FICTION SHORT STORY
NB: This story happened 45 years ago in the 1970’s when there was no internet, no email, no mobile phones – and – most digital gadgets we use today like smartphones, PCs, Laptops, tablets etc. – they did not exist.
I recognized her at once.
How could I ever forget a girl who looked so gorgeous – so exquisite – so attractive – large expressive doe-eyes, beautifully arched eyebrows, refined “chiselled” nose, delicate chin, full juicy lips – perfect beautiful face – lovely complexion – and lush black hair flowing over her dainty ears and slender neck down over her elegant shoulders.
She looked exactly the same as she had looked three years earlier when I had first seen her in the bank in Mumbai.
The was only one difference – today – she wasn’t wearing a “mangalsutra”.
Yes – today – there was no “mangalsutra” around her neck – and I clearly remembered that she had been wearing a “mangalsutra” when I had seen her three years ago.
I recognized her – but – she didn’t recognize me – or – at least – she didn’t show any trace of recognition – in the presence of everyone.
She sat demurely – looking down – at the table in front of her.
After all – she was a prospective bride – the “girl” being “seen” for arranged marriage – and – the “girl” under “scrutiny” was expected to have a modest demeanor at the “Kande Pohe” girl-seeing ceremony.
The “Boy” – the prospective groom – was my friend Avinash.
I observed the besotted manner in which he was looking at the “girl”.
It was evident that he had liked her.
Just like I had been instantaneously “love-struck” when I had seen her face for the first time.
Then – a few seconds later – I had spotted the “mangalsutra” around her neck.
And – I had felt a pang of disappointment – as I knew I had no chance – since she was married.
Dear Reader – a mangalsutra is a necklace of gold and black beads with two pendants (hollow gold balls called “vatis”)
In Maharashtra – married women wear a “mangalsutra” to indicate their marital status.
The “mangalsutra” is a visible symbol of marriage worn by married women.
Three years ago – she was wearing a “mangalsutra”.
And now – she wasn’t wearing one.
I wondered what had happened…?
Was she widowed – or – was she divorced…?
I looked at her – I said “Hello” to her – and I smiled.
She gave me a smile of forced geniality – as if I was a stranger.
I had recognized her – but – it seemed that she had not recognized me.
Or – at least – she didn’t show any trace of recognition.
Maybe – she didn’t want to do so – in the presence of everyone.
But – most probably – it was possible that she really hadn’t recognized me.
When I had seen her three years ago in the bank – sitting at the “May I Help You” reception counter at the entrance – she was the “centre of attraction” – but I was just a common customer.
Everyone notices a beautiful girl – especially if she is the “centre of attraction”.
But – the beautiful girl doesn’t even bother to even give a second look to ordinary looking men – like me.
So – I remembered her – but she hadn’t even taken notice of me – forget about even remembering me.
After the girl-seeing “Kande Pohe” ceremony was over – we – Avinash, his parents, and me – we said goodbye to the girl and her parents – and – left their house.
I wanted to go home – but Avinash and his father insisted that I go with them to their bungalow – and have a drink.
His mother said she would cook a delicious dinner for me.
As I sipped Scotch Whisky – which Avinash had bought duty-free at the airport – I wondered whether I should tell Avinash about the girl.
Avinash was my college classmate – and – hostel-mate too.
We had studied engineering together for 5 years.
(Those days – the B.Tech. course was of 5 years duration)
Like most of my classmates – Avinash had migrated to the US for his MS – and then – he got a job over there – and it was quite clear that he wanted to become an American Citizen and settle down in the USA.
And now – he had come back to Pune to select a bride – get married – and take his newly-wedded wife with him to America.
Dear Reader – this story happened around 45 years ago in the 1970’s – and those days – an “American NRI” was considered a “prize catch”.
Those days – in the 1970’s – in Pune – in the society in which we lived – middle-class parents had two ambitions for their children:
1. Son should get into IIT and migrate abroad preferably to America for higher studies and settle down over there.
2. Daughter should get married to an “American NRI” and migrate to the US and settle down with her husband over there.
Avinash had come on a month’s vacation for selecting a bride from the prospective “girls” his mother had lined up for him to “see”.
If he liked a girl – they would immediately get engaged – and – if possible – even get married – so that the bride could go to America quickly.
My meeting Avinash was not planned – in fact – I didn’t know that Avinash had come to India.
