway; Sneha Sinha fainted. The groom ran to hold his prospective mother-in-law from falling. (Oh, what a fall it would have been! my fellow guests)

The guests stood still (like painted ship on painted ocean).

The silence that descended on the marriage function hall was more deafening than the sound of the band that ripped the air.

The guests and the relatives were in a dilemma whether to leave or to wait and watch the high intensity drama that would be staged in the mandap.

 Someone fetched a glass of water for Sneha Sinha. Mr. Sinha sprinkled water on her face and waited with baited breath for her to regain consciousness. The let-down groom, wiped the sweat drops on her forehead.

Sneha Sinha, gaining consciousness said in a thunderous voice, “What are you waiting for Rajpal? Call the police? My daughter has run away from the Mandap.  Vishal go after her. How could she do this to me? Oh, my friends…. Society… can’t face.”

Her whimpering was drowned in the band being played at the gate, blissfully unaware of the muddle the families were in.

“Chachaji, please ask the band to leave. Whatever the due amount, tell them we will transfer online. Let us first apologize to the gathered guests and ….” Rajpal tried to calm her down.

Sneha snarled at him, “Dignity, respect, all gone …gone with her.”

Vishal, stood up and joined his hands and spoke to the relatives who had gathered around them and said, “Dear all…I…. we, apologize for this unfortunate incident. Though the marriage has not been solemnized we request you to proceed for the buffet arranged in the lawns. Please do not leave the venue without having dinner. Err… I know it sounds awkward but since you have graced the occasion, we don’t want you to be disappointed. The wedding bells shall ring, the sindhur shall adorn the bride’s forehead, the sacred Mangalsutra shall embellish her neck. This is a promise I make to my parents, my in-laws and all the relatives who have come to bless us.”

Too dramatic, Mr. Sinha thought.

The relatives started murmuring and whispering among themselves,

‘He is so heart-broken, doesn’t know what he is talking.”

“Buffet and in this situation? He can’t mean it really!”

 “It’s better we leave now, embarrassing……”

“How will they face this situation?” someone sympathised.

 The Mishras held him close and tried to calm him.

“Beta, calm down. Our heart-felt apologies to you and your family for this untoward incident. We understand how humiliating it is to stand alone in the mandap with the bride deserting you at the nick of the moment. We know apology can’t make up for the damage done to your reputation, your family. We will have a talk once everyone leaves.”

Taking a cue, one by one they started trickling out.

The wedding venue which was sparkling with lights and reverberating with music and orchestra, looked lacklustre and limp. Life had slipped away leaving them at crossroads.

The venue staff started clearing the hall. The buffet hall filled with the aroma of biryani, the spicy curries, the fresh-rich salads, the appetizing soups, the desserts…the flavours wafting across the hall suddenly appeared to have lost their punch. The caterers and the crew who were the pride of the event felt deflated like the bunch balloons adorning the pillars in the hall.

What would have been an atmosphere of ecstasy turned into one of dejection.

The wedding venue had witnessed something that no other venue would like to experience -a denial of wedding vows, a rejection of togetherness, a disparagement of the institution of marriage.

Life wouldn’t be the same for anyone henceforth, the event organizers, the crew would recall it with regret. The delicious food shall always regret the ‘no compliment’ wedding ceremony, oh, rather the ‘no-wedding-ceremony’.

The luggage was packed hastily, the bills were settled half-heartedly, (scores yet to be settled), the vehicles were crammed with the baggage, and the wedding venue was vacated with a heart that cried out loud- why? Oh, why?

If only someone could answer!

Or

Was there someone who could answer?                 
***

Maya and Vishal, childhood buddies, grew up together; their fathers being business partners bonded well with each other and were happy to see their children developing a liking for each other. 

As the business flourished, management and administrative functions had to be shared between the two. The company grew remarkably owing to their dedication and skilful management of resources. Reinvesting in the business brought more opportunities and gradually it diversified into service and product-based companies. Mr. Sinha, took over finance company and Mr. Bajaj, Vishal’s father retained Electricals and electronics manufacturing unit.

Call it a business deal or a genuine desire to strengthen the bond between the two families, they hoped that Vishal and Maya would eventually get married and bring the friendship to a culmination. Mrs. Sinha had always had eye on the growing business of the Bajaj’s and kept pushing Maya on every occasion to mingle with the family. Childhood friendship did blossom into teenage infatuation but since their education and interests were poles apart, the initial attraction faded and they promised to remain friends for ever. 

Knowing her mother’s keenness on this alliance, Maya maintained a safe distance with the Bajaj’s on the pretext of being busy with her studies. Vishal too cut down his visits to Sinha house. 

Even though Sneha Sinha observed the growing distance she ignored it. She was hell bent on going ahead with her plans and come what may she would bring both of them into the mandap. While both Maya and Vishal were thinking that it was a secret between the two, little did they know what was cooking in Sneha’s mind. Whatever was brewing it would spill in the right time.  

Fearing her mother’s wrath and displeasure about their ‘secret’ she disclosed it only to her father. He felt he couldn’t compel them into a relationship that they were not prepared for. Moreover, marriage was not a contract, or a business deal, it was a ‘heart matter.’ He knew Sneha Sinha would never give weightage to emotions and feelings. Over the years she had become a true businesswoman and viewed all relations in the light of ‘good or bad deal’; she remained a partner in business but couldn’t justify her role as his life partner. He feared that if this marriage came through, Maya and Vishal’s life too would become mechanical. She would hang in his neck just as a tie would; a stifling and cumbersome tie. He couldn’t let that happen, he had to be ahead of Sneha in planning for his daughter’s secure, happy future. 

