Priya sat at the edge of an Olympic size pool at the seaside Paradise Hotel in San Diego, dangling her feet in the water, splashing bubbles. “Look at them, Karthik, how silvery but transient these bubbles are. Is love too, evanescent?” – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #Fiction #DrRaghavendraRao #Literature

“Priya, don’t say that,” said Karthik. “I’m with you here because I trust you. My mother was hesitant at first when I said I’ll go with you on a mini-vacation. I’m just a physiotherapist and my dad a teacher, and we are a middle-class family. You, a neurosurgeon at UCLA, your dad is a gynecologist…,” Priya continued.

“Please stop, Priya, I know all that. I love you. Look at the crescent moon, listen to the music of the waves, sense the caressing sea breeze and feel the warmth from the fire pit. Let these be the witnesses to my love. I promise, I’ll treat you like my queen.”

Karthik hugged Priya. Not keen to watch what may happen next, the bashful moon hid behind a cloud.

Several weeks passed. Priya didn’t see Karthik. She called him and AT&T politely answered that he was not available and Dr. King was covering for him. She couldn’t reach his parents either.

One evening, Priya’s high school friend, Vimala, from Bengaluru visited her. She was a software engineer and came to the U.S. on a three-month assignment. Over a cup of tea, snacks and gossip, Vimala said, “You won’t believe this, Priya. I attended my friend, Anushka’s wedding. What a lavish event! The pandal covered the whole street and the decorative lights mocked the stars. Her father owns a software company.”

“What does Anushka do?”

“She is a doctor. The groom also is an M.D. He came riding a camel for the wedding. I heard that Anushka’s father had spent two crore rupees for the event.”

“Utter waste of money. Anyway, who is this camel riding Arab?”

“Karthik, I believe, from Los Angeles. Works at UCLA. I heard he is a neurosurgeon, lucky guy.”

Priya’s stomach twisted into hundred knots and her face turned pale.

“Are you okay, Priya?”

“Vimala, I’m having a migraine attack. Excuse me, I need to rest. Keep talking with my parents.”  Priya excused herself, went upstairs, lay down and cried.

Karthik went to Bengaluru with his parents to see his paternal grandparents. There they met Mr. Shankar and his wife, Anushka’s parents, whom they knew for a long time. Anushka being a doctor and her parents’ s status and their lucrative connections tantalized Karthik. Anushka too liked Karthik as she wished to subspecialize in Neurology and marrying him would facilitate her dream. Who will forgo a fortune when it knocks on the door?

Days creeped by slowly for Priya. She got depressed, saw her doctor and swallowed Prozac capsules. They didn’t help much. She spent sleepless nights, ate indiscriminately and gained weight.

“Beti, I can’t see you pining this way day by day. Go back to work, mingle with your friends and get involved. You’ll feel better.” Parvathi, Priya’s mother, consoled her as Priya rested her head on her mother’s lap.

“Mom, it hurts. I’m very angry with Karthik and don’t know how to get rid of this anger.”

“Let it go, Priya,” said her father who was listening to the conversation from the living room.

“That’s easy to say but hard to do,” Parvathi replied. “My friends tell me great things about Swami Paramananda, in Santa Monica. He has an ashram near the beach. Let’s go and spend a week there. I have heard that his very presence drives away one’s troubles and tribulations.”

“Mom, I don’t think anyone can help me now. Perhaps you need a break. But, if you insist, I’ll come with you.”

The ashram faced the Pacific Ocean. Swamiji sat in Padmasana pose surrounded by many devotees, each anxious to share his or her problems and receive wise advice. He patiently listened to their troubles and succinctly replied, which seemed to immensely satisfy them.

Priya didn’t talk but her mother, Parvathi, spoke.

Swamiji calmly listened and smiled. He looked at Priya and said, “These things happen, Priya. Karthik always said that he loved you, but did he ever say he would marry you? You assumed so. Now, please accept things as they are and give it some time. You’ll be all right.”

Priya was not impressed. She whispered, “Mom, Swamiji is a bachelor. He doesn’t know about falling in love or the pangs of rejection. How can he give me practical advice?”

At the end, Swamiji started community meditation. Everyone closed their eyes. Priya got bored, silently got up and went out for a walk.

Several adults and children were on the beach. For those resting on the sand, the sounds of the waves gently touching the shore was a lullaby. Sea gulls glided effortlessly in the breeze without flickering even a single feather. A few sailboats floated lazily far away. The ambience was peaceful.

Near the water, she saw a young couple playing with the waves, getting their feet wet. As she approached from behind, the young man’s walk seemed familiar.

“Karthik,” Priya called.

Karthik spun around. For a second he turned pale. “You? What’re you doing here?”

The young woman with Karthik, whom Priya assumed to be his wife, Anushka, stood silently, looking puzzled.

Priya approached Karthik and faced him. “You cheat. You spineless worm! Listen. The ocean breeze, the waves, and the sea gulls are my witnesses. Take this.” With all her might she slapped Karthik on his cheek, the power gushing out from months of bottled up anger and frustration.  Karthik fell. Hearing the smack, several people looked at them.

Karthik got up. His cheek was red and swollen. “You hurt me,” he whined.

“You hurt me here.” Priya pointed to her heart. She turned around and walked briskly towards the Ashram. Parvathi was looking for her.

“Mom, I feel fine now. I got rid of my pent up emotions.”

“I told you, Beti. This Swamiji performs miracles.”