I had come over to Pune for the weekend – and – on Saturday evening – I was sitting in Good Luck Café chatting with my friends – when someone mentioned that Avinash was in town.
He lived nearby – in Deccan Gymkhana – so – I went to his house to meet him.
Avinash was most happy to see me.
I greeted his parents.
I noticed that they were all dressed up as if they were going out somewhere.
“I think I have come at the wrong time…” I said, “you seem to be going out somewhere…”
“We are going to “see” a girl for Avinash…” his mother said.
“Oh – then I should be going…” I said to Avinash.
“Why don’t you come along…?” Avinash suggested.
“No. No. I don’t think it would be proper for me to gatecrash into a “Kande Pohe” ceremony…” I said to him.
“I think it will be good if you come along…” Avinash’s mother said to me, “you are his good friend – and maybe – you will prove lucky…”
“Lucky…?” I exclaimed, curious.
Avinash’s mother looked at me and smiled.
“I have been searching for girls for Avinash for quite some time – and finally – after a lot of thinking – I narrowed down and selected 7 girls for him – all nice girls from good families and from our community – girls who are interested in going to America after marriage – he has seen 6 girls so far – and “rejected” all of them – this is the 7th girl – I hope he likes her – otherwise – all my efforts will go waste – and we will have to wait till he comes to India again – maybe after a year or two…”
“Oh…” I said, feeling quite amused at the matrimonial process for NRIs like Avinash.
Avinash’s father looked at me and spoke to me.
“Please do come along – see the girl – and maybe – you can convince Avinash…” his father said to me.
So – I went along with them to the girl’s house for the girl-seeing “Kande Pohe” ceremony.
The girl’s parents welcomed us.
I was introduced as Avinash’s best friend.
We sat down in the spacious living room.
The girl’s mother went into the kitchen.
After a few moments – the girl came out of the kitchen – carrying a tray with four dishes of “Kande Pohe” – attractively garnished – with a wedge of lemon placed on the side.
She held the tray in front of Avinash’s father, then his mother, then Avinash, and lastly, she held the tray with the remaining one “kande pohe” dish in front of me.
I looked at her and recognized her at one – she was the same gorgeous girl I had seen in the bank in Mumbai 3 years ago – but I also noticed – that – today – she wasn’t wearing a mangalsutra around her neck.
I looked at her – I said “Hello” to her – and I smiled.
She gave me a smile of forced geniality – as if I was a stranger.
Dear Reader – as I told you earlier – she didn’t show any trace of recognition.
So – I let it be – and watched the proceedings as a passive observer.
The parents did most of the talking.
Avinash kept looking at the girl from time to time.
The girl sat demurely – looking down – at the table in front of her.
I maintained an air of nonchalance.
The parents seemed to be talking about each other’s families – about the “qualities” of their children etc. etc.
The “Kande Pohe” were delicious – and after we had finished eating – the girl went inside and brought tea.
The girl’s mother made it a point to tell us that it was her daughter who had made the “Kande Pohe” and she was a “Sugran” (accomplished in cooking).
After some time – the girl’s father spoke.
“We have talked enough…” the girl’s father said, “I think the boy and girl can talk privately now…”
“Later…” Avinash’s astute mother said, “we will let you know by tomorrow morning…”
With these words – she concluded the “Kande Pohe” ceremony – and – half an hour later – I was sitting in Avinash’s home – sipping Scotch.
“The girl is good…” Avinash’s father said.
“Yes – they seem to be cultured family…” Avinash’s mother said.
“I liked the girl…” Avinash said.
“Are you sure…?” Avinash’s mother asked Avinash.
“Yes…” he said, “I really liked her…”
Avinash’s father gave a sigh of relief.
“So – looks like the number “7” has proved to be lucky for you – “Lucky Seven” – as they say – after “rejecting” six girls – you have liked the 7th girl…” Avinash’s father said to Avinash.
I remained silent – wondering if I should say what was in my mind.
Seeing my silence – Avinash’s father spoke to me.
“Didn’t you like the girl…?” he asked me.
“Yes. Yes. The girl is very good…” I said to him.
Then – I decided to delve a bit.
“Does the girl work…?” I asked.
“Yes – she works in a bank – but – her parents said she will resign her job and go to America – after all – what is a clerical bank job as compared to a life in America…!!!” Avinash’s mother said, matter-of-factly.
