If there was ever a girl who loved style, it was Reva. Her clothes, shoes and accessories were always perfectly matched as she gallivanted around at college. Her face would have minimal make-up but then her skin was blemishless and perfect, evidently well — taken care of. Her nails would be long and curved, painted with colours and designs even as others simply blunted their growing nails. She loved fashion, just because it was fashionable. It was never an attempt of showing off to hide insecurities, or maybe making heads turn to bolster her ego, it was the purest love that drove her to be stylish.

She was a simple girl, as simple as adults could be in a convoluted world. Her likes and dislikes may have been clear, just as she knew her heart, but who knows what the heart knows and why. She loved her friends, who enjoyed the cheerful bubbly company of Reva. Her concern at other’s distress and attempts to solve even the smallest of problems which did not need solving were simply what her heart dictated. College friends like any other group of human beings are capable of fondness as well as incredible cruelty and Reva was often laughed at, and less respected for who she was.

In her trueness, she was also in love. The person of interest was definitely in love with her too, but that was evident only partially, only sometimes. For the rest of the days, he was an absent force, as he chose priorities that did not include Reva. Why did he never call, we asked. “He does not enjoy talking over the phone much”. Why is he not choosing a career which will allow Reva to work too, we wondered. “He is passionate about … it is his life and I must adjust to it. Reva’s answers were always devoted to her beloved, almost like the mythical Meera praising Krishna who would never be hers.

Simplicity is often mistaken for foolishness, especially where the latter trait is predominant. Yet Reva was not stupid. She knew the consequences of her devotion which were contrary to the empowered feminists of our college. When the empowered women asked her “why are you wasting your time with this loser? Instead of planning your life around him when you should be planning yours?”, Reva merely smiled. Then were her friends who were believers of the Golden Mean. ‘Marriage’, they proclaimed, ‘is a matter of mutual understanding and compromise’. Clearly when this guy does not care about your life and needs, why are you running after him, they insinuated. It was almost a crime, pardonable in the lower uneducated village bumpkins, but completely unbecoming of Reva.

Reva had her moment of doubt too, which she confided in me, since she sensed a little less criticism underlying. Am I really throwing away me life, she wondered? There are so many ideas I have, and am capable to working on, am I being foolish in sacrificing them all? There was little to comment or clarify, she knew the answers as well as the questions. Yet she never acted on them. It required too much courage perhaps? Or perhaps it was not the courageous decision, to follow her heart would be mark of true bravery.

College ended. Towards the end, it had become impossible to keep track of Reva’s fights and break-ups with her guy. One day they would decide to separate, and the next they would be together, proclaiming eternal love which would overcome all differences. It was becoming too complicated and messy. We kept reassuring her that all would work out well, and proximity would ease the strain of a long distance relationship. Things would work out when they were in the same city. In our hearts we prayed for the final break-up to happen as soon as possible.

The funny part of being in love is that one grows to accept pain. Similar behaviour from a stranger does not elicit as much pain because there is far less longing. In love one begins to accept that the path of being together is deeply inter-twined with severe pain. So much so that one even begins to ignore its impact. After all, pain is our body and our mind’s way to communicate that something untoward is on, so that we are able to address it and relieve ourselves of pain. Alas, lovers never have that luxury. They are doomed to pain, till they begin to love it. And that’s where Reva was headed.

Time flies at its own pace, and perhaps only mocks the pain of lovers. As the calendar pages flipped, we settled down in different cities and began earning our living. Reva was still with that guy, we commented or heard in a get-together of friends. The magic of distance moulded the impression of her life and we almost began to believe by telling ourselves that everything would work out great since they were now in the same city.

The marriage came as a surprise. Deep in our hearts, it was more of a shock than a surprise, a reminder of an unpleasant truth which had popped out. We saw the pictures on facebook, she looked just the same, yet glowing in the bridal attire. The dancing, the mehndi, the garlands, the pheras, the celebrations were picture perfect. No money or efforts had been spared for a beautiful marriage. Of course the unpleasantness of dowry discussions, or gifts, or pointless squabbles never show, the photos are our way of remembering things as they should have happened.

The warning signs were evident throughout. There was no honeymoon since the guy had no time and was off on training. Reva was welcomed in the in-laws house, an outsider to be treated with care in a small town, while the husband paid occasional visits.

I met her a few days ago. She had changed so much. She narrated that there was one beauty parlour in the whole area and going there was strictly taboo. So was painting her nails or wearing make-up. Except for salwar kameezes and sarees she was not allowed to wear anything else. Of course she was loved by her in-laws, but were finally answerable to the society they had lived in for so many years. Her husband loved her very much too and often defended her say, when he came home. In his infrequent trips, said her furtive glance. I have been waking up at 5 in the morning to cook and clean since there are no maids at home. I tried to put on my most encouraging face. To tell myself that Reva chose this, and one should be happy for one’s choice. Isn’t that what empowerment was about — to be able to choose in one’s life and then live by those choices? ‘I have spoken to him about moving to a different town where we can live the way we want to, maids, travel et al. He doesn’t want to leave his parents alone, but still he is thinking about it because he loves me so much. Once we move, things will be good and we will settle.’ Eternal hope, the elixir that we all wish to find was always abundant with Reva. I hugged her tightly and wished her all the happiness that the stars could bring.

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