Victor kept looking at Kajol willing her to say something. But there was no response. And just when Victor was about to give up she looked at him and with a smile lighting up her face said, ” I love you too”.
Victor almost jumped with joy. It was like a dream come true for him. Kajol also realized that she had been in love with Victor for quite some time but had failed to recognize her feelings. But now she had and was absolutely sure of them.
Victor caught hold of her hand, bent down on his knees and lo and behold produced a ring!! He looked into her eyes and with an expression that said it all said, ”Will you marry me, Kajol? I want this more than anything else in this world”.
This time on Kajol did not take even a minute to respond. In fact, the response was immediate and on the spot. She said Yes and then rushed out of the room with Victor right behind her to break the news to her aunt. She actually burst into her room and exclaimed with joy, ” Guess what, ??”
But before she could say anything else, Madhumita smiled a knowing kind of a smile and said, ”So finally Victor proposed to you!!” Her reaction took both of them by surprise. They looked at her with a questioning look on their faces not understanding how she could have known anything when they themselves had been clueless. She said that she had been observing them for a while and had noticed that they had feelings for each other though they were not aware of them. So, therefore, she had been expecting this for some time now. With tears in her eyes, she hugged both of them and blessed them. She was very happy for Kajol and was immensely relieved to know that finally, Kajol had found someone who loved her, who she loved and wanted to get married to. She had noticed in the past few days how Victor’s eyes kind of lit up when he saw her and how Kajol had moved heaven and earth to nurse him back to health when he had fallen sick. So now that they had discovered each other’s love Madhumita wanted her to get married as soon as possible and step into the next phase of her life. Although she knew that this meant that Kajol would go away and be very far for her but then she would be happy and that is what mattered to her.
But now came the challenging part. Madhumita was well aware of what her brother thought about Victor and she knew that no matter how desperate he was to get Kajol married he wasn’t likely to allow her to marry Victor. The reason was obvious and that was that Victor was a foreigner. Though Kajol was all for going and announcing her intention to her father right away, Madhumita advised her to not rush into it. She wanted to think through and figure out the right time and the right manner in which to do it. Victor agreed with Madhumita and advised Kajol to be patient. He told her that he wished to marry her in front of everyone and wanted their wedding to be a happy and memorable occasion for everyone. He was clear that he did not want to make it seem like a cloak and dagger affair and though he would stand by her under all circumstances they needed to speak to her father first.
Since Victor was to leave in three days time, Madhumita knew that they would have to bell the cat as soon as possible. In fact, she decided that she would speak to her brother the following day and try and convince him to agree. As expected Debojit flew into a rage the moment he heard about what his daughter wanted to do. He also took off on his sister for having spoilt Kajol and letting her get away with everything. He accused her of being irresponsible and careless. He just wouldn’t stop shouting and no matter how hard Madhumita tried to make him understand he just wouldn’t listen. Hearing the commotion Abhijeet also came out of his room with his wife. On hearing what the issue was he joined hands with his father in making it seem as though a major catastrophe had taken place and Kajol had done the most dishonorable thing. Madhumita on her part stood her ground and did not let them cow her down. She did not react and let them have their say. Once they were done she looked at them and announced calmly that the decision had been taken and it would make sense for them to accept it rather than pick holes in it.
She looked at her brother and said, ” Kajol is going to marry Victor, whether you like it or not. She has decided and if you don’t agree she will do it anyway so it is entirely up to you. You could come and attend the wedding or choose to sit at home.”
Having said that she left the room to get on with her day.
The father and son looked at each other helplessly not knowing what to do but they realized that the situation was not going to change and they would not be able to stop Kajol. Still, Debojit thought of having a word with his daughter which was a mistake because she told him in no uncertain terms that her decision was final and she wasn’t going to budge from it. She even told him that he had no business to interfere in her life as he had never shown any interest in it. And as for her brother and sister-in-law, she didn’t even give them a glance although her brother was trying to get in a word and walked out. Victor, however still decided to approach Debojit and ask him formally for his daughter’s hand.
Debojit though extremely upset figured that misbehaving with his future son-in-law would not really help and so very, very reluctantly he gave his permission for the wedding to take place.
