Aarush and Radhika woke up late, after noon. Aarush had several missed calls from Love and from his mother. The first call he made was to his mother in the morning.
‘Good morning, Mom…’ he spoke in his froggy voice.
‘You’ve woken up so late, are you okay?’
‘It was my first night with my wife, mother!’ Aarush didn’t want to speak but he had to.
‘Okay, okay, fine. I get it.’ his mother gave the phone to his father murmuring, ‘This boy is becoming shameless every day!’
‘Good morning Son, how is Radhika now? You said she was feeling sick yesterday?’
‘Yeah, she’s fine. It was just exertion, nothing else. Listen dad, I will return tomorrow, and you can book the tickets after tomorrow, whenever you feel like. I need one more day here, it’s so peaceful I can’t tell you! I can’t bear the noisy relatives so soon, please understand dad.’ Aarush disconnected the call after talking about some insignificant things.
Next he texted Love stating: ‘Cancel the plan. Let’s do it after one week, please! I hope you didn’t make any bookings. I love you…’
With this text seen by Love, Aarush deleted it immediately to hide it from Radhika to avoid any questions. He didn’t want his surprise to get spoiled after all. Love called him in a second.
‘What the hell was that?’ Love shouted from the other side.
‘What the hell was what?’
‘The message. Why are you cancelling? I was about to make the booking.’
‘Don’t. I feel like I should listen to my parents once in a while. I realized it last night.’
‘What the fuck?’ Love was puzzled.
‘Last night instead of making love to your wife, you were thinking about your parents? Seriously? Look at guys like us, who don’t get to have sex, and those who get to have it, don’t do it…’
‘Shut up Love, for once shut up! I mean, my parents really want me to join them on this trip, I can’t ditch them. And moreover, Radhika’s family is involved too. Had it been only about my selfish relatives, I’d have done anything to get rid of them, but man it’s about my parents, and my in-laws now. It’s much more official and very formal affair.’
‘Yeah, yeah. I get it. You are married now. You don’t have a life. You are thinking about your in-laws now, and you will be thinking about the grey-hair on your head later on. I understand brother, you are dead!’ Love said hopelessly.
‘Yeah, right. I am. Now you do this one thing for me, otherwise you too will be!’ With this, Aarush disconnected the phone.
‘Who was it?’ Radhika woke up hugging Aarush.
‘Love. He was asking if I can come to office for a while, I said I have to take a trip with my parents and wife now, and I can’t come.’
‘What trip? Are we seriously going to Varanasi?’
‘Yes darling, we are. Your parents must be waiting to see their daughter. I am not only your husband now, but even their son-in-law and it’s my responsibility to keep your relationship with your parents healthy and on good terms. I don’t want you to completely become my wife, you are their daughter first and you will always be that!’
‘Aarush…’ Radhika kissed his lips.
They both got up and took a bath together. Made love in the bathroom. Again. Dressed each other up and ordered lunch. They ate some food, made love again. The routine in the hotel was all about this. Eating. Having sex. More and more of both. One more night passed, and they got up next morning, and checked out of the hotel.
Aarush and Radhika reached home with the tiny bag of luggage they had carried earlier. Radhika was wearing the same night-suit she left in. Aarush did not carry any clothes, just lingerie for her – who needed clothes anyways?
‘Welcome back!’ his mother opened the door with a strange look for Radhika. Inside she was still blaming Radhika for being the one who snatched her son away from her.
‘I hope you are fine.’ His father asked Radhika and she touched his feet.
‘Yes, totally uncle.’
‘Don’t call me uncle now, I am your father!’ everyone laughed and this time Radhika was fresh, and in her senses to have a talk to any relative.
They started packing as they had to leave for Varanasi the same night. Aarush’s parents, plus three more families, accompanied the newlywed couple to their first trip together. They boarded a flight from Mumbai to Varanasi and reached in a couple of hours.
Radhika’s parents were at the airport, to receive the guests and their daughter after marriage.
