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  • "Hi".
    All she could think was how she felt the word was overrated, and the argument that ensued. Since then, he had always irritated her with this monosyllable. Not one day passed without him greeting her for the sake of using this abomination.

    But this time, it had a different ring to it. She glanced at the clock. In the darkness, she could discern the shorter one pointing at 11.

    "What happened?"


    *****
    He glanced at the clock. He had blocked out the shorter hand out of sheer fear. The other one was tantalisingly close to 12.
    "How is that possible? It was 720 just 5 minutes ago"
    At that instant, he found deep respect for Mani. You could not explain how he made it to the office at eight everyday. But then, he was comparing himself to Mani. The being with which people know what time it is
    His neighbour:
    "Mani has started to work. Time must be 7 o clock"

    At the centre of respect lies incomprehension.
    He was late, and he had to put up with the sorry programme that was the morning news.
    "Chief minister arranges mass marriage"


    Instinctively, his mind turned off.


    It was supposed to be a day where he would be betrothed. But his thoughts were elsewhere. He was amused by the entire process.
    Nevertheless, he dragged himself. The house was beautiful, a city dweller's dream. Ritual didn't allow him to appreciate each brick that had gone into constructing this structure.
    Introductions. The obligatory jokes. The filter coffee. The date selection.

    At first he sensed discomfort. Then a murmur. Apparently the girl wanted to see him.
    He did not know what to expect, and his mind gradually waded into woman empowerment and its indelible mark in the society.
    It must be as if the gods had a sick sense of humor reading his thoughts.
    "I do not want to marry you. I am in love with this colleague of mine. My parents compelled me into this betrothal. Please..."
    "........"
    "... refuse to take my hand in marriage. It is the only way out"

    The tears certainly didn't help with the discomfort.
    Certainly will not look good when they come out of the room with him perplexed and her teary-eyed.
    The task ahead was immense.
    And his phone rang.
    He had a betrothal to break.


    He was quite involved with his preparedness. And the reverie The cacophony around him was his saving grace, but now that the news had ended, he could hear the rant quite clearly.

    "Adei! You are 32 now"
    "No no not now!"
    "You really...."
    "I cannot have this conversation now. Remember last time?"
    "I think I have found the perfect match"

    Such surety. He wanted to believe it
    "Evening then"

    *****

    The floral decorations were withering away.
    An unusually strong wind blew the petals inside the marriage hall. The air was an indistinguishable mix of panneer water, banana, betel leaves and burnt ghee.
    A visibly tired groom still in his attire greeting visitors politely but lacking the usual jovial attitude that defined him.
    A pensive father walked up to him

    "Any news?"
    "I have asked amma to talk to her colleagues and college friends. We should get something by tomorrow"
    "Forget it pa. This marriage is over. Even if we find her, it would be futile to call everybody again for a ceremony."
    "But, if we...."
    "Then the coward label will be stuck on her for a lifetime. Not worth it pa"
    "You go. I will take care of the attendees"


    He walked into his bedroom. He was too tired to see what he was doing to himself
    "If only I had found love...
    Have you ever seen yourself?
    still I could have tried.
    Hah! Do you remember yourself? In college?"

    Self pity is an absorbing feeling.

    Finally he arrived at the conclusion
    "You do not know anybody? what about her?"

    He didn't even look at the time.
    "Hi"
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