Ira, Aisha and Diana lay on the beach, soaking in the evening sun whilst kissed by the cool ocean waters. It was as if all their problems were washed away by the caressing hands of God. The beach was their temple and the sound of the waves, their mediation music.
The waiter came with a big tray of their orders and placed it neatly on the table. They rinsed the sand off their wet bodies and settled in their chaise longue for a snack. Aisha sipped her peach schnapps while Ira dipped her potato wedges in a general dollop of garlic mayonnaise.
“It´s good to throw caution to the winds and live it up sometimes.” said Aisha as she took a big bite of her Arugula Burger.
“I´m glad I did that and agreed to your bohemian idea of this vacation. Nothing can beat the celebration of our 40th anniversary by watching the greatest show on earth.” replied Diana.
The three friends watched the magic of the sunset unfold before their eyes. As the sun humbled itself and bowed to the feet of the ocean, the strokes of the ultimate master artist came into play. Swirling, swiping, rolling and mixing paints of blue hydrangea, coral, peach puff, twilight grey and indigo blue.
They were so mesmerised by the sight that they failed to notice their lips quivering and feet getting shifty. They couldn´t take the beating of the scathing ocean breeze anymore. They ditched their bikinis for sheer kimono gowns and silk sarongs.
Goa is the Vegas of India. People come to take a break from life. Rather, they come to find life here. Life starts pumping faster when the sun goes down.
“You won´t believe it but people still ask me about my marriage.” , Aisha remarked.
Ira rose her middle finger.
“Geez, what´s with us Indians and our obsession with marriage? Why can´t we just take a chill-pill?” , Diana said.
Ira and Aisha looked at each other and laughed at the irony that it was Diana making some serious laissez-faire statements. Anyway, Aisha quickly regained composure and said –
“You know, Diana. I´m at peace with the question now. I went from a place of annoyance to immunity to arrive at a zen place of amusement. All marriage related questions brings a wide smile on my face like the jokes on them and not on me anymore.”
“Wow! You´re quite thick-skinned, Aisha! I would never be able to handle nosey-parkers the way you do. How do you do it?” , Diana said.
“I simply follow my God´s footsteps – Salman Khan. We are born virgins and will die virgins.”
“Don´t tell me you give them this answer.”
Aisha grinned like an evil cheshire cat.
“Hats off to you, ya Aisha! You rose from like the phoenix from the ashes. I still remember how depressed you were when the wedding was called off at the nth hour. That b/&%#”d! His nerve to dump you after leading you on…”, said Ira.
“You were honest and came clean. Instead of being appreciative of that fact, he had the nerve to shame you in front of the world. Not done! Ira is right. Wajid was one manipulative b#”%&/$d. He didn´t deserve you.”, added Diana.
“Thank God for my honesty! If not for that, I would have been married to him by now and birthed more jerks like him in the world.”
Aisha was 24 years when her parents were scouting for prospective grooms for her. Aisha was not sure about marriage especially after a bitter break-up from Irfan, her boyfriend for four years. Having been in a long-term relationship. she was not ready to get into another one. Owing to family pressure, she agreed to talk to Wajid who was working in Dubai. Wajid knew that Aisha had a boyfriend in college and he seemed fine with it. They corresponded for 3 months via phone calls and Skype. They discussed marriage, kids and their dreams. Wajid seemed like ´Mr.Right´ and Aisha was looking forward to being his wife. Wajid was a gentleman who occasionally showed his naughty side. He´d tease her about their first night and honeymoon and she would blush. It was only ten days from now when Wajid would come to Lucknow to meet her. One night, Wajid was in a different zone altogether. He started talked dirty to Aisha. Aisha didn´t mind as they were anyway going to be husband and wife. In her heart, she had already accepted Wajid to be hers. He started talking about porn and all the things he wanted to do to her that they did in those movies. When Wajid prodded further, Aisha felt comfortable to open up about her sexual adventures in the past. This didn´t digest well for Wajid.
Aisha was confused. Didn´t she tell him at the start about Irfan? Wajid didn´t think it would go to the extent that Aisha had confessed. Aisha was shocked that this was the same guy who she was corresponding with all this time. She wanted to marry someone who she could open up to without being judged. Someone who would love and understand the grey areas in her life. Wajid didn´t want a non-virgin for his bride and said he couldn´t do this to his parents. He called Aisha´s parents and told them that he was calling off the match because of Aisha´s bad reputation. In a closed community like theirs, word quickly spread about Aisha´s sexual trysts. Aisha went into a state of depression.
It was only Ira and Diana who understood her plight and encouraged her to move on in life on her own terms. Aisha spoke to her parents about how she didn´t want to think of marriage for sometime. Ever since, her focus had been on her career as an investment banker. Of course, they were men that she dated but none whom she wanted to marry. She didn´t feel the need for a man to complete her life. She was happy the way she was! Since the last decade, she has been living in with Zayed who was a divorcee. They didn´t feel the need to sanctify their relationship with marriage.
