Adorned in traditional attires of a groom, my friend, you look handsome, and your bride so elegant. The mandap, garland in bright yellow marigolds, the sparkle of the jewels of the wannabe brides, dazzling the prowling eyes of the bachelors, young married couples lost in fond memories, sweet wishful tears of the aged, the dhol and the sahanai, all sing in unison, the timeless tune of the union of two souls. Even the most ambitious of the stars above agree that the two brightest stars are shining on Earth tonight.
It was also a starry night in spring when we lay on the green lawn outside your house, ignoring the repeated calls from your mom to come indoors. Oblivious of the lurking tropical crawlers and the feasting mosquitoes, we were engrossed in important nothings of our adolescent lives. You told me everything, I told you everything — unwritten pact of good friends. My disappointment at not being able to buy my own cricket bat was true, my laughter at the big pimple on your nose was genuine, but the girl I told you I fell in love with was a lie. I am sorry I broke the pact, but truth meant saying I was gay and I was in love with you. I knew you were not gay, but spring breaks always came and shamelessly gave me hope, year after year.
Inside the mandap, your brazen eyes are searching for a glance from your bride, but her shy eyes are glued on her toes. You seem depressed, and then her glance and your smile say it all. Lovers. You are completely unaware of the war that just broke out between the bride’s and the groom’s parties on who is more handsome of you two. Their war is futile, though, for you and your bride are not two but one tonight.
Endless war it was, between the friend and the lover inside me, in all those clumsy football games we played under the muddy monsoon showers. An innocent friend was playing with you and an evil lover was reacting to the slightest touch you made. Every harmless hug of yours was so close to becoming the dagger that could have easily sliced our friendship into two. You were a merciless cyclone when you trustingly got naked to clean yourself inside the changing room, so ignorant of the havoc you were causing inside my impure soul. You innocently wondered why I was still unclean and told me you would wait outside for me, leaving me alone to pick the debris off my broken heart and my shattered self-esteem. You will never know how hard it was to come out with a smile and listen to the magical evening you had had with your girlfriend. I knew you were not mine, but the small green life the monsoon gave atop the brown barren trees always inspired me to wait for our monsoon games, year after year.
The ceremony is over. It is now time for you to take the bride home. Her parents’ eyes are moist. They are wondering why all this mirth and joy when finally they have to give away their little girl, a piece of themselves. Everybody seems sad, but none protest. Because they knew comings and leavings are life, without which life will be no more. Your marriage is just another name; we are all celebrating life tonight.
It was also celebration at the town’s fair, my treat to you. Later, it was just a cold wintry night when I told you I was leaving for a private school the next summer. There was a long pause in our conversation for the first time. I waited, but you just kept biting your lower lip, trying to punish it for becoming so dry and harsh; you seemed so betrayed. What happens to all our dreams of college life together, you must have thought. If only you knew, friendship is benign, and my life is a dark malignant closet destined to be in perennial winter. Winters are hypocrites; they freeze everything around and then regret that the warmth has gone. I knew I wanted to forget you, but winters always came and reminded me of your disappointed warm breath, year after year.
Marriages are made in heaven, they say. I thank you for letting this sinful soul be a part of your heaven at least for the night. This day will remain in me until I die. If the saying someone’s sorrow is some other’s joy is true, let all my sorrows be your joy. I wish you, my dear friend, a happy married life from the bottom of my heart.
mandap: A decorated platform used for Hindu marriage ceremonies.
dhol, sahanai: Musical instruments used in Hindu marriage ceremonies.