It was the second year of college. Lakshmi, Preeti and Durga applied for the same Home Economics course at the Women's College in the same city. Suresh got accepted at IIT Delhi and moved from Madras. He did not want to leave the city, but after getting accepted into a premier institute, it would have been stupid not to take it up. When he saw pride and joy in his parents eyes the moment the admission results came, he could not think of disappointing them. He really wanted to study at the National Institute of Design, but it was his father's dream for him to go to one of the IITs. The weekly phone calls became monthly. Lakshmi literally started living for them. She spent the whole month waiting for the third Sunday when he could call and talk to her for ten minutes.
It was a friday. Lakshmi was walking back home from college, when she was greeted at the door by her excited mother.
"Lakshu! Lakshu! We have something to tell you" her mother's eyes shone. That only meant one thing. A marriage proposal. She knew it the moment she saw her parents smiling. That's all they talked about these days.
"Amma, let me get done with college first ok? And then we can talk about it. I'm not saying no. Just give me a year"
"Ashok is a really nice man. You have to meet him. His parents are coming over this weekend. You have to meet them."
Lakshmi was trying to buy time before she could break the news about Suresh. She was sure her parents would be happy when she would tell them about him. He was a Tamil Brahmin boy from a respectable family, who would graduate from one of the top colleges in the country. There was no reason for them to say no. Suresh and her had this conversation a million times already.
"Why don't you be strong and at least tell them a little about me? That's the only way it would work" was what Suresh told her.
"No, you don't understand. My father will be disappointed. My mother will get angry"
"Disappointed?! Why would they get angry? You're just giving me excuses. Don't you want this to work?"
"You don't understand. I can't do it"
This went on and on. Lakshmi couldn't take it anymore. There was no way she could tell her parents. Ashok and his parents came to meet her family that weekend. Things moved very fast. She couldn't say no. She was not able to find a reason to say no. Ashok was a nice man. He was well educated, kind and nice to talk to. He would treat her well.
Lakshmi was getting dressed for the wedding. She looked at herself in the mirror, the peacock blue saree shone as she wrapped it around her girlish frame. She walked out of her house to get into the car. Suresh was standing outside and watched her. She could not bear to look at the hurt in his eyes. She deceived him. She was not strong enough to stand up for herself. There was no time. Her mother was in a frenzy, getting things ready and there were a hundred things to do.
Ashok was a good husband. He treated her with care and respect and kept her happy. Lakshmi did not think of Suresh as her life moved on, and then the children were born. Life became busy, taking care of her family and running a house.
It's been seven years since Ashok died. When she got the news, her life was turned upside down. She did not know what to think or do. This woman-child, who was always taken care of had to suddenly take decisions on her own, and was alone. She had to be strong, bring up her daughters and be both a mother and a father to them.
"I've been thinking about this too much today" thought Lakshmi as she left the temple. She decided to clear her mind and go to the art gallery.
She entered the place, and took in the surroundings. It was well decorated with the right amount of lighting. She walked around looking at the paintings, a mixture of modern and traditional at the same time. She stood in front of a painting contemplating if it would match the decor of her living room. There were a few people standing to the left of her talking loudly, distracting.
"Haha, that's funny. No, I'm not married. I just moved back to Madras a year ago" she heard a male voice tell another.
An amused Lakshmi turned and looked into the familiar, most beautiful chocolate brown eyes she had ever seen.