Editor: Read Chapter XLVII here.
Rajesh’s wedding took place in Kochi inside a wedding hall which comfortably seated over a thousand people. It was sweltering hot outside, as might be expected in Kerala in mid-April, but those attending the wedding hardly noticed the heat inside the hall which was air-conditioned.
Anjali was resplendent in a red saree and lots of gold jewellery while Rajesh wore a simple white shirt and a traditional mundu, with a silk border. The family priest led the couple in prayer, which lasted a few minutes. Then Rajesh tied a thali around Anjali’s neck, followed by an exchange of garlands. Before guests from outside Kerala could catch on to what was happening, the ceremony, which was as brief as is customary for Keralite weddings, was over.
Rajesh’s father arrived at the wedding hall barely ten minutes before the wedding ceremony began and he remained unnoticed until after the ceremony was over. Rajesh was in a way relieved when his father made his way to the dais and slapped him on his back as if he were totally responsible for bringing him up. Rajesh’s mother gave him a polite smile and his uncle ignored him.
‘Rajesh must have told you about me, right?’ he demanded of Anjali.
‘Of course Father, he has.’
‘Are you still in Calcutta?’ a relative asked.
‘It’s Kolkata. Of course, where else would I be? I’m coming straight from Kolkata.’
There was an embarrassed silence and Rajesh’s father said ‘I need to go out for a smoke. I will be back soon.’
‘As if he came all the way here to have a smoke!’ There were more muttered comments and muffled laughter from the family and Rajesh ignored them. For him, his father’s presence had ticked a box and he gave Anjali a defiant look. Anjali realised that she would be wasting her time if she tried to bring father and son together.
Rajesh’s father never returned to the wedding hall and Rajesh did not see him again for a long, long time.
As if to make up for the simple ceremony, the feast which followed was very lavish. There were so many types of tasty dishes and everyone ate to their hearts’ content. Inspector Makarand, Ashok, Guna and a number of officers from Gadchiroli had also made it to the wedding. Makarand joked that Etayya had sought permission to attend, but his request was turned down and he had been shifted back to Nagpur, where Teji, Holambe and the other two Maoists who had gone to Mumbai to attack Tarun’s flat were being held.
‘Any chance of Etayya cooperating with the police? He just needs to persuade a few Maoists to surrender and he’d be a hero. We could give him an early release and…’
‘No chance of any of that happening,’ Inspector Makarand informed Rajesh. ‘No one is even trying to persuade Etayya.’
‘It’s a pity he got nothing in return for having persuaded Teji to surrender.’
‘Well, he is no longer being beaten or abused. He is just a regular convict in Nagpur, though he is kept with other dangerous criminals who might want to escape.’ Rajesh shrugged his surrender and turned his mind to more pleasant matters.
While Rajesh was marrying Anjali, a couple in Nizhny Novgorod who had started living together recently were also celebrating. A few hours after Rajesh’s wedding ceremony was over, three people went out for dinner at the best restaurant in Nizhny Novogrod. Sergei wore his best suit and Yaroslav’s widow had her best dress on. Yaroslav’s son wore his most comfortable pair of jeans, which was torn at the knees and a sweatshirt which was equally comfortable, though a bit smelly.
A week earlier, Sergei had received eight million roubles for the GPS Tracker and the photos from the SVR. Since Sergei had sold his flat and moved in with Yaroslav’s widow and son, there was no need to split the money as would have happened if Yaroslav were alive.
Of the two couples, Rajesh and Anjali were the happier ones, since Yaroslav’s memory still lingered over Sergei and his new partner. That evening Rajesh’s father-in-law asked him about his future plans. ‘I haven’t decided yet,’ Rajesh answered.
‘There’s no hurry,’ his father-in-law quickly said.
‘Anjali has a good job, doesn’t she?’ Anjali’s mother piped in.
‘Yes. I think I’ll learn to cook. And then there’s the Airtel Half Marathon, that’s usually in November. I’ll start my morning runs once I am in Delhi and with luck I’ll do the half marathon in less than two hours. After the Airtel run, there’ll be the Mumbai Marathon in January, that’s a full marathon and I should be able to run that in under four I hope.’
‘By that time, you will find something useful to do, I am sure,’ Anjali’s father said with a forced smile and Rajesh quickly nodded.
Featured Image (Cover): Nisha Joseph
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