Tanya turned her alarm off and shook Khushi. “Khushi, wake up, you will be late for your exams.” Khushi grunted in her sleep and pulled the cover up to her head. Tanya got up and went into the kitchen. Her parents were still asleep. She put the tea on and went to get the milk packet and newspaper. After bringing the tea to her mom and dad, she took a cup of tea to Khushi. “Khushi, wake up now.” She kicked her younger sister. Khushi sat up on the bed looking like a dazed ghost. Mornings were not her forte. Tanya remembered she still had the tiara in her purse, she took it out and kept it safely in the cupboard locker, it looked like it will be a long time before she would be able to use it. Khushi was younger to Tanya by 2 years and for the whole family, she was the apple of their eyes. Both the sisters were thick as thieves and more of friends than sisters. Although Tanya was not much older than Khushi, she loved her with the ferocity of a lioness loving her cubs. Both the sisters were poles apart yet similar in heart and mind. Tanya was calm, patient and gentle, a person of few words. Khushi was chirpy, impatient and talked nineteen to the dozen. Tanya loved cooking, Khushi liked eating. Tanya liked reading the book, Khushi liked watching the movie. Tanya like painting, Khushi like clicking selfies. Tanya was dark skinned, Khushi was as fair as butter milk.
When the girls were younger, upon meeting them for the first time, people would often ask their mother, who Tanya was, often mistaking her to be a relative. Her mother remembered twice she had been asked by her ‘friends’, if Tanya was adopted, she didn’t remain friends with them. She was advised by almost everyone she met to use ‘Ubtan’ for her elder daughter. Tanya had taken her father’s genes, she had clear features a very sharp nose, thick beautiful hair and dark healthy skin. She was also like him in her demeanor; cool, composed and gentle. Both girls were academically brilliant.
Tanya went into the living room. Her dad had the newspaper in his hand and was muttering, “Not a single ad even today. Each one mentions Fair & beautiful. At this rate, we will never be able to find a match for her.” He threw the paper on the sofa. Tanya’s parents had started the hunt for a groom for her since last year. Seeing their daughter well settled in her career, they now wished to see her settled happily in her personal life too. Since she was an educated, talented girl, working in a leading bank, they were sure they will find a suitable match for her very easily. Her parents were very proud of Tanya, and wanted to ensure that they find a boy who will respect and love her as much as they did.
When they asked Tanya if she had anyone in mind, she declined. Being so involved in her studies, her friends and her passion for designing, which was her hobby, Tanya had never had the time, inclination or the chance to fall in love. But she did want to get married someday, and an arranged marriage was perfectly acceptable to her. She did not find any thing wrong with this age old Indian tradition, where parents or elders decided your mate for you. Her parents had had an arranged marriage and there was not a more perfect couple than them anywhere. Khushi on the other hand was revolted by the idea of an arranged marriage; she thought it was absurd that two people could let others decide who they will spend their lives with. She was sure she will only marry for love, unfortunately she had also been unable to find her dream guy to fall in love with till now. All the boys she knew were either too silly or too creepy or too geeky and studious or not good looking enough. Her wait for Mr Right was going a bit longer by all accounts.
They started the usual way with setting up an account on a matrimonial site and looking for a match in the matrimonial ads. Tanya’s mother had been very excited as all mothers are, she had a Tiara, which was made of pure gold and encrusted with tiny rubies. It had been given to her by her grand mother. She cherished the piece. She wanted Tanya to have it, to wear it on her wedding day. Since the design was a bit old, mother and daughter decided that they will get it a bit refurbished, and add some elements so that it could match her other ornaments. These small wedding preparations were exciting for the whole family and gave them a lot of happiness, but what was not going as expected was the search for a match. It took them very little time to understand that in spite of Tanya’s credentials, her good family back ground and all her qualities, she did not quite fit the bill as a perfect bride due to her skin color. Rejections started coming in as soon as her father started looking for a match. Most of the people did not even reply to his correspondences. Tanya had used a good photograph of hers for her profile but did not Photoshop it or use any filters. She was who she was, but what was desired was “Tall, Fair & Beautiful”.
