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I don’t care! You want me to get married because the clothes have come from the tailor, do you even hear yourself ma!” Trisha screamed back.
The Malhotra house was bustling, with distant relatives, small talks and infinite strings of marigold flowers.
“Political Science? Beta, this country doesn’t need netas it needs engineers!”
“This is your daughter? Beta if you lose a little more weight, you’ll look prettier.”
“Chadda sahib, weigh shet loss voss? Looks like bhabiji has stopped feeding you.”
“Start Up? Beta this Start up and all doesn’t to work, get an MBA and job”
Mrs. Malhotra entered the kitchen; she wiped the drops of sweat from her forehead and briskly walked towards the Samosas.
“Suman, please get these snacks served to the guests, I must go up, your bhaisahab and Trisha are waiting for me” she instructed her sister – in – law and quickly left the kitchen. She smiled to herself as her exhausted legs resisted the trek on that narrow staircase. As soon as all this was over, she would go boast in Mrs. Chadda’s satsang next week, about how tiring it had been for her. And why should she not, beti ki shaadi hai bhai!
Nisha placed the Samosas in the plates as her aunt – Suman, poured chutney and ‘sauce’ in the thick disposable plates. The chatter of her surroundings got louder; she could hear advice pouring in from all sides to everyone who had not asked for it. She rolled her eyes and continued putting the samosas in the plates. These adults would give you advice and expect you to follow it for the sake of their egos. She had been here a few years ago until she got married and very organically her place moved to the kitchen and helping her female relatives.
“Listen Nisha, I was thinking” Suman Chachi started “You and Ravinder, you know, why don’t you guys try that, try-uh…” Suman Chachi bent towards Nisha’s ears and while placing her hand on Nisha’s shoulder, she whispered, “I know what you’re facing, and don’t worry it’s completely normal, it happens in a lot of marriages.”
Nisha looked at Suman Chachi for a whole minute, trying to recollect all their conversations and wondering if she had been negligent in any way to let out secrets of her life.
“How do y-”
“Oh what do you mean how! When a mosquito’s funeral also happens in my neighbour’s house, I find out, this toh I had to find out, but kudi, fikar not, I think you should try a-”
“We have tried a marriage coun-” Nisha tried to convey but was taken aback by what was thrown in her face.
“-Himalyan Ayurvedic sex camp” Suman completed.
“What!?” Nisha said incredulously. Why did her aunt think they needed a sex camp. Did her aunt really know what was going on or was she pulling off another Indian relative’s shit show?
“Why. A. Sex. Camp?” Nisha asked while chanting the breathing exercises in her head.
“Oh beta, it’s been three years to your marriage and no kids, so obviously the problem has to be in the sex na?” Suman said confidently, almost as if she had a PhD in handling these cases. Nisha gulped her saliva; she couldn’t kill her aunt or anyone else, not today, not ever, she had to calm down and wait for her next session of therapy to let out her disdain for Indian aunties. Before she could add anything, her flabbergasted uncle came running towards them.
“Arun, oh my dear husband, why are you sweating like that day we had done it in the khet?” Suman asked, whispering the last part with an adolescent grin on her face as she slightly nudged her husband with her heavy elbows.
“You ladies follow me, we have been summoned by bhaisahab, I’ll tell you on the way,” Arun said as he tried to sweat out of his tight kurta, almost like that was the first time a man had asked women to follow him.
The door was suddenly slammed open and discreetly closed as soon as the three entered. Mrs Malhotra sat on the bed clutching the sheet, in evident distress, tears had begun spiraling down her eyes. Mr Malhotra was pacing in the room as his face looked more like an unkempt shirt in the laundry basket. Trisha sat on the little stool using the wall as her backrest. Her hands had become dark because of the mehndi. Nisha quickly rushed towards her and hugged her.
“We came as soon as we heard about it!” Arun said apologetically.
“Oh, God is so cruel! Why did it happen! Abhi toh umar hi kya thi!” Suman cried out leaping towards Mrs. Malhotra. In her head she was cooking up scenarios of how this could be turned into a meaty story and used to make everyone laugh in the next RWA meeting.
“Chachi please, stop pretending like this is a funeral, I don’t see why we need to even have a discussion on this now!” Trisha announced as she stood up.
Mrs. Malhotra turned to her and widened her eyes. “Oh shut up girl! First of all you haven’t even greeted you relatives traditionally and here you scream at us! First say namaste!” Mrs. Malhotra said sternly. The teacher in her hadn’t died.
“Maa-” Trisha hissed but was met with Mrs. Malhotra’s cold eyes ascertaining that she had to greet her uncle and aunt for this matter to go any further.
“I ask, what is the need for this, the boy is so nice, the family is so nice, the people are so nice, you’ll get married in two days, what is the problem then!?” Suman asked as she felt responsible to diffuse the situation then. She found herself imagining a scenario in her head where the Malhotra’s would shower her with Sarees and jewellery for ‘saving’ their daughter’s life.
“Chachi, that’s not the things! It’s just – uh” Trisha fell back to the wall, she was exhausted to explain things to everyone. She just knew that what was happening didn’t feel right.
