VALENTINE DAY • by Madhumita Gupta

It was the Valentine day.

Had I been in my senses I wouldn’t have dared to do it, but then love is said to blunt your senses, isn’t it?

It was Namita’s well-known voice, from an unknown number. Her friend’s, I’d learnt later, as her own privileges had been taken away.

Not unnaturally, Namita was hesitant and I, insistent. And she gave in, as she usually does.

She had her say about the venue though, far from the suspicious eyes of her father and uncle. We’d been unfortunate enough to have been seen by them the past month, which had resulted in Namita being grounded for the entire month.

It was so appropriate that we were meeting again after that on the Valentine day.

It had to be the Rose Garden.

I took special care with my hair that day and wore a sky blue shirt with a white collar, Namita’s favorite and also a ‘photographer’s color’ as I’d been told. I remembered to take along a bouquet of fourteen roses — one each for each month since we’d first met.

We were to reach there separately — she, on her friend’s purple scooty and I, on my red bike.

Unlike always, I arrived first. I waited, breath bated, at Gate No. 7.

Would she come?

Minutes passed like eons. And then I saw the pink scarf, which I’d given to her on her birthday last year, fluttering on the scooty.

She smiled and I found myself smiling back, breathing again. I admit I had been worried — what if she got cold feet at the nth hour. But I was relieved and encouraged by the delighted smile lighting up her dusky face, a secret excitement lurking behind the evident happiness at our meeting.

I had just handed her the bouquet when all of a sudden we were surrounded by a group of sturdy-looking men, all wearing saffron head-cloths.

“Young rascal!” One of them with a fierce, bushy moustache smacked my back.

“Giving a bad name to our culture! We’ll teach you what Valentine Day is all about!” Another one held my hand in an iron grip.

“Come along, hurry!” The third pushed me.

We were herded into a small temple. Ten other couples were there. With one similarity — all of them looked equally sheepish. Behind them, with their camera crews, were the guys from numerous news channels. All of them beside themselves with joy, evidently unable to believe their luck at getting such a marvelous scoop.

“We have an eminent lawyer, Mr. M. Singhvi, here; let us ask him,” crooned a reporter happily, thrusting a mike at a black-coat. “Sir, will these marriages be called legal?”

“Well,” Black-coat puffed up like a stuffed pigeon, “these are being performed according to the Hindu rites and well according to the Law…” The upshot of the long harangue was that these weddings were legally airtight.

And thus I was married.

We were married.

We had been forcibly married in front of the whole world. There was nothing anybody could do about it. No father, no pompous uncle could do a damn thing now!

Later that evening I handed over the pre-decided amount — a fraction of what a wedding costs — to Raghu Dada, the benevolent heart behind the formidable moustaches — the local leader of the Hanuman Sena — the self-professed protectors of Hindu Culture.

Namita wasn’t the only reason I’d taken special care with my appearance that morning! Raghu Dada had promised the TV crews too, you see.

Love ‘blunts’ your senses? Nah!

Madhumita Gupta is a mother, writer, teacher — in that order! Writing is her first love, ever since she learnt her alphabets. Apart from that, she’s been trying to share what she knows through teaching!

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Every Day Fiction