Sushil broke the silence. "I would prefer your informing your parents of our relationship and try their consent for our marriage. In my home my uncle and parents will not allow me to get married to my choice. My plan is to marry you without their knowledge and make an effort to convince them; if this does not work, I would stay away and lead my life."
"No. Sushil! That should never happen. Somehow we have to convince them despite their resistance. I don't believe in getting married without their blessings." When Shilpa returned home, much against her wish, only retired Col. Rajesh, her father opened the door. "Shilpa. You know what is the time now?" His gruff voice was more of a lion's roar.
"Dad I was with my friend all evening, watching a movie in the video. She just dropped me in the corner now". She was cool in her calibrated response to avoid any escalation of his toughness.
"The whole evening I was waiting for you. I wanted to talk to you something very important. I am now retired and my health is not good to depend upon for anything. It is my earnest desire to see that you are married before I die. My old friend Sharma who is now in Bangalore, was a long time associate to the old Maharajah of Mysore. He had been blessed with royal patronage including a big house, garden etc.. in Bangalore. He has only one son who is also well settled after an excellent education. For the sake of our old time friendship, Sharma is keen to have his son married to you. Even many years before we both had an understanding on this. He would be very happy to finalize it now. Yesterday, I happened to check his son's horescope along with yours; and they matched perfectly. This itself is a good sign and a providential direction for the wedding to take place. All that I need from you is your consent". Col. Rajesh's wishful look at Shilpa confirmed his eagerness for her positive response. Shilpa could not comprehend at the sudden turn of events.
"Dad! What is the urgency for my marriage now? I need some more time to think about this. I could understand your anxiety; but I am sure nothing will happen to you. You will celebrate my wedding before your lifetime; but, please do not commit anything to your friend now." Shilpa thought she had tentatively satisfied him with an option to work on her proposal later.
"Shilpa! We know at what time this has to take place. From your evasive response I could perceive your reluctance to my choice. I only hope that you don't have anything different and definite in your mind. I don't like to go back on my word to Mr. Sharma and that has to go through at all costs. I strongly believe in honoring commitments." Col. Rajesh was not in any mood to accept a negative response from her.
Though it was five years since his retirement from the Army Division, Col. Rajesh still wanted his home to be like a military regiment to ensure discipline. Nirupama had been a silent spectator since she stepped in Col. Rajesh's abode as his wife four decades before. She could maintain only silence on any issue as a trade-in for domestic peace. This time also, it was no different.
"Shilpa!. I am not happy with your answer. Whatever we do for you is always to your happiness and prosperity. Arranged marriages based on astrological match guarantee a balance of ups and downs in life, divided between the two through the pattern of planetary movements."
"Dad! I quite agree that whatever you do will always be for my happiness. I do not have any faith in the astrological approaches to life. I think I would prefer to leave the subject now without any further discussions." Shilpa stomped out of the room while the parents looked at her stubbornness with disappointment.
Presuming that the overnight would have changed the traditionalist to a cool head from the last evening's ideological war, she slowly came out of her room. "Good morning Dad." Shilpa was unpretentious in her greetings. "What is there for a good morning? Shilpa. I thought you are still the same young girl. I had high hopes that you would support me to honor my commitments. I don't mean to ask you something in return for all our sacrifices to provide you everything you wanted; you should also have some concern for us. I don't even like to know who is your choice; but I would certainly like to honor my commitment. If you are so ardent, you may have to marry your choice only over my dead body. I would not like to live with a stigma as a defaulter of my own commitment. You will also bear the blame for such a situation." As he finished these strong words, Shilpa saw him bursting into sobs and shedding tears. Sushil's telephone call interrupted her thoughts. When he enquired about the developments, Shilpa replied "My dad said that I could marry you only over his dead body."
The usual meeting venue in Juhu beach welcomed the young lovers. "Sushil! It is time for us to provide an alternate to our people to make them accept our proposal. Can you think of anything?"
"Shilpa! Your dad was referring to his death. I know he was using that trump card to get you on sentimental side so that you would agree for his proposal. Why not we use the same against him and in my home too? It is simple. We would just give our people a shock treatment of committing suicide. We would leave a note in either home to this effect. This would certainly create a sense of compassion for us and they would agree to our marriage proposal. I have a hunch that this would certainly work in our way. I don't mean that we should really commit suicide; but there should be a sort of deceptive realism in the whole scenario."
