They reached the venue where Manas and Nisha were throwing the wedding party. It was a beautifully maintained open lawn, the grass was trimmed to the perfect length and the morepankhi plants were symmetrically placed on the borders , in one corner stage for orchestra was set. Covered food stalls were arranged on one side, on the other end where the rooms ended there was a porch decorated heavily with pink and white roses which set the entire theme. Such pink and white flowers were used throughout the sitting area which was interspersed with circular tables.
As soon as they entered the venue, they spotted Manas and Nisha, Nisha was sitting on one of the tables talking to someone on the phone and Manas was standing near the stalls checking the arrangements. They both looked tired and not dressed for the event. They had called Neerav and Snehali early to help out with the last minute arrangements.
It was Manas who saw them first and walked towards them, Nisha joined soon. “Thank God! You came.I have never organized a party at this big scale and I feel like nothing is getting wrapped up. I don’t know why I needed to act like I will get everything done. Nisha’s brother was offering help too.”
“I know you wanted to act like a hero. Not your fault bro.” Neerav consoled him tapping his palm on his shoulder and also winked.
Manas did not let a minute go to waste and started giving him account of everything that was happening around “These flower arrangements should have been completed and they are still working on them. The cook is now complaining that he needs more gas cylinders, I don’t know what he was thinking when I asked him yesterday about what he needed from us. The orchestra people, please remember to call them up. I am just sending you their number they should be here within the next hour. And Neerav, I need to be ready too.”
Neerav was trying to placate him “Its ok bro, I will get all of it sorted.”
“I just hope that we get through this party in one piece.”
“Don’t worry bro. How can it be an event if some complications don’t happen at the end time. How will we remember it? Be happy that now you have so many stories to tell.”
“You are right, I do love telling stories.” and with that Manas was laughing again. And so was Neerav.
The bond and energy they shared was infectious and Nisha and Snehali could not stop themselves from giggling too.
Manas started “And what are you doing here Ma’am. Aren’t you supposed to get ready and look the most beautiful today?”
“Oh yes, come Snehali.” Nisha held her hand and took her to one of the rooms attached to the lawn.
Inside Nisha told Snehali that she was talking to the beautician who was already late.
“The beautician is stuck in a huge traffic jam at her place. Mumbai and its traffic are always the worst. I just told her no need to come now. But you will have to help me with my makeup and dress.”
“I do want to help you Nisha, but I am the person who knows just the basics of makeup and nothing else.” Snehali said with worry writ on her face.
The expression on her face made Nisha laugh “Don’t worry, I am fine with makeup. I can do myself. But you will have to help me with the hair and dress.”
Nisha did know what she was doing in terms of makeup and her dress and Snehali had to just follow her instructions. Within 30 minutes Nisha was all ready and looking radiant as ever. She also did some touch ups for Snehali.
“I wish you could have stayed in Mumbai for some more time. We are going to miss you guys.” Nisha told Snehali. They had become good friends chatting on whatsapp sometimes. Nisha even took her advice for some of the shopping she did for the new home they were setting up for themselves.
“I know, I would have loved too. But I am employee only. I will keep visiting you guys for sure. Also, Manas’s parents live near Delhi only right. If and when ever you go there, make sure you let me know.”
Snehali realized what she had said after she said it.
“Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Snehali could see tears that had appeared in Nisha’s eyes.
“Of course I know you did not mean to hurt me. It’s just that it is a weak point. I am not even sure if doing a marriage without them was a good idea. Just Manas was so sure he wanted to go ahead with it.”
“Why are you saying this now? Is everything okay?”
“I don’t know. I just hope whatever I am thinking is not true.”
“What is it? Oh, never mind, I am sorry I am being too intrusive.”
“No dear, you are not. You are my friend. It’s just that the 5 years I have been with Manas, I have never seen him like that. He was never the one to hide anything from me. He always had things to say. Even when we were having fights. He never stopped talking to me. But since he realized his parents are not supporting him in the marriage I have seen him zoning off. I have tried to talk to him about it but he just does not let me know what is going on in his mind.” Nisha was looking at Snehali with expectant eyes as if asking her to say something comforting.
Snehali felt bad for Nisha, this was not something she was expecting to hear, but she had to say something to cheer up Nisha. “I am sure you guys can sort this out. Manas is a very nice and simple man. He will share with you whatever is bothering him, give him some time.”
Nisha just nodded her head. “You are right, anyways I should be happy today. It is not everyday that someone gets married” she said winking.
Snehali let out a laugh and hugged her.
Soon people starting coming for the party. Her friends and relatives were all coming to meet her. Nisha was meeting all of them and smiling her best.
She did not let Snehali out of the room and insisted that she would go with her. She also introduced her parents and relatives to Snehali.
