Love Loyalty Leave

March 1, 2017 Ramya M

It was raining heavily the day we first met. She stood in the corner, shy, holding the tray after serving us tea. The moment our eyes met, neither the big scar on her face nor the colour of her skin could stop me from falling in love with Payal. I was no hero myself. I was born an orphan and I joined my uncle as a house servant in one of Indranagar’s rich Punjabi business family. I learnt how to cook, sweep the floor, fold the sarees and polish the shoes even before I realised I had no family of my own. My uncle was old and caring but he kept repeating “there is nothing more rewarding than being loyal”, a lesson that was going to make or break my future.


“Our daughter turns 19 next month and we need to get her married before that. If not, then she has to wait until she turns 27 and we cannot let that happen.” her father explained in a worried yet stern tone.  “Just before you came, another man who works in a textile factory saw her and has asked time to confirm the dowry.” her father alerted us.


I hastily replied, “Don’t worry. I like your daughter and I will be happy to marry her in the next auspicious day available this month.” And to assure them I added, “I do not want dowry, just your blessings.”


The room lit instantly with smiles and happy faces, something which was missing a while back. My marriage was fixed with the woman of my dreams. Before I left I glanced at Payal. She was still staring at the ground but this time I could see her cheeks were high as she made a smiling curve with her lips.


On my way back, I started planning and dreaming of how my future would look like with a woman in my life. I realised I had never felt this happy before.  I didn’t even know that I was not happy; I was too busy doing the daily chores. Now in a month’s time, I will have a wife and in some years a kid or two; finally a family that will be “my own” for the first time. Thoughts kept pouring in my mind and it left impressions on my cheeks as it turned red.


“Arey Bhuvan! Good, you came today itself. We need to start making sweets. We have found a very good guy for Rhea beti and by god’s grace today is her Roka.” my memsahib grinned, showing the red lipstick marks on her teeth. “Come quickly and join us in kitchen”, my memsahib jabbered as I entered the kitchen.


I took a deep breath and decided to help my memsahib, clearly aware that I wasn’t focused and I cannot stop my mind go awry.  I started preparing the mixture for ladoos with a pace slower than a snail. I sighed out of guilt. I should be happy for them; I found my shelter in their house.


I was clearing up the tray when the Pandit announced, “Hmmm..there seems to be only one auspicious day in next six months from today. 20th of this month,” The room fell silent in shock. “As per both bride and groom’s horoscope, this date is very good for their future as well. Numbers are adding up perfectly,” he stated his analysis.


It took time for me to register what he just said. The first thought that came to my mind was the work I will have to do to make this wedding happen in such a short notice. 20th was just two weeks later and my uncle can hardly do a substantial work. I was picking up the dirty teacups when I heard Sirji say “it is the only date available this month.”


I blinked, twice and a couple of more times. Did I hear him right?? People around me were already distributing sweets and hugging each other. I took my uncle aside to reconfirm.


He looked at me with distress and helplessness in his eyes. He held me by my shoulders, “You have to be loyal. We have to inform Payal’s parents,” he shrugged “Let go.”


Let go?? No! I clutched the tray handles tightly with anger bursting out of me. I ran back to the kitchen fighting the tears that had already filled my eyes. My uncle made sure I was strong and there was no place for emotions. When you mix emotions with work, you compromise on quality. How I can control my emotions in such a situation, he never told. Today emotions were playing games with me. I was fuming, I had tears in my eyes and I stood still unable to make a move. I banged the tray on the kitchen sink, clearly aware I am breaking the cups. I didn’t care. I can hide these broken cups like I have always done, but how do I hide my vexation and ease the pain.


I have to tell them I cannot be around for the wedding. Why can’t I? They don’t own me. Memsahib really likes me. Once I overheard her telling Sir Ji that even her son’s don’t take care of her as much as I do. Maybe they will understand. It is after all my marriage, just for one day.


I stepped out of the kitchen and heard my name being called at a distance. “COMING”, I yelled back. The entire family was sitting together with serious looks on their faces. A two-week notice is way too short notice for an Indian business family to organise a big fat Punjabi wedding. It’s never just about getting the knots tied, reciting the prayers or promises made around the holy fire. Neither is it to claim that one is going to love the other forever and eternity and nor is it that two families become one.  It is all about showing how much you can spend on expensive gifts given to every person who is jealous of your happiness. It is about spending your hard earned money on things that will never be used beyond this occasion.


I saw memsahib approaching me in a rush and started prating away some orders I wasn’t even listening to. “I can’t be here for the wedding,” I mumbled.




“I have this girl I need to marry and we have to get married this month only because of her kundali. Since there is only one auspicious day, our wedding dates are clashing with Rhea didi’s.”


Without a change in her expression, memsahib rubbished my explanation. “You must be kidding!! You do realise that this is the most important day for your Sirji and me, don’t you? I will give you a month off after the wedding. Tell them to wait until then. Now arrange for more helpers from your hometown. We have lots to do.” She walked off finishing her statement.


