Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Aparna blushed as she gazed at her own reflection in the bedside mirror.She knew she looked beautiful. After all,this was a big day for them. Akash's parents were visiting her at home. Well it was only a customary visit as they had made the call about their relationship long back. This was merely an act of acceptance from their parents.
The honking of the car horn woke her up from her trance.She quickly stood up and raced to the window.She could see the white car coming to a halt at their courtyard.The front door opened and Akash emerged.He lifted his head and looked straight up at her.Their eyes conversed as a smile curled on both their lips.
Akash and Aparna have been childhood friends.They went to school together and secured good ranks in their JEEs to land up at NIT,Calicut. While Akash got through B.Tech,Aparna took B.Arch. It was during their undergraduate days that Akash proposed Aparna.They let their families know a little late however,as they waited till their course got over.Both of them were successfully done with their campus placements when the families decided that it was time to seal the bonding once and for all.
'Aparna!' Her mom came rushing into the room but halted almost abruptly at the doorstep as she caught glimpse of her daughter by the window.Her face was all glow as she realised how beautiful Aparna looked in the red saree.
'They are here,Appu.' she said.
'I know,amma!' Aparna grinned.
'You look beautiful!'
'You needn't say that!'
'Why wouldn't I? Well,come down when I ask you to..You are not a stranger to any of them but traditions are traditions for a reason!'
'I know Amma...you need to stop worrying about each and everything!'
Her mother smiled and went down to greet the guests.
Aparna could hear the chatter from below.She strained her ears but couldn't make out much.Somehow she wanted it all to get over soon.She unconsciously picked up her phone as it buzzed.Akash had sent a message in WhatsApp:
'Where are you?!'
'Wait for the grand entry!'-she smiled as she typed.
Akash was a nice person; a gentleman in every sense.She knew that he loved her dearly.He was always there by her side through thick and thin.She used to confide in him everything and knew that he also used to do the same.She was still skeptical of how his parents would perceive their relationship but was quite relieved when everything went on smoothly.
Aparna could hear the pleasantries being exchanged.She wanted to be a part of it all but restrained herself remembering her mother's words. Strange things,these traditions.She had never cared for them in the first place. But she understood that it was not quite easy to disregard them if one wanted to live in the society. Maybe one day ,it might be possible to express one's views without the fear of being judged, without apparently hurting another's feelings and without having to think twice about the consequences. Thankfully both of them were not old-school in these matters...
'Aparna!' her mom's voice pierced her thought bubble. It was the signal.Aparna carefully checked whether the pleats of her saree were fine and whether her hair was neat. Then she slowly descended the stairs taking care not to trip.
All the eyes in the room were peering at her except her own which were in search of another pair-Akash was sitting close to his dad wearing a light blue shirt and navy blue pants.He was trying to conceal his smile in vain.His parents were seated next to him and suddenly she felt timid.Her mother came close and gently led her to the group.
'Hi Aparna, I'm Menon,Akash's dad and this is his mom,Sobhana.I know there is no need for introductions because all of us are familiar to you!' Akash's dad said gently.
Aparna nodded briskly.
'In fact,we are very happy that we need not worry about Akash anymore as you would be with him from now on,dear.' Sobhana added on.
'I also wanted to aunty, but the campus recruitments have ensured that we would not be together for atleast a short period of time!' Aparna said humorously but almost choked on her own words as she noticed the expressions of her listeners changing.
Akash's father and mother looked as if they were struck by lightning.Her dad and mother looked blank.Akash on the other hand was glancing down as if the tiles on the floor seemed interesting all of a sudden.
'We thought that..you would be taking a break for now.. anyways it's not like you can't pursue your career..just that it can wait..naturally!' his dad spoke at last, stressing on the last word.
Aparna simply shook her head.
After a moment,she stood up and addressed Akash: ' Can I have a word with you?!'
Akash followed her to the room after getting his dad's silent approval.
The parents smiled at each other rather awkwardly.
As she entered the room,Aparna looked inquisitively at Akash.
'Well?' she asked.
'What?' he retorted.
'I didn't know that it was even an issue between us,Akash!'
'It isn't! But why did you have to say it plainly...just like that?!'
'Just like that huh? Are you out of your mind Akash? This is my life...our life!Don't you think I have a say in it? I can't believe this is happening!'
'Look Aparna,you are overreacting.Just agree to what dad is telling right now.We shall sort it out later!'
'No Akash,i don't even understand why I should be asking for permission in the first place. All I'm asking for is my career...just the way you have yours!'
'Lets not make it worse Appu.. if not this year,the next time you can make it.!'
Aparna was clearly irked.
'Akash, I'm only asking for my basic right.Why should the girl be always the one to compromise on her career and her ambitions?Why this discrimination to women ?Goddammit Akash...we are in the twenty first century,for heaven's sake!!'
Akash was silent.He simply shrugged. Clearly he was not inclined to contradict his father today.
Aparna went out and walked back into the living room. All the eyes fixated on her once again. Out of the corner of her eyes,she could see her mom's anguished face. She turned to look at her would-be in-laws as she spoke with clarity.
"Dear Uncle and Aunty,my career is equally important to me,the same way as my marriage and family life is. I don't even understand why should there be a conflict based on this. Both of us have got our placements and both of us have been looking forward to it. I am going to pursue my passion further. A brief long distance relationship is not a cause of worry between us. So either be it or let's think about the wedding afterwards. This is my final answer. I know Akash would support me. Now it's upto you..'
She felt at ease. She could breathe now. His parents were still processing the matter while Akash slowly came behind her back and sat down. She could see her mom's face now-the colour had come back though she didn't show any of her emotions. Her father however was beaming. She knew he was proud of her. She knew it was not going to be easy. She might have jeopardised her future with Akash. But surprisingly it didn't bother her the least. She knew very well that if his feelings for her were true,nothing was going to crush it. Whether his parents' decision would affect his was the only question.
But she was calm.
'After all it's my life...and I am the person who has the final word in it.'
The clock struck twelve,the chimes clear enough to be heard through the sheer silence in the room.
The answer didn't matter anyways, atleast for her....