My heart sank. I couldn’t believe what I read; how could I? I called each one friend in our group praying it comes out to be a prank! I kept calling like a drowning man looking for a straw, but each friend who received the call had the same answer,

“I wish it were a prank, but it is not.”

My head spun. The message with the crying emoticon, Sukhi is no more, got engraved in my head. I couldn’t sleep for nights wondering How she would have been managing alone in a foreign land with no near or dear with her? With henna smeared hands and marriage chura glittering on her wrists how desolate she might have been. Her thought won’t leave my mind even for a second. And when I called her, I had nothing to offer in the name of consolation.

“How happy she was… After such a long time she had got happiness … What’s there in store for her…? What does God want of the poor girl…? How would she bear it?”

That was our talk for next few days. Khushi, as the name suggests, the bubbliest of all in our group of eight friends was the girl we were talking about. She had got married the last of us all and that also very late; at 33. It was the eighth day of her marriage and the third day of honeymoon in Switzerland with her prince charming Sukhi when we got the news, Sukhi is no more.

Like all her friends, Khushi wanted a husband and a home and kids of course. But it was not in her fate that was decided because it was not her first marriage. Yes! It was her second marriage. Though she was quite a virgin even after her second marriage, she was stamped married twice. Even after her first marriage she had come back home on the eighth day. That time she demanded a divorce because her husband was a psycho, male-chauvinist and a sadist who wouldn’t let her even  talk to her friends.

We friends had a lot to offer on the platter of consolation like,

“Don’t worry… Let be gone be by gone… Mark my words it all has happened for good… You will get a prince.”

All offered her this stuff, while I, the feminist got offended at the idea of making her a princess of some fairy tale waiting for her prince once again. Instead, I offered her with something totally different.

“Don’t keep your mind on marriage again. First complete your studies and stand on your feet.”

“No Roshni, you know I am not such a kind of girl. I want a simple life with husband and kids like you all,” she repelled my suggestion.

“Who’s saying don’t go for that life. But first stand on your feet,” I insisted.

I made her complete course in fashion designing -she had left to get married- trying to make her realize her first love, i.e., to be a fashion designer of good name and fame. But I failed. Though she completed the course, she had just one thing on mind, marriage as if marriage is the only career for woman and the ultimate goal of her life. But fault was not hers completely. She comes from a small village and though her parents have brought her up with love and care, they didn’t teach her self-reliance. And it was they who wanted marriage the first and last thing for her. And finally after hunting for four long years, they managed to find a well-settled, smart and nice groom for her in the posh area of Delhi. But that profession of hers didn’t last for more than a week and there she was again standing at the same dead end.

I even dreaded to meet her wondering what I would offer in the name of consolation to her. But I was taken aback when I met her. While I was dreading all the while how would I console her, she consoled me saying, “Whatever will be will be.” She did not let a single tear skip her eyes while I was expecting a tsunami. Showing me the pictures of her honeymoon with Sukhi, she just kept talking being the same old chatter-box. I was really impressed by the way she was showing photographs to me with not tears but smile on her face as if she had made a complete oasis of the moments spent with her loving Sukhi. But there was one thing that disturbed me, her face; totally bleak with not the slightest trace of make-up that she was fond of wearing. Her eyes looked so desolate without the thick layers of kohell. While Khushi’s heart still wanted to live and breathe, our society didn’t allow her. I got filled with wrath for our society that doesn’t let a person live her life on her own terms. That day I realized there was nothing wrong with Khushi’s life or fate. Whatever  wrong was with our society that doesn’t let girls even choose let alone help. But that day after seeing Khushi I realized she is not a loser and I pledged I won’t let her go by the society. I won’t let her make a tomb of Sukhi’s memories while she could make a palace out of them. When she can be happy while sharing the precious moments spent with Sukhi why does she need to wrap herself in white attire; while she loves life why does she need to choose mourning over it while it won’t even be a choice but a decision of society thrust upon her, I wondered!

That day after coming home, I called my friend Sumedha who like me is a feminist and we decided to feed her mind with the thought of moving on. But Khushi was adamant to stay with in-laws in order to look after them. But when her in-laws were against her doing job, the real Khushi came out and I am proud of her for the step she took. Talks about her future were going on and her in-laws didn’t want her to do job-they just wanted her to shuttle between parents and in-laws for the rest of her life. And thus Khushi spoke,

“I don’t want to be a burden, neither on parents nor on in-laws. So I would stay neither with in-laws nor with parents. I’ve decided I am moving to Chandigarh.

The decision was not an easy one for a delicate girl like Khushi who had always dreamt of home, husband and kids, but self-willed as she is now, she took the plunge. When her parents and in-laws said,

“But you are alone.”

She replied,

“What if I’m alone, I’m alone and free.”

She still loves her Sukhi and can’t forget him. But she wants to make a palace, not a tomb out of his memories and that’s my Khushi.

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