“I think I have seen the girl before…” I said, hesitantly.
“Oh – then why didn’t you say so over there…?” Avinash’s father said.
“She didn’t seem to recognize me – so – I thought it was best to remain silent…” I said.
Avinash’s mother looked at me suspiciously.
“Do you know this girl…? Were you friends…? If you recognized her – why didn’t she recognize you…?” Avinash’s mother asked me, in an inquisitive tone of voice.
“No. No. I don’t know the girl – I just saw her once – in a bank – in Mumbai…” I said, nonchalantly.
“Mumbai…?” Avinash’s mother asked me.
“Yes – 3 years ago…” I said.
“Mumbai…? We thought she works in a bank in Pune. Anyway – I will clarify with her when I meet her tomorrow – maybe – she got transferred to Pune…” Avinash said.
“Meet her…? Don’t be so desperate…!!! Let me talk to her parents first…” Avinash’s mother said to him.
Then – Avinash’s mother looked at me – into my eyes – searchingly – and spoke in a serious tone.
“There is something going on in your mind – please say what you want to say – be honest and frank with us…” she said to me.
“What is it…? Is it something about the girl…?” Avinash asked me.
“Did you do a background check of the girl…?” I asked Avinash.
Avinash’s father spoke.
“Well – we checked out the family...” Avinash’s father was saying – when Avinash’s mother interrupted him.
She looked worried as she spoke to me.
“Whatever you want to say – please tell us now – before it is too late – Avinash is your friend – you are is well-wisher – aren’t you…? If you know something about the girl – please tell us right now…” Avinash’s mother said, with desperation in her voice.
I looked at Avinash’s mother and spoke in a calm voice.
“When I saw the girl – three years ago – she was wearing a “mangalsutra” around her neck…” I said to her.
‘What…? She was wearing a “mangalsutra”…? Is the girl married…?” Avinash’s mother asked me, looking shocked.
“It seemed so – when I saw her 3 years ago – maybe now – she is single…” I said, calmly.
“How can that be…?” Avinash said, looking nonplussed.
“She may have been widowed – or divorced…” I said, matter-of-factly.
Avinash looked surprised – his mother looked stunned.
Then – I heard Avinash’s father’s voice as he talked to his wife (Avinash’s mother).
“You talked in detail to her mother – did she say anything…?” Avinash’s father asked his wife (Avinash’s mother)
“No – she just said her daughter works in a bank and would give up her job to go to America once she gets married…” Avinash’s mother said.
“I will ask her when I meet her tomorrow…” Avinash said.
“You will not meet her till I say so…” Avinash’s mother said to Avinash, in an imperative tone of voice.
“We need to clarify this before going further – we’ll call them tomorrow and ask them…” Avinash’s father said to Avinash.
“Call them up right now…” Avinash’s mother said.
“Now…? At night…?” Avinash’s father said.
“Avinash is a “prize catch” – and NRI with a good job who is going to settle in America – parents are desperate to get their daughters married to him – so – they may hide such inconvenient facts – and once they get married and go to America – and then we find out – it will be too late – they would have succeeded in cheating us. You dial their number right now…” Avinash’s mother said firmly to her husband (Avinash’s father)
Avinash’s father walked to the table where the telephone was kept – picked up a small diary – searched – and then – he dialled the telephone number of the girl’s parents.
After sometime – Avinash’s father started speaking on the phone.
“Hello – we had come to see your daughter this evening – my wife would like to speak to the girl’s mother…” Avinash’s father said – and then – he held out the telephone receiver to his wife – who walked up and took the telephone receiver in her hand and held it to her ear.
After the girl’s mother had come on the line – Avinash’s mother started speaking in a rather rude tone of voice.
“Was your daughter married earlier – is she a divorcee – or widow…?” Avinash’s mother said to the girl’s mother.
There was silence – I could imagine the emotions of the girl’s mother.
Maybe – the girl’s mother was trying to say something – but – I heard Avinash’s mother speak in an angry voice.
“You daughter was wearing a “mangalsutra” – is it true or not…? Avinash’s friend saw her with a “mangalsutra” around her neck – the same friend who had come with us to your house in the evening…” Avinash’s mother said accusingly to the girl’s mother.
Maybe – the girl’s mother was trying to explain – but – Avinash’s mother put an end to the conversation.
“You have tried to cheat us – we don’t want to talk to you at all…” Avinash’s mother said in a hard voice – and she put down the phone.
