Posted: 01 August 2009 at 11:47am | IP Logged
Ritu. Ritz. Wonder what you are doing right now, thought Dev. It had been almost 6 months since he had returned to India for a short visit and had ended up staying forever.
He had been a carefree, on your face kinda guy, deliriously in love with Ritz, a fey-like being, especially made for him. He had promised Ritz that on his return from his 2 week visit, they would marry and buy that beautiful little home near Half Moon Bay.
He still remembered that day he had come home from the airport: He had found his father almost collapsing with the cancer eating him away silently. He could not believe the spry old man shrunk in his bed was his father who had a roar of a laughter and had made people stand when he entered a room by his sheer power that he emanated.
"Why didn't you tell me, Mom, Dad," he had ranted. "I would have come back sooner."
All Dad had said was, "Son, you are back. Good, now all will be well."
Mother was crying all over his shoulder. Dev had been devastated seeing her become a watering pot, needing all the support she could get from Dev. She was a shadow of her old gracious self, ever smiling and with a twinkle in her eyes.
She also shared with him the serious threat of losing the patrimony to the wastrel cousins- Susheel and his good-for-nothing son, Arjun. The way the inheritance was set up, if the current son abdicated his position as heir to Raj Prohit, then the next in line would be offered the position. Dev knew that Susheel uncle had been quietly awaiting this moment all his life.
Dev knew the immensity of the Raj Prohit position and the amount of work it involved and the range of people and their lives it impacted. During his vacations he had assisted dad on several small projects and he had interacted with several people in various sites administered by the Prohit Trust across the northern states from Rajasthan to Uttar Pradesh.
He had made that fateful call to Ritz that very evening and told her that he may have to postpone his return as all was not well with his father. Ritu had been most understanding, the dear girl.
When the wedding was fixed, he did not know how to break the news to her. Yet, he knew he owed it to her. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done. He had called her at home at the time she would have snuggled up in bed and had held the phone for several minutes not speaking a word with tears silently running down his cheeks.
" Dev, it is you, I know. Why are you crying? How is your dad doing? Hope he is alright. Speak Dev. What is the matter? Why are you silent. I know from the sound of your breathing that you are not okay," cried Ritz.
Dev just said, "Ritz...".
"Please, tell me what is troubling you. We can work it out together. Do you want me to come there? I just need to drive up to the City tomorrow and give my passport to the Consulate. I can fly out next week."
He found his voice and blurted out, "No Ritz. It is all over. Dad is terminally ill. I have to take over the entire function of the Prohit Trust and all that it entails. The position comes with a wife picked in the traditional way. Mother has already chosen a most suitable girl. I told her about you but you do not fit the definition of the perfect "Bahu".
It was now Ritz' turn to be silent. She could not believe it. She thought that she had heard wrong. Her Dev was to marry someone else? That could not be happening. Slowly reality seeped in and she hesitated, "Dev, are you saying that you need to marry some girl that you have never met? Are you never coming back here? Please tell me I heard wrong."
"No sweets, I will be marrying a girl whom I have never met before, next week. I wish, by some miracle that girl will be you. But, I know it is not going to happen. Our dream has ended. It is time for us to wake up."
Both had clung to their phones and cried silently into the night, for Ritz, and day, for Dev.
Dev shrugged off those old memories and stood up forcefully from his chair at work. The administrator from Varanasi said his traditional, "Namaste!" and left the room. The talk of the Vasant Ritu celebration had brought Ritu to mind. His Ritz.