Two years ago, around the same time of the year, I had very enthusiastically written about my cousin’s upcoming wedding. A wedding I had been looking forward to attending after a long time of steering clear of all celebrations in the family.
More correctly, at that point, I felt I had moved on from mourning the death of my marriage and was back to my normal self, to enjoy the occasion in the right spirits.
But little did I know what lay ahead of me. An impending feeling of loss had been waiting to drag me into the pits. A fear clutched me by my ankles and refused to let go of me. Every move I’d make to stay my normal self, my feet wouldn’t budge.
Two years ago, I couldn’t muster enough courage to write about this overwhelming experience, but today, I can’t sit at peace till I am done pouring my heart in this space.
The change in me, the desperation to talk about my fears has its roots in the recent experiences I had at a family wedding and I want this out of my system ASAP because I am to attend another grand wedding in the next few days.
Anyway, let’s get back to what happened two years ago.
The very idea of a Bollywood theme wedding left me feeling uneasy with the anticipation of an overdose of drama, especially when the hosts were the most dramatic members of my family. Trying hard to keep my sinking heart in check, for the sake of Pari, we finally landed at the venue.
I wanted the hard work I’d invested in getting fitter than I had been in over 5 years keep my spirits high, but nothing, not even the lure of wearing the latest designer dresses could make me look forward to the ceremonies.
At this point, I want to highlight, that in the past few years, I have come to trust my gut more than I’ve ever listened to my heart or the mind for that matter.
An unknown sense of restlessness was slowly filling up my system. The cold treatment being meted out to me, by every member of the extended family, didn’t go unnoticed. What would start with an enthusiastic hello would lose all energy by the time, “So where are you working these days?” was asked, hardly 30 seconds later.
Though my mother, like always, defending her side of the family, said, that the coldness was a mere figment of my imagination, I couldn’t seem to overlook the sneering glances my 3-year-old darling was attracting, being stuck with a good-for-nothing single mom.
Though I had anticipated it all, I was stunned by the fact, how these remarks still affected me. It came as a blow to my belief that I had overcome my past, had moved on in life and was comfortable with the status of being a work-from-home, single mom.
I know, my financial situation isn’t even worth a mention, especially when my cousins, younger to me by 5 to 6 years are earning 8 figure salaries. But that shouldn’t be a point of discussion because I am neither financially dependent on anyone nor am I shedding tears to gain sympathy in my current state.
However, society doesn’t behave in ways that are logical to our sensibilities. In the protective presence of my parents, no overtly hurtful comments came my way, but I still missed the candor, the purity of meeting the extended family after a long pause. The plastic smiles, the synthetic busyness was very new and made the food difficult to swallow despite its richness and my hungry stomach.
In my mind, I was busy doing the math, that I had arrived around an hour back and had to stay for 54 more hours midst these cold hearts, trying to act happy, when I could barely breathe normally in that smoke-free, AC hall that still had room for 100 more people despite around 150 people already present there.
I couldn’t stop my mind from wavering to the thoughts of why the uncles, aunts and my cousins couldn’t see me beyond my marital status. I was unable to fathom their small-heartedness that refused to warm up to an innocent 3-year-old, so many of them were meeting for the first time.
I was much relieved when Pari and I stepped in our hotel room and locked the door shut. I had never before experienced freedom in the confines of a locked hotel room like I did then.
The afternoon sped fast, chitchatting with a couple of friendlier cousins and not-so-nosy aunts. The early evening was spent savoring the delish snacks with hot tea because Pari and I hadn’t eaten our lunches properly.
All was well, till we dressed up and were ready to put our best foot forward for the engagement ceremony around 7 pm. As I had dressed up Pari before I started getting ready, she wanted to go out and play with other kids than watch me get dressed up.
So, Pari left with my parents while I half-heartedly started getting ready for the ceremonies. While I was still deciding on my shade of lipstick, I could clearly hear the crowd cheer as the DJ played Yo Yo Honey Singh’s hit numbers.
After dillydallying for another half an hour, I stepped out of my hotel room, not a single soul was in the corridors. Not even the hotel staff. The glittering lights, the shimmering chandeliers, made me reminisce how my baby cousin used to yearn for a princess’ wedding as a kid.
As I reached the elevator, a strong scent of cologne blinded my thoughts. I was startled by its striking similarity to the cologne my ex-used and was too numb to think anything. Inside the elevator were three couples, more or less my age, who were too excited and busy in themselves, taking selfies to even notice my quiet presence.
The one thing that my dazed mind couldn’t miss was how much in love these youngsters looked. I felt a pang of loss rise in the pit of my stomach that moistened my eyes in less than the time the elevator took in reaching from the third to the ground floor.
Suddenly, I was the only one who didn’t have a hand to hold. I was the only girl who wasn’t looking forward to anything that evening. I was the only soul who was smiling on the outside but was crying on the inside, or so it seemed.
I have no memory of who all I met at the ceremony, what I ate and how the evening went past. I was too busy pitying myself for the absence of love in my life. I know, for a mother, a child’s love can mean the world, but despite having Pari in my life, that evening made me realize how much I longed for companionship.
The following two days were spent, restlessly wanting to escape from that lover’s paradise that was a holiday resort 20 kilometers outside the metro city that wasn’t my home.
The following month was spent reflecting, reevaluating my emotional well-being, reassuring myself that it was perfectly normal to miss being in a romantic relationship after having spent three-quarter of a decade in love (one sided or not isn’t the point of concern at this time).
Time flew and though I attended many weddings in the past two years, another wedding of a close cousin happened just last week. This time, I was sure that nothing could set disturb my newfound state of calm. Not even PDA or being the only single woman (of my age group) in the vast length and breadth of my family, present there.
The good news was, this time around, the wedding involved the extended family of my father’s side, unlike last time. The cousins of this side have been more understanding, warm towards Pari, with many kids of her age, too happy to have found a spirited mate in her.
For a change, I enjoyed myself, eating, chatting (as little as I normally do), meeting new people, I did not feel conscious of my marital status. I wasn’t feeling suffocated (having ceremonies in the lush lawns had a huge role to play in this) and neither was I struggling to keep tears away. Being myself was a happy change, despite the palpable coldness and the deafening silence on any topic pertaining to my existence from various corners.
Being myself was a happy change, despite the palpable coldness and the deafening silence on any topic pertaining to my existence from various corners.
The weird sense of loss dared to breeze past me but seeing my new-found composure decided to stay away, not daring to rub its shoulders with me.
It almost felt like an achievement to have been an active part of a family wedding without feeling left out. I am hoping the upcoming wedding shall prove to be a similarly exciting experience because now I am ready to answer anyone asking me “What do you do to keep yourself busy?” with “I write” without a hint of guilt or the need to explain myself.
The song on my mind: Ye kya jagah hai doston ~ Umrao Jaan