Then – Avinash’s mother looked at me.
“It’s good you told us about the girl before it was too late – but – you should have told us in the girl’s house itself – and I would have confronted the girl then and there…” Avinash’s mother said to me, “but anyway – at least you told us – better late than never…”
Then - Avinash’s mother looked at Avinash.
“Don’t worry…” she said to him, “I’ll find a good girl for you – and this time – we will be more careful…”
Next morning – at 8 AM – the doorbell rang.
I opened the door.
It was the girl – the same girl – the prospective bride for Avinash we had “seen” the previous evening – the girl I had seen in the bank with the “mangalsutra” around her neck.
She smiled at me – I smiled back.
I looked at her – freshly bathed – with her lush black hair flowing down her shoulders – she looked very beautiful – and I could sense the wonderful fragrance of sandalwood scent emanating from her.
“Hello…” she said – breaking my trance.
“Hello…” I said to her.
“I want to talk to you – it’s urgent…” she said to me.
“Talk to me…?” I said – a bit surprised.
“About last evening…” she said, “won’t you ask me to come in…?”
“Yes. Yes. Please come in…” I said – and – I gestured to her to sit on the sofa.
She sat down on the sofa.
“I got your address from of my father’s friends – you seem to be quite popular around here…” she said.
“Yes – we have been living here ever since I was born…” I said to her.
“Does Avinash know you are here to meet me…?” I asked her.
“No…” she said, “only my parents know…”
“Would you like to have a cup of tea…?” I asked her.
“No. No. I just want to talk to you – please hear me out – it won’t take long…” she said to me.
Then – she looked around – as if looking for someone – and then – she spoke softly.
“Is it okay if we talk here or should we go somewhere…?” she asked me.
“We can talk here. My parents have gone out for their Sunday morning walk and breakfast with their friends – they won’t be back before 9 AM…” I said to her.
“I have come to ask you to salvage the situation – to clear up the misunderstanding…” she said to me.
“Okay…” I said to her, “you can speak freely…”
She looked at me – and spoke in a clear voice.
“My beauty is my worst vulnerability. I become the “centre of attraction” wherever I go...” she said, matter-of-factly.
“Yes – you are really beautiful…” I said to her.
“Sometimes – I feel that my beauty is my own worst enemy…” she said.
“Don’t say that…” I said to her.
“It’s true – I have experienced it – the moment men see me – they are attracted towards me – they lust for me – they flirt with me – and – they make all sorts of efforts to woo me…” she said.
I listened to her.
She paused for a moment – and continued speaking.
“All this unwelcome flirting was very disturbing for me – especially at my workplace – my colleagues, customers everyone tried to flirt with me. I wanted to focus on my career rather than be the object of unwanted attention – so – I started wearing a “mangalsutra” – a visible sign of marriage – indicating that I was not “available” – and – it worked – the unwanted attention stopped – or – at least – it reduced – and I could concentrate on my work…” she said.
“The people in your office – your boss – nobody knew that you were actually unmarried – though you wore a “mangalsutra”…?” I asked her.
“Only my Branch Manager knew – he is the only one who had our personal records – in fact – he was the one who suggested the idea of wearing a “mangalsutra” at work when he noticed I was attracting unwanted attention from male customers and my colleagues were trying to flirt with me…” she said.
“Oh – so – though you were unmarried – you started wearing a “mangalsutra” as a “marriage shield” to discourage flirting and to ward off unwelcome attention from men…?” I said to her.
“Yes…” she said.
“Do you still wear a “mangalsutra” at work…?” I asked her.
“No – I have stopped wearing a “mangalsutra” at work…” she said.
“Oh – so now – you have stopped wearing a “mangalsutra” at work – why is this…?” I asked her.
She smiled and answered my question.
“In Mumbai – I wore a “mangalsutra” – as I sat at the reception counter – where everyone could see me – and – I had to talk to so many people from a close distance. After my transfer to Pune – I work in the back office – not at the counter – so now – I don’t have to deal directly with customers face-to-face…” she said.
“Oh…” I said.
“Also – my colleagues in the back office are mostly women – and – my male colleagues in the bank over here in Pune are very decent and cultured persons…” she said.
“So now – you don’t need a “Marriage Shield” …” I said, jokingly.
“Yes – you can say that…” she said, with a smile.
