*Image courtesy google images*

The shrill sound of the alarm pierced through the quietness of the room at 4 am. Madhurima woke up startled. She had had very little sleep the past few nights. On a normal day she would have loved to switch off the alarm and snuggle back in the bed, but today was special. Her cousin Mridula was getting married tomorrow and today they had a whole series of ceremonies taking place. That is the reason Madhurima had to wake up early. It was going to be a very busy day, she had to be with Mridula throughout the day. No time to waste, so thinking she jumped out of bed and ran to get ready.

Before we go ahead, let us find out more about Madhurima, aka Madhu.

Madhu the lovely 21 year old, who had finished her graduation in Arts only last year, is the pampered daughter of a rich businessman Mr.Sundaram. Madhu had lost her mother when she was very young and was brought up by her father, two sets of grandparents and her mother’s sister Chitra whose daughter Mridulaa getting married tomorrow. Madhu was always free to do what she wanted to do and she never had to ask for anything. She just had to look at something in one direction and it was given to her – no questions asked. That didn’t stop Madhu from growing up to be a very sensible and responsible person.

Back to the present….

In about half an hour Madhurima emerged out of her bedroom looking like an angel. From that minute, there was no time for her to sit. She went to Mridula’s room and was angry to find Mridula still in bed. The next half an hour was spent getting her out of bed and pushing her to get ready so that she won’t be late.

At 5:30 am sharp, the two lovely angels Madhurima and Mridula were on the dias listening to the instructions of the priest and following them without even thinking. That is the exact moment in which the groom’s sister Neetu walked into the hall with a handsome young man in jeans and T-shirt, looking totally out of place. Neetu introduced him as Mayank, their cousin who was working in London and who had just arrived for the wedding.

A little bit about Mayank…

Mayank is Neetu and Nithin’s father’s brother’s son. Mayank is the only son to his parents and is a very smart and brilliant guy. He did pretty well at his studies and after graduating, went on to do his masters in the UK and it is a couple of years since he finished his studies and because he had found a challenging job there which he loved, he just stayed on. His parents were not happy about this and wanted him to come back, but Mayak was not ready to listen to anyone. At this stage, his parents were asking him to get married and our hero who was refusing to get married for a while decided to change his mind when he saw a photo of Mridula and Madhurima which was sent to him by Nithin.

The moment he saw Madhu’s photo, he knew she was the one. The eyes seem to speak so much, it was just that he couldn’t understand what they were saying to him. He spoke to his parents right away but told them not to say anything to anyone till he came to India and saw the girl in person and spoke to her.

Now that he was here in person, he had to see Madhurima first and he knew the best thing to do was to go and see Mridula, as from what he had heard Madhu and Mridu were inseparable. He went to his cousin Neetu and told her that he wanted to see Mridula and he was taken to the wedding hall right away.

At first Madhu didn’t notice Mayank and was too engrossed in all the rituals. It was Mridu who noticed that Mayank was all eyes for Madhu even when he was being introduced to her. She nudged Madhu who had a questioning look on her face. Of course, once she saw him, she realised what was happening, her cheeks turned red, she nodded her head in acknowledgement and tried to look busy to avoid further embarrassment.

Mayank excused himself and went to get ready for the day. Time was flying and people were walking in and out and too many things were happening all at once. By evening, most rituals were finished and it was time for them to rest for the day so that they could wake up fresh for the D-day!

Everyone in Nithin’s family was talking about how beautiful the bride was. They also noticed that Madhu, was also equally beautiful and very responsible. Most adults in the family agreed that they would love to get Madhu into their family as well. As people were sitting down to talk after dinner, slowly Mayank’s parents brought up the topic with Madhu’s father who was only thrilled. His only concern was that his daughter had never stayed away from him and he was not sure if getting her married and sending her away to London was the right thing to do. A couple of hours of listening to everyone around nearly convinced him that his daughter would be happy with a guy like Mayank and his family and they would take care of her very well and there was nothing to worry about. Now the only part that remained was to get Madhu’s consent before they proceed with whatever had to be done. Mayank was ready to have  quick and simple wedding and take Madhu with him when he flew back from his holidays. Not a easy job with visa process and things, but at least he could speed it all up.

