We were never the best of friends. We didn’t bond as cousins either. I’m not sure I ever felt about her. She bullied me often. She set the academic benchmarks in the family.
Over the years, the differences gave way to a quiet sense of understanding and sympathy. It’s amazing what a few heart-to-heart conversations in the middle of the night can do for a relationship. We gradually became allies, not as cousins but as women confiding to each other.
She is not a feminist. But she is bold enough to stand up for what she wants. So it was a little surprising when she acquiesced for the big-fat-Indian-wedding deal. She loved all the attention and pampering. It was all hunky-dowry until the time she sat down for the feras.
The enormity of marriage struck her only then, leaving her teary-eyed. It should have been the most memorable day of her life. But she felt alone in that mass of family and friends. While most brides complain they are/were never given any space, this young bride was actually left all by herself in the flurry of haggling over shoes and extracting money from the new brother-in-law. We were away for less than five minutes and vidaai was a good five hours away. But there she was sitting in a corner, decked up like a bejeweled doll, softly sobbing away. It was the first time I had seen her like this.
I paused for a moment, reached out for my cell-phone to call my aunt. But the flash of the camera distracted me, taking me away from the moment. It turned me into a mute spectator. I did eventually call my aunt. I also went forth to envelop her in a hug. But that moment was lost forever.
Five years later, I’m still troubled with the feeling that I let her down.