For a minute, she thought she was flying. There was a brimming exuberance in her, which she thought, was going to burst into sparkles. The man on the other end of the phone had swept her, off her feet with those words! Not a question, not a proposal and definitely, not a request! Those words were an order, “Marry me!”
A year later, they were married in a traditional TamBrahm ceremony, where the young dashing man in Olive Green tied the ‘thali’ (mangalsutra) around the neck of his bride, as she looked on, coyly. The day marked her, an army wife.
After two weeks of honeymooning, he was back on duty at some inaccessible station; she was at a new home, in a new neighborhood and with a new job in hand. Most importantly, she was stationed in Pune, a city she knew very well. But despite having supportive in-laws and amicable neighbors, she missed him terribly. At times, she felt lost too. Nonetheless, she immersed herself in her new job as a professional writer, which was to be her shield against her loneliness.
Soon, it was two weeks since he had left. And then, he suddenly called, “Hey little munchkin! What have you been up to?” The moment she heard his voice, she thought she would choke. Then, realizing that she was in office, she snapped, “You devil! What took you so long?”
Later, the calls came once in six days and lasted for exactly 50 seconds, each time. Gradually, she became an expert in conversing crisply, unlike in the past, when she yapped with him, all night! Then, followed days of uncertainty with no calls from him.
The routine continued and it was already past two months. She was home from office, earlier than usual. She thought she had a headache. But it was not merely that. He had called her and said, “Hey won’t be able to come today on leave, as planned. Cancel my flight tickets. Something has come up! Won’t be calling for a week!” The call ended abruptly without a bye. She had been waiting for this day, for long. She had even applied for leave in the next week. She had gone through all his favorite recipes in the head, deciding what to prepare which day. She had made a list of places to go around, in the three weeks’ vacation he was coming for.
And then, she rushed out of home feeling breathless as she decided to take a walk in the cacophonous pocket of the city she lived in. And, with all that noise around, she felt deaf. A newly wedded couple walked by, as they held hands together with sweet little nothings transpiring between them. She suddenly felt a lump in her throat and ran back home, in tears.
The following week passed slower than usual, with no calls. She never wanted to go back home in evenings. But worse, were those sleepless nights and strange dreams. As she stared blankly at the list of topics to write on, her colleague tugged at her, “Want to check out the big sale in Big Bazaar near your place? Be ready at ten tomorrow!” She mumbled a yes. Girlfriends are soul sisters! Aren’t they?
She came back home that evening, washed her face and picked up her marriage album from the drawer and sat down, flipping through it. There she was, in a turquoise Kanchivaram with striking emerald necklace around her neck, and those jhumkas dangling from her ears. Sitting next to her, on that oonjal (a swing for the couple in TamBrahm weddings), was her knight in shining armor. The photos made her smile, blush and cry. She clutched the album tight as she closed her eyes. It was 8 PM…..
…..Next day, the door bell rang. It jolted her up from a deep slumber. It was 8 AM. And the first thought was, “Oh God! I am going to be late for office!” But then, she remembered, it was a Sunday. The door bell blared incessantly. “I am going to kill this moron whoever he is!!” And, she froze as she opened the door…..
Her knees felt weak. Her mouth was wide open. And, her eyes welled up! Her ‘bright eyed bushy tailed’ Captain was standing right there, with open arms. She squealed in delight, as he scooped her up and kissed her. A sudden wave of euphoria flowed deep in her veins. She smiled ear to ear as she yelled, “I hate surprises! You nearly killed me!”
Her world became normal again. She felt alive again. And then, slowly it dawned on her that, being the army wife, this was to be her life with many unseen challenges. As, she was making his favorite ‘adrak wali chai’, she heard him screaming, “You naughty lil devil! What have you done to my study room?” And her hands flew to her mouth, “Oh no! I never remembered to tidy up his room, after all!”