In the meanwhile, Madhu who had gone to bed could not sleep. She kept thinking about they way Mayank looked at her this morning. His charming smile came to her mind every time she closed her eyes. She did not know anything about what was conspiring outside. She could not understand what was going on, she was way too tired to think about anything and she had to force herself to sleep so she could be up early tomorrow. Another busy day, and she had to be with Mridu all day long and once the evening was over then she would get her rest. But to look good tomorrow she had to sleep right away. After dodging her a for a while, sleep finally took over her eyes.

The next morning was all a haze for Madhu and Mridu. They were up very very early as it was an early morning wedding. The wedding went well and everyone enjoyed the rituals. There was a lot of teasing going on and while Mridula the new bride was getting teased, Madhu was also pulled in saying she was next. No one had told her about what happened the previous night so she didn’t know why she was being targeted. But she could see Mayank look at her openly with an appreciative look and everyone teasing him too. She could only guess what was going on.

After the wedding in the morning, they got a bit of time to relax before they got ready for the reception. Madhu decided to go home and relax a bit, as she asked her father if she could get the car keys to go home, A voice from behind asked if he could drop her. She turned around to see Mayank standing pretty close to her and stretching his hand out for the kyes. Even before she could say anything, her father gave the car keys to Mayank with a smile. Madhu was not sure what to make of the whole incident. Because her father had indicated that she should go with him, she followed Mayank meekly.

As they walked into the car park, she pointed to where her car was. She slided into the passenger seat noticing how good looking Mayank was. He adjusted the seat for his height and looked at her for directions. She quietly told him how to go to her home and sat there without knowing what else to say. Mayank slowly started asking her questions – about her, her education, college, friends, what she was doing now, what she would like to do in her life, etc. He was really enjoying the way she was answering all his questions but was not sure about what she was doing. He also told her all about him, at least the basics that could be covered in the short time it took to reach her home.

When they reached her home, she knew she had to ask him to come into the house, but she was not sure about anything. She was tired from all the wedding preparations and her brain was not working. Mayank parked the car and got out and followed her inside the home. She asked him to sit on sofa, asked the cook to bring some fresh juice for him and ran to her room to freshen up, or rather take deep breaths so that her brain would think straight. She came back in five minutes, changed and fresh and feeling better.

Mayank was dutifully sipping the fresh mango juice that was given to him and waiting for her. Madhu walked slowly, taking deep breaths and sat opposite to him. Mayank didn’t beat about the bush, he asked her directly.

“Madhu, will you marry me and make my wonderful house a home? I would like to share the rest of my life with you. I saw a photo of you and Mridula and the moment I saw you I knew you were the one. Please don’t say No…”

Madhu was lost. “mmmm ahem…. I will agree to whatever the rest of the family decides” what was Madhu replied. Mayank was not happy with this answer.

“Madhu, I want to know what you are thinking. I am not worried about your family. I want your opinion and that is all that matters for me. I came here to talk to you because I liked you, not because my parents asked me to. Just say what is in your mind. Am I rushing you?”  he asked.

Madhu sat there with a confused look on her face.

“I know it is tough for you to decide about a stranger just like that. We haven’t spent enough time with each other. You know about me only from what I have told about me in the car so far. But you can call Nithin or Neethu now and talk to them. Ask them about me. I know shifting to London is a big move. But do think about it and tell me what you feel.” he added

Finally after some prodding she blushed and said “Yes” to him. That evening it was as though Madhu had a special glow on her face.

Things moved pretty fast from them on. That evening before Nithin – Mridula reception was over, another wedding had been fixed. To speed things up it was decided that Madhu – Mayank wedding would take place in the next auspicious day which was only a couple of days later. The wedding was to take place in Madhu’s father’s farm house and all the relatives that were there for Mridula’s wedding was asked to stay back for the Madhu’s wedding. Madhu did not have time to even think what was going on before she went from being single to married. There was no honeymoon. They were busy meeting up people for dinners and lunches between getting the visa process sorted. Nearly a month later Madhu and Mayank were flying back to London together to start a new life. Madhu surprised herself by not feeling sad to leave her family behind.

Mayank had called his friend in advance to get the house cleaned, not that his house needed any cleaning, but he wanted fresh sheets on the beds, flowers in the living room and milk in the fridge before they arrived. He had told his friends not to disturb them for a couple of weeks till things settled down for them. Madhu was new to all this and he didn’t want her feeling overwhelmed with everything that happened around her. He wanted to ease her into her new life. They landed in Heathrow and within fifteen minutes were in front of the house that was going to be Madhu’s new home for the rest of her life, or at least for now.