And then began the preparation for the wedding. Victor, of course, had to leave but before doing that he told both Madhumita and Kajol that he did not want them to bear the entire expense of the wedding and would want to contribute towards it. Kajol bade him a tearful farewell though she knew that their separation would not be for too long. The wedding was to take place in three months time. So once he left there was a whole lot of work to do and Kajol got busy with that. She had to figure out her clothes, her jewelry and other things. But along with that, there was this fear in her, fear of her new life which was to take her to a new country. She realized that there would be a number of challenges that she would have to face and it would not be easy at all. And then sometimes she even wondered if she knew Victor long enough and well enough to leave everything for him. Such thoughts would generally come to her at night when she wanted to sleep or sometimes in the middle of the night when she was sleeping. And then she would panic and wouldn’t know what to do. And the only person who could reassure her, calm her down at such times was Victor. She would call him ( Thank God for the time difference!!) and express all her doubts to him. He would then listen to her patiently, pacify her and reassure her about the wisdom of their decision. Speaking to him always had a calming effect on her and she would then go to sleep in a happy and peaceful state of mind.
Once Victor got home he spoke to his parents about Kajol. Though a bit taken aback by this development they accepted his decision. His mother Karen, however, was a little skeptical about it. She sat him down one evening to have a frank and clear conversation with him. She spelt out what she thought could be the challenges that they would have to face. She told him that not only were the two of them completely different individuals but they also belonged to different cultures, different countries and a completely different upbringing. She pointed out that as it as a marriage to be successful required a lot of work and when there were so many differences between the people involved it became that much harder. She told him that going back on such a decision could be painful, so they both needed to be absolutely sure before taking the plunge and getting swayed by emotion was not going to help. She suggested that it would be a good idea to invite Kajol to spend a few days with them which would give everyone an opportunity to get to know each other. Also, it would enable Kajol to get an idea of the city that was to become her home. Victor loved the idea though he wasn’t sure if her father would allow her to visit him but he decided to try nonetheless. However, to everyone’s surprise, Debojit readily agreed and also went on to say that he himself had been thinking along the same lines. He had a word with Victor’s parents and agreed to send Kajol to Quebec.
So Kajol flew to Quebec, met up with her future family which consisted of Victor ’s parents, a sister and a brother who was married and lived with his wife in Calgary. She was full of trepidation but much to her surprise Victor’s family was very warm and hospitable and made her feel welcome. They took good care of her, took her around and made her stay comfortable. Moreover, Victor made sure that she not only enjoyed her stay but also explored the city, it’s life and he made her visit a couple of hospitals too so that she could get some idea about her life ahead. Karen also spoke to her and advised her to be rational and objective in taking her decision rather than being emotional and sentimental. Kajol appreciated her concern and all her life thanked her for being so candid and frank with her. She stayed there for ten days by the end of which she was kind of raring to go. She had got an idea of her life ahead. And in any case, having spent some more time with Victor she knew that he would always be by her side and with that certainty she was ready to take on whatever challenges came her way.
The wedding took place with a lot of pomp and show. Victor’s entire family turned up for it which was almost twenty-five people. And they had a blast. For them, the entire experience of the big fat Indian wedding was an incredible one. The rituals, the music, the dance, the clothes, the jewelry, the food, was all so new and so different. It was a lifetime experience. They had never witnessed anything as grand as that and enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, they couldn’t stop talking about it for years.
Kajol’s family also thoroughly enjoyed the wedding. By the time of the wedding her father and brother had come around and had decided to participate in it fully and enjoy it. Their main grouse against Kajol had always been that she wasn’t getting married and now that she was, though to a foreigner they were very happy.
Thus the wedding was one big and happy affair. Soon it was time for Kajol to leave her home, her country. Victor had already left two months ago and now it was her turn. Madhumita was heartbroken but what kept her from expressing her feelings was the happiness on Kajol’s face and her belief that Kajol would be happy with the man she had chosen. Though she didn’t know where he lived, or what kind of a lifestyle he had, her gut told her that Kajol would be happy. Moreover whatever Kajol had shared with her after coming back from Quebec had given her an idea about her life ahead. So it was with mixed feelings that Madhumita bade farewell to her favourite niece, who had become like a daughter. Debojit also had eyes as he hugged his daughter and told her to take care of herself. What he said after that really touched the daughter’s heart who after listening to her father forgot the animosity that she had had with him over the last several years. Debojit while holding her looked at her and said’ “ I want you to know one thing. No matter what, you will always be my daughter and if you ever need me or are in any kind of trouble just call me”. He further went on to say,” We may have had differences in the past but I always had and will always have your welfare at heart and remember that I will always love you.” With that, he kissed her on her forehead and turned to go away. Karol was touched to the core of her heart. She hugged her brother and sister-in-law and went inside the airport terminal ready to take on her new life.
