|Picture courtesy : Creative Writing|
‘Ah! How terrible can things get Sowmya! I hate getting hitched in a typical Tam-Brahm setting. In the era of dating apps we are still relying on matrimonial websites,’ Sharan said pulling his hair in exasperation.
‘I understand Sharan but the truth is that we ended up finding each other through this whole arranged marriage set up,’ Sowmya consoled him holding his hand.
‘Whatever, I am glad to have found you,’ saying this he pulled Sowmya close and wrapped his arms around her waist.
‘We have at least escaped the normal by choosing to date under cover. I can’t believe it is almost a year since I have known you.’
‘But at times I also feel I don’t know you enough,’ Sowmya said innocently. Hearing this, Sharan tightened his grip around her waist.
‘Will you join me and my friends for a trip to Pondicherry?’ Sharan asked Sowmya in a whisper. His warm breath was sending tickles down her neckline. She was quiet for a long time.
‘What are you thinking Sowmya? It is a great opportunity to know each other better. A trip could get us closer. I can also introduce you to my friend. They will be accompanied by their wives. ’
‘Relax; I was just cooking up a reason for travelling to Pondicherry,’ Sowmya said releasing his grip.
‘I hope you haven’t told anyone that we have met before Sharan.’ They stood facing each other with their eyes glistening with excitement.
‘You can mask your true nature so well. I never thought you will be so liberal considering the kind of traditional family you are surrounded with, that too in a place like Chennai. Even the calling bell sound is so typically Tam-Brahm,’ Sharan said laughing out loud. She laughed along.
That night Sowmya was in a completely different mood. She was nervous as well as excited. Their marriage date had been fixed for two months from now because of Sharan’s official tour to Germany.
A fortnight later, they met again in Pondicherry. They were a group of six. It hardly took time for Sowmya to mingle with the others. Sharan made sure she was comfortable around his friends. They explored around together and strolled for hours along the beach. It was definitely assuring for Sowmya to see Sharan being his normal self while he was with friends. For the amiable and friendly nature of Sowmya, becoming everyone’s favourite was not a difficult task. Sharan was also feeling assured after introducing her to his friends. He could see his love marriage dream coming true in an arranged marriage set up. After watching the sunset at the beach they came back to the resort. While entering names at the registration desk Sharan hesitated a bit but managed to loop in Sowmya with another girl.
Everything was going smoothly but when the time came to retire to their respective rooms Sowmya felt a little awkward. Sharan took her cold and nervous hand into his warm grip. The other couples escaped with their respective partners quickly leaving them behind to be with each other. Although Sowmya was too excited to be able to spend time with Sharan, she was also worried about trusting him completely. Her doubts were interrupted by Sharan’s voice, ‘What are you thinking about Sowmya? We are going to be married in just a month’s time. Don’t worry when I am there.’ Sowmya felt assured with the confident and composed tone in his voice. She admired this quality in him.
The moment Sowmya put her bag down in the room and turned to close the door behind her, she was mid-air. Sharan held her tightly in his arms. After a lot of struggle she was brought down. He embraced her tightly and placed a light peck on her cheek. Sowmya was feeling extremely shy despite the adrenaline rush. They sat for almost an hour sharing stories about their childhood, expressing their thoughts about each other and discussing about the wedding preparations. With the beautiful romantic ambience in the room and the lovable company of each other, Sharan and Sowmya got completely carried away and surrendered themselves to each other. Sowmya slept a dreamy slumber that night after Sharan planted a soft kiss on her forehead taking a vow to keep her happy forever.
The morning after was a quick wrap up. Sowmya left for the bus station after giving a see-you-soon hug to Sharan. From then on, her thoughts were clouded only by Sharan and the memories of the time they had spent the previous day. Sharan reached Hyderabad the same night. Both got busy in their work life amidst the wedding preparations. They managed to catch up on their day to day updates through messages and calls. Each day was getting better and better as they started getting to know each other. A week had flown by.
One fine evening Sowmya was sitting gloomily in the bedroom surrounded by her mother and her aunts. Their discussion was revolving around Sowmya’s delayed menstrual cycle and whether she should be taking the pill to postpone her cycle. Their concern was not about her but about the wedding rituals which could get messed up; thanks to all those baseless menstrual taboos. Sowmya’s mind was rejecting everything that they said. She was only worried if the reason for the delay could be their adventurous stunt in Pondicherry. Her thoughts froze. She kept nodding to everything her relatives said. She was hardly in a mood to debate. An appointment was fixed for the weekend with their family gynaecologist. Sowmya got petrified. She couldn’t tell her mom to postpone the doctor’s visit. It would raise doubts. She was in a dilemma. The only person whom she could call was Sharan. He did not take her calls. She left a message on WhatsApp.
‘Call me please.’
‘I missed my P this month. You did use protection that night, right? ’
‘There is a lot of confusion at home. I am too nervous.’
‘Please call me.’
‘I hope nothing could have gone wrong.’
‘I hope your protection was intact.’ (10:50 PM)
There wasn’t any reply or call from Sharan. Sowmya had a sleepless night. She kept checking her phone every ten minutes. Her mind was full of negative thoughts. She did a lot of research on the internet and found out multiple reasons for the delay but one reason pointing out directly at her cause seemed to be a by-chance-failed-protection. She decided to get herself tested for pregnancy. She was feeling ashamed. Suddenly the world seemed to be a dangerous place to live in. Going to the pharmacy and buying a self-testing home pregnancy kit was too risky plus she did not have the courage to approach a pharmacy. Finally! Google maps helped her in finding a small diagnostic laboratory in two kilometer vicinity from her house. It was a small and a dingy center but seemed to have a regular in-flow of patients. With a lot of hesitation she got the test billed. She checked her phone; there was still no reply from Sharan.
