Being a Sunday, Vijay woke up late. Rubbing his half closed eyes, he sat in his bed with his back to the wall beside. He glanced at the time in his phone and even in his after-sleep trance he noticed half of his day was already over. Not that he really cared about it as he was sure he would be spending the other half of the day on his bed too. He had a plan for the evening with friends and in his blurred pensive mood, decided to give them the elbow. He hated to see his holiday getting wasted without catching adequate number of winks before starting work again on Monday. He longed for a cup of hot coffee but he was sure his folks were already getting ready for the lunch and his suggestion to make him a cup might not go down well with others. He got up from the bed reluctantly and started washing himself. He noticed from the corner of his eye, his mother laying the table for lunch and his sister fiddling with the remote. Contrasting sight, he thought to himself and went about washing himself. There is something about soap and froth which instigates the hunger juices inside him and he felt his tummy rumbling like a coal engine racing with an electric one. There has been a paradigm shift in the way he spends his holiday now from the college days. During college, he spent all day roaming on dusty roads with a bunch of likeminded friends. Now he preferred to stay indoors and hit the sack for most part of the day. Of course, for all part of the night too. As he was tucking in the food, his mother informed him about the wedding in the evening. The joy in which her voice announced the news triggered the warning bells to his brain about the ordeal which lay ahead. Weddings are grossly misinterpreted by general public. They are neither fun nor frolicking except for the innocent kids who run around the wedding hall because they take fancy of the large space. People from the groom's side behave like they have just been conferred the title of 'Sir' and with an air of finality, brush aside others of mortal stature. The bride's relatives are no less than that when they try to match them in stupidity. He had groaned loudly enough to get a stern stare from his mother who usually meant- 'You have no choice'. His mother knew how much this holiday meant to him but she had the luxury of choosing to ignore that particular piece of fact. He watched her with distrait. He tried to behave amiably but his mood was getting more and more pensive as the thought of spending the evening with relatives infuriated him. He had long ignored such stares but with mothers sometimes, you really don't have choice. He cursed himself for thinking of giving the elbow to his friends. He took a deep breath of oxygen and courageously groaned again. 'No. Mother, please.'- He whispered slowly, hoping against hope that his mother's heart might sympathize. His mother didn't bother to reply back. The decision has been made.
He hates socializing. He cannot be termed as anti social but the idea of socializing with relatives at a wedding never appealed to him. Most relatives come to either feast on the food or to meet people whom they would never meet otherwise. He sat in a lone chair at a corner and watched everyone frolicking in their joy of meeting each other. Occasionally someone would walk up to him and talk absolute nonsense of how happy they are to meet him after a long time. The act of smiling through the ordeal was hard for him but since he had come, he accepted his situation grimly. As a matter of fact, there seem to be no way to find some peace of mind at a wedding. He glanced at the couple getting married and observed with a tinge of sadness that the ordeal was even more grueling for them. Unless all the rituals are completed, they would not be allowed to touch a morsel of food while people around them burped shamelessly. Utter injustice, he muttered to himself.
A man in his forties appeared from nowhere and sat beside him. The man had a look of selfless happiness as he looked at the boy beside him.
'Hello'- the man said smiling and nodding at the same time.
Vijay, though aghast at disrupting his solitude smiled back at the man and said.
'How is it going?’
'How is what going? '
'How is what going? '
'Oh, how is life going? '
'Life goes on'
And he realized all reason had left the conversation and gave a broad smile to the man which reeked of sarcasm.
'Well, I haven't introduced myself ' the man said and started chuckling to himself. Looking at him, Vijay got his anti-social instincts gnawing at him but he put a check on them by slowly rubbing his forefinger on his right temple and said- ' Well, go on. '
'I am the groom's brother in law's father in law'- he declared with swish of his right hand towards the heavens as if to ascertain his importance in the family. It took burning of precious brain cells to grasp the meaning of the statement and Vijay put all his mental strength into action to avoid looking at the man with scorn.
'And you?- It wasn't really a question. It was just a passing remark which he expected to be answered.
' I am his cousin'- said Vijay pointing towards the groom.
'Oh’-rubbing his hands in probable glee-' So, you are a Brahmin'-he declared coyly.
Not understanding where the conversation is heading towards and not wanting to rake his head for maintaining it, he simply nodded without opening his mouth. He was hopeful that the other person would get the clue that this weather was not advisable for idle conversations.
The man pulled his chair closer with a screech which no one noticed or heard but was loud enough for Vijay to cringe in his seat.
'So, ...'- The man continued with a small pause, ' So..., What is your name? What do I call you? ' he asked and laughed with a loud baritone. But suddenly Vijay wasn't noticing him. He saw something else. Someone, actually. As an old man and his wife walked into the wedding hall, Vijay's face was drained of all color. His eyes were wide open, looking at them mixing with other relatives easily. 'Come on, my boy. What is your name' the man beside repeated but Vijay never heard it as he whispered ' Excuse me! ' under his breath and walked away from the man, from the old couple, towards the other end of the hall. His eyes never left them as he walked away from them. He knew what he felt watching the old man-Fear.
Vijay stood staring at the man standing at the far end of the hall. He felt a chill running down his spine and his tongue refused to perform its function. Even though his brain refused to accept defeat so easily, the rest of the body already surrendered itself. It would be exaggeration to say his heart skipped a beat but guess it would seem believable to say the sight of that man surely quickened his heart beat. A fine sheen of sweat broke out from behind his ear despite protests from the head commander of the body, the brain. His brain refused to buy the argument that the man in question was the cause and was quite convinced that he was harmless. At the end of the hall, He saw the man talking with other guests with a warm smile on his face. His shiny bald head and round spectacles added to his intelligent look. His eyes were kind and people around him were comfortable with his presence. As he stood watching him, he felt his hairs on the arm stiffening up and he unconsciously was rubbing his arm as if to put his body hairs back to sleep. He was afraid. In fact, very afraid.
Read Part II!
Read Part II!