“Am I in the engagement of Cinderella and her Prince?” was what I kept thinking as I entered Neela’s engagement hall. Best of everything was around – decoration, jewelry, music, food.
Neela and I grew up together amidst the lush greenery and palm-fringed beaches of Mangalore. Most cherished dream of Neela’s parents was, to get Neela married off to a prince in a princely fashion. When I entered my Master Degree my family moved to Bangalore. Neela did her masters at Mangalore. Soon she joined Infosys, Mangalore and I joined IBM, Bangalore.
Neela called me on Sunday July 16th 2006, “Vinnnnnnnnnnn!!! I found my Prince. We are getting engaged on 25th July.” I was delighted “Wow!! Congrats!!! Neelauuuuu!!”
“Engagment is at Hotel Oberoi, In Bangalore. I am all so excited. We will start from Mangalore on 24th July, early morning. Vin, you better be there before the event starts”.
“Sure Dear!! I will be there before you even wake up.”
On the day of her engagement, my car broke down; I made it late to her engagement. I knew I would get blasted. I headed straight to the stage to wish her. Held her hand and hugged her, wished her for a happy marriage. She felt cold, as though she had just walked out of a freezer. Her eyes seemed to be staring out into space.
“Neela, are you feeling good. You are all cold.”
“No Vin, I am fine.” “Vin, I am so very glad you came in. I wanted to meet you before we left.”
“Wow!! Neela your prince is handsome and you are looking gorgeous.”
She blushed and whispered, "He is mine forever."
I sat in the hall, watching the engagement. There was serenity on the face of Neela, her fiancée and their families, they all seemed to be staring into the space; there was no joy or laughter in the air. Very few guests were there and no relatives had come. Strange!! Something was not right; I couldn’t put my finger on it.
As I drove back home, my thoughts oscillated between Neela’s perfect engagement and the strange atmosphere there. I switched on the TV and casually picked the day’s newspaper. “All dead as the bus plunges on Amai Bridge” was the headline of a news article. As I read through the report, my hairs stood up, Neela and her entire family, her fiancée and his entire family had died on July 24th.
I get an eerie feeling when I think of it. They couldn’t depart form the earth without fulfilling, at least a part, of their desire, “Their daughter’s Engagement”.