Loosely based on Bindu’s own personal experiences, A Nice, Doctor Son is about the heartbreak of losing your first love, the importance of giving love a second chance, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, the 3rd time will be the charm.
A Nice, Doctor Son (Excerpt Three)
He was engaged.
For a moment, my mind reeled. Had he misspoken? Surely, he meant to say, I want to be engaged to you. I waited for him to correct what he said. But he didn’t. He looked at me, waiting for the words to sink in. But I just stared at him and repeated his words, “You’re engaged?”
“Sarai…I’m engaged…to Sandiya.”
Just like that. It was that simple. No, Sarai, I’m engaged and I’m sorry. No, Sarai, I’m engaged, but I still love you. No, nothing…but a simple—I’m engaged. As if he were asking me, “and how was your summer?”
I looked at him incredulously, the words taking only seconds to sink in. Now I may have had my tendencies to live in denial. But when the truth is front of me, staring me straight in the eyes, telling me that he now belongs to another, that tendency to be in denial is no longer an option.
“Engaged?” I asked, my voice belied of a calm that I did not feel. It was someone else’s voice. For my voice wanted to immediately scream that this was not possible. That we were the ones supposed to get married. That I had known it from the first time we met, I had fallen in love with him, hopelessly…deeply…forever…once upon a time…happily ever after. That was supposed to be our story, too.
“I got engaged in India,” he said.
“Engaged?” I croaked out again. This time my voice was raspy, almost hoarse, as I asked, “How is that possible?” My eyes settled on my hand that still lay rested on his shirt, against his heart. His hand still covered my hand and tightened.
“It wasn’t planned…I swear…it was…well, you know they’ve been pressuring me for a while. And I made them promise to leave me alone about it while we were in India. And then we were there. And my father got sick…very sick. Sarai, we all thought he was going to die. He thought he was going to die. And he even had one dying wish…
“To see you married…” I said as I fought waves of nausea.
“Yes, to see me married…”
Unbelievable. I wondered if his family had even staged it. I had seen that in an Indian movie once. The family was so desperate to force a marriage that the father had faked a heart attack. But wait! They weren’t married. They were engaged. He could break off the engagement. That didn’t sound so bad. It was fixable. A hurried promise made in a time of duress. It was excusable, right?
“Take it back,” I said, simply. The solution was evident. Just say no…like to drugs…don’t fight it…don’t justify it…just say no. They couldn’t make him get married like that.
“Sarai, I can’t take it back. Our whole family was there at the ceremony. I think my getting engaged helped my father to recover.”
“You can take it back. You were basically forced,” I said emphatically. Why wasn’t he cooperating? Why wasn’t he thinking of solutions to get out of this? He couldn’t be with this girl. Whoever she was. That was NOT an option.
“Tell the girl you can’t marry her…tell her about me…she’d understand…she wouldn’t want you if you were in love with someone else.”
“Sandiya…” he supplied.
“Tell the girl…” I repeated. I refused to say her name. I couldn’t say it.
“But they’d understand…you don’t love her…you love me…right? Right?!! You just have to tell them. They can’t force you. This isn’t the Middle Ages. This isn’t India fifty years ago. This is America. You have rights! You have the right to fall in love with whomever you want. The right to chose whomever you want.” I pleaded desperately.
But he just shook his head. “Sarai…I can’t.”
What he did he mean he can’t? Every solution, he was shooting it down. He wasn’t even trying to get out of out it. He didn’t want out of it, I realized. Did he want to be with this girl?
“Do you love her?” I asked, hating myself for even voicing that. I don’t think I could bear it if he said yes.
“No! No—how could I love her…I don’t even know her.” I was relieved to hear that because that meant he would never marry her. But the next words killed that momentary victory. ”But I could grow to love her…”
“I don’t understand,” I said shaking my head, mumbling it over and over. Tears were beginning to stream down my face, and I could feel a raw lump developing in my throat. I sat down on the picnic table and then looked up at this person whom I loved and whom I thought loved me back. “What changed? This was just supposed to be a vacation—you promised me that you had no intention of giving into your parents’ pressures for marriage!”
