If there exists a god of love, then she’d be my religion. I decided this the first time I saw her, when she came out of the car and tripped over her heels. I was there to say ‘hello’ to all the guests who walked in. Though unsaid, everyone knew to say ‘hello’ back to me before they walked in to congratulate the bride and the groom. It felt like I waited an eternity till she and her parents reached the entrance to greet. Was this the time-stopping symptom of love? I had met her parents before and charmed them enough for them to like me, thank fuck.
However, I hadn’t seen her at the other functions. If I had, I’d have made friends with her (at the very least). I had already imagined three different conversations that we could have had at the functions. “That’s way too much sitting and not enough dancing”, and I would’ve held her hand gently and brought her to the dance floor. “I love your mehendi, see mine”, and I would’ve meant to ask if her mehendi was so dark because somewhere her hands knew they’d fall into mine; my love for her preceded our actual meeting, it seemed. Right then, however, was the third conversation that I had practised multiple times in my head till she walked down to me from the car. I turned on my charm to welcome her parents: “Hello uncle aunty, I missed you, badi late aaye hain aaj toh”. They laughed, as did I, and she smiled.
I asked her why we hadn’t met before, why had I not seen her at the other functions, and all she had to give me was a small smile and a quiet “I was just caught up with exams”.
“Do you have friends at the wedding, then?” She shared a look with her parents and told me that she knew some people. I knew I needed her to stay with me, but not while I had to say hello to other kith and kin that I didn’t even know had existed. “I’ll come find you in a bit, then. Someone told me the chaat counter is great, we’ll go have some.”
I didn’t expect her to say anything to me back, considering she had only spoken about 7 words to me, but she met my eye for half a second and then said, “I’ll wait”. I never rehearsed this bit of our conversation in my head. WHO THE FUCK SAYS THAT TO SOMEONE YOU’VE JUST MET? God, my heart felt light, did she see me see her the way I did? Does she see me the way I see her too? I swallowed and wiped the deer-caught-in-headlights look off my face, and nodded courteously.
I saw her walk further down till she mixed in with the crowd. I could point out where she was even in a huge crowd of people with clothes that took about half a metre radius of space. I was getting impatient with the number of people who wanted to come into the wedding and be welcomed. Once, maybe twice, definitely twice, I could see her eyes trying to find someone in the mass of people. I didn’t know who. But then, the next time I looked back at her, her eyes met mine from across what felt like the entire world, again… and I could’ve fallen to my knees and sung the love songs I heard at the sangeet to her. She looked like she meant it when she said “I’ll wait”.
Lord, save me before I sin amidst a huge family of shitheads and homophobes.
I had to call in the big guns. I called my cousin to the entrance urgently. “You need to come here right now, I’m falling apart” is all I had to say before he arrived hurriedly. He was visibly confused because I seemed fine-
“Tu theek toh hai? Kya hogaya?”
“Pyaar, bhaiya. Pyaar. Please helloji wali duty lagalo yahaan. I need to go get her.” My cousin was more worried than pissed, he didn’t want me falling for straight girls at a wedding where they might just sacrifice me at the mandap’s fire for committing lesbianism. Valid concern.
“I promise this isn’t one of my usual endeavours, I’m in love and also very hungry.” He wasn’t convinced about letting me go, and more than that, it’s a tedious job to say namaste with a smile so many times to so many guests. But maybe the stars were in our favour that night. He traded his ’ache se khaana khana, kuch laakar du aapko’ duty with me, in the name of love and food.
I knew where to look. She, perhaps, didn’t know where to find me anymore because I wasn’t at the main entrance. Her face changed from hopeful to slightly disappointed. I started walking faster towards her till the sole of my heels came off. This is it. This is how the world ends. I didn’t want to lose her in the crowd while I fixed my shoes. I quickly took them off, picked up my lehenga and scanned the ground before I started brisk walking again. I couldn’t lose her, I don’t even know her. I shouldn’t have prided myself on my ability to spot her in the crowd: khudki nazar sabse zyaada lagti hai. I kept walking, slightly aimlessly now, how could I not find her again?
I headed towards the chaat counter, almost texting my cousin that maybe we should swap our duties back. At least that way I would be able to see her leave, if she were to leave early. Thankfully, I never had to hit “send” on that message. She was standing alone in a corner next to the aloo chaat stall. If there is a god of love, it was her whom I’d worship.
She took a plate of aloo chaat from the station, only to look up and find me fumbling to form a sentence. It would’ve been a witty “mere bina khaana shuru kardia aapne?” or “I see you didn’t wait like you promised” in another universe. I only actually said “Hi” with nervousness. Now’s not the time to have stage fright.
It was as if she had already known about all the things I wanted to say and grinned at me, “I told you I’d wait.”
I called upon all the 11:11s, there must be an 11:11 happening in some country, some planet right now, to grant me the wish of mustering up a few words and finding my lost voice back, to say: “I hoped for nothing more.”
I took a step towards her and she came in closer too. Our shoulders were brushing, I couldn’t breathe. One of her hands was holding aloo chaat and the other was mindlessly resting against mine, hidden behind our huge clothes. She laughed a little: is it because she knew we were going to fall in love over this plate of aloo chaat? She offered me some of it and I hoped the aloo wouldn’t slip off my toothpick, my hands were trembling. I tried to put in a little distance between us so I could at least have some aloo chaat. But when I raised the hand that was against hers, we realised her georgette dupatta was stuck in my bangles. I tried to untangle it but the more I tried, the more my hands shook. So she brought her hand to mine and fixed the problem. Thus, began the new, more pressing problem of her hand having touched mine so actively. It was so cold but that small part of my skin felt torched.
When my newfound lover asked me what had given me the shivers, I confessed (carefully and hesitantly), “Beautiful women might do that to someone with a weak heart”. I was so afraid the minute this line came out of my mouth. I didn’t have to wait too long before she one-upped me, “Then why am I not trembling like you, hm?”
Even aloo chaat couldn’t save me from falling face-first in love with her.