Chapter 1 – Trishna
It was the eve of my 21st birthday. Incidentally, it was also my engagement day. The boy had been chosen by my family. I personally didn’t wish to get engaged this early, but didn’t mind too much either. Besides, it was difficult arguing against my father and brother. Like most women in my family, I had been brought up to obey them.
It wasn’t as if they were unreasonable. I had been given good food, clothes and education. Papa was undemonstrative, but loving in his own way. Joy (my elder brother) and I were always at loggerheads, but ultimately, he was a protective elder brother. My mom had been dead for a few years; I had maintained the house along with my studies. My family didn’t understand me the way Trishna did. The image of my quiet, perceptive friend flit through my mind. I felt a sudden urge to talk to her. I pulled out my cell phone and called her. I didn’t have to say much. Through the pauses in my sentences, Trishna discerned that I needed her.
“I’ll be at your place in 15 minutes” she said in her low-pitched voice.
True to her word, she was there on her bicycle in fifteen minutes. As I saw her tall form dressed in a long sequined skirt, white t-shirt and colorful scarf; I felt a lovely mixture of joy and relief. I flung the door open and embraced Trishna tightly. Joy, who was lying on the living room sofa, sniggered contemptuously. I ignored him and took Trishna to my room.
She had bought a mehndi (Indian dye used to decorate hands and feet) cone along with her. As she drew intricate designs on my soft palms, I poured out my feelings to Trishna. Trishna just listened empathetically. This was the best thing about my best friend. She listened with the intention to listen, not give advice.
“I don’t love Som” I told her feeling distressed, “he doesn’t love my soul”.
Trishna turned her face towards me. Her skin was still coarse, but she was hauntingly beautiful. Her dark, kohl-lined eyes bore into my depths.
“What does he love then?” she asked sharply.
I felt my cheeks burn under her sudden scrutiny. “My body” I murmured feeling mortification rise in me. Som, my fiancé, was in the real estate business like my family. When he had come to see me for the first time along with his parents, he had appraised my physical form like he would scrutinize a house that he wished to buy. Feeling utterly humiliated; I had covered myself modestly with a veil. Som subsequently turned to his parents and the threesome had whispered among themselves. Som’s mother had subsequently turned a bright beaming face at my father and told him that “they liked the girl”.
“What do you think I love in you?” said Trishna. There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
I remained silent. I was almost afraid to touch that fleeting something that had always been present between Trishna and me.
“Speak up” Trishna said.
“I can’t” I said feeling choked, “you know me. I am a coward. I’ll always remain one”.
“Don’t you remember that rainy evening when both of us were 14?” Trishna asked me.
I nodded. I remembered the evening too well.
I was confused as to how I felt about my best friend. Most probably, she too was as confused as I was. My mind went back to the time I first met her.