[fiction] A Memorable Suhaag Raat

I just got married, just about an hour ago. It was a wonderful ceremony, held in a sprawling, grand hall, in our city’s finest hotel. It was a traditional Hindu wedding; we took our vows and performed the rituals in front of our family and friends. Everyone who loved us had come to shower us with their blessings. Even those who didn’t love us had come, anxious to witness a spectacle: the much talked-about marriage of one of our city’s most effluent businessman’s son. Yes, that’s me, the heir to a thriving real estate company.

My marriage was looked forward to by a lot of people, almost as much as me. Everyone who knew my family, everyone who wanted to know my family, was eager to see what the family’s bahu looked like. She, Suchita, belongs to another rich business clan. They aren’t as rich as we are, but then, no one else in our city is. But she’s definitely the most beautiful person from our two families combined. Our marriage isn’t a marriage of two hearts, we don’t know each other well enough to be in love, not as yet. But as is common, our marriage is the marriage of two big businesses. I’m sure both of our fathers have their business’ vested interests in their children’s marriage, but I’m okay with that. I’ve known Suchita for only around a month, but I believe we’re destined for a happy married life.

I’ve been informed that she’s waiting in my bedroom…our bedroom, for me. I’ve freshened up in a guest room. There have been people around me all the time, so I haven’t really had the time to prepare myself for our first night. But nothing I can do about it now. I knock on the bedroom door lightly, before I go in. Suchita is sitting on the bed, wearing what looks like a pink, satin nightdress of some sort. I’m glad I haven’t walked into a movie scene, where the new bride sits coyly on the bed, still dressed in the saree she wore during the wedding ceremony, head covered, a glass of milk in her hand, and rose petals strewn around her. I like to have Bournvita mixed into my milk, which is why this real-life suhaag raat seems much better than a filmy one.

I lock the door and walk towards the bed. “Hi,” she says, and smiles, as I sit down on the edge of the bed. I smile back at her, happy to see her smiling, and happier to see that the bottom of her nightdress is like a pair of hot pants. Suchita has gorgeous legs; I haven’t touched them yet, but they look smoother than the satin nightdress she’s wearing.

“You look great,” I tell her. And I meant it, she really does, and not just her legs. Suchita has let her hair fall loosely around her shoulders; they look freshly shampooed and slightly damp. I know this will sound like an over-abused cliché, but she looks more beautiful without the makeup she had on during the ceremony.

“Thanks,” she says. “So, we’re now husband and wife…how does it feel?”

I’m slightly offended that she didn’t return the compliment I gave her, but I decide to let it pass. “Yes, we are,” I reply, smiling. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”

“I know what you mean; I guess it will take some time.”

“Yeah, guess so.”

We’re suddenly out of words, and fill the emptiness by looking around the room. I’ve grown up in this room, so there’s nothing new about it for me. I look at the closed drapes fluttering because of the wind, and remind myself to shut the balcony before we go to bed. I wonder if Suchita likes the room or not. There’s a new wardrobe that’s been made especially for her, which I hope is enough to fulfill her requirements. “Did you see the…”

“You know what I was…”

We smile. “You go ahead, what were you saying?” I ask. “I was just asking you about the cupboard…nothing really important.”

“Okay,” she says, pauses, and continues. “I was just saying that we shouldn’t…I mean, I don’t want our new life, married life, to begin this way…I mean, I don’t want things to be awkward between us. It’s our first night, and…”

“Yes, I agree. Even I don’t want it to be awkward like this.”

“Yeah, so…it’s our first night, we’re supposed to make love…so let’s just do it.”

“Okkkkaaayyy.” I look at her, pleasantly surprised to have heard what she just said. From her face, my eyes travel down to the hint of cleavage that is on display. I don’t know why that happens, but it just does. And the minute I realise it, I jerk my eyes up and looked at her face again. I shudder at the thought of coming off as a creep on our very first night together. But Suchita doesn’t seem to have noticed; she is, in fact, moving closer to me.

