Praveena thought back to the conversation she had had with Ms Marrie. She wondered how their first conversation in school had been an eyeopener; Ms Marrie had said, “You’re not the only one with problems,” and Praveena had realized the truth in those words the first time she had understood Niveda’s problems. Now it was Ms Marrie. Everyone has problems, but not two people show it the same way as the other. She smiled to herself.
She understood at last. She felt she had changed a lot. Her attitude towards people had changed drastically; she was now wiser to other people’s dilemmas.
Praveena thought back to the day her mother had died. She thought of how she had felt, and realized she had been trying to blame her mother’s death on something or someone, just like Ms Marrie had had. She had been searching for a reason, any reason, to blame her mother’s cancer on. Perhaps it was her age, she thought, and her immature mind that had barred her from accepting it sooner. Once again, her exchange with Ms Marrie had changed her perceptions.
And she grew greedy for more.
Praveena took a sip of her orange juice. She was at the Green Leaf restaurant again. Following their meeting a couple of days ago, Praveena had wanted to meet Ms Marrie again. She had called Ms Marrie and they had agreed on another lunch. Ms Marrie too had been eager. What began as a way of clearing Praveena’s cluttered mind in school, was growing into a relationship that neither of them could name.
Praveena looked around the restaurant. It was a wet afternoon and as a way of complimenting the weather, the blinds were raised, letting nature’s dull light wade inside the restaurant in pride. Even though the dim light illuminated the inside of the restaurant, there was an unlit candle and a matchbox on each of the small round tables. Praveena admired the white candles on the scarlet tablecloths as Ms Marrie walked up to her.
Praveena smiled at her. Ms Marrie looked beautiful as ever. She wore a light brown cotton sari, a colour that matched Praveena’s tee shirt. Ms Marrie’s eyes looked content again, and joy radiated in her broad smile. She took her seat and they placed their orders.
“How’s your father, Praveena?” Ms Marrie asked as she ate.
“He’s fine, Miss.” Praveena answered, licking her fingers and trying to look decent at the same time. “He’s so busy with work nowadays.”
“Hmm…” Ms Marrie acknowledged as she continued to eat. “So,” she swallowed, “has he spoken of marriage yet?” she asked casually. As if she had known all along.
Praveena choked on her mouthful of rice. Ms Marrie offered her some water and she took it. Eyes watering, she asked, “How did you know?” She didn’t hide her surprise.
“Happens to a lot of girls, and most of them agree,” It was perhaps the first time Praveena had noticed a hint of disapproval in Ms Marrie’s voice. She held on to it. “It didn’t happen to you, though. Did it?” she asked, enviously.
“Oh, yes it did,” Ms Marrie almost laughed thinking about it.
“How did you handle it?” Praveena was now full of devotion for Ms Marrie.
Ms Marrie shrugged, “I told my parents that I would marry when I wanted to.” she said simply.
“And they were ok with that?” Praveena asked, disbelieving. It seemed like her father wasn’t the only super dad.
Ms Marrie nodded, “As long as you’re sure, your parents would never try to change your mind. They’d start believing in you.”
Praveena nodded. She understood why Kamal hadn’t objected; he believed in her.
Praveena told Ms Marrie everything about the marriage proposal, from her aunt to the phone conversation. She also told her about Kamal’s reaction to her request.
Ms Marrie listened without interrupting.
Once Praveena had finished her narrative, “So, you need some time,” Ms Marrie observed. “Do you say that on someone’s influence?” She paused, “Are you interested in someone?”
Praveena thought. Why didn’t she want to get married? “No,” she said after a while. Ms Marrie raised her eyebrows in a questioning look. “I want to figure out what I want to do with my life, before I commit to marriage.”
“Ok,” Ms Marrie said simply, “you’re fine.” She shrugged smiling.
Praveena smiled in return, a little doubtful.
They left the restaurant together. Praveena volunteered to accompany Ms Marrie to the bus stop. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and the streets were full of heavy vehicles. People traveled long to enjoy the weekend with their family. There weren’t too many pedestrians though. Praveena and Ms Marrie crossed the street cautiously and waited for the bus to arrive.
Praveena suddenly noticed a group of people huddling together some forty feet away. She pointed it out to Ms Marrie and the two of them approached the crowd.
When they reached the crowd, they saw a biker, injured badly and struggling to breathe. Praveena stood stunned. She didn’t know how to react. The man on the ground was writhing in pain. He was surrounded by a pool of warm blood and she could see the gash in his head. His bike was a few feet away from him, the hand bar lopsided and bent in an awkward angle.
Praveena stood horrified, looking at the man who now seemed to have lost his consciousness. She turned around and realized Ms Marrie was missing. Before she could react however, Ms Marrie appeared with a bottle of soda. As Praveena, along with the onlookers, watched in silence, Ms Marrie went over to the injured man, lifted his head on to her left hand and poured some of the liquid into the man’s mouth.
A minute or two later, the ambulance arrived. No one knew who had called the emergency ambulance service. They took the man in a stretcher and asked Ms Marrie to accompany them. Without a second thought, Ms Marrie went with them, pulling Praveena along.