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Your choices will be judged, opposed, and eventually, supported, if you stick to your guns and continue to be yourself. Here’s a warm reminder.
It was her mother’s voice. It was the last week of Sushmita’s holiday back home. She was already packing; the room strewn with her stuff.
“Sushi, we have guests for dinner today!” Amma said cheerfully.”Wear something nice”. Sushmita’s lack of enthusiasm was no deterrent to her mother’s. Amma swept open the suitcase, and selected a sleeveless red shirt for her. At least she has graduated from the traditional Indian outfits, Sushmita thought.
“Aren’t you asking who is invited?” her mother asked, coyly.
Irritated, Sushmita said, “A knight in shining armour on a white steed? To save me from spinsterhood, gift me with the halo of matrimony, present me with children.”
“Oh come on, Amma. Every time I come home, you do this… lining up “boys”…dangling them in front of me, or judging from today’s choice of attire, dangling me in front of them? I am thirty five years old. When will I stop being little Sushi and become Sushmita, an adult, who can take her own decisions?” Sushmita said.
When will I stop being little Sushi and become Sushmita, an adult, who can take her own decisions?”
“I am doing it for you.” Amma said, in tears.
Sushmita felt a pang of remorse.
Sushmita said, “OK…I will do it. But never again. Please understand that I am content, Amma. I have friends, a career, a life. I am not lonely.”
“But you need to marry.”
“Amma! If I meet someone who I like, of course, I will marry. But I don’t like this ‘dekhna-dikhana’ (Showing and seeing).
“Who are you going to meet in the USA? Some foreigner, no? Unfaithful, divorcees…I know the foreigners! Sushi, a happy family life, that’s all I want for you. Your friends, your sister…look at them… all are happy and settled!” Amma was in full flow now.
“Amma, stop. I cannot be the person that you want me to be.” Sushmita was forced to interject. “Is every married woman, even my sister, really content? I will not play the stupid rat behind the Pied Piper and follow them into the river.” Before she blurted out any more, Sushmita mumbled about needing to shower, and made her escape.
Is every married woman, even my sister, really content?
Sushmita let the shower run hot, her thoughts racing.
She loved her parents, but they were typical old-generation. She knew that she could never, ever play second fiddle to her father, the way her mother did. Her friends? All walking around with a chubby baby and a mischievous brat or two. She could see their absorption in their offspring. But at times, she wondered about their lives, from what they let slip.
“My MIL did not ask for dowry. My father insisted.”
“Sunil lets me wear Western outfits.”
“Maaji never insists that I cook breakfast, but lunch and dinner have to be served hot.”
“Gaurav will allow me to do a part-time job, when the kids go to full-time school.”
“I need to ask Rajan’s permission to stay at my parents’ place.”
“When my Babuji was in hospital, I couldn’t go…my in-laws had a family function planned.”
Sushmita did wonder if she would tolerate the things that her childhood friends took for granted. Her sister was suffering in her own way, but rarely spoke about it.
Sushmita felt a maternal pang when she saw the children, but was the choice of partner not more important? She had been briefly attracted to a colleague, Steve, and had been tempted to take it further. But her mother’s predictable reaction to the foreigner had made her afraid. When would she stop trying to please her parents, and live for herself?
When would she stop trying to please her parents, and live for herself?
When she went back to the U.S.A, she had a full life, a satisfying career, and good friends, waiting for her. That was enough for now. She dressed quickly, gathering her defences for the “meeting”.
Her brother-in-law entered without knocking.
He had a familiar leer that she had come to hate. “The ‘boy’ who will see you today is my friend. So you can thank me nicely if he says ‘yes’ and you are saved from being unmarried. Sushi, no need to be shy. I know that women abroad are rarely virgins.” He said, drawing out a bunch of her lacy lingerie from the open suitcase.
“How dare you! Get out !”said Sushi, wondering if he would obey.
He hurried out.
Amma entered and closed the door. From her pale face and stricken expression, it was clear that she had overheard the conversation.
“Sushmita, I ..I see what you have been trying to tell me…about many things.” Amma’s voice was choked. “I was going to bind you down…to my expectations. You are different, and I am proud of you. You have my blessing… live your life as you wish.”
She hugged her daughter.
Pic credit: Image of woman looking in the mirror via Shutterstock.
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