He said nothing and just looked down at me apologetically again. Was he feeling sorry for me, I wondered? Where were his tears? Why wasn’t he torn up about this? My heart ached….my stomach was nauseous…I was fighting a losing battle with the hysteria that building up within me. I was feeling like my life was over. And there he was, just giving me his sad, apologetic puppy dog eyes. Pitying me. I didn’t want his pity. I wanted his love. How could things have changed so quickly? What happened in India? How had they brainwashed him? Where did the love go? How could 3 months have changed 5 years of what we had built? I shook my head. I just didn’t get it.
“What changed, Armaan….really…I need to know. What changed?”
“I don’t know, Sarai…I don’t know…” He shook his head and then looked at me helplessly. “It just got too hard, Sarai. It just got too hard.”
“That’s it?!” I asked, hysterically, my arms flailing like a madwoman. “I gave you 5 years of my life, and all I get is a ‘it got too hard.’ I’d like to know when it all got too hard…because I thought we were happy, that everything was fine.”
“It was…we were…but, Sarai, when I was in India…I have a huge family. They would never accept you, and your family would never accept me. And you know family is everything to me. What about our kids? How would we raise them? Hindu or Christian?”
“We’d figure it out…because that’s what people do when they love each other. They figure it out. They don’t just find someone else to marry just because it’s easier. They stick it out with the one they love. And they figure– it– out,” I said, almost biting the words out. But inside, I knew the answer. He knew the answer. I would have raised them Christian.
“Sarai, I want to raise my kids as Hindu. I love my religion. It’s a part of who I am. It’s a part of my family. And they are a part of me. You’d never allow it—for you, it would only be them going to your church, believing in only your god.”
I resented him implying that I was close-minded. “You don’t even practice your faith! I truly believe mine. For me, Faith isn’t my preference…it isn’t tradition. It isn’t even culture. It’s what I truly believe to be the truth. I can’t change that as much as I can change the fact that gravity exists or that the sky is blue.”
We had had this argument before. In fact, it was truly the only time we ever did fight about anything. It was the one thing I was unwilling to compromise on, and he always seemed to acquiesce. Apparently, I was wrong. He had never given in. And now he had just given up.
Having him break up with me was devastating, but having him break up with me while also telling me he was engaged to another woman was almost more than I could bear. There would be no chance of reconciliation. No breaking up and then getting back together. It was over. Just like that. That simple. For him. But for me, I would be recovering from him for the rest of my life. I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned. I didn’t trust myself to have loved someone so blindly. And worse, I just felt empty. Empty with the void that he once filled.
“Sarai,” he said, pleading with me to understand. “You don’t know how hard it was for me there…my father was sick. I thought he was on his deathbed. I thought I could do something to save him, and I did. If I told him about you, he would have died right there. I would have killed him. And then I could never forgive myself, and my mother would hate me for life as well.”
“But your father is fine now…just tell him about us, and they’ll understand.”
He shook his head, “It’s not that simple. Promises were made. My family is obligated to keep them. Our family name and reputation is at stake.”
“What are they going to do? Arrest you?” I realized I was fighting a losing battle. God! What was I hearing? I couldn’t believe he was seriously considering this. I wanted to shake the sense back into him. How could he let go of our love like this? I could never, ever consider anyone else. I looked at him, standing there on the bridge and just shook my head.
“God! Things happened so fast…” he said, pacing back and forth again, running his fingers through his hair. He looked at me desperately “Please believe me—I never meant to hurt you.”
I didn’t understand what the confusion was. ”Just get out of it, Armaan.” I looked at him matter-of-factly.
”I can’t Sarai…”
“Just tell them you can’t go through with it!”
He said it again, this time more slowly, “I can’t, Sarai….”
“So you really are going to go through with it?”
“It’s done. I can’t go back on it. My family would be shamed. And I can’t do that to them. Sandiya deserves better.”
Sandiya deserves better? Sandiya deserves better? “Oh, you can’t hurt someone you barely know, but you can do it to me, the very woman you professed to have loved for the last 5 ½ years?” I asked accusingly.
“I know you won’t understand now, but one day you’ll thank me. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I think this is for the best.”
I looked at him like he was crazy. “For the best? How is this for the best? We date for several years, and you break up with me out of nowhere, and somehow that’s for the best? Why didn’t you realize this was the best when you first asked me out? In fact, why the heck did you stay with me for so long anyway?”
His eyes were filled with apology, but I saw nothing that indicated he was in agony like I was over his decision. I continued trying to convince him. “Why should you have to grow to love anyone? Can’t it just be there…from the beginning….like it was for us?”
