We could see the activities down in the longish courtyard of our colony. The courtyard was surrounded by buildings divided into blocks on three sides with the front side having the main entrance gate. Comfortably seated in the portico of our third floor quarter we often took a window view of the goings-on in the courtyard around the garden located in the centre. This time it looked like preparations for some social ceremony. Soon we knew.

It was going to be the marriage ceremony of the colony secretary’s only son. We heard it not from the horse’s mouth as yet, but from other neighbours. We knew the secretary’s family housed in the ground floor of the same block quite well; I was often talking to the secretary on various issues including domestic ones while my wife was friendly with both him and his wife. So we expected to be invited for sure. And, so it came.

One morning about three days before the marriage I was as usual going through the daily newspapers and my wife busy in the kitchen making breakfast. The door bell rang out. Before I could free myself from my reading my wife promptly trudged up from the kitchen and opened the door. The secretary was standing on the doorway. I looked closely as I stood up to welcome him and saw that he was carrying an envelope.

My wife cordially ushered him in, and we all sat down. He placed the envelope on the centre table delicately, and started the usual discourse on the background of the coming event. My wife was mostly talking and making sweet queries about the bride, her bio, family details and other bits of information. The neighbour was friendly enough, answering her while casting frequent looks at me. Was he a little fidgety, I wondered? Why should he be? It was all about a very happy and momentous occasion.

A little too suddenly, so I thought, the secretary stood up and gestured to me picking up the cover from the table. I stood up too expecting to be invited formally. Looking, rather staring, at me fixedly he opened the envelope taking out the invitation card. He handed it over to me in a grand formal style speaking slowly, “You please come. The reception starts in the evening. Please come… you.” There was something odd about the ‘you’ he uttered. Very soon I found out why.

He left hurriedly afterwards without even looking at the third person present there. My wife was sitting there all the time watching the invitation drama unfolding before her unbelieving eyes. Our secretary neighbour was apparently oblivious of her presence during this time. Closing the door behind him I looked at my wife giving her a mischievous grin, “See, I’m privileged, the chosen one!”

She sank deeper into the cushioned comfort of the armchair putting her hands behind her head and laughed out loud. She kept on laughing for quite some time. I too heartily joined in the eerie merriment and said, “Do you happen to know of any constraint on our friend’s budgetary allocations?… Well, I’m wondering why this economy class sentiments!… On second thoughts, I’d rather not attend the wedding… I’d rather help him out on his austerity drive!”

As luck would have it I could not attend the ceremony due to a work emergency on that day.