As the taxi driver left all their bags at the door and drove off, Mayank turned to Madhu and he opened the door and lifted her into her new home. Madhu was thrilled. These little things are the ones that make life interesting she thought.

Mayank had to get back to work the very next day but he did manage to take Madhu around and show her how to do things by herself. The shopping, banks, bills, etc. He even told her that she could find a job if she wanted – only if she wanted. to keep herself occupied. Madhu was happy to be a homemaker though. Within a week, she had changed the already beautiful home into something wonderful. Every evening she would be fresh, waiting for him to arrive home. She would try out new recipes and was eager to share with him what she did during the day. She had made friends with neighbours, went to the library, decorated the house and did a lot of things to keep herself busy.

The two of them would wake up early and head to the gym, when they came back Madhu would get breakfast and lunch ready while Mayank got ready to leave for work. Madhu always made it a point to have her bath and have breakfast with Mayank.They would talk about a lot of things during those precious moments. Once Mayank left for work, Madhu would keep herself busy with different things and she would always look forward to evenings when Mayank came home.

On weekends they would always go out. Mayank took her all over London and outside too. He planned surprise weekend trips for her and they had a whale of a time.

Nearly every Saturday morning would dawn with Madhu in Mayank’s arms going, “Mayu, where can we go today? I’ll quickly get ready and pack your favourite food and we will get out”

“You tell me darling, did Janet suggest a new place for you to see?” or “I have a surprise for you, let’s get up and get ready, forget the food, we are going to have a lovely meal at this nice place, so come lets get ready!”

Madhu would call home regularly and her family was happy to know that she was very happy with Mayank and life in general.

Time waits for none. Before she realised it was nearly a year and the honeymoon period was waning off. Mayank was stuck at office these days with a change in management putting him a fix about many things at work. Mayank would come late from work and Madhu was not happy with this. Many times Mayank would promise to take Madhu out for the evening or the weekend but end up getting stuck at work or they would go out and Mayank would spend a lot of time on the phone trying to sort out things at work. Madhu would lose her patience and the rest of the evening or weekend would be spoilt for both of them.

Mayank loved Madhu to the core and tried his level best to adjust to her. He understood that she came from a big extended family and always had people around. He didn’t restrict her from calling home every day or  getting out and doing her own things. She would spend a lot of time with Janet next door and her little baby. Madhu also volunteered at the hospice. He didn’t know how else to keep her busy. Mayank was as understanding as he could be. He never raised his voice or fought with her. He was always the first one to say sorry and he always waited for her to calm down. At one stage he even felt that he did a mistake by choosing to marry a girl who was from a big family and bring her to live alone like this. He could do nothing about all that now. There was no chance of him going back to India too, he had a wonderful challenging job and he was enjoying it.

How could just two words change someone’s world? If someone had told Madhu that it was possible before all this, she wouldn’t have believed. Now ask her and she will surely vouch for all the little things that mattered. When they fought and did not talk for hour together, Mayank would go to office and after a couple of hours he would just send her a message with the words “Tell me”… and that was enough for Madhu to start off with a “sorry” and then continue to tell him all she wanted to tell him in the past few hours that they weren’t talking to each other. God alone knows how she had so much to talk, so much to tell him. It was very difficult not to talk to him but her anger made her lose her sense.

If Mayank brought work home, Madhu would wait patiently for some time and then demand that he close everything and go to bed with her.  The first few times she would actually plonk herself on his lap, arms around his neck and whisper into his ears “Mayu, carry me to bed now!” That was enough for Mayank to stop what he was doing and go spend time with her. He could always come back and finish his work. He tried that too, he would stay in bed till she slept and then silently sneak out to finish his work. This worked for sometime till she realised what was happening and then she would wake up in the middle of the night and go looking for him and bring him back to bed. Mayank could never go to the pub with friends on Friday evenings without losing his peace at home anymore. Even if he went, it was just a couple of pints and he had to rush back home before the curfew or else he knew what waited for him at home. All his friends thought the couple were still in the “honeymoon phase” and Mayank could not keep himself away from Madhu. No one knew the reality.

The whole issue was stressing both of them out. Mayank did not know what to do. He even offered to send her to India for a month if she missed her family and she vehemently refused. Mayank found Madhu’s demands unreasonable at times. They would be at a party and half way through Madhu would want to leave and go somewhere else. He tried reasoning with her, but nothing worked. She would not talk to him for a couple of days, but she would do everything for him, the cooking cleaning – the whole works, but she just refused to even smile at him the days that she was angry.