“Thank you for telling me all this…” I said to her, “I’ll speak to Avinash and clear up the misunderstanding…”
“Thank you…” she said with a smile.
“Do you really want to marry him…?” I asked her.
“Yes – I like him – and everyone in my family likes him too…” she said, with a genuine smile.
“Before you go – tell me one thing – don’t you remember me…? I have come to your bank a few times when I was in Mumbai…” I said to her.
“I am sorry – but I really don’t remember you – and – three years have passed since then…” she said to me.
She had a point.
Everyone notices a beautiful girl – especially if she is the centre of attraction.
But – the beautiful girl doesn’t bother to look at ordinary looking men – like me.
I looked at her – smiled – and spoke in a comforting tone.
“Okay – I will speak to Avinash – and I will tell him what you told me – and try to clear the confusion…” I said to her.
“You have to do more than that…” she pleaded to me, “you have to convince him and his parents…”
“I will try my best…” I said to her.
“You are convinced – aren’t you – about why I was wearing the “mangalsutra” in the bank…” she said – looking into my eyes in an entreating sort of way.
“Yes – I believe you…” I said to her.
“Please help me. I really like Avinash and I want to marry him…” she said with longing in her voice.
“Don’t worry – I will try my best…” I said to her – in a reassuring tone.
“I am depending on you…” she said with a grateful smile.
Then – she took out a piece of paper from her purse – and she gave it to me.
“I have written my address and phone number – please call me the moment you speak to Avinash – I will come immediately and explain everything to him and his parents…” she said – with desperation in her voice.
“Okay – I will go and meet Avinash right now and call you on your phone number…” I said to the girl.
I got up from the sofa – she got up too.
I walked her to the door – she said “goodbye” – and she left.
I went across to Avinash’s house and told him the girl’s story.
His parents were sitting and listening too.
“Why did she go to your house…? She could have come here and told us everything…” Avinash’s father said to me – with a tone of suspicion.
“I don’t know why she came to my house – and that too – so early in the morning…” I said, “I think we should call her over here and you can speak to her…”
“No. No. I don’t want to speak to that girl – I have rejected the girl – I have already told her parents…” Avinash’s mother said – in a firm tone of voice.
“I feel you can at least hear her side of the story – maybe – you may be convinced that she is speaking the truth…” I said – in a trying to convince Avinash’s mother.
“Okay…” Avinash said.
“What okay…?” Avinash’s mother shouted at him, “I don’t believe her story at all – an unmarried girl will never wear a “mangalsutra”. There is something fishy…” Avinash’s mother said indignantly.
“We can get a thorough background check done by some good detective agency…” I was saying – when Avinash’s mother interrupted me.
“What background check…? For what…? We have already rejected the girl – I will find a much better girl for Avinash – there are so many suitable girls from good families who will want to marry Avinash and go to America…” Avinash’s mother said in a decisive voice.
“At least speak to her once – hear what she has to say…” I said to Avinash’s mother.
Avinash’s mother gave me a stern look.
“Why are you taking her side…?” she asked me.
“I am not taking her side – I feel she is a good girl…” I was saying – when Avinash’s mother interrupted me.
“Good Girl…? If she is such a “good girl” – why don’t you marry her…?” Avinash’s mother said to me – with sarcasm in her voice.
I looked at Avinash.
He was silent.
Avinash had remined silent for the entire time I was speaking to his mother.
It seemed that my friend Avinash had lost interest in marrying the girl.
I looked at Avinash’s father.
“Let’s close the chapter …” Avinash’s father said – in a soft but conclusive voice.
That was the end of the discussion.
I wished Avinash the best of luck and hoped he would find a suitable bride before he left for America.
I walked down to my favourite café in Deccan Gymkhana.
From the pay-phone on the counter – I called up the girl.
“Good News…?” she asked me, excitedly.
“Not Quite…” I said to her.
“Oh…” she said – I could sense the disappointment in her voice even over the telephone line.
“I am sorry it didn’t work out but I tried my best…” I said to her.
“Where are you…? I want to meet you now. You must tell me exactly what happened…?” she said, excitedly.
I told her where I was – the name of the café.
She said that she would be there in 10 minutes.
I sat down at a table in the corner – where we could talk a bit privately.
As was my habit – I sat facing the entrance.
The girl arrived – saw me – and sat down opposite me.
I told her what had happened.
