Shweta walked passed the vanity sink to get her red sequined Sari from the walk-in closet. She started draping it around her and threw the pallu over her shoulder. For a second she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She wondered for a second if it was really her. She had taken a month off from her graduate studies for her wedding in Delhi. Just six months back she had been toiling in her computer laboratory working late hours and having no thoughts of a wedding. Rajesh walked into her life and changed all of that. She had plenty of talent, had excellent education and sharp features too. Yet she had never felt comfortable in social settings and would retreat to a corner. She never felt that she had the smoothness of conversation that her friend Vidya did. She had envied Vidya for her cool demeanor around her male friends. So many of them had fallen for Vidya while Shweta had always been the friend, the confidante to the men who sought out her friend. They would befriend her to gain access to Vidya.
When Rajesh approached her and asked her out for dinner, she was sure this was about playing messenger to Vidya. She never felt animosity towards her for that but could not help feeling disappointed at the thought when it came to Rajesh. He was the mate she had in her mind. The intelligent look in his eyes, the accessible demeanor, passion for music, being able to converse well in Tamil, he even wore thin rimmed glasses just like the image she had in mind. And to see this guy falling for her friend. Why couldn't this one person have liked her and not Vidya? She cursed herself for her bad luck and bit her lip and tried to conceal her emotions as they sat down to eat.
The rest of the evening and the months that followed still felt like a dream. Rajesh had very simply told her that he liked her and would like to marry her. Straight. No dating, no mind games. To the extent she wondered if there was a catch. If there was something she was missing here. Things fell in place so smoothly that she lost track of time and of herself. For someone who had never dated anyone, to be accepted and desired so sincerely by the man of her dreams made it hard for her keep her feet on the ground. She felt like she really understood what cloud nine meant during those months.
She put the sindoor on her forehead and admired herself. She had started wearing eye liner and lip gloss ever since she got engaged. She had suddenly felt a desire to look beautiful, not just pleasing. She started wearing bright clothes and bold earrings. She stood in front of the vanity mirror and thought of her good luck. She now had a wonderful husband and not just that. She had a mother-in-law who was beyond belief. She treated Shweta like a queen. She gave them space and let them have their time together. She never expected her to cook and praised her singing when Rajesh asked her to sing at family gatherings.
Rajesh and Shweta got into the car and left for Bangalore. Mrs.Govind as she was known to many of her students put her feet up and let herself absorb the vacant feeling in the house. The house guests had finally left that morning and after three weeks of frenzied activity, she had two days to herself. Even her husband had gone out of town on work. She thought of her daughter-in-law. The focus of her son's attention now. Mrs.Govind had raised him well and given him all that she could as a mother. And now her job was done. She felt good but it was bitter sweet. She had been a school principal and had an air of sophistication about her that her daughter-in-law did not. They were wealthy in comparison and had more refined tastes in her opinion. As a daughter-in-law, she felt Shweta was no match for her. She did not speak English with a crisp accent. She looked good but dressed simply. She never wore high heels or sleeveless blouses. They lived in a large bungalow in Delhi but Shweta grew up in a two bedroom flat in Madurai. She does have brains though, Mrs.Govind thought to herself. And she seems to be more at peace with herself than I am at this point, she muttered silently.
She went upstairs to rest up and sort out her muddled thoughts. What is it she wanted out of her daughter-in-law? She was lucky to have Shweta in her life. She knew that. But she felt a feeling of hatred wash over her when she was alone at home. Yes, she was alone. In more than one sense of the word. She had prepared for this mentally and yet she found herself unprepared. As she walked up to her room, she passed by Rajesh's room. Not his room anymore, their room she thought to herself. She walked past the room and suddenly turned back and gave into impulse. She opened the door and walked in to catch a glimpse of Shweta's personal life. Curiosity took over the best of her. The crisp accented, power wielding, bold, wealthy, well dressed Mrs.Govind found herself peering into her new daughter-in-laws suitcase. She felt sick even as she walked in. She opened it gingerly and found jeans and sweaters, couple of books, salwars and Saris tossed in carelessly. Nothing interesting she thought to herself. She got up to leave before she puked at her own behavior completely lacking in culture. Her eyes fell on the little music box on the side pouch. Feeling disgusted with herself, she still pulled it out and opened it. "To my only love" the personal inscription read. She hurriedly put it back unable to stand any of it. She quickly put it back in place and rushed out of her room. She put her head back on the pillow and felt tears rushing down. She turned on her favorite ghazals on the CD player by her bedside and turned around and closed her eyes.
P.S. Fictional, based on hearsay and imagined characters!