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Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Indefensible

Sri was loafing around at the Inorbit Mall on a weekend all alone. Her mom had made her come as she wanted to shop for some exotic veggies. Now, normally Sri would have wiggled away, but her mom was a great cook and when you humor her, the rewards were generally delicious. So now she was killing time before the old lady was done with her stuff and Sri could drive her home.  Sri was bored, and as usual, hungry.

That was when she saw Natraj (Nat as they called him) her long lost college pal. She hollered at him and once Nat realized who this chubby girl running towards him was, he grinned and waited for her to join him. Soon, they were talking and caching up like the old days over a glass of chilled cold coffee after Sri’s Gola.

After the usual pleasantries, Sri plonked directly to the point. “Where is Vani? Are you guys married yet?” Sri asked mischievously.

Nat and Vani were inseparable in college, and Sri, as well as the whole gang was sure there was something going between them. His reply made Sri almost drop the straw she was shamelessly sucking on after polishing her coffee long back.

” I don’t know yaar. She got married and is not in touch anymore.”
“Why, what happened? Did you two fight? Everyone knew you two were dataing. C’mon spill the beans Nat” coaxed Sri.
“Nothing of the sort, Sri. We were a couple, all right,” Nat smiled wryly “but things changed a lot after college. As you know, I had joined that midsized IT firm after our college and my salary, even though was ok, wasn’t enough to propose marriage to a girl like Vani.”

“So? She loved you stupid, or at least that’s what we all believed” cried Sri.
“I know, and she was the truest person to me. I couldn’t ever imagine, being less than honest with her. You know I come from a very average middle class family, and given the precarious job condition of mine at that time, I wasn’t sure I will be able & ready to marry at that time. I hardly could have provided a good enough future for both of us.”
“But you did fine, didn’t you?”
“Ya, you may say that now. I am more confident of my career skills today than I was back then.”
“But why didn't you ask her to wait?”
“Mm I wasn’t sure how long it would have taken me to be competent enough for us. I did that MCA post our college and took me 4-5 yrs to settle. Her parents were pushing her to marry, you know how much pushy they were, especially her mom. If I hadn’t been able to do well, or made her wait for the 4-5 yrs, I am sure her mom would have boiled and grilled her on a daily basis. I have seen girls waiting a long time for their love, but ultimately it takes a heavy toll on them. You remember Malathi, my cousin don’t you? She waited so long for that dope-head Raja to finally click. He did, eventually, but 7 years of anxiety had taken their toll on poor Malathi. No way I was putting Vani in a similar situation and in so much trouble for my sake.”
“So did you even propose?” Sri’s sandwich has till now soggy, but she was all ears to this idiot in front of her.
“She knew I loved her and I knew she loved me. Why to ask when you know the answer, but are not ready to carry its significance?”
“What a load of bullshit, Nat.” Sri roared.
“I know Sri,” he smiled but his eyes remained sombre, “but remember it was so many years back. I was young, idealistic and stupid. Today, sometimes I wonder if I should have done things differently. Maybe I did make a mistake. But it seemed the most right thing to do at that time.” 

Sri’s phone buzzed: her mom was thru the long queue to the payment counter. They exchanged numbers etc and waved each other goodbyes.
“What an idiot and a wimp,” Sri complained aloud. “Nat was still living in the Nineteenth century. Vani was smart and educated; she never needed someone to "provide" for her.”
“Maybe some men are stupid that ways, Sri.” Her mother reasoned, “but sometimes that also makes them more caring and sweet.” 

Sri fell silent, she wasn’t angry at Nat. No, just a wee bit sad. Old memory of the ever smiling Nat and the delicately beautiful Vani, laughing and joking with the gang at the canteen flashed in her mind.
What a weird love story.