By the time it was their first anniversary, Mayank was starting to get worried about his choice of life partner. He loved her no doubt, but all this constant fighting and not talking with each other was draining him out. He decided that he would take her on a surprise holiday to cheer things up.

When Mayank came up with two tickets to Switzerland for the weekend before the anniversary, Madhu was so happy. They just packed their bags and left. But when they came back, Madhu was ready to pack her bags for a bigger journey. The weekend in Zurich didn’t work out for them at all as there was an emergency at work and Mayank spent the whole of the first day on phone. Madhu refused to talk to him for the rest of their trip.

When they came back, Mayank was drained and Madhu was adamant. Mayank seriously suggested that she go to India to her family for a month and he hoped that the situation at work would ease out in a month so when she came back, she would be happy from her holiday and with things at work easing out, everything will get better. Little did he know that Madhu had other ideas.

Initially Madhu refused to go to India and then she just got tired and told Mayank that she wanted to go home and asked for a one way ticket. She said she would go there and decide if and when she wanted to come back. Mayank thought that she would most likely come back quicker than a month and that is why she didn’t want him to book the return for a month. He gave her what she asked like he always did.

He drove her to the airport and dropped her with tears in his eyes. She was unmoved. When Mayank went back home and entered their master bedroom, he felt an empty feeling. He just turned around and walked out and closed the door behind him. He was hoping to see Madhu really really soon. But what came from Madhu was a divorce notice.

Mayank was really really shocked to see that. He understood and accepted that they had problems but it wasn’t so bad that it had to go to a divorce. He tried calling her up and talking to her, she wasn’t ready to talk to him. All her father could say was that she was not ready to say anything and was not happy to go back either. He got so upset that he went into a shell. It was work and home for him and nothing else.

For the next year and a half Mayank hardly called his parents. He is not a person to wallow in self pity but somehow he could not get himself to get out of his sorrow. He loved Madhu too much to let go that easily. But what is the point in holding on to her if she didn’t want to share her life with him. Mayank was nearly ready to get out of the country, give up the job and country that he loved so much. Every evening he came to an empty home, his heart broke. He stayed in at work till he got real tired, grabbed something to eat on the way and came home and went straight to bed to avoid thinking about Madhu. He had lost so much weight and even though he dressed up well and tried to look his best, he did not look like himself anymore.

If weekdays were spent at work, weekends were hell. As much as possible he went to work on weekends too and then when there was nothing much to do at work on weekends, he would just go to the airport and spend the day observing people. Everytime he saw a couple hug each other and say good bye, he would have tears in his eyes. He wanted his Madhu back and he knew there was no way that could happen.

A year and a half later he went to India to get the final divorce decree and was very upset when he saw her. She had lost so much weight like him. All the glow in her face had gone. Her eyes had lost the charm that he had fallen for.

She came forward to talk to him. “Mayu…. Mayank can you please ship all my things back?” and all he could say was “Madhu, I can’t touch any of your things, it is still your home too, if you want your things, you can come and take them anytime. I won’t stop you” and he walked away.

On the flight back all Mayank could think was how Madhu looked. She definitely missed him. Then why did she ask for a divorce? It puzzled him still.

A couple of months later, on a bright Sunday morning, when Mayank had just woken up and was sipping his coffee, sitting in the sun room he heard a gentle knock on the door. He went and opened the door and was surprised to see Madhu standing in front of him. He was so surprised and shocked at the same time that he did not even invite her in. After a couple of minutes, she asked him if she could come in. Only then he realised that he was standing there, blocking her way and staring at her. He stepped aside and let her in. She asked in a real soft voice if she could pick her things up. He just told her “You know the way to the bedroom Madhu, go and get what you want” and walked back to the sunroom. He wanted to cry, he wanted to tell her to stop and not leave. He was ready to do anything for her but he was not sure if she would listen.

Madhu walked up the stairs, looking at all those photos on the wall that she had put up. She had done up beautiful collages on the wall on the stairs from the bottom all the way up. All the pictures were still there, just the way she had left. From the photo of their wedding to photos of all the trips they had made in the one year they were together. The two of them laughing, hugging, holding each other… each photo had a story behind it, each photo held a memory! She wanted to sit right there and cry. She wanted to run back to Mayank and tell him that she didn’t want to leave, ever.