Soon Snehali came out with Nisha on her side. When Snehali looked in front she saw Neerav standing beside Manas, she was sure Manas would be looking at Nisha but she could not take her eyes away from the way Neerav was looking at her. His look told her what he was thinking. Snehali had never felt happier. She gave him a smile which he acknowledged with an affectionate blink of the eye. She knew he loved him but the care in his eyes made the world a better place. She wanted to tell Neerav how he made her feel but she knew this was not the place and not the right time. This day was for Manas and Nisha and she wanted to help Neerav make it as special as it could be.
After initial round of drinks when everyone was seated. Neerav took the mic and stood under the porch. He was all praises for Manas and had everyone’s attention when he said
“I grew up with Manas in the same city and same school. We shared our lunches while we were in school and had many play dates with each other. We were not in contact in our colleges but when we connected it was like we never lost touch. It is Manas who I can count to always be there without any conditions. In him, I see a grown up man whose heart is filled with love and compassion and what makes me the most happy is the fact that he has the best companion he could have ever asked for – Nisha, who has been with him in all his highs and low. Friends, a relationship cannot survive for 5 years so beautifully as there’s has. For this beautiful couple, I just wish that their love for each other continues to grow. They become strength for each other every part of the way of their beautiful journey together. Wish you a very Happy Wedding Guys!”
Neerav toasted his glass to them and sat at his designated seat beside Snehali. After him a couple of more people – two of Manas’s friends gave their toasts and the orchestra started playing a Bollywood tune “Tum Dena Saath Mera…”
Neerav and Snehali got up and pulled Manas and Nisha to the dancing area. They both started dancing and then were joined by others. Neerav and Snehali too danced with all of them. Soon the food had to be started and Neerav took off to have a look at the arrangements, Snehali took her seat and removed her sandals.
Soon Snehali was joined by Nisha and Manas. They all had dinner together and it was time to leave.
When Neerav sat in the cab with Snehali. He was quiet and thoughtful. Snehali kept looking at him but he was looking outside the window as if something was disturbing him. She waited for sometime but when Neerav did not seem to move she kept a hand on his shoulder and asked “Are you Okay Neerav?”
When Neerav looked at her, she saw pain in his eyes and she was filled with dread. She did not understand why she was feeling this way. She kept her hand on his cheek to comfort him and asked “What is it?”
Neerav took her hand and kept it in his other hand. At that moment he decided to let Snehali know, “I am worried about Manas. He is sad that his family was not a part of the celebration and I can understand. He has always been a family man, he always took care of his parents and they shared a great bond, I am not sure what went wrong. Why uncle aunty are not at his side now.”
Snehali understood what pain it could be to not have parents to share such an important moment of your life “I hope they will soon be with him. After all they are his parents, how long can they live away from their own son.”
Neerav squeezed her hand in his as if reassuring himself “I hope they do.”
Neerav was sitting on the legendary sheesham wood Dining Table that his family had for 20 years now, his father was sitting beside him at the head of the table and his mother was serving fritters, his two sisters Karuna and Aarti were sitting on the table giggling at some private joke. Neerav was observing all of them and was thinking how to let them know about Snehali.
His mother was coaxing him to eat the fritters which he had not started yet.“Start eating Neerav, why are you not taking any? As it is you look weak.”
Well, how could she be his mother if she did not complain about him getting weak every time he visited.
Without saying anything he took few potato and onion fritters and put them in his plate along with the green chutney. He thought to wait for his mother to arrive.
After about five minutes, she came with a big batch of fritters in a big plate again, kept them on the table and sat on the other side of his father. She started serving on her own plate.
Neerav thought this was the right time and addressed his parents with a feeble voice “I need to talk to you guys.”
His father said “Yes son, we are listening.”
He was looking at his mother who was busy eating.
“I love someone.”
His mother stopped moving and looked at Neerav. “Did I hear it right? Did you say you loved someone?”
Neerav was looking at the expression on his mother’s face feeling a fear grip his heart and said “Yes”
His mother’s eyes were getting bigger and bigger. He moved his eyes towards his father and he looked confused.
“Okay so after everything we have done for you, you decide to rebel. I never thought you would turn up that way.” He looked disappointed.
Neerav felt sad listening to his words, All he ever wanted was to make his parents proud, how did he become the person to disappoint them. But he could not understand how loving someone was rebelling. His brain was buzzing.
“No Papa, I am not rebelling. I seriously don’t intend to be any kind of rebel. But how is loving someone being a rebel?”
“If you can’t understand then I don’t have any hope from you.” His father got up and left without finishing the food on his plate.
His mother was giving him a pitying look.
His mother too got up and left taking his father’s plate. He was looking at his sisters now who had stopped giggling and were looking at Neerav as if he was an alien.
He heard the sound of an alarm, soon he opened his eyes and realised this all was a dream. He sat up on the bed holding his head in his hands.