Vishal’s parents, unaware of the fate-changing happenings in their son’s life, awaited the day when Maya would grace the mandap and Vishal would mount the horse. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!   

***

 “Vishal, I am very happy for you. Your decision to go abroad to gain hands-on experience in Business Management is praiseworthy. I have registered for a Ph.D. programme in Psychology.  I know my mom will not agree to it and will insist on at least engagement if not marriage before you leave.” Maya sounded worried.

Vishal too was concerned about the issue but did not express lest it should make her feel all the more stressed out. 

“Don’t fret Maya, we will discuss with your dad. My parents, too, are keen on this alliance and talking to them wouldn’t fetch the desired result. Just hold on. We will sort it out. Meanwhile concentrate on your Ph.D.”

Mr. Sinha was at the end of his tether. The growing pressure on him to ‘negotiate’ with the Bajaj’s and Maya’s unwillingness to go ahead with the marriage were in two opposite directions. Finding a solution to the complicated situation wasn’t an easy one, but he had to keep up his promise.

   He held a confidential meeting with the prospective groom and bride and put his proposal that could resolve the issue, even if it was a temporary one. As he unfolded the proposal both gaped at him. She was in a state of shock and Vishal looked dumb.

“Maya whatever your reasons for declining the alliance the only way out is to go ahead with my strategy to tide over the crisis. We will bide by time till Vishal leaves for US and then you can pursue your higher studies.” 

It wasn’t as simple as it sounded. Mr. Sinha too knew it. But sometimes you have to believe the gut feeling and surge ahead, not looking back.  Get going my dears and keep your doubts at arm ‘s length to boost your morale each time it pokes you.’ His smile was encouraging and his confidence was infectious.

“Dad uncle, this is a commendable solution to the otherwise unsolvable issue. Maya, he is right. Let’s not reject this. I am here to support you, don’t hesitate. This will keep your mom from prodding you about our marriage.”

Mr. Sinha looked at her expectantly. 

“Dad, hope this won’t land us in greater problems. Are we unwinding the problem or sinking deeper into it? I really hope it works.”

“Ah, so you are giving your consent at least to this if not to marriage. Relieved.” Sinha sounded cheerful.

Vishal too breathed a sigh of relief.  Maya’s smile was half-hearted. 

***

“Sneha, your…errr… our dream is about to come true. Maya has given her consent for her marriage and Vishal has never had any objections to this alliance. I know this is more a business deal for you…us, but let them not enter the sacred relationship on false note. They are on the threshold of their life’s aspirations and ambitions, let not our dreams come in their way of realising their ambitions.” Mr. Sinha almost pleaded with her. 

“You talk as though I am one selfish monster, pushing our daughter into the sea of troubles. I am as much fond of her as you….” The word ‘fond’ struck him weird. 

But any further talk could lead to dangerous conversation revealing the secret they had vowed to keep under wraps. 

Sneha Mishra wasn’t convinced and she looked for any hidden agenda in his eyes. He had learnt to camouflage his real feelings as their marriage piled up years. All she could discover was a spark (a spark neglected burns the house! *) that could have meant anything – from happiness to escape. She let the matter rest. 

She went around her kitty party groups announcing the momentous decision of both the families. Little did she know about the thunderbolt that would hit her soon.

***

“Let’s run away,” said Vishal. 

“Crazy you! In next few hours marriage will be solemnized, then you go your way and I mine. Wasn’t that the arrangement?”

“But your dad suggested that we run away, not together. Don’t know what got into his mind. Is your mom up to something? He just called and said, “Run away; your documents are ready, your flight is in the early hours. Maya’s future is secure, I have made all arrangements for her stay at the University hostel. Sneha will never know her whereabouts.”

“Vishal, I don’t see any reason to run away bringing disgrace to both the families. Our ‘after marriage’ arrangement is fine with me. I don’t agree with my dad in this regard.” Maya was determined.

“Maya, we can’t hoodwink your mom. She suspects some mischief and she is alert, your father has sensed it. She is snooping around and will get to know. Knowing her nature, she isn’t the kind who would sit and twiddle her thumbs. I suggest we find our greener pastures.” 

***
On hearing Maya fled from the venue, and Vishal, left to himself, deliberately muddled up the situation with his crazy, wilful conversation. 

He was bidding by time so that Maya would get enough time to reach the airport. 

“I think I overdid my part. Hope aunty doesn’t get to know.”

His parents were too shocked to react and he walked out of the venue as though in shock.

Maya, waiting for him at the end of the street, waved to him. 

He was stunned to see her waiting. 

“What are you waiting for? Now this is a real mess up. The ‘runaway bride’ is waiting for the runaway bridegroom.’ Why?”

“This whole idea is so ludicrous. I wish I hadn’t run away from the venue. I can never forgive myself for meddling with our lives. Are we fulfilling our dreams at the cost of their reputation? No, Vishal we are going back.”

“You mean, we will go ahead with the marriage? And then what?”

“Don’t know, but at least we can save them from further disgrace. Maybe, over a period of time things will work out for us too.”

“Not sure, but this was an unnecessary interlude.”

He held her hand and walked towards the empty marriage hall.

***

Mrs. Sinha regretted taking such a damaging stance; Mr. Sinha sympathised with Vishal’s parents; the bride and the groom realised life is not always looking for greener pastures.

***
Author’s note: This story is an attempt to bring out the adversities of lack of understanding between parents and children. If parents respect the ambitions of their children and don’t pressurise them to accept their perspective, if children understand their parents’ concern for their well-being and secure future, life may not be a bed of roses but it will not definitely be a path of thorns.

I would like to acknowledge quotes from 
– Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (modified/my version)
– Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Like a painted ship on a painted ocean
– And a story I had read in class 5 – A spark Neglected burns the house.
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