I was stunned. She never seemed so stone hearted before. I have worked every single day of my life in this house and she disregards my one request claiming this is the most important day! After all these years, I had a reason to be happy and looked forward to a new beginning. Payal is perfect for me. Though we never spoke, I know she is the one. Love happens not with time but with the first vibe.


I shunned my employers as much as possible for the next two weeks. I kept my head low and eyes away from theirs in fear that they will notice the revulsion I had against them. Until now things that went wrong in this family did not bother me. Whether it is memsahib’s bruises I notice in the morning or the naked women on Sirji’s computer. I have even seen Gaurav, their youngest son, sneaking in girls to his room and rushing them out at dawn. Yet, today, a gaudy kurta worn by the old grandfather and the white mud with red paint on the chachi’s face makes me want to scream with disgust.


It was really difficult to call Payal’s parents and inform them that I could not keep my promise. When you are going through your worst, your mind gets wicked ideas and I thought maybe if I kept this news away from Payal’s parents until the last minute, they will have no choice but to get us married on 21st. It will not be the most auspicious day but at least I won’t lose Payal forever. However, this was not the right thing to do and I knew it. What if something bad happens to her because of this, the thought itself made me panic.


My worst nightmare came alive when Payal picked my call. I was not ready for this, but it felt as if she knew I was going to call. My mouth dried up and I tried real hard to speak.


“This is Bhuvan. Where is your father?”


“They have gone to meet the astrologer to finalise the dates. How are you?”


I could feel the lump in my throat and my eyes getting moist. I am a man but I was hurt and helpless too.


“I ..I am not very good Payal. We…” I took a deep breath “…we cannot get married this month. There is only one auspicious date and my employer’s daughter is getting married on the same day. I tried…I really like you. Never felt this way for anyone. I am so sorry I cannot get out of this.”


There was a long pause


“Hello. Payal are you there? I wish I had a choice.”


“I will inform my parents. Thank you for calling.”


That phone call was the end of my world and any happiness I saw for future. I was technically going to be single but my heart is taken by someone I can’t call my own.


 Over the last many years I had allotted different parts of this huge mansion as my own private space. I hardly spent time in my room which I shared with my uncle. I liked the time I spent in the store room and the garden talking to the grains, rodents and the flowers. Somehow they made better listeners than the humans in this house. The store room was right below Rhea did’s room and I was probably the only person who stepped inside this musty room. If I push too close to the small ventilation, I can hear everything spoken at the window above. The day before the wedding, I heard Rhea didi’s voice that sounded like she was fighting with someone over the phone.


“I cannot get married to this guy. WE HAVE TO ELOPE!! Do you understand???”


I pressed my ears closer to the wall and towards the ventilation. The conversation lasted for an entire half hour and it could have gone on for another half hour or more if she wasn’t forced to cut the call, thanks to the entire crowd banging on her bedroom door. In that half hour, I heard the entire plan of what could most likely leave the Chopra family in a state of shock and distress. I sat down on the store room’s greasy floor trying to think this through again. So Rhea didi is running away tonight when the entire family will be getting ready for the wedding next day. How can she do this to her own family!! Here I am breaking my own dreams to keep her family happy and she herself is betraying her own parents. I was furious. I banged my fist on the wall and it hurt, but I was getting used to pain now. I stepped out of the storeroom committed to confront her and inform my employers, but as soon as I was out of the room, I heard my uncle calling me softly. He was standing next to the telephone and I could figure out he wanted me to take over the call. I was puzzled. I never received calls. I didn’t have anyone who would call.


I heard a fervent voice say, “Hello Bhuvanji. I am Payal. I cannot get married to that man. I am not able to forget you. Can we run away and get married?”


Déjà vu! That’s what it was. I wasn’t sure if I was still sitting in the store room and thinking over Rhea didi’s conversation or was I really on a call with Payal asking me to marry her. I pinched myself.  I stood there without saying a word.


“Hello. You there??”


I still couldn’t reply. I just stared at Rhea didi who was now downstairs with the family. She looked pale, wasn’t the happiest bride I have ever seen. No one seemed to notice her swollen eyes and her determination to do what she planned a few minutes back.


“Have you forgotten me??”


“No”, I said still staring at Rhea didi. She caught me staring at her and I smiled.


I finished my conversation with Payal and slowly removed my dusting cloth from my shoulder. I stood there looking at the amount of dust it has wiped off this family’s assets.


In the last 15 years that I have been working for the Chopra family, part of my appearance was this red dusting cloth with a white border. It went well with my attire of white kurta pajama. Not a single dust,; that used to be my aim all this while. My uncle always said that a servant’s dusting cloth is his weapon and loyalty his character and you need to have both to be a good servant.


I nicely folded the cloth and placed it on the telephone. Sometimes it is best to let people clean their own mess and you begin to mind your own business. I walked out of the house for good, as it was now or never.

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