She opened the bedroom door and realised the room was all dusty, looks like the room hasn’t been opened or used in ages she thought. She stepped inside and realised what it was. Mayank hadn’t touched anything in the room since she had left. It came as a big surprise to her. Mayank was a person who would keep the house clean and dust free. She has even teased him about having OCD. So why did Mayank not clean this room? Why did he not touch anything here? The sheets on the bed were exactly the same ones that were there on the day she left. Even the pillows were the way she had left, she knew it because she always kept the pillows in a slightly different way to the normal. The pale yellow saree that she wanted to wear for a party the weekend she left, was still on the hangar on the clothes rack. She turned around the room and just sat on the bed and began to sob. Every single thing in the room was the way she had left and every single thing reminded her of all the good times they had together. The pictures on the wall, the artificial flowers in the bedside vase, the carpet beside the bed, the curtains that she had changed, the sheets on the bed, everything… every single thing had a story behind it.

Soon the sobbing turned to crying and she couldn’t control herself. Mayank who was coming up to ask if she wanted to eat or drink something heard her cry and ran up the stairs and as she heard Mayanks foot steps, she jumped out of bed and ran into his arms. That moment everything stopped for the two of them. Neither of them knew how long they stood like that for, it felt like an eternity. She was stuck to him as though she never wanted to get away from him. He slowly peeled her off and brought a bottle of water from the other bedroom for her to drink and took her to the other bedroom and made her sit on the bed and sat right beside her. He pulled her close to him, put his arms around her shoulders, pulled her head towards him so it rested on his shoulders and he gently rubbed her back. They stayed like that for a few minutes. Everything was quiet for a few minutes, just the sobbing sound of Madhu could be heard.

Then Mayak asked softly “What happened Madhu? Why did you leave me? I know you still love me as much as I love you. So what made you go? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but I would like to know where I went wrong”

Madhu started speaking then… “Mayu, you know I don’t have any memories of my mother. My father and grandparents and my aunt’s family brought me up. You know what? I was like everybody’s child yet nobody’s child.”

“I know it is very difficult for you to understand. When I go to Mridu’s house, I see aunty scolding her if she does anything wrong, I see Mridu cajoling her mother if she wants something, Many times if I go during exam time I would see my aunt feeding Mridu so that she could study in peace. You know I never have any memory of anyone scolding me ever, even lovingly?”

“When she found Nithin, Nithin would do for her everything she wanted. I never had any of that in my life though I got anything material that I could think about.When I saw you first time and you asked me for my hand, I felt wanted for the first time in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a neglected child at all. Yet I’ve never felt wanted.”

Mayank was still trying to digest what he had just heard. How did that affect his life?

Madhu continued “So when we got married, I thought that you would be that person in life who would give in to all my demands of love and affection. I wanted you to be with me 24×7, and now I know it is unreasonable, but then all I could think of was that I wanted you to be there for me all the time.”

Mayank kissed Madhu’s forehead and muttered a soft sorry. He wanted her to continue, he wanted her to pour it all out. He wanted his Madhu back.

Madhu continued.. “When I went back, appa wanted to know what happened, my grand parents and aunt’s family were ready to do anything to keep me happy but nobody gave me my bags and asked me to get back to you. When I said I wanted a divorce, they said if that gives you peace we will get that for you. Nobody thought of what would be the right thing for me. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. Probably if I had a mother, she would have packed me back to you the very minute I landed there. Chitra aunty would do the same to Mridu too, but somehow when it was me, no one thought of what should be important to me.”

“When you called me I refused to talk to you because I couldn’t bear the grief. There was no way I could talk to you without crying my heart out, without wanting to come back to you. I had to control myself because I wasn’t even clear in my thoughts. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, why I was behaving like this and if you really loved me enough to give up everything for me. But now I realise what real love is and that it is not about giving up everything for someone.”

Mayank knew it all now. The poor girl has been suffering silently all along and he didn’t even know that. He now pulled her real close hugged her and whispered in her ears, “Madhu, I love you. Don’t ever think of going back. I need you here and I want you to be mine for the rest of my life. I am not letting you go back again. This is your home and this is where you will be. I will treat you like my queen.”

Madhu had tears flowing from her eyes non-stop. When Mayank tried to wipe it away all she could manage to say was “Let them flow Mayu, let them all flow away so that they will never think of coming again. I know how much you love me and this is where I want to be, right in your arms”

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