‘I am getting a pregnancy test done. ’ (10:02 AM)
Sowmya gave the sample and waited for the result. Her hands trembled as she held the urine container and left it on the tray for testing. There were many other women seated around her. Many among them had come to get the same test done. The atmosphere was nauseating. Sowmya started linking her symptoms with all the junk she had read up online. She started imagining her future and the situation at home. She was worried if this was going to show up during the gynaecology consultation. She doubted if Sharan was purposely ignoring her messages. Fortunately, technology helped in clearing her doubts. He hadn’t seen his messages from the previous night. She was thinking if he could have done all this on purpose, just to make her feel low. Her doubts multiplied. ‘Could he have done it just like a one night fling and later he could cancel the wedding?’ she thought.
After a while, a nurse came and handed over a pink slip. Sowmya read and re-read the report in shock. She reconfirmed the report with the nurse. It was ‘POSITIVE’.
She felt as if she had been handed over a pink slip in school or college. Negative thoughts clouded her mind. She went to the extent of thinking about an abortion.
‘It is POSITIVE. :-( What do I do now?’ (10:40 AM)
The five minute walk from the center to her office seemed the longest. She gulped her tears and went to work gloomily. With no response from Sharan after two days she feared all her doubts would come true. She was not her normal self. She walked back home looking at her phone continuously. Seeing Sowmya’s gloomy face her parents suspected something was not alright. Sowmya made up reasons and warded off all doubts but she couldn’t convince herself. She cursed herself that night for trusting him so quickly and crossing the line before marriage. All those rubbish stories she had seen, read and heard of seemed to be coming true. She started considering herself as a victim of betrayal.
Her thumbs were aching after swiping continuously over the cell phone. She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his ‘last seen at’ status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message. But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking or not. What was this?
‘Babe……’ (12:00 AM)
‘Nothing could have gone wrong from my side.’
‘I am sure about the protection being intact but are you sure about yourself?’
‘What do you mean? ’ (12:25 AM)
‘So, you are doubting me?’
‘Just the way you did. :-)’
‘Before you start blaming me further, let me clarify, my mobile was inside the gym locker whose key I had lost. I got the key only today.’ (12:30 AM)
Sharan called her immediately. He was not in a mood to argue with her and he did not want to give room for misunderstandings. Sowmya spoke to him in a shaky tone while he remained calm. Their voices went up and down in pitch most of them being Sowmya’s sobs. This minor incident was a testing stage in their relationship. They blamed each other. Sowmya, being the more vulnerable one was the most affected. She slammed the phone down and went to sleep vowing to handle the situation all by herself. Sharan was worried. He sent her multiple messages but she did not reply. He apologized for doubting her instead. Sowmya saw all his messages but refused to reply. Two days went by. Sowmya had only one more day before the gynaecologist consultation. Basically, she had one day left to cover up the sin and find a solution.
Sharan was on the verge of losing his calm without being able to talk to Sowmya. He assured Sowmya that he would be by her side and they could manage the situation very well even if the report was confirmed positive. He suggested her to strike a deal with the gynaecologist and tell her the truth but Sowmya was not convinced.
Amidst all this confusion Sowmya decided to talk to her close friend who was working in a hospital. She was too embarrassed to discuss intimate facts with her. After listening to the entire story Sowmya’s friend suggested her to come to her hospital where she would get the test repeated.
To Sowmya’s happiness and shock the result was ‘NEGATIVE’. ‘How is it possible?’ Sowmya said holding her head in her hand. She was hysterical and was almost on the verge of crying when her friend calmed her down. She analysed the situation in detail and assured that the test results in their laboratory were fool proof. There could have been something wrong with the other laboratory’s report. Sowmya had never thought about that. Only because of her friend was she able to get a second opinion on the test. Feeling relieved and confused she left for home. On the way back she went to the same laboratory where she had got her test done the first time. She took both the reports and showed them to the Pathologist. The doctor had a look at the reports and discussed with her staff in detail. After a lot of interrogation it was concluded that there had been a gross mistake from the laboratory’s end. Sowmya’s urine sample’s label had been exchanged with some other patient’s label who could be pregnant. Sowmya raised a hue and cry there but the emotional damage had been done. She left for home after threatening to sue their lab. She was waiting to talk to Sharan and share the happy news with him.
She rang the bell hurriedly. She was waiting to barge into the house and rush to her room. To her surprise it was Sharan who opened the door for her and welcomed her with a bouquet of flowers. She pinched herself hard to believe that it was him. They greeted each other with a smile. Sowmya’s parents were extremely happy to see Sharan pay a surprise visit just to see Sowmya. He took Sowmya out on a date that evening. Over dinner Sowmya cleared the air by describing to him about the incident. He seemed to be relieved. He kept holding her hand throughout and gave it a gentle squeeze. ‘I am really sorry if I hurt you in any way with my terse words. I am not the type to leave you and run away. Please trust me. Come what may, I will always stick by your side. Even if the report had turned out to be positive I would have helped you in finding a solution. It is not about your life alone now; it is linked to mine too.’
Tears rolled down Sowmya’s eyes. They were tears of joy and relief. All the confusion and emotional drama of the past week had finally come to an end. She was ready to go to any doctor now.
‘I should also be sorry for not being able to trust you completely. I think we shouldn’t have crossed the line,’ saying this Sowmya got up from the chair and turned away from him.
Let it go Sowmya, just relax. Twenty more days to go before you are mine forever,’ saying this Sharan wrapped her in his arms tightly.