“It’s so beautiful isn’t it? This place? So calm and serene? So peaceful?” she asked Nikhil “and I just can’t believe it’s gonna be ours. Oh! I’m so happy I could dance. And I’ll warn you beforehand, I’m doing the interiors. After all, it’s our place! I want it to look just heavenly!”
“As if I have any other option, eh?” he replied with a cunning smile on his face “and anyways, who cares about a stupid house when you have such a beautiful fiancée to look at?”
Tamanna blushed deeply. “I never thought this would happen. It seemed just so impossible, didn’t it? And look now. Me and you, here together, hand in hand, looking at our future!”
“Ah! Perfect moment, isn’t it?” he agreed and then with mock disappointment, “if only…”
She got the hint. She placed both his hands on her waist, stood on her toes and then….they kissed.
Tears of happiness started rolling down on her cheeks with great rapidity as she stood there near the window reliving the best time of her life. It was blissful. They were the happiest people in the world. They had to be. Everything that they went through to reach where they were now….
She was a Kashmiri. He was a Guajarati. Yeah, it does seem like a clichéd romance, doesn’t it? Different castes. Fight for love. Finally, the kiss of victory. And then the *happily ever after*. They had got what they wanted, though. That’s what mattered now. They were getting married. Just one more week until the blissful union…she thought just as the doorbell rang and she went to answer it.
“Oh thank god you’re here. I was getting really nervous you know. I’d called about a thousand times at your boutique but you must be busy what with this being the wedding season” she said as she rushed her dress designer into her room, with her(Tamanna’s) mother in tow. “And mom, have you finalized the menu? It’s high time you did that.” Tamanna continued and after seeing a jeweler’s bag in her mom’s hand, she added “Ah! Good you went to the jewelers. Everything fine? Did you check them properly? Mom? Mom?”
“Honey, I don’t think you know –” her mom looked troubled but Tamanna didn’t notice. She was in full flow about her after-wedding plans and was nodding and giggling and blushing about everything the designer said.
“Yes, we’ll be going to Maldives for our honeymoon” she exclaimed. “Just after the wedding day.” Pause. “Yeah, I know…this being the holiday season and all. But you see he’s got great contacts”
“Yeah” she replied proudly to the designer’s comment.
Then she turned around and saw that her mom was standing in the same spot since the time she came, apparently, terrified. She was also crying.
“Mom, are you alright?” she asked and without waiting for an answer she continued, “Have you seen my wedding dress? It was in this closet. Have you taken it? Mom? Goodness, woman? Have you got a fit or something? Or have just got paralysis?” she asked in exasperation as her mom still refused to answer but stood in her terrified stupor.
“I’ve kept it here somewhere” Tamanna started mumbling as she dug through her closet. I had tried it on just yesterday. I was loose from the waist. I don’t know where it’s gone. I…” she kept the sentence trailing and continued searching feverishly in her closet.
“Mom, please don’t fool around. Tina is not free the whole day you know. She’s gotta go to her own boutique. If you’ve got my dress just give it to me. Are you listening to me?” she now started sounding hysterical.
Her phone rang and she answered her fiancé’s call “Hi, sweetie…yeah I’m good…nothing, just going through my dress fittings but funnily, I’m not getting my dress. Mom here is not ready to tell me where it is” she said looking at her mother, who if nothing else, looked even more terrified and she was now wailing “MOM! Mom what’s the matter? Why are you crying, mom? Are you fine? MOM? WHAT HAPPENED?” Tamanna was really afraid now. Why was her mom looking so pale? “Nik, mom’s looking all pale and clammy…and she’s wailing” she shrieked into her phone. Sweat broke down her face and she started sobbing too. “Please come here fast, Nik.” She said and hung up.
And then, she started shouting for Tina, the designer to come and help her but she won’t budge. She just sat there watching at Tamanna and her mother as if they were a part of some mildly interesting T.V. show. Tamanna was now shouting at the top of her voice for some kind of help. She was really scared for her mother.
And then, to her relief and bewilderment, the door opened and three women (dressed as nurses) came in and marched towards the duo on the floor. Tamanna felt thankful for those nurses’ timely arrival but also a bit perplexed. She didn’t remember calling the hospital!
And then what happened shocked her into silence. The nurses, instead of treating her mom, advanced towards her and grabbed her by her shoulders. Her mom lay there, muttering incoherent and inarticulate words like “Manu…..him….dead…can’t happen….my Manu…mad….Manu…mad….MAD!”
The last word hit Tamanna like a bolt of lightning. NO! She wasn’t mad! She was getting married. To Nikhil. The love of her life. And they were going to go to Maldives for honeymoon. And the wedding’s in a week and the designer is here for her dress fittings. She turned her head towards the designer but she was gone! But…but, how can that be? She was right here, the designer. And she was talking to her and then she got a call from Nikhil, she turned towards where she had left her mobile phone and with a pang of horror saw that it wasn’t her mobile but a spectacle-case. She froze. She couldn’t be mad. Not now. Not when she had to attend her own marriage in a week’s time. No! but then, another memory flashed by her mind where…where…where, Nikhil was sleeping peacefully on a white bed with two little balls of cotton inserted in his nose and he was covered with a thin, white blanket. Everyone around him were looking at him and crying….
No! It can’t be. Nikhil was alive. As much alive as Tamanna was. And he was on his way here, to her house. She looked around and with another jolt of shock realized that this wasn’t her house but a very sad and mournful looking ward with pictures of doctors and information about certain psychotic diseases. SHE WAS IN A HOSPITAL!
“No!” she shrieked at the nurses who were taking her towards the bed at the other end of the room. “No, listen! You’ve got it all wrong. Look at her. Look at my mother. She’s the one who needs treatment, not me! I’m fine. I tell you, she’s in a very serious condition. LISTEN TO ME, YOU!” she shouted. “Don’t you dare touch me like that! I’ll sue you… How dare you push me? Nikhil’s on his way. And if he sees me in this condition he won’t spare you, any of you… just you wait… Are you listening to me, you freak?... “I say, leave me!...I wanna go to Nik…take me to him…NIK…NIK, take me away from here please. NIK!”
One of the nurses injected a syringe into Tamanna’s arm and she went back to sleep as if nothing had happened, the ghost of Nikhil’s name still tracing her lips. She drew her bedsheet right upto her neck and went into the oblivion where they, Tamanna and Nikhil, were now exchanging wedding vows...