1. Not so perfect now!
Everything was perfect.
I had a perfect life: the life I always wanted, the life I always imagined having.
My family was amazing, my friends were wild and loyal, and the best guy in this world loved me. I loved my life.
Everything was perfect. I was happy.
Then suddenly, I wasn’t.
One single minuscule day that changed everything in my life. From the place I called my home to the direction of my lip, everything went upside down.
It was a warm Sunday evening in March. I had just returned home after a warm and cuddle-filled date in my boyfriend’s bed when I heard my mom calling me from the living room.
My mom, Kavya Sehloth, was a compassionate, jolly woman in her late 40′s but with a figure, even I - her 21-year-old daughter - envied. She was slim, in a way only a woman with amazing genes could be without having to exercise, and she had a smile that showed all thirty-two teeth (famously called ‘battissi’ by friends and family). Her dark brown eyes with flecks of gold, the same as mine, always showed love or happiness.
Today though, they were missing.
Instead, the brown was filled with sadness and guilt, and the gold of happiness was absent.
That is why, the moment I saw her beautiful brown face, I stilled and with a huge frown on my head asked, “Is everything okay?”
Did any of our relatives die? Maybe the old grandmother who always nagged me about my complexion or maybe that smelly old uncle who thinks I should practise making ‘round rotis’ because otherwise, no man would want me?
If it’s them, good riddance! We don’t need their negative energy on this earth. Not to be rude or anything, but they were very old - they already outlived their ages – also, they were very toxic and probably snatched a few years from poor irritated people.
As much as I hope, I don’t think it’s them, she wouldn’t be so sad or look so.. so... broken?
What had happened?
What could have gone so horribly wrong that my mother, the ‘look at the positive side of things’ mother, could feel depressed?
When she still didn’t answer, I grabbed her arms and asked again, “Mumma, what’s wrong? Are you okay? Is everything okay?”
“No, it’s not. Nothing is okay”, she cried, her usually smooth voice breaking.
Instinctively, I reached out and pulled her tall figure in a hug. Wrapping my arms around her body, I gently patted her head as I heard a sob break from her lips on my generous bosom. I hugged her tightly as my heart broke a little.
I had never seen her cry, never. But now, my beautiful, compassionate mother - who was always so strong - was breaking down in my arms. This wasn’t just shocking or heartbreaking, it was frightening; because something that could break my mother had the power to shatter me to my core.
At that moment, I didn’t know how false my statement was, because the news didn’t just shatter me, it crushed my heart and my very being into small pieces with a bucket full of salt to burn my cuts. Never had I known the pain, the sound of my heart crushing until this moment. Never had I known what it was to have everything and yet, nothing.
When she finally calmed, at least enough to untangle herself from my arms, she stared at me with red-rimmed eyes and said, “You have to marry” and choked on a sob.
“I know, I even have my husband ready and waiting”, I joked, trying to lighten the mood, trying to extract even a hint of happiness from her eyes - her usually always smiling eyes.
But none came. Instead, she stared at me pitifully - Pitifully? - as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“What is it, mom?”
“Rexy”, she grabbed on my arms and said, “I... I... I’m sorry”
And I could see it. Whatever it was, it was breaking her from inside. She regretted it, she wished she could change it and she wished she wasn’t so helpless or hopeless.
Ditto, mom! I wish the same, right at this moment.
“Please don’t hate me”, sobbed her mother and I hugged her again, pulling her shivering figure closer to mine.
“I could never hate you, mom. Especially when I know, whatever it is, it’s killing you from inside. Just tell me, mom, what is it?”
“Your dad and I have chosen a man for you to marry and you... you are going to marry him, three days later”
“Wh.. what?“, I stammered as I pushed myself away from her. I couldn’t have heard right, surely not! This was a joke, it had to be. There was no other way around it. I hopelessly stared in her eyes, begging her to prove my disbelief over what I heard but what she said instead...
“I’m sorry! Break up with Dev and three days from now, you are going to marry someone else. Someone better, I assure you”, she said, in a voice that should’ve sounded convincing, but it wasn’t. Because it was a lie.
No one could be better than Dev. No one.
Dev is everything to me, everything, and she wouldn’t dare separate me from him.
“Mom! Please be serious”, I cried.
“I am, I am, darling. I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t so important. You have to marry him, Rex. It is a matter of life and death”, she explained as she wiped her tears away.
“No”, I shouted. “No! No! No! I’m not marrying anybody else, Dev is my life and anyone else is my death”
I looked at my mother, with huge watering eyes, pleading- begging - her to tell that this was a joke; that all of this was a bad joke. When she didn’t answer, I added in a sobbing voice, “Mom, I can’t live without him. You know I can’t. I love him. Please don’t do this to me mom, please” and collapsed on my knees as I gazed up in her eyes.
“You don’t have to live without him, all I’m asking is to marry another man - you can still have Dev in your life”
My eyes widened. Did I hear right? Surely not.
I pushed myself on my legs and asked, “What? You want me to cheat? Mom, you? What is wrong with you?”
There was something definitely wrong here. My mom wouldn’t, even in my wildest dreams, advice me to cheat on a man I’m supposed to marry if this wasn’t serious. I didn’t know what it was, but I had to find out.
“What is it, mom? What is this life and death situation? Why do I have to marry someone I don’t know?“, I asked her, my voice soft yet demanding. I wanted the answers. I needed the answers. I demanded them of her.
“Your dad has...“, she started but she before could utter anything else, I heard the sharp voice of my dad from behind me.
“The reasons do not concern you, she told you what you need to do and you are going to do it. End of discussion”, my dad - a tall, muscular man with eyes as deadly as a bullet from a gun and a heavy voice that demanded every inch of you to obey - said in a tone of dismissal.
But I wouldn’t be dismissed. Not now, when my life and my happiness are in danger.
“No, I want to know why. I won’t marry him and you can’t force me to marry him because I’ll run away if you bloody do”, I snapped at him, shocking both him and myself. I loved my dad, respected with every fibre of my being, and I had never, never raised my voice at him.
He controlled his aggression and irritation, I could see it in his eyes the effort it took for him to do that, and instead calmly stated, “You’ve watched enough movies to know that in some situations, ‘the less you know, the better for you’. This is one such situation. You are going to marry him and I don’t want any more discussions on this topic”, after a sigh, he added, “I just wish you’d trust me, your dad, enough to believe when I say, I wouldn’t do this to you if I had any other option”
I stared at him in disbelief. I trusted him, alright, but was he really trying to guilt-trip me into marrying someone I don’t know without giving me a bloody reason? Yes, yes he was, and it was working.
I trusted him, blast him! I trusted him! He wanted the best of me, always, and though he was choking the very life out of me right at this moment, the other option was probably worse.
“Daddy! I trust you, I really do! But I want to know, please! Why? “, I pleaded one last time, desperate for answers as tears gathered in my eyes.
He shook his head and left the living room, my mom following close behind him.