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An arranged marriage

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An arranged marriageFor Sheetal it would have been yet another uneventful day had she not finally surrendered to her mother. She was tired of hearing her mother complain, ”Shalini will grow old waiting for you to find a husband.”

Her sister Shalini, was just two years younger to her but somehow Sheetal always felt ancient in front of the youthful ebullience of her dazzlingly beautiful sister. Her mother had wept inconsolably saying, “Ever since your dad walked out on us, I’ve been both father and mother to you girls.  Do you understand how burdened I feel?”

She didn’t tell her mother that she too desperately wanted to get married. That not having a man in the house had denuded her life in ways she could not explain. With a mother too caught up in social work and a sister surrounded by besotted admirers, Sheetal had felt completely isolated. She wanted to say “I feel so lonely ma, that I feel I can touch this loneliness with my hand.”

Shalini’s awesome looks had always made her feel plain though her father had once told her that people with more beauty than they could handle were normally people who lead shallow lives. “They’re incapable of true feelings. They feel love only in drifts of impulse. They’re unable to see the true meaning of things. You, Sheetal are different. Your beauty comes from within.” And though she felt strangely warmed by his words, she had not believed in them.

Her mother had insisted that she visit the beauty parlor and make herself more presentable. There were so many things they did to her that she felt more tired than rejuvenated at the end of it all. Why do women have to go to such lengths to please men, she wondered. But after she had changed into the new set of clothes her mother had specially bought for her, she gazed into the mirror and felt an inexplicable sense of pleasure. They had chopped off her long plait and cut her hair in layers, so that it fell over her shoulder in luxuriant, black waves. This can’t be me, she thought. I’m actually looking attractive. Maybe he might like me. But then suddenly she remembered earlier occasions and the looks of pity she’d received once Shalini came into the picture. And a thousand memories came to her, memories of rejection, not so easy to set aside. Yet something told her, this time things would be different.

He was tall and impressive at first glance. Then she noticed other things about him. His kind eyes and lips that spread into an easy smile. The crinkles around his eyes, which seemed to suggest that he was older than she’d expected. His deep voice sounded just like her favourite Mills & Boon hero. She liked the way he laughed at some joke Shalini cracked. Maybe he too will prefer Shalini she thought, looking at him with a disconnected kind of longing. He then looked at her directly and spoke to her, asking her about her interests. Unlike the others, he had not asked, “Can you cook?” He merely gazed at her with admiration and she felt strange. “I want to spend the rest of my life getting to know you,” he said.
“Will you marry me?”
“Why?” she asked. “Because I fell in love with you even before I met you. Your father showed me your picture and told me all about you!”

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