Romance Funny Drama

Everyone was silent.

I had just introduced my spouse to my family including extended members – the uncles, aunties, cousins and all those who were linked to the family tree. We have all congregated at my grandparents’ village in Kumbakonam, a couple of hours drive from Trichy. One of the cousins was getting married, the Iyengar way – early morning marriage, groom invitation the night before and the coconut game on the third day. Yeah, so you would have guessed by now – I belong to a very traditional Iyengar family from Kumbakonam.

In Iyengar family people married the opposite sex – not same sex. My spouse was Trisha, someone I met and fell in love with at work. I worked in Mumbai, the financial capital of India as Premier Financial Advisor dealing with corporate clients.

This is India, a land that grappled with modernity amidst tradition. The closer one went to cities, modern lifestyle became very apparent and vice versa when one moved closer to suburbs. The city people lived for income, while those in suburbs placed family values and reputation above everything. So, a same sex relationship, what more marriage, took the entire family like an atomic bomb.

When the family went silent, Trisha and I walked out of the family home and strolled down the dusty lane that went through the village. There were brick homes and homes with thatched roof lining both sides of the lane. Most of the Iyengars who lived in that aghragaram worked as temple priests, some in government owned temples, others freelanced. Some priests left their families and went to work in overseas temples. Save for a few, including my family, most priests were poor. But despite their poverty value system and reputation held high office in that community.

We saw a maami (wife of a priest) walking in the opposite direction, towards us. Just as she reached close to us, when we were about to cross each other, she just stepped aside as if we were some kind of disease! Words must have travelled so fast in that aghragaram that the maami who was so welcoming when we arrived, avoided us like a plague! Trisha looked at me, I just shrugged.

Trisha and I talked about revealing to my family about us before boarding the flight to Trichy. She was against the announcement; I wanted to shut the nosy women in the family who were so bent to know when I will be married. By Iyengar family standards, I was already an old hag at 36.

`Maybe she has some disease,’ I heard one Iyengar woman tell another, the day I arrived.

`Yes, yes,’ said the other Iyengar lady, `they say women who live in cities sleep with just any man and get disease.’

So, they decided that I slept around, contracted disease and could not get married. What logic!

I pulled Trisha to where I was standing. The two women went into bad mouthing me big time. One started comparing me to one of my late great aunties who became a nun, Indian version. Trisha’s eyes almost popped out.

`They are going overdrive with their thinking,’ she whispered to me.

`Yes, that’s why I said we need to tell them,’ I hissed back.

Trisha shook her head. `These folks will not understand.’

We left it at that and readied ourselves for the groom invitation that night.

Trisha was dark skinned but an outstanding beauty. She was a model in Mumbai. At five feet nine, her height added to her elegance. One of my corporate clients was a well-known fashion house in that city. They had launched their Spring collection, Trisha was one of the models. I was attracted to her at the first sight but didn’t have the courage to approach her. I was very sure that she must have enough male attention plus she would probably be straight.

A week after the event, I received a call from an unknown number. It was a woman on the other end. Can we meet, was all she asked.

I was quite surprised, then again potential clients did pop out of nowhere sometimes. I agreed to meet and when I reached the restaurant, I was shocked to see it was Trisha. She was wearing a sleeveless kurti top with matching harem pants – looked like Bollywood heroine. Her face did not have any make up then again, she did not need any. She smiled as she rose to greet me. We did air kissing and settled down.

I asked her why she had called. And she was very straight forward – she said she liked me. That was a whammy on my face. I stared at her, in disbelief. She asked me why I was staring.

`This is least expected,’ I said, my fingers fiddling with the napkin on the table.

`It is the 21st century, in case you are not aware,’ she said, a little sarcastic.

`But why me?’ I asked.

`It takes one to know one,’ was her answer.

`How did you know?’

`I just did,’ she was not going to say more. `So, can we date?’ she asked. I nodded.

Unlike Trisha, I was not an attractive woman. Iyengar women are rarely outstanding beauties because we just do not know how to make ourselves up to par with other women. Most hold on to tradition, wore traditional clothes and had almost no make up on. I had short hair, almost boy like, which did not go well with my family. Otherwise I was just another Iyengar woman. Many men had told me that I had the looks, just did not know how to capitalise on it. Trisha also told me that.

What started as dating became serious relationship. Three months into the relationship, Trisha and I moved in together. We were a couple. Where we lived in Mumbai, people saw us as two good friends living in one house. Only we knew the truth. In our relationship, I was the lead – like the man of the house. Trisha was the softer one.

There were sounds outside the house and a horse carriage pulled up. The groom would be invited in this carriage and paraded around the village. During round two of the parade the bride would join the groom and when the carriage finished its rounds, there would be music and dancing to welcome the groom into the family.

By the time the groom went to his side of the house to rest for the night, we were all exhausted from dancing. All of us turned in, jovialin mood, ready for the early morning wedding the next day.

It was right after the wedding that I broke the news to the family. I did not have any plans to do so that but one of the nosy aunties started her charade on how women need to be married off at the right age and bear children before the biological clock stopped ticking.

Trisha and I were minding our business at one corner waiting to have breakfast after the wedding ceremony was over. People had to line up and take turns, that’s the system in Indian wedding and all must sit in a row at the dining table.

We did not want to rush for food, so we sat at one corner meddling with our phones. One of the maami’s started a loud conversation.

`Women these days have no concern in starting a family on time,’ she started, looking at us at the corner of her eye. `Most are like man, even in dressing and hairstyle.’

Trisha looked up. We knew we were the target. I suppose that was the mammi who said I had slept around and contracted some disease.

`Some get diseases sleeping with many that they dare not get married,’ she just went on like a locomotive.

I stood up. Enough is enough. I pulled Trisha up and said, `This is my love and we plan to get married soon.’

I bet I heard the priest exclaim `Narayana!’ before he dropped the vessel he was carrying. Everyone went silent. The maami did the bitching stood open mouthed. That was when Trisha and I decided to walk out.

`Shall we leave?’ Trisha asked suddenly, as we reached the only bus stop in that village. There were a few auto rickshaws parked along the road. We had walked a good distance away from home and reached the only main road in that village.

All our stuff, except for purse and mobile phone, were at grandparents’ home.

I just grabbed Trisha’s hand and boarded an auto rickshaw. As we sped towards the train station, I switched off my mobile phone. I am done with this culture. I have my preferences and do not need anyone’s approval. That moment I had chosen to break all traditions and legacies, that moment I decided to live life my way. 

September 04, 2020 06:01

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