It was a brisk cold February morning. I had tried washing a teal green silk salwar kameez in the bathtub earlier that week, laundromats were expensive. Sadly, the color had run. The peach bathtub was now tinged in a shade of algal-teal.
Once I recovered from the shock, I blotted the kurta (kameez) dry with paper towels, fanned it with a hair dryer and set it down on a fat towel, praying that the colors would be OK. It was one of my favorite outfits. Fortunately, it managed to dry decently enough to wear.
I can’t remember what Uma chose – but it must have been one of his work clothes with a tie. We needed to look decent.
We needed two other people – so we asked the only people we knew as friends - our old friend and his petite pretty wife, the K’s, and one of my office colleagues, another K. The K couple was local, the other K lived nearly 50 miles away. We had to do this at noon so everyone could use their lunch hours. We had been laughed off earlier that month because we had actually forgotten. This time, we would remember. I hoped.
Uma had worked that half day, he was thinking about returning right after. I took time off from work – because my office was 30 miles away. We parked in a parking garage nearby – I don’t think it exists there anymore. We found a spot on the upper deck. We ran down the flight of stairs – my kurta and dupatta flying around like crazy – I was crazy to wear just that in the cold. Ushered past the security, we peeked through the glass to speak with the clerk who look up again and asked – do you really want to do this? Are you sure? We nodded and said yes.
A short wait later, we were led into a room. A man dressed in his official attire looked at us over his glasses – we were not giddy with excitement – we were surrounded by people not much older than us, and that too the bare minimum needed. Where were the parents? This was perhaps the most awkward one he had encountered, or maybe not. He asked again why we had missed a previous date. Embarrassed, we admitted that we had forgotten. He too asked – are you sure. We said yes.
He proceeded to read us words that we understood, but they meant very little at that time. He asked me, if I wanted to – and then Uma, if he wanted to – and we both said yes. In a matter of minutes, he had pronounced us husband and wife. We smiled at each other again. There were no awkward ceremonial kisses, no scattering of rice, no ring exchanges, no loud cheering or the tossing of the ‘bouquet’ – actually I don’t remember if anyone even got us flowers – I surely did not have any of my own. The magistrate was puzzled – why so glum? The K’s explained, we had been married for a while now. “Ah”, he exclaimed. Our guests had signed the documents they were supposed to, the clerk ushered us out into the cold hallway. Our guests congratulated us, and we all parted ways at the door of the courthouse. Stamped onto a document with one of those rubber stamps – was the date 16 Feb 2001. Off everyone went into the cold Midwestern city again dissolving into it just the same way as we had arrived. We were now married, in all the ways that mattered. To others.
It is 18 years since that day. Neither of us ever remember the exact date, and today was no different. I asked him to take us out for an anniversary dinner, and that’s when he smiled and asked me in his clueless way, “Really? Is it today?”