“ Ira! Looking at the way you were in high school, no one would have predicted this drastic make-over of yours.”, said Aisha shifting the focus from her.
“Hahaha! I know but you two always knew about me. How much I despised wearing those oiled pig-tails and being told to dress in a certain way. It was never me. My family was always trying so hard to mould me in that ideal Brahmin girl mould.”
“But, you are still a Brahmin at heart.”, Diana said.
“Of course! Always was, am and will always be proud of my roots. But, I am an individual as well and I have my own thought process.”
“Hahaha! I still remember how locked horns with the temple´s head priest.”, said Aisha.
“Oh yeah! He told me to cover up as I was not decently dressed for the temple. C´mon yaar! I know for a fact that the Gods are least bothered about my dressing but these dictatorial temple priests and their lofty rules…..sigh! ”
“But, you still got your way.”, said Aisha.
“Of course, I did! I never lose a fight, Missy! No one was going to stop me from entering the altar and worshipping the Gods. Geez, that temple had semi-nude women and Goddessess as paintings and sculptures in various provocative postures and angles.”
“You were always so spunky! Always your mother´s worry and father´s pet!”, Diana said.
“True! Had it not been for my father who gave me wings to soar, I would not have come this far.”
“You were always the apple of his eye.”
“Absolutely! He shielded me from all the barbs from my grandparents and the elders in the family. My mother was more concerned about how I would be perceived within our orthodox community. She was often held responsible for raising me up so poorly.”
“But your father couldn’t care any less about those wagging tongues.”, said Aisha.
“I couldn´t have asked for a better dad. You know my mother would always check me for my peeking bra straps or showing off my cleavage. But, my father just let me be.”
“You got away with everything with your father´s support.”
“Hahahah….Well, he knew that I was a responsible child. An achiever in whatever I did! He knew that I was proud of my body and liked flaunting it. He knew how happy I was in my womanhood and I wasn´t ashamed of any aspect of it. Why should anyone be!”
“He supported you through-out our divorce proceeding with Karthik too.”
“Yes, that was a big one! Karthik was a blunder. I didn´t know at that point of time that marrying a man meant marrying his entire family. I met him at the gym and when he proposed, I readily accepted. Only to regret it within two months of our marriage! It was so stifling living in his house with his parents. And, he never had the spine to stand up to them and tell them to leave her alone. He chose the easier way out and that was to clip my wings. I walked out of that marriage before it was too late.”
“Your father raised the bar for you.” , said Aisha.
“Absolutely! Because I´ve known good men like him from the start, I couldn´t settle for any less.”
“You studied further and worked in reputed multinational companies where you held managerial positions.” Diana said.
“That was a fantastic phase in my life. And then, I met Kaito, my Japanese boss and we fell in love. Like my Dad, Kaito loved me who I am. He loved my body, mind and spirit. Of course, I was ´head over heels´ in love with him as well.”
“Your Shinto-style Japanese wedding was so beautiful – the serene temple shrine, San San Ku Do, and the offering at the Sakaki tree. You looked like a dream in your white bridal kimono and uchikake for the reception later. I still have my mizuhiki preserved from your wedding.” , said Diana.
“Yes, I realised that our cultures had so much in common. It felt like a Brahmin wedding in new bottle. Life´s been good. I can never thank God enough for the good men in my life – my father, husband and my twin boys. By the way, Diana was the Cinderella in our group. Always waiting for Prince Charming to waltz into her life.”
“Well, see my life is a living proof that fairy tales do exist.”
“Of course, my darling! Keith´s a fantastic guy even though I never approved of him at the start.” , said Ira.
“I knew from day one that Keith was the one for me. I couldn´t have asked for a more loving, caring and attentive partner. Keith made my life beautiful. A die-hard romantic like me. We loved listening to slow romantic songs with meaningful lyrics, celebrating every small event in our life….I miss him so much. I still remember his proposal when he went down on his knees in front of strangers at a restaurant and asked me to marry him. I was embarrassed and over the moon at the same time.”
“He was proud to have you by his side.”, said Aisha.
“Yes, he was and so was I! I cannot forget that look just before his death. More than himself, he was worried and anxious about our future. But, God´s been very kind on us. I have no complaints except the fact that my home is an empty nest now. With Keith no more and Rachel studying in Finland, it gets lonely at times. Sigh!”
The music was pumping louder now. Aisha pulled Ira and Diana towards her to join her in dancing. They requested the DJ to play the hits from the 70´s and 80´s. Throwing their hands up the air, they danced and sang simultaneously to songs like D.I.S.C.O., Dum Maro Dum, Girls just wanna have fun, Aao Twist Karein, Laila Main Laila and more.
“We should make this our annual tradition.”, said Diana amidst the thumping music.
Ira and Aisha flashed a thumbs-up in unison and the three drunk friends continued dancing their way to sunshine.