Minu grew up in orthodox Jodhpur, one of three sisters. She was the tomboy of the family, with closely cropped hair and always dressed in jeans and t-shirts. She accentuated her boyishness with her speech and mannerisms too. She was the hero of her college group.
Her reputation as a karate expert thwarted many prospective advances from the boys in her college and made her one of them. It was well known that she did not believe in love and marriage. So it would take real courage to approach her on Valentine’s Day with a rose, which no one mustered in the first year.
One day as she was hanging out with her friends at the canteen, the topic moved to two boys, Ajay and Ritesh. A discussion followed on their relative merits and demerits. Minu kept completely out of it. So nothing could have been more amazing than when on the next day, she walked into college to find Ritesh waiting for her. He was there offering her his heart and asking her to be his life partner. This offer was made two more times before he left college. Minu got a little fed up of his overtures and decided to put an end to them.
On the day that he was to leave college for good, he once again approached her asking for her hand. She was infuriated. She accused him of being good for nothing and told him to go and make himself worthy of her before making such an offer. Ritesh turned and never looked back.
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Years later, Minu was ready for marriage. Her family began looking for a suitable groom for her. They travelled far and wide to meet families of prospective grooms, as well as entertaining several such families at home. It was on such a trip that Minu’s sister and mother went to Ajmer. Minu refused to accompany them, as she was getting increasingly tired of the whole charade of looking at boys.
She was out on a stroll when she ran into some of her college friends. Ajay greeted her and suddenly asked her how Ritesh was. She replied that she hadn’t met him in years and knew nothing about his whereabouts since his last day in college. What was more, she was not even curious. Ajay however said that she should know about him, since she was his girlfriend! Minu was shocked. She asked Ajay for Ritesh’s phone number. She wanted to put an end to these rumours immediately.
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She stormed into the house, dialled his number and started off on a tirade generously sprinkled with expletives. On the other end of the line there was silence. In one pause the voice at the other end enquired, “Are you Minu?” It did nothing to quell Minu’s anger and there was another outburst. She slammed the phone down when she had finished.
After half an hour Minu was still alone at home, but calmer. She was sure that she had put an end to the rumour. How could someone be so cheap to spread a rumour like that! She certainly had not expected something like that from Ritesh. And the cheek that Ajay had to ask her about Ritesh. Minu was churning these thoughts over when the phone rang. She picked it up without thinking. The voice at the other end of the line was unfamiliar. “Who’s this?” she asked. “Ritesh,” replied the voice. “I am sorry if I have hurt you. I did not spread the rumour. I just spoke to Ajay. He wanted me to face up to you, as I have been enquiring about you,” continued Ritesh. “Please don’t put the phone down. I will ask him to apologise to you, or whatever you say.” Minu listened. “Yes, he must,” she said after a while. “Where are you now?” she asked, curious. “Delhi,” he replied. “I am working for a bank here.”
“What did you do after college?” she asked. “Tried to make myself worthy of you,” he replied softly. Minu’s eyes filled with tears. She had completely forgotten that carelessly thrown remark.
Even Minu could not ignore such loyal devotion. When her mother returned, she asked her if she would consider a Punjabi groom. Another storm arose and then calmed. Ritesh was invited to meet Minu’s parents. Nothing in his demeanour could offend the Agrawals. Soon things were decided between his parents and Minu’s and a royal Rajasthani wedding was arranged for the eldest daughter of the family.
Love seems to strike the most unlikely ones. How else could you explain the coming together of Minu and Ritesh after 9 years? How else could a tomboy be changed to a willing bride?
(As told to Tulika Mukerjee Saha)