“And he loves you so much! Aren’t you forgetting how he proposed to you on your engagement day, in front of everyone?” Arun said, trying to mine into the situation to regain his elder brother’s approval, lost, when he moved out of the house with his wife.
“Chachu, that’s not love- how do I explain it to you guys, Aadarsh and I, we just don’t have that spark, that thing between us, there is nothing even close to love.”
“If it isn’t close to love now, it will become love in a few years. You think all of use here got married through love letters! Just because the shape of your rotis is remotely close to a heart, you think you know everything about love!?” Mrs. Malhotra chided her.
“Trisha are you concerned about the wedding night? If you are nervous, we can talk about that-“ Suman offered very sweetly, winking to her husband on the side.
“Beta, this must be nervousness only, it’s okay, it’s normal, Nisha you explain to her, it’s really fine,” Arun tried to reassure her. Nisha who was busy having an internal monologue with herself wondering if her cousin’s step would ease her situation or make it worse, sided herself in some sycophancy and added some Yeahs in the middle.
“It’s not nervousness! This hasn’t felt right for a long time, I am just sure of it now-” Trisha intervened.
“Now! Now when the wedding cards have been printed, half the guests have arrived! The rest of them will come tomorrow! The clothes have come from the tailor! I have given the shagun money to everyone! What will the guests do if the groom and bride don’t get married!? Should I put them in a bus and send them for dilli darshan!” Mrs. Malhotra screamed.
“You send them for Dilli darshan or drown them in Yamuna! I don’t care! You want me to get married because the clothes have come from the tailor, do you even hear yourself ma!” Trisha screamed back.
“Do I hear myself, that’s it, kuch mat bolo inhe, theeke, chup hoon mein ab” Mrs. Malhotra muttered making Trisha sigh and take her head into her hands.
“Beta, you don’t need to raise your voice calm down” Mr. Malhotra finally spoke up, “Your mother isn’t wrong, what will people say, log kya kahenge?”
Trisha gasped. “I can’t believe it! My parents are more concerned about what will people say and think instead of their daughter’s happiness! I don’t believe this, it would have been better if I would have run away!” Trisha said in agitation, raising her voice louder as Mr. Malhotra tried to calm her down with all his Nos, and Ifs and Buts.
The exhausted room fell into a silence. Mrs. Malhotra rested her head on her hands and muttered “Beti ko loan le ke bahar padhne bheja, beti ne aake bola writer banna hai, hum ne bola theek hai, beti ki khushi hi dekhte aayein hain, kya galat kara ki tum humein yeh din dikha rahi ho” (We took a loan for you to study abroad, you returned and said you wanted to become a writer, we said okay. We have only considered happiness! What have we done wrong for you to do this to us”)
“Mumma, where are you taking this yaar-“ a wearied Trisha cried out
“Not a penny you have earned with that blog of yours and I don’t see any future of it anyway! Who has the time to listen to anyone’s opinions when you don’t even want to listen to your own parent’s opinions! That’s why we brought you such a nice guy!” Mrs. Malhotra explained.
“Beta, he is a nice guy, he is so respectful of everyone, he will love you and accept you the way you want-” Arun tried to add while Mrs. Malhotra proceeded to add the brownie points “He earns well, he is financially stable, kabhi kisi cheez ki kami nahi hone dega.” She declared putting out her palm in the air.
“Financially stable!? Kami? Why don’t you get me married to an ATM machine instead!?” Trisha screamed.
“That proposal you remember that guy from Singapore, he was no less than an ATM, you only said no! bhaisahab, should I ask them if they’re still interested?” Suman said excitedly only to receive demurring stares.
“Are you one of those Trisha” Arun began
“One of whom?”
“You know, well how do I put it, those people who take the rainbow flags and protest on roads” Arun tried to explain apprehensively.
“Chachu, that’s so insensitive! And no I am not queer!” Trisha said rolling her eyes.
“Did he say something to you? Is he having an affair? Did he lie about something?” Mr. Malhotra added, taking over the silence.
“No paa, he is a nice guy, a great guy!” Trisha replied
“Then what’s the problem? You’ll always be safe with him, safe and comfortable. You will fall in love eventually, I don’t see any problem-”
“Try to step off that pedestal of yours and see my point of view. I like change. I like risk and unpredictability. I don’t want to feel safe and comfortable all the time. I don’t want someone who simply loves and accepts me the way I am. I want someone who pushes me, challenges me, calls me out. Someone who excites my mind as well as my body. Someone fearless and fiery!” Trisha let out.
“I tried to make my peace with it, I tried to do it for your happiness, but I can’t do it anymore paa, I don’t want this life, not right now, I am not ready for this,” Trisha whispered, as she got up and sat on the bed. Her mother’s back and hers were making perfect right angles. She slowly felt her mother’s hand making way to hers and holding them tight as her father made a phone call with his eyes glued to hers. His face broke into a supportive smile.
This story was shortlisted for our May 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. The juror, Trisha Das commented: “A humorous story about a reluctant bride set at a pre-wedding party. I liked the sardonic observations. Issues with writing, arc and progression.”
Image source: a still from the film Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana
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