"In your home, I am sure on seeing the note, immediately your parents would call your close friend Preeti for details. We would brief her with our plan; she would tell them that both of us were planning to go to Juhu beach on that evening. Based on her reply they would rush to the beach. When we see them coming towards us, we would start our acting part of going into the sea to commit suicide. At that time they would stop us and agree to our proposal. Similarly, Ranjit, my friend would help us as the counterpart of Preeti for my home." They decided the next day evening as an auspicious time to execute their plan of suicide. Shilpa called Preeti from a payphone and informed her of the plan.. They were also happy to get a similar support from Ranjit.
As planned, Col. Rajesh went into his bedroom for the afternoon nap after his lunch. When she heard her father's snoring, she kept her suicide note under his gold-rimmed eye glasses so that he would not miss to see it. She called Sushil and informed the developments at her end. Sushil also confirmed things were working out in their favor in his home also.
She could feel the tears gathering in her eyes at her leaving them; she touched their feet and bid them farewell. She picked up her bag and quietly walked out of the home. At the end of the road, she joined Sushil.
It was already four in the evening when they arrived at the beach. Their usual place greeted them as usual. With a heavy overcast, they were apprehensive of a celestial intervention through heavy rains The relentless roar of the waves continued with more zest. It was already six in the evening. Shilpa and Sushil were exact in estimating their families' arrival in the beach. The blue car of Col. Rajesh entered the beach road followed by Verma's and stopped at the entrance of the beach; both the families got down and rushed towards the sea. Shilpa and Sushil moved swiftly into the sea to enact the suicide part.
"Shilpa! Stop. Don't do that. We are agreeable to your choice". She heard her parents' voices and Verma's, reaffirming their consent to them. The appeals were loud and clear as the families fastly approached towards them. By that time Sushil and Shilpa were in the sea. There was a torrential downpour. The couple was jubilant at finally accomplishing the elders' consent. Rejoicing their triumph, they were trudging to the shore. To their surprise, their ecstasy was short-lived, as the destiny had a different directive to them. Suddenly they were enveloped by a high surging wave from the sea. They struggled to redeem from it; but were overpowered and hauled to the mid-sea. Their cry for help could not be responded by the families due to persisted rain and powerful waves. Shilpa was dazed and fainted. Sushil held Shilpa strongly and continued his efforts to return to the shore. As he was totally exhausted, he was also fainted.
The nature's fury was at the peak. The raging sea responded violently through high surges It was an intense tragic scene with screams of sorrow by the families. The mockery suicide was turning into a real one. It was a tragedy when Sushil and Shilpa got their consent for their marriage, they would not be alive to lead the life. Both the families profoundly regretted their earlier demand of the pound of flesh from the young lovers which steered them to the tragic fate. There was absolutely no hope of the couple's survival. Having given up their hopes, the families, amidst heavy whimpering, bid farewell to their dear ones and started on their retreat.
Nirupama became hysterical at the departure. As a mother, she refused to accept Shilpa's end. Any amount of consolation to endure it as an act of fate, did not pacify her. She strongly believed that her husbands's inhuman and obstinate attitude were the main factors that impelled Shilpa to the tragedy. Her outwardly simple silence all these years was only an epitome of an inwardly built-in divine faith. Strangely, she was not giving up any hope of Shilpa's survival; she had immense faith on her reverence to the God. She strongly believed that her sincere prayers to Him to save her would certainly be answered at that critical hour.
As the families started to return, to their monumental surprise they witnessed a providential miracle happening before them. None of the family members believed it; but Nirupama believed that her prayers were finally answered by the Lord through the miracle. Her eyes were full of tears of joy. To everybody's surprise, from the mid sea, there appeared a raging tide which pushed Sushil and Shilpa alive to the shore.
When Sushil and Shilpa regained consciousness, they realized they were in a nursing home surrounded by relatives and friends. "Dad, I am sorry for all the confusion. I wanted to marry Sushil with your blessings. When I knew that was impossible due to your commitment, we thought at least in death we would be united. Now with your consent, I feel guilty that you would be failing in your commitment." Shilpa signaled Sushil with a sarcastic smile on the irony of her statement. "No. Shilpa. You are wrong. I would still honor my commitment to my friend. Sushil is none but the only son of my friend, Sharma.. I just came to know about that through his uncle when we were coming here." Verma smiled at both and nodded his affirmation of that relationship. Supporting this, the music of wedding bells from a nearby church promptly greeted them for their new life.