I explained to her that I had tried my best to convince them – but Avinash’s mother had refused to believe what I had told her – the girl’s story about why she wore a “mangalsutra” three years ago in the bank in Mumbai.
“What about Avinash…? Did he say anything…?” the girl asked me.
“No. He remained silent…” I said to the girl.
“Oh – a typical “Momma’s Boy” …!!!” she said, scornfully.
She seemed upset – so – I remained silent.
“Anything else you want to tell me…?” she said, looking a bit downcast.
“Well – Avinash’s father said “Let’s close the chapter” – and then – we stopped talking about it…” I said to her.
“So – there is no hope…?” she said, disappointed.
“I think you should forget about Avinash…” I said to her.
“I will have to forget about marriage for some time now…” she said, looking disheartened.
“Why do you say that…? You are so beautiful – you will find so many good boys who will be eager to marry you…” I said to her.
“Well – the way Avinash’s mother is yapping around – the “mangalsutra” story is already spreading rapidly in our community – so – it’s not going to be easy to find a suitable boy who will be ready to marry me – all thanks to you…” she said, crestfallen.
“I will marry you…” I said to her, in a loving tone.
“What…?” she exclaimed – looking stunned.
There was a visible metamorphosis in her demeanor.
She became flaming mad with anger.
I felt scared that she may go berserk.
Suddenly – she screamed at me.
“Oh My God – I never imagined you are such an evil and devious man…” she said to me with contempt in her voice
“Evil…? Devious…?” I said – taken aback.
“Yes – you are a devious and wicked man – you deliberately sabotaged my marriage so that you could succeed in your nefarious intentions…” she said, in an accusatory tone.
“Nefarious intentions…?” I asked her, baffled.
“Don’t act so innocent – you are in love with me – you want to marry me – isn’t that true…?” she asked me.
“Yes – I am in love with you – I want to marry you – but – that is only afterwards – once the marriage proposal didn’t work out – please believe me – I didn’t deliberately sabotage your marriage with Avinash – he is my friend – I would have been most happy if you two had got married…” I said to her, genuinely.
“I don’t believe you at all – I am sure you sabotaged my marriage to Avinash – and now – you are making up all sorts of stories to try and get me to marry you on the rebound…” she said, contemptuously.
“No – that is not true…” I said, defensively.
“Tell me – why did you barge into my house uninvited…? There was no need for you to gatecrash into the “arranged marriage” talks – we had not invited you – we had called only Avinash and his parents…” she said, angrily.
“It was a coincidence…” I said, trying to explain – when she interrupted me.
“To me – it seems that you contrived the coincidence…” she said.
“No. That is not true. I didn’t know that Avinash had come to India.
I had come over to Pune for the weekend – and – last evening – I was sitting in Good Luck Café chatting with my friends – when someone mentioned that Avinash was in town. He lived nearby – in Deccan Gymkhana – so – I walked down to his house. Avinash and his parents were all set to go to your house – and they asked me to come along – so – I came with them…” I said to her.
“If you had recognized me – why didn’t you say so…?” she asked me.
“I said “Hello” to you – but – you didn’t show any trace of recognition…” I said to her.
“I told you – I didn’t recognize you – it is not possible for me to remember the face of every person who came to the bank – and that too – three years ago…” she said to me.
“Since you didn’t show any response to me – I decided to be a passive observer…” I said to her.
“Passive observer…? I don’t think it is that simple…” she said, sardonically.
“What do you mean…?” I asked her.
“If you had opened your mouth in my house – it would have given me the opportunity to clear the confusion then and there. Instead – you deliberately kept quiet in front of me – and later – you deviously manipulated and instigated Avinash and his parents – and – you poisoned their minds against me…” she said, with bitterness in her voice.
“Don’t blame me for everything – the root cause of all this is because you wore a “mangalsutra” – whatever may be your reasons. So – please don’t make such unwarranted accusations against me…” I said to her.
“Unwarranted Accusations…? Please stop trying to play victim – I am the victim here. I hate you. I don’t want to see your face again…” she said, contemptuously – and – she walked away.
That evening – I went back to Mumbai.
A few days later – I received a wedding invitation card – Avinash had found a bride.
A few years later – I met the girl at an international airport – she introduced me to her “Indian American” husband – and while doing so – she deliberately touched the “mangalsutra” around her neck – she looked into my eyes – and she gave me a shrewd smile.
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