I perk up as she comes closer; ready for what I’m sure is going to be my life’s most memorable night. I take Suchita’s hands in mine; she closes her eyes as I lean in towards her to kiss her. I hear a sound, something like metal scraping against metal. I dismiss the sound; choose to ignore it, because my lips have touched hers. I hear the sound again, this time it’s louder. I recognize it as the sound of the balcony door opening. Just as I break our kiss and look towards the balcony, a man’s voice calls out Suchita’s name.

“Varun?” Suchita shouts. She’s looking at the man who’s just entered our room from the balcony.

“Who the fuck are you?” I’ve sprung up from the bed, my fists are clenched and I’m ready to attack this trespasser. But the trespasser isn’t even looking at me, his gaze his fixated on Suchita.

“Varun, what’re you doing here?” Suchita asks. She’s standing beside me now.

It hits me then that Suchita is calling this man by his name. “Do you know him?”

“I can’t live without you, Suchita,” the trespasser utters his first words.

“Are you mad? What’re you saying?” She’s screaming now, ruffled by the presence of this man whom she seems to know.

“Who is he, Suchita?” I ask again. “Do you know him?”

But once again, I’m ignored. “I love you, Suchita,” Varun says. “I’ve always loved you more than anyone else…I tried, but I can’t live without you.”

“I’m married…I got married today…” Suchita is in shock.

And now I’m angry, not because there’s an unknown man in my bedroom, but because he and my wife are completely ignoring me. “Alright, that’s it, I’m calling the police,” I say, exasperated.

This gets their attention. “No, wait,” Suchita stops me.

“Do you know this guy?” I ask, once again.

“Yes.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a…he’s a friend.”

“I love her, I’m her boyfriend,” Varun chips in.

“Ex-boyfriend,” Suchita corrects him.

“Okay, ex-boyfriend, but I still love you,” he says.

“This is insane,” I say. “Okay, you’re her ex-boyfriend, but what do you want now? She’s my wife now.”

“I don’t care. I love Suchita; I want to be with her. I’ve come to take her away with me.” As Varun says this, he’s looking right at me. His eyes are challenging me. I look at him and realise that he doesn’t comprehend the absurdity of what he’s saying. As far as he’s concerned, he’s come to do the right thing. Varun has thrown down the gauntlet at me; I’ve no choice but to accept it. But Suchita speaks up before I can say anything.

“You’re crazy,” she says. “You think you can just barge in here like this and talk about taking me away? You left me when I wanted to marry you…now suddenly you decide to take me back? Go to hell, I don’t love you anymore.”

Varun’s strong demeanor starts to break before my eyes when he hears these words. “You don’t love me anymore?” he asks, not ready to believe it.

“No, Varun, I don’t,” Suchita confirms. “I stopped loving you the day you said you didn’t want to marry me.”

“Oh…” Varun runs a hand through his hair, and looks down at the floor. He looks up again and I can see that he’s clearly dejected. “I thought you…I don’t know…” He’s at a loss of words. He looks like someone who has just run a long race, only to be told at the finishing line that there was no race to be run. It takes him a long, agonizing minute to compose himself.

“I’m so sorry,” Varun tells me. “I knew I shouldn’t have come here, but my friends…they said….oh god, I feel like such a fool.”

Suchita and I look at each other. I don’t know what to do, and looks like she doesn’t either. The thought that I should ask Varun to leave comes to my mind, but then I wonder why he hasn’t left as yet. I look at him; he’s still embarrassed and unsure. Despite the situation we’re in, I feel sorry for him. I take a couple of step towards him, and I hear Suchita say, “Varun…”

He looks up and turns towards her. “Yes?”

I turn back and look at her as well. She looks at me, and then at Varun. It bothers me that I’m unable to read her expression, but I just don’t know her well enough yet. Suchita hasn’t said anything for a few seconds, and now I’m the one in agony. A fleeting thought crosses my mind: Is she going to leave me and go back to him? Will my marriage end in less than a couple of hours? Again, I look at Varun, and see that he’s waiting in anticipation as well, anxious to hear what she has to say.

And then finally, one of us hears the words that he was desperate to hear. “Varun, you should leave now,” Suchita says.

A minute later, Varun goes by the same way he came in. I lock the balcony behind him and turn around, unsure about what to do or what to expect. Suchita is standing right behind me. She smiles when I turn towards her, puts her arms over my shoulders and says, “So, where were we?”

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