Victor was there to receive her at the airport. Their eyes met and all the remaining vestiges of doubt and fear vanished from her mind. She flew into his arms, as though she had been waiting just for this. They reached their new home which was an apartment that Victor had taken on rent and which was close to the City Centre. The reason why he had chosen that location was that he realized that once they were back from their honeymoon he would have to get back to work and Kajol would have to be home and by herself, till he got back which could get boring for her. The City Centre was where all the shops, restaurants and movies halls were located. There was also a nice park close by where she could go for a walk in the evenings or whenever she wanted to. That way she would be able to keep herself busy. Kajol just loved the apartment and the fact that her husband had chosen it keeping her in his mind really touched her.
They spent the next two weeks in the beautiful locales of Vancouver, getting to know each other and discovering beautiful places like Whistler, Banff and Lake Louis. Kajol realized that Victor the husband was not very different from Victor the boyfriend. He was equally caring and loving. He made her feel extremely special and took care of every need of hers. Her joy and happiness were amply evident to her family whenever she spoke to them which gave all of them and in particular Madhumita a huge sense of relief. Honeymoon over they headed back home and life took on a routine. Victor went back to the hospital to resume work but Kajol had nowhere to go. She had to clear a few exams before she could be eligible for a job and so her days were spent cooking, cleaning, shopping and looking after the house. And since she had never done all this before it was quite difficult for her to get used to it. Although Victor was used to sharing the household work but since he wasn’t home most of the time the responsibility automatically fell on Kajol. And along with that she also had to prepare for the exams.
Life was fine till the weather started to change and it began to get cold. Kajol had never lived in another country and especially in one where the weather could become so cold and harsh. Nothing had prepared her for that. As the weather started to change and the days started getting shorter her mood also began to change. It had been three months since she had moved and by then she had also started missing her family. And this sudden gloominess around was not helping. As luck would have it Victor also got very busy at work during that time and so Kajol once done with her daily chores and whatever else she had to do found it very difficult to pass the time. She started feeling that in spite of all her education she had ultimately become a housewife and a lonely one at that. She had no one to share her misery with. She didn’t want to trouble her family, her husband was too busy and there wasn’t much closeness with his family. Though they were nice people she couldn’t pour her heart out to them. She had no friends either and though there were a couple of families on their floor it wasn’t like India where one could make friends with one’s neighbours. People were nice, polite but distant. She would long for the days when Victor could be with her but that didn’t happen very often. And even when he was there he would just want to relax and chill at home whereas she would want to go out. As a result, they would end up fighting with each other.
As the fights and arguments became more frequent both started thinking if they had made a mistake. The problem was that Kajol was lonely and bored out of her mind. She needed to work but couldn’t do that till all the formalities had been completed. And that is when the idea struck her. She thought that it would be a good change for her to go and meet her family. And since the festival season was about to begin in India she would be able to take part in all the festivities as well. Victor agreed with her and so off she went. Her family was overjoyed on seeing her and everyone put everything on hold to be with her which made her feel very special. The next two weeks were full of whirlwind activity. She caught up with her family, met up with her friends, ate her favourite food, spent time with her aunt, went shopping and did everything that she had missed doing in Canada. But then after two weeks she was kind of done and wanted to head home. Her family was sad to see her leave but knew that she had to get back to her husband and her life.
The trip did a lot of good to her. She came back rejuvenated and recovered. Victor was really happy to see her happy. Absence had made the hearts grow fonder and also made them realize that marrying each other had not been a mistake at all. They had missed each other while she had been away and so life went back to being it’s usual happy self. And then as luck would have it she also managed to get a job which of course she had wanted all along.
Three years into the marriage and Kajol gave birth to their elder daughter who they named Mila. Although she had wanted to give her an Indian name she realized that that may not be a fair thing to do as it could set her apart from the other children and may single her out for some kind of discrimination. And even after so many years, she had not been able to erase her own experience in this regard. Having a child along with everything else made life tougher than before. In fact, Kajol experienced some difficulties in the last days of her pregnancy because of which Madhumita had to come and help her out. She stayed on for almost a year but eventually had to go back. And that is when Kajol had to really struggle to manage everything from her home to her job to the baby. Victor was there to help but still, she found it quite a challenge to manage everything.
Within two years they had their second daughter Louise and this time Kajol had to do everything on her own as Madhumita by now was too old to travel such a long distance in order to be with her. Life in the next ten years went by like a whirlwind. Most of the times Kajol was too busy to think of anything. Between her work and home, the girls, their schools, classes, play dates she had no time for anything else. She didn’t really get time to visit India as much as she would have wanted to and when she did it wasn’t even for the right reasons. One of them was the passing away of her father. One day as she was driving her girls to school she got a call from Madhumita who told her that Debojit had passed away after a massive heart attack. They hadn’t even had a chance to take him to hospital. Leaving the girls behind with her in-laws Kajol and Victor rushed to India for the last rites and other ceremonies. And then much to everyone’s shock within six months Madhumita also left this world. This was a bigger blow for Kajol as first of all it came too soon after her father’s death and then this time it was Madhumita who had been like a mother to her and had been by her side all through her life. She knew that she owed her life to her and that is why it took her a long time to get over this tragedy. But then time does heal everything and where it cannot heal it teaches a person to accept the reality of a situation as there is no choice.