‘Maa…’ Radhika ran to her mother and hugged her tight.
‘How are you Radhika?’ her mother had teary eyes.
‘Papa…’ Aarush touched the feet of Radhika’s father.
‘How are you son? I hope the wedding was okay?’
‘It was great, please you don’t have to say anything now. You did a lot!’
‘I hope my daughter is keeping you all happy.’ Radhika’s father folded hands in front of Radhika’s in-laws, half of them looked utterly uninterested and careless about gestures like these.
‘Come on, why are you all standing here?’
‘Sir, you can come with us in our car, we have booked taxis for the rest of the people.’ Radhika’s father, invited Aarush’s father and mother in his car for courtesy sake.
‘Its fine Mr Jain, I think the kids should go with you, we will come on our own.’ Aarush’s father asked Aarush and Radhika to go sit with her parents. Radhika couldn’t be happier!
They hopped into the small Maruti Swift that Radhika’s father owned.
‘You know, this is the car I always loved and dad bought it when I shifted to Mumbai. I never got a chance to drive it.’
‘Oh, this is the thing? You can drive it now!’ his father gave her the keys.
‘Are you sure you want us to survive, papa? I have seen her driving, she’s deadly!’
‘Shut up, husband!’ Radhika gave her the ‘I-am-not-having-sex-with-you-tonight’ look and Aarush immediately made a puppy face.
‘Okay, let’s see.’ Aarush sat in the front seat with Radhika on the driving seat and her parents in the backseat. Radhika ignited the engine and drove the car better than what Aarush expected of her.
‘We are home!’ after thirty minutes of drive, Radhika applied brakes at the ramp of her home. Two of the cars reached just after them, and Radhika’s parents rushed inside to make the arrangements for the stay of so many people.
‘I think we should have booked a hotel.’ Aarush told Radhika, seeing how would her two parents accommodate so many people and provide food and lodging for a week?
‘I think that too. My parents are old enough to work at this age. Can you do something, Aarush?’ Radhika looked at him with hopeful eyes. She knew her husband could never say no to her.
‘Why not? Hold on!’ Aarush made some bookings from his phone and sent all the cars of his relatives to hotels of Vrindavan. The relatives couldn’t be happier! They got to stay at five-star resorts without spending a penny. While Aarush along with his parents and Radhika, chose to stay at their home.
‘This was my bedroom you know.’ Radhika opened the cranky wooden door of the room. Her eyes were filled with tears. Her things were just as she had left them. Her parents didn’t touch a thing. Her room smelled the same even now. The portraits of her friends, memories of her school days, her awards and trophies, were all right there.
‘I have spent the most beautiful time of my life in this room.’
‘I thought you spent it last night in Taj!’ Aarush was teasing her to take her out of that emotional ride.
‘Shut up. This is what my parents have left with them. This is what they might be seeing when they miss me. Which makes me realize how horrible daughter I am…’
‘Hey! What are you saying?’ Aarush hugged her as Radhika broke down.
‘See, you are not a bad daughter. It’s the rules of society that we don’t allow girls to live with their parents after marriage, every girl leaves home and shifts at her husband’s or his parents’ house. Your mother did that. My mother did that too. Every girl does it. If you really miss your parents, we can ask them to come live with us in Mumbai. Radhika, I have no problem with them living with us. Believe me!’
‘It’s not that Aarush. They will never leave this city. This is what they have grown up with, and they have their social circle, their friends, their entire lives intertwined in this one city that you cannot ask them to leave in a fortnight. It’s just that sometimes I hate being a woman.’
‘I understand that. And I am not saying you are wrong. Even I feel bad sometimes that why women have to leave their parents and all, but looking at how my mother behaves sometimes, I am glad that being a guy I have the permission to leave my home! That is the time I find girls really lucky!’ Aarush made Radhika laugh.
Radhika showed him her old photos, shared her memories with him, and finally they fell asleep in her old, wooden bed, which was once a heaven to her.