Red Wine | Shorts [Fiction]

I first met Siddharth Kapoor on the 31st of December, 1999. We were at a New Year’s party organized by a mutual friend, and had somehow ended up standing side by side out on the balcony, drinking red wine. The night had ended with us dancing as we welcomed the new millennium, and by popular demand, we kissed at the stroke of midnight.

We were dating within a few weeks. He had the nicest eyes that echoed his deep, throaty laugh. Somehow, my new favourite hobby was to simply lie there by his side, listening to him talk.

Siddharth worked as an IT engineer in a reputed company in South Mumbai. I got to see him every other evening, and every weekend. We would often go on movie dates, or sit on Juhu beach. More than often, we would end up watching reruns of Friends in his Andheri apartment, eating takeaway food and making love.

On our third anniversary together, Siddharth asked me to marry him. We were sitting at a beach side restaurant in Goa, when he pulled out a ring just as our main course of lobster arrived. He told me that I had completed all of his dreams, and that any other dreams that he wanted to achieve henceforth would have to be with me beside him. It was the first time I had ever felt so overwhelmed, in the nicest, happiest kind of way. I had no reason to say no. He was perfect.

His parents arrived from Delhi the following week, so that they could meet mine. Both families fell in love almost immediately. My parents adored Siddharth as it is, and his parents thought the world of me. Our marriage was fixed for the 1st of November, 2003.

Time was flying. With weeks left for the wedding, I flew to Delhi with my best friend so that I could pick out my bridal clothes. Siddharth joined us later so he could choose a coordinated outfit with me. We chose wine red, simply because it bought back memories of the first drink we had shared together.

Three days before our wedding, Siddharth took a leave from his office. It was time for the wedding functions to start. I was promptly whisked away to my parent’s house in Malad. Haldi, sangeet, mehendi all flowed into one. Siddharth and I weren’t allowed to see each other until the wedding. I had to make do with listening to his resonating voice on the telephone, telling me how much he loved me, over and over again.

On the morning of November 1st 2003, I was woken up by my elder brother. He was shaking me by the shoulders. My sister-in-law was standing next to him, crying. Through gritted teeth, I was informed that Siddharth had had a bike accident. He had been driving back home from a friend’s house in the middle of the night.

I was rushed to the hospital. I watched Siddharth attached to an IV machine inside the intensive care unit. His face was puffy and swollen. His head was swathed in bandages. He was struggling to breathe. The doctors were allowed to put him on a ventilator.

I did not cry after seeing what I saw. I was confident Siddharth would make it through this. He was one of the strongest people I knew. He would make it through this.

The doctors allowed me to go inside the intensive care unit. Siddharth hadn’t regained consciousness yet. I sat on the chair next to his bed and held his warm hand. The henna on my hands nestled against the folds of his skin. I sat in the same position for an hour, until the nurse told me I had to leave. I realized I had been crying without actually being aware of it.

I hadn’t slept in the past 30 hours. Siddharth’s condition was declining. The doctors were doing everything they could.

On November the 3rd, at 2:30 am, Siddharth went into a cardiac arrest. I was in the hospital when it happened, sitting on the metal chair in the corridor. There was sudden panic, urgent calls, and then silence. I was watching it all through the glass window. My brother had to drag me away, as I kept muttering ‘no’ under my breath.

I was holding my brother’s hand in the funeral grounds in the evening. Siddharth’s father and brother lit his pyre on fire. I watched from afar. Everybody was crying, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t. Somehow, I expected Siddharth to still turn up out of nowhere, laughing and throwing paper planes at me.

My brother took me away to London so I could recover. Everybody thought I was going mad. I was behaving as though nothing had happened.

My psychiatrist in London told me I had to deal with the stress. I asked her how, and she said I had to talk to her about Siddharth. I did. I told her everything. His favourite colour was blue, he liked his steak well-done, he preferred ketchup on top of everything, even idlis. He liked his coffee strong, and his tea weak. I told her everything, and I was fine through it all. My psychiatrist told me my hour was up and that she would see me the following week. I never went back.

One morning, I woke up to the sight of my wedding dress. It was sitting on the armchair across from my bed. I stared at it. And then, I cautiously made my way to it. Wine red. On top of the lehenga sat a little note that said ‘open your closet‘. I did. Inside the closet, I found Siddharth’s wedding sherwani. The one he never got to wear.

Another note. ‘Open the drawer next to your bed‘. I did. I found a photograph of me and Siddharth. From our first New Year’s eve together. My breath caught in my throat.

Another note. ‘Here’s something to remember me by.‘ Our wedding ring lay next to the photograph. I fell back, covering my mouth with my hand. And I began to cry. I curled up in a ball and I cried and cried and cried. I thought of Siddharth, the wedding that never happened, the honeymoon and the marriage and the kids and the dreamhouse and the vacations that I would never see. I cried for all the broken dreams.

After what felt like hours, I found my brother sitting next to me. He had joined me somewhere in between. My head lay in his lap, and he wiped tears off my face.

‘I had to do this. You weren’t ready to face the truth. He’s gone, bachcha. You have to let go.’

That brought on another onslaught of tears. But strangely, I felt lighter.

Two years later, I was in love again. Arjun Nair. At first, I kept comparing him to Siddharth. But then, I discovered that Arjun had qualities of his own. Like how he would rather have iced-coffee than the hot one. How he preferred to eat his pizza cold, but couldn’t stand the thought of cold sandwiches. How his favourite colour was yellow, and that he always ended phone conversations with ‘I’ll love you till my last breath’. And somehow, I was okay with all that.

Eventually, I could come to terms with Siddharth’s death. I could now love someone new, and not hate myself for it. The world seemed colourful again. Arjun could never be Siddharth, but I learned to accept the fact that I didn’t want him to be so. And while, in the figurative sense I had let go of Siddharth, I still had his wedding ring in my jewellery box. So, every time I missed the long walks on Juhu beach, I’d sit on my balcony, wear the ring, and sip red wine.

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