Life moved on, time went by and before she knew it Mila had turned sixteen. Her birthday was a grand affair. She had grown up to be a beautiful, confident and talented girl loved by all. Louise younger to her by two years was looking to follow her footsteps. Both the parents were immensely proud of the way the girls had turned out though there was a tinge of regret in Kajol’s mind. She felt that although they were her flesh and blood they were totally cut off from the country of her birth. Though she had tried to expose them to India and to its culture and traditions they hadn’t been able to form any sort of a connection with it. They liked visiting the country but the visits were few and far between constrained as they were by factors like the weather and their vacations. So while they had an association there was no bond with the country or its people. Her regret became more pronounced when she saw them celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving with a lot of fervour and excitement and not showing much of an interest in Diwali or Durga Puja. Since it was a sensitive issue Victor never interfered though he felt that she should refrain from pushing the girls and understand that their upbringing and the environment in which they had grown up was different from hers and so they were different people. To his credit, he was always there to listen to her and understand her feelings but never ever judged her. At the same time he never pushed his daughters too and in fact, managed to strike a fine balance between all of them. But gradually as with many other Kajol learnt to accept the situation, step back and let the girls be.
Also as the girls grew up and became independent they began to need less and less of her time and attention which though a welcome change resulted in Kajol feeling lonely and unwanted. With time she realized that not only was there a generation gap between them and her but there was also a cultural gap. She couldn’t relate to a number of things that came naturally to them like, for instance, the ease with which they could get in and out of relationships. And then when she saw Victor unperturbed by all this and getting on with his life in a normal manner she couldn’t help but question herself and her thinking. She felt that she was quite different in her thought and approach to life. She also realized that though she had lived in the country for over twenty years she still hadn’t got accustomed to its ways. She missed the warmth, the camaraderie, the interference of others in her life. Things which she had hated in her growing up years were what she missed the most now. She wanted people, she wanted gaiety in her life the way she understood it. And this was something which no one could relate to and hence could not understand.
To get over these feelings she decided to visit India and spend some time there with her family. But after a few days with them, she realized that she couldn’t be happy there either. There was this huge disconnect that she had with people there. Like everywhere else over there also life had moved on, people had grown and evolved but she seemed stuck in time and couldn’t really relate to them. And after a few days only she wanted to go home to her family. But then a few days after getting back, she started getting those feelings once again. Seeing her in that agitated and troubled state of mind Victor decided to have a word with her. He listened patiently while she tried to explain her predicament to her. He figured that she was feeling left out wherever she went and that was because she couldn’t relate to a lot of what was going on in her world. He told her to first of all start focussing more on her work which would not leave her with a lot of time to brood and think. Then he told her to accept the fact that she had given up the country of her birth a long time ago and that Canada was now her home and it was going to remain that way. As a result, she would need to be more accepting of its ways. She needed to not only adapt to the ways but adopt them as her own as they were as much hers now as anybody else’s. He further told her to detach herself from India because the India, the family that she missed and was looking for all the time no longer existed. The world had changed everywhere and India was no exception. He advised her to make peace with her reality as only then would she be able to find happiness. He gave her a hug and looking into her eyes said, ” Why do you worry? You do have me!! And I haven’t changed”. That immediately brought on a smile on Kajol’s face.
The conversation made Kajol realize that she was making a mistake by trying to sail in two boats. She figured that she had left a way of life, a country behind her and it didn’t make any sense to want to cling onto it. In any case, that way of life did not even exist anywhere. So she needed to move on, break all the shackles that were holding her back, making her their prisoner and find her happiness around her. There was no point oscillating between two worlds and trying to impose the ways of one on the other. She had to leave her past behind.
She thanked her stars for having got such a wonderful human being as her life partner and she wondered that why in spite of him being there with her all the time she needed to look elsewhere for happiness. He was her world, he was the reason why she was here so why did she forget that. He had never let her down, had always stood by her so shouldn’t that be enough for her. She realized that that was more than enough, she didn’t need anybody or anything else in her life. She was blessed to have him and that was her reality.
She smiled, got up, walked up to the love of her life and gave him a tight hug. Life was beautiful and would always remain so and……. She would always love him…