Rizvi and I Go to the Cocktail Party
I was rather distracted at work that week. Luckily, I was working with Ajay: he knew that my best friend was getting married, and he picked up the slack when I was slow or made mistakes. I thanked him each time, and he said he owed it to me, for the many times I had covered his back earlier.
Raghav didn’t ask to meet me, though: he was too busy. He called almost every day, or I called to ask how things were. He was busy shopping, organising and smoothing ruffled feathers—most often, I took it, of his mom. He told me he couldn’t wait until it was over and he and Sonali could go on their honeymoon. They were going to Mauritius for two weeks.
I offered sympathy, advice and help: I said I could take a day off from work or leave early so that I could be with him and help him in whatever needed doing. He declined though: his numerous relatives had come through and the preparations were proceeding swimmingly. So I saw him again on the day before the wedding, when Rizvi and I turned up at the venue for the mehndi, a little late, struggling with our new clothes and painful shoes, and looking around eagerly for a familiar face.
“Hello, ladies,” Amit called from across the garden, so that a dozen people turned around to look at us.
“You both look ravishing,” Amit continued, coming over to shake our hands.
“Are we late?” I asked him. We were about an hour later than the scheduled time.
“Not to worry, my sister’s not ready yet,” he informed us. “Raghav and his family’s here, though, look, they’re over there.”
We spotted Raghav then, dressed in a bright red kurta. “We’ll make our way over,” I told Amit, as he smiled and then walked past us to welcome more guests.
Raghav looked delighted to see us, and led us to some seats in a corner. “I’ve been so bored,” he confided. “We got here an hour ago, and have been standing around with nothing to do. Dad’s been getting more and more irritable: he wants to leave, but mom won’t let him. I wish she would: he’s got nothing to do here and it’s getting on his nerves.”
Soon Amit came over to fetch Raghav away. “Come on, man, come stand with me. People are asking where the bride and the groom are, I should have at least one of you to show them…”
We saw Sonali in a while: she stood out from afar in her heavily sequined bright yellow salwar kameez. She sat at one end with a gaggle of people around her, and two mehndiwallahs set to work on her arms and feet. I took Rizvi over to introduce her. She was polite, but seemed a little preoccupied. She asked us to sit by her and get mehndi on our hands too, but we slipped away after a few minutes, neither of us having the slightest inclination to sit still. We gravitated instead towards a group of young men surrounding Raghav and Amit by the dance floor. Soon the dancing started with gusto, and Rizvi and I joined in.
We gave up after half an hour, however, and went off to find dinner. We ate heartily and gossiped as old friends do when they’ve met after months. Then we sought out Raghav and Sonali to tell them we were leaving. They tried to stop us, Sonali politely and Raghav insistently, but Rizvi repeated that her parents would be worried, and we were allowed to go.
We had called a cab, and it dropped Rizvi home first before taking me to Gurgaon.
“Do you plan to stay late tomorrow?” she asked soon after we got in.
“I think so. I don’t think Raghav would let me leave early.”
“I’ll ask my brother to pick me up, then. My parents won’t let me stay out after 10 and go all the way to Noida in a cab, and I can’t really ask Firoz to stay up late to pick me up… You’ll be all right, won’t you?”
“Of course,” I said. “I’ll take a cab home. I’ll be perfectly fine.”
“How did you like her?” I asked after a while.
“Sonali? She’s quite pretty, isn’t she? Though rather too short for Raghav. I don’t know… I couldn’t talk to her much today, but somehow I’d always expected Raghav to marry someone… uhh, less conventional, if you know what I mean.”
“I think I do.”
“But hey, I don’t know her enough to comment. I just hope he’s happy.”
“I hope so too,” I said fervently.