Twice, the talks had gone ahead a bit, and the groom’s family had even come down to their house to see the girl. Both times, after the meeting, they had politely declined to engage any further. The thing that irked Tanya most was the second guy was much darker than her, her parents had thus agreed to meet him thinking that they will not have any problem with Tanya’s colour. Turned out otherwise. More than a year passed this way, Tanya was ok with the whole scene of things not moving forward, but she hated to see her parents so frustrated.
She went to get ready to leave for office. After the morning’s meetings, as she sat flipping through her phone, her watsapp notification pinged again. She clicked on the green icon; it was her college group, 418 messages, Woof. She aimlessly scrolled the texts, Shikha her college mate was getting married, it was all ‘congratulations’ and ‘how lucky’ messages. Shikha was fair, tall, slim and beautiful. Tanya felt unnecessarily annoyed today. She opened her matrimonial profile, ready to delete it. There was a message from a guy named Vikram.
Vikram was working with a private bank in the city. He loved watching cricket, listening to old Hindi songs, reading Nietzsche’s poems and eating Golgappas. They chatted a few times; Tanya decided she would first meet him alone. She was done with all the family meeting drama. Vikram agreed that it made sense.He was the only son of his parents and came from a very wealthy background. He was kind, sensible and had an innate sense of humour.
It was a month later that they decided that their families should meet. Vikram came with his parents to Tanya’s house. When they left after dinner, both Tanya and her parents were relieved, they had really liked Vikram’s family, specially his mom who was a very sweet lady. It was her who called an hour later to talk to Tanya’s mother. They wanted Khushi’s hand in marriage for Vikram.
If Tanya felt anything she refused to show it. Her father was furious. It was her mother who acquiesced later; the family was very good and could be a perfect match for Khushi. It took a lot of convincing on her part to make their father agree. Khushi was furious at the decision and threatened to run away from home. It was Tanya who calmed her sister and had her come around to agree.
They agreed upon a June wedding. Tanya’s mother was worried a lot about her and prayed to God for her daughter’s happiness. Tanya was not depressed. True, she had liked Vikram but it was not like she had fallen in love with him. She was used to be more careful with her emotions than that. It was Khushi who seemed most unhappy. She tried to cheer up her younger sister but Khushi harbored her sense of guilt too deep. Tanya tried in vain to convince her that she was not unhappy and definitely not angry at Khushi.
.Tanya asked her parents to stop the search for her, she wanted some time off from it, she did not want to get married anytime soon. She persuaded her mom to use the tiara for Khushi’s marriage. It was a family heirloom and should not go to waste. The preparations of marriage were on in full swing now.
Tanya found the letter on Khushi’s pillow when she woke up, it was addressed to her. “Didi, I am sorry for doing this. But this is not ‘Roja’. I am going to Mumbai to Rakhi’s place. I have received an offer for an internship there. Don’t worry, I will be back after the internship is over. I know Mom will be mad, so please do not let her call me till you can calm her down. Also, please don’t tell her right now that I have sold the tiara, I have deposited the money in your account minus 10k, which I needed for tickets and expenses. Didi, Please apply for that loan now which you have been thinking about for your boutique. You need to do this and I am going to be there to help you achieve this. You need to quit that job and give this a try. I am sorry again for all of this. And I am sorry that the colour of Vikram’s heart and all other people like him is so dark. And I am glad that you are not a single shade lighter. I will call you once I reach. Love, Khushi.”
Tanya folded the letter and got up. She looked at the mirror and smiled back the beautiful face smiling at her.
A short story by Smita Pal Sinha
I am participating in the #AtoZchallenge 2017 AtoZchallenge with Blogchatter wherein, I will be blogging on 26 topics from A to Z. My theme is short stories which revolve around social issues and the stories are weaved around a word which starts with the same alphabet. Here in the story above it is T for Tiara and a story about wanted Tall, Fair, Slim & Beautiful Girl
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