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Sunday, October 28, 2018

“You Are Invited...!” Part-2


Deben was not surprised when his old colleague Bedanta phoned him in the morning asking if he could come over for a social duty. Bedanta told him sometime back that the marriage of his only daughter was coming up, and that Deben must be free to attend on that date. Bedanta was not just a colleague, but also a friend thanks to their long association in work. There were family-level interactions too at various opportunities. His daughter, a sweet child, was known to both Deben and his wife Anjana. He already discussed it with Anjana not to miss that occasion and to buy a nice gift in advance. So he said yes immediately, and informed his wife that Bedanta would be visiting them in the afternoon.

His afternoon nap had become mandatory since his retirement a few months back. For the past one month he had been mostly sleeping or lying down in the daytime too because of his road accident when his right hand was badly fractured. He was still having his right hand plastered and strapped from the shoulders. But that day he decided not to take the nap. Instead, he settled down comfortably in the sofa with the book he started reading in the morning neatly placed in his lap.

The doorbell rang around six in the evening. As he stood up using his left hand carefully for support and walked towards the main door Anjana also joined him in the sitting room. Bedanta was ushered in. After an exchange of pleasantries and the mandatory question about the progress of his fractured hand all of them sat down. Bedanta was carrying a colourful cover which he delicately put on the table. Now, Deben was a little surprised or rather amused that Bedanta did not come to the subject of the upcoming marriage straightway, starting instead a discussion on mundane office and pension matters. Anjana interspersed the discussion with one or two family questions which elicited answers that were a bit too prompt. She found it a little odd that he was telling her almost nothing about the occasion so far.

The discussion showed no sign of a conclusion soon. Anjana always got bored whenever they discussed office matters. Therefore she excused herself and headed towards the kitchen.  She was not at all piqued or annoyed, only bored. In fact, her gesture is considered to be a universal one in Indian households—after welcoming the guests and interacting with them for some time the housewife invariably goes inside to make tea or make preparations for a good meal. This ‘retreat’ is very well understood by all kinds of guests, and so well anticipated by some guests that they intervene with, “No, no! Tea is not needed...sit...let’s talk some more!” However, Bedanta did not show any inclination to prevent her departure at that point of time. Deben was also not at all perturbed. Well, so far!

As if he was waiting for such kind of an opportunity Bedanta rose immediately and picked up the invitation letter from the table. He offered to make a formal presentation now. His amusement fast giving way to annoyance Deben stood up too, reluctantly. Bedanta handed over the invitation muttering, “Please do come...” Formally receiving the letter Deben wanted to make light of the occasion saying ‘What man! No formalities please, she is like our daughter...we will definitely be there...” But he stopped in his tracks and never uttered anything of that sort as his eyes went over the envelope.

Only his name was written on the cover. Nothing else was scribbled, neither his wife’s name nor the add-on ‘and family’. He was not only surprised now, but heartily shocked. How could he? Anjana knew his daughter even more closely than him. The budgetary compulsion of limiting guests did not quite apply to Bedanta, because he earned a healthy retirement package recently and it was his only child—the only marriage party to be celebrated ever in the family! Or was it because of a smaller wedding hall which was booked? With these thoughts going through his mind fiercely Deben tried hard to keep his air of nonchalance as he opened the envelope, took out the invitation card and commented how beautiful it was. In the innards of his mind he knew that this was still not a good enough reason to boycott the marriage party. He had to attend for old times’ sake. The image of Anjana began to haunt him like a spectre.

They sat down and resumed their chatter, Deben with some reserve now. Anjana entered with a tray of tea and snacks. Deben tried his best not to have eye contact with her. Bedanta smiled at her as if nothing had transpired in the meantime.

Immediately after Bedanta left Anjana burst out, “What’s this? That fellow never uttered a word to me! Not asked me to come even once!”
Deben dropped the bombshell now. “Only I’m invited! Not you, darling! Take a look at the invite!”
“Oh my God! What a lousy miser! ...Even then...how is it possible?” She stormed fretted and expressed dismay. And suddenly she became calm, resigned. “Okay...no problem! Your friendship...you keep it...you attend!”
“Yes, I’ll still have to go. And you’ll have to accompany me!”
“Are you out of your mind? You witnessed how that fellow insulted me! You have no respect for your wife, for your life partner?”
“I have, my dear! I’m as angered dismayed and irritated as you are. But you know it’s his democratic right to decide the list of invitees. And more importantly, you understand the kind of state I’m in now. I’m still an invalid. You must help me out and accompany me! At least rest assured that he is not going to throw you out after finding you by my side!”
“Your million requests will have no impact on me! I’ll never see his face again!”

The heated debate went on for a long time. Deben even mentioned ‘humanitarian consideration’ for a life partner! At last, Anjana seemed to pity him for his ‘friend’ and his fractured self. She agreed subject to conditions. She declared that she would accompany him to the venue, but would wait in the parked car with the driver for company till he came back attending the wedding. Deben knew it was his best option, and he accepted it.

On the appointed day it happened as it was planned. Anjana dropped him at the wedding hall gate, asked the driver to park the car a little away and waited.

Deben tried to be his normal self at the party, but was very hurt Bedanta never asked about Anjana even once. He got some solace though seeing quite a few of his male friends loitering around without their better halves.

There was a hiccup at the end. Deben said goodbye and tried to walk away too quickly taking out his mobile phone with his left hand. But Bedanta insisted on seeing him to his car. Deben was shaken up imagining what would happen when Bedanta found a face in the car window glaring vengefully up at him! He couldn’t afford to let it happen. “No, you cannot come...I mean you need not come...please attend to your other guests!”

Without giving him an opportunity to respond Deben walked away forcing even his fractured hand swing freely.

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