“It would never work, Sarai. Who are we kidding? You would never go to temple with me. Neither of our parents would ever really accept it. My parents like you, but they’d never accept you as my wife. And your parents would never accept me. Hell, you haven’t even introduced me to them!” he said, looking at me like I was the one who had hurt him.
“How could you say that? I told you I just need the right time to tell them…” I said, my voice no more than a whisper.
“In five years you haven’t found the ‘right’ time!” he said accusingly. He then softened his voice, “Don’t you see, Sarai, if you can’t even tell them about us dating, then maybe this is just wrong.”
I looked at him. His beautiful face. The face I thought I would look at for the rest of my life. The one that made me believe that anything was possible. In our Indian culture, an engagement was almost as official as a wedding. Although it could technically be broken, I knew by looking at him that somehow, between the time he had left me to his return, something had changed. I had lost him. He had made his decision to follow his family’s wishes, and no matter what I said, he would not break it his engagement. He wanted to be with this girl, and he no longer wanted to be with me.
Almost on cue, the sky crackled and rumbled, echoing the discontent, turmoil I felt. Huge droplets of rain started falling at first, and then a deluge of rain followed. My soft, flowing, perfectly blow dried hair was a matted, tangled mess in seconds. I hadn’t expected the slight scent of summer rain to turn into a torrent of lashing wind and pouring rain, but I didn’t care that my hair and my dress were now plastered to me and that I probably looked as attractive as a wet, drowning rat. I stared at him through the rain, endlessly hurt and shocked as I tried my best to digest the moment. I stared at his face, begging with him to change with every fiber of my being, but he just looked at me with apology and pity in his eyes. I shook my head again, feeling utterly defeated. It was over.
It could have such a romantic night…like in the movie Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai…love birds caught in a beautiful summer storm, something right out of a Bollywood film I had come to love, but our Bollywood story had now reached its abrupt, tragic, and very unfair ending. The playful prancing of innocent lovers in the rain was over. Every true love story had an untimely tragic element, and unfortunately, even though I thought I was the star, I ended up being the casualty. It was like the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai where the seemingly main character dies, and by the end of the movie, the “hero” ends up with the secondary character.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” he said, reaching for my arm.
I shirked away from his touch as if he had just burned me. ”No!” I yelled out, my voice drowning against the loud sound of falling rain. “Just leave me alone. I’ll walk,” I said as I started following the path out of the park towards the main entrance.
”Quit being stubborn, Sarai. I’ll take you home. You’ll get sick out here like this. It’s getting cold and you’re going to end up with bronchitis or pneumonia!” He reached out for my hand but I once again pushed his hands away and stepped out of his reach.
As I walked away, I paused and looked back at him. He was a stranger to me. I didn’t know this person. He couldn’t be the same guy with whom I had just spent the past 5 1/2 years. With my teeth were chattering again the cold rain, I said, “Y-y-y-you have no r-r-r-rights over me! Y-y-y-you gave away that right when you became engaged to another w-w-w-woman-n-n.”
He wanted to argue with me, but he knew I was right….just as I knew it was over between us. Sometimes I would look back at this moment, wondering if there was something I could have said…something I could have done that would have changed his mind. But at that moment, I knew what it took me weeks, months, and years to realize over and over again—that our relationship was truly and irrevocably over.
So he followed me in his car while I walked. A gentleman to the end. No, not a gentleman….because a gentleman would never break the heart of a woman he purported to love. A gentleman would never get engaged to someone while still dating someone else.
But I didn’t go home. In the cold rain, with teeth chattering and in a drenched sundress and cardigan, I walked the half mile back to my subdivision, past my house and two streets down and took another right, a left, and another left— straight to Reena’s home. I walked past her shocked mother who answered the door, right up the stairs to Reena’s bedroom and collapsed on her bed like a rag doll while she tried to comfort me. But how do you comfort someone who’s inconsolable?
For most of my life, I have been a writer in one form or another. Through high school and college, I worked on and contributed to the school literary magazines as well as the school newspaper. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in English and Mass Media and a Master of Arts in English Literature with a specialization in technical writing, I have been working for the past 15 years as a business analyst/technical writer in various fields, from IT to healthcare. While I have written a few short stories, A Nice, Doctor Son is my first novel.