‘Are you there, mom?’
‘How will I ever find a boy for you?’ she said.
That was her prime concern. Her twenty-three-year-old daughter, who grew up in middle-class West Delhi, had cracked a job at one of the biggest investment banks in the world and all she cared about was its impact on her groom-hunt.
‘Stop it, mom. What boy?’
‘Who wants to marry a girl who earns so much? If the boy earns less, he won’t consider you. If he earns more, why would he marry a working girl?’
‘I have no idea what you are talking about. But I am moving to America. I have a great job. Can you save your melodrama for another time?’
‘Your father wants to speak to you,’ she said and passed him the phone.
‘Goldman Sachs? American, no?’ he said.
My room phone rang, startling me back to reality. I am in Goa, not IIMA, I reminded myself.
‘Where are you? The Gulatis are ten minutes away,’ my mother said.
‘Huh? I am here, mom. In my room.’
‘Are you dressed?’
I looked in the mirror.
‘Come down fast. What are you wearing?’
‘The yellow salwar-kameez. Zari border.’
‘You wore a chain?’
‘Hey, remember me?’ I heard a voice behind me. I turned around.
‘Brijesh,’ I said to my husband-to-be. ‘Hi.’
I didn’t know what to do next. Should I look shy? Should I giggle? Should I give him a hug? Like an idiot, I shook hands with him while he adjusted his black-rimmed spectacles with his left hand. Unlike how he’d looked in the Skype calls of the past few weeks, he was thinner, his white kurta and blue jeans hanging a bit on him. His neatly combed side-parted hair made him look like those schoolboys whom teachers first ask to become prefects. I smelled strong aftershave.
I was in the lobby. The boy’s side had arrived. They crowded around the special check-in desk. The hotel staff brought in trays filled with glasses of coconut water.
‘I made them get the coconut water. It wasn’t part of the package,’ Suraj told me. He was trying hard to compensate for the rooms’ disaster. He gave me a printout of the week’s plan. I glanced at it.
Radhika weds Brijesh: Itinerary for the week
Day 1: Arrival, check-ins, briefing, relax in resort
Day 2: Goa Darshan Tour for elders and children (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Bachelor Party for Mr Brijesh Gulati at Club Cubana (8 p.m.)
Bachelorette Party for Ms Radhika Mehta at LPK (8 p.m.)
‘You have organized buses for the bachelor parties?’ I said.
‘Yes, ma’am. The buses will be there at 7.30 at the front entrance.’
I read further.
Day 3: Bhajan and Puja in function room (4 p.m.)
Day 4: Mehndi—counters for all ladies in function room (12-6 p.m.)
Day 5: Sangeet in function room (8 p.m.)
‘The choreographer is here for the sangeet practice?’ I said.
‘No, ma’am. He will arrive in two days. He said that’s enough time for practice.’
I looked at the itinerary again.
Day 6: Wedding at the Grand Ballroom and the Main Lawns (8 p.m.)
Day 7: Checkouts and departures (12 noon)
Suraj handed over the other sheets with details about each function and venue.
‘Sorry about the rooms’ goof-up, madam. Everything is under control now,’ he said.
Suraj had just left when Brijesh came up behind me.
‘This place is beautiful. Great idea to have a wedding in Goa,’ he said. His accent was 90 per cent Indian and 10 per cent American. From a distance I saw my parents at the Marriott entrance, greeting Brijesh’s parents and their relatives with folded hands. I focused back on Brijesh. ‘Thank you. I always wanted a destination wedding,’ I said.
Awkward silence for ten long, slow seconds. What are we supposed to say to each other? Should I break the ice? Should I say, hey, we can officially start having sex in a week? Shut up, Radhika. Shut the fuck up.
‘You look,’ Brijesh paused, searching for an apt word, ‘beautiful.’
Could you do no better, Mr Groom? Stop it, Radhika, I scolded myself. Yeah, stop it, Radhika! I have to tell you about this bad habit of mine. I have this little person, this inner mini-me who keeps chattering about every situation or person around me. Sometimes, this mini-me overwhelms me so much I have to think hard to remember what just happened.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘Thank you, Brijesh.’
And what sort of a name is Brijesh? Can it be more unfashionable? Radhika, you are going to marry a guy called Brijesh. You will be Mrs Brijesh Gulati. That’s terrible. Okay, stop it. Stop it, Radhika. He’s come a long way. He’s a nice guy. That’s what matters, right?
‘Yellow looks nice on you,’ Brijesh continued.
Actually, yellow sucks on me, what with my famous wheatish complexion. I wore this because mom wanted a sunflower in the lobby when the Gulatis arrived.
Okay, he is trying.
‘Thanks,’ I said. Say more, you stupid girl. ‘Your kurta is also nice,’ I said. Duh, could you be more stupid?
‘Hello, beta.’ A man in his early fifties along with his wife came up to me. They seemed too enthusiastic to be complete strangers. It took me a second to place them. All right, they were my in-laws. Mr Aadarsh Gulati and Mrs Sulochana Gulati. Radhika, behave. Don’t say anything stupid. Be like mom. Be like Aditi. What would Aditi didi do? She would touch their feet. C’mon, dive, then.
I bent down. I touched the feet of people I had only Skyped twice in my life but who now deserved my total respect. My parents had met them several times, of course. Dad told me they were nice people. Nice people? How does anyone figure out nice people? Are there any nice people in this world? See, my mind won’t stop chattering. Ever.
‘How was your flight, uncle?’ I said.
‘Just one hour from Mumbai. Not like Brijesh, who has come from halfway across the world,’ Aadarsh uncle said.
‘For you, of course,’ Sulochana aunty said and cupped my cheeks. She planted a big kiss on my forehead. I guess, considering this is a country where in-laws burn brides, they did seem like nice people.
More of Brijesh’s relatives swarmed around us.