Sita Subramaniam was crying all this while seated in a chair in this empty room. Just a couple of days back, she had come to Philadelphia, USA, for a very specific reason. Her marriage. Now that was not to be. Things had taken a cruel twist in her life once again. Her parents had accompanied her to her uncle’s place. They too were helpless now as they never had an inkling of a guess as to what they were to face, here in the USA.
Sita finished crying and wiped her eyes. She got up and stood at the window to look out. Beauty lay all around outside. The high-rise buildings, the attractive gardens and the roads: where a string of vehicles moved like a path with an “insidious intent”, she concluded. Her life however was anything but beautiful. Her own mother had died when she was barely five years old. She always compared this with a scene in the film “Dr. Zivago”, where the five year old boy had tears in his eyes as he attended his mother’s funeral adding a handful of soil, to her grave in the burial ground.
Her father, a rich businessman in a small town in India, conceded to family pressure and finally married her aunt, her own mother’s cousin sister. Her life after that, was a study in contrast. Rolling in material wealth at every step, she had to deal with her step mother’s half hearted concern towards her. Why she of all the people? The thought was always there in her mind. School life had ended and now she went to college, a top notch institution in the city. There within a few days, a chance meeting took place in the college canteen with Rahul, her senior of 2 years in the Science section.
She had had her samosas and she walked absent-mindedly, with her books when she bumped into someone. “Oh I am sorry”, apologised Rahul and squatted to pick up her scattered books and notebooks. Sita was observing him. Touseled hair, broad shoulders and eyes spoke volumes. “No problem, thank you”, she replied. Next day Rahul looked for her in the canteen at lunch time. He found her and sat with her in a lone table at the corner of the canteen. Their meeting now happened everyday and would last till the bell rang indicating that lunch time was over.
She found that his friends called him Rahul, so she thought that Rahul was his name. They would talk about everything under the sun from God to government. They vibed well and were on the same page in several aspects of life. Time went by and Rahul finished his engineering and they met on one final occasion. Sita was broken hearted. She had badly and madly fallen in love with Rahul. She took his leave. After a few steps she turned around and at that same moment Rahul also turned around. She was reminded of a scene in DDLJ that was ditto. Heaving a sigh she went her way.
Sita’s train of thoughts came back to her present moment. Was that the reason that they had named her Sita of all names? In mythology Sita’s life was anything but happy. How similar was her life with Sita’s. And now this. -The bridegroom to be was in a relationship. He had a mistress about whom he disclosed to all when she and her family reached Philadelphia. Her dreams of beginning a new life was dashed into smithereens. It was like a pack of cards that fell at the slightest touch and go. Another disappointment and sorrow. How many more were lined above and up there she wondered. Will she never see real happiness? She remembered how she had met Rahul again. A couple of years later, she had gone to write her IAS entrance exam and even Rahul was there. They met for a couple of minutes. She came to know that Rahul had joined an international company in their Delhi office. Sita just had the time to tell him, that they were looking for “a suitable boy”, to marry her off. Her step-mother wanted to do away with an unwanted burden as soon as possible. Rahul, who had fallen deeply in love with her was drawn to tears to hear this. They parted after that, both on their own ways.
“Manhoos”, “badnaseeb” and a host of other expletives were rained on her. By now she herself started believing in those words to be her destiny. As the evening drew to a close, the phone rang at their relative’s place. It was the bridegroom who was calling up her father. He had something to say. In fact he knew an Indian friend who was looking for a girl to marry. His name was Ramchandra Iyer and he was here for a couple of days here in Philadelphia. He was actually posted in California. If they were interested they could approach the guy the next day. This was all the help that he could render. Sita’s father and step mother exchanged glances and nodded at each other. “Yes, we would like to see this boy tomorrow”, her father said. The meeting was fixed for the next evening.
Sita heard this and was worried. A totally unknown person would turn up tomorrow. Will he choose her to be his life partner? Could she bring herself to accept him as her husband? Questions like these were rankling in her mind. Was she a commodity to be handed over just like that? Her step mother could go to any extent to somehow get her out of the way, she knew. She spent the night tossing and turning in her bed. Finally it was morning. The day had arrived.
A couple of hours before Mr. Iyer arrived, she started decking up for the meeting. Her hair tied in a bun with Kanakambaram flowers interspersed with green leaves in true South Indian style. The rich folds of her Kanchipuram sari could be heard as she moved about. She looked at herself in the mirror and was amazed. She looked so imposing. Only one thing could be seen clearly. The restlessness in her eyes. And one thing was missing, the thali which is the mangalsutra for a South Indian bride. The big question mark was looming up in her eyes. She shut the door of the bedroom upstairs and waited to be called from below. “Ai ai o kadavale”, she prayed in her mind.
After an interminable wait someone knocked on her door. It was her father. The suitable boy, had arrived and after the preliminary pleasant exchanges the boy had gone up to the terrace. He was waiting to see the would be bride there. Her father told her she could go up to the terrace where he was waiting for her.
Sita climbed up slowly taking one step at a time to finally arrive at the last stair. In the falling darkness she could make out a silhouette. An uncanny feeling crept up as the person coughed. Her heart missed a beat and then started galloping. In her turbulent mind she registered something familiar about Mr. Iyer. “Rahul?”, she asked. Rahul turned and was equally shocked. He realised that he had actually never revealed his real name to her.
He then recollected those days of college, when girls would randomly ask for his name and number, since he was so good-looking. He had decided to use a fake name and number out of frustration and say that name to every girl who approached him introducing himself as Rahul. His real name was Ramchandra Iyer.
Sita remembered she never knew his full name. Even the last time that they met she had forgotten to ask his full name. A wave of happiness struck them both. Strange were the ways of the Almighty!
As Rahul swept her in his arms, Sita realised the jinx had passed. She was Sita of yore no more. In the growing darkness she realised there was no shadow of parting anymore. Sita had found her Ram.