JASMINE SAY NO
I had led a beautiful life without a husband and that’s a good choice. My mom believed otherwise and always said, “Jasmine you are thirty seven. You have to compromise. You can’t have your say always.” She tirelessly made effort to convince me for marriage since the day I turned twenty four. Luckily for me unexpectedly I landed in a Company paying me a big salary. Thenceforth life was eat, drink and be merry. This all carried on for about thirteen years. No doubt all these years my mother did not leave her goal of getting me married because marriage is sacrosanct act sanctioned by religion that every eligible person should perform.
I had got the hairstyle done a day earlier. I am standing before the mirror and I look beautiful. I still have sweet curvaceous figure and indeed glowing skin. If I had married I would have appeared ten years older with budging belly, childbirth marks, overgrown bums and lastly enslaved to a stubborn ass.
“I don’t like unsolicited advice in a personal affair. I get irritated.”
“I am your mom. You have to listen. Either you make up your mind not to get married or it can’t be without compromises.”
“Mom the times have changed. I will go single.”
“That’s a privilege of the West and not of the East. It’s enough. As asked you must go to see him at the place. Now don’t talk of your independence and my life my rules. I expect your next call on a positive note except it is beyond compatibility.” My mother had very low opinion of those who thought differently from her. She kept on hammering me to accept her advice. Why should I? She herself is a hard nut to crack.
I am before the mirror. I ask it ‘am I not beautiful?’ It smiled and said ‘you are the most beautiful.’ Here comes my mom again. She tells me mirror belies. Mom says I am getting older, but that does not mean I must get married. What if I had married at twenty five and lost my husband at thirty and had not married again? I would have been where I am today. Loneliness is state of mind. It is better to be alone in loneliness than surrendering independence to companionship.
She is mom and I do not want to irk her now and then. I am here all because of her. So, I must get ready to meet the guy she has fixed the appointment with. I will meet him but say a big NO. She can’t force me to marry.
Even if I have to reject the guy I have to put on best dress. To pick the best dress is a tedious exercise that no woman dislikes. I take the challenge to choose from amongst some fifteen dresses but all those innumerable sensors in my feminine eyes make it further difficult to address the colour combination. I spent around two hours and tried nine dresses. I realised (a realization I had every time I stood before mirror) that I did not had a good dress (I mean a new dress). Lucky are those women who always have a new dress to choose to wear on every new occasion.
The venue of date is a restaurant and as directed by mom this time I must accept the man and settle in marriage. Take my words, I am not going to marry. I had met him earlier. He was introduced by one of my senior colleagues who had a lot of words of praise for the guy, a genius lawyer, outstanding academic record, loving, caring, etc. It’s customary to bring out all the best qualities of the reference made.
I video call mom, “I am leaving and this is what I am wearing.” I see glow in her eyes and with a grin she says, “You look beautiful.” She meant I look the most beautiful. That’s how mothers see their daughters. In a moment her facial expressions changed to a darker shade as if goddess Kali and she shouted from other side, “Ladies must settle in marriage. It’s insurance. This time please don’t call me to say NO. Life in old age is difficult to spend without family. ” Mothers know how to coerce.
I call out exasperating, “Mom, are you coercing me? It’s a matter of life.” She delivers a brief lecture that I have heard innumerable times and it ended on wrong note each time. Fortunately this time we called off on peaceful note.
Mom had lived in the era when the ladies employment was in industry called home making. She believed it was still most suitable job for ladies. Any other accomplishments were secondary. I had to face her coercive sermons on marriage she had learnt by heart at religious congregations, each time we met. “There is no such thing as absolute liberty. Women have to adjust when men are compromising. Don’t blame me for your loneliness that’s approaching fast. All your friends have children who are soon to be married.” ‘Soon’ is a time gap that can be stretched to ten years.
The cab arrived and we start for the destination that was only five miles away. It is not nearing. There are traffic lights half a mile apart and are nuisance. There should have been flyovers. See the swarm of vehicles. Where do people rush out to at these odd hours? Can’t they keep inside safe homes? All the roads are choked. I am late. He will not like it. Most men don’t like it. Discipline! Punctuality! I never gave a damn to these.
The cab driver is nice handsome man. To pass time I initiated talks. He is perfect gentleman who works twelve hours a day to raise his family.
“Those are long hours you work. It’s slavery.” I said.
“I have no choice. I have a family, two school going kids, old parents without pension and wife. The inflation goes up in trajectory at forty five degrees.” He has anger in his tone. I think it’s against government.
“Don’t you regret marriage?”
“Why? Marriage is must. It’s challenge to raise families and satisfying. I love to see my kids running for me. My wife is lovely lady. Old parents are great.”
“No confrontations at home? No issue over possessions?”
“I am not married. I think I cannot adjust with a man in my room or his room. It’s weird that a man sleeps next to me in my bed as a matter of right and I cannot ask him to leave. It is even scarier to sleep in his room in his bed from where he can eject me at any time.” He starts laughing at me. He is embarrassing me.
The driver stops the car smoothly. “Your destination please.” I pay him and he looks at me scornfully, “Ma’am, learn to share. You will love the man.”
The restaurant is lacking the glamour it had preceding the lockdown. There are few customers inside. The street that buzzed with business in the evening had stray people moving around with few shops of essentials opening. All have masks on their faces covering nose and mouth. All are wearing a sort of burqa. I laugh to myself.
The ghost of my mother is haunting me with her advice hammering me, ‘Baby! Don’t do it again. No rejections please. Now at this age it is nothing but imprudence.’
There I am, the guy is waiting and he has seen me. He comes out with jaunty steps to welcome me. The manners reflect upon his nobility. He is of medium frame, around five feet seven inches and has brownish complexion, glowing skin, thick but trimmed mustaches and decent haircut. The formal shirt and trousers he is wearing elegantly impress me. I look into his eyes and they are lovely. He looks younger by few years from his given age of forty five.
For the initial few minutes we exchange pleasantries. Once the meeting is over I will be back at my apartment. Then I will have no inhibition to convey my NO. The NO will come with many scathing questions from my mother, ‘Why, did he not like you? It was you again who rejected him? What was not good of him? Did you not like his job or family? Are you not satisfied with his job?’
The guy confidently said, “I must say, you are gorgeous. I haven’t come across a more beauty than you.” It is nice of him.
He crinkled the glass with the spoon and looking in my eyes said, “I had been looking for a lady who can be my soul mate. I think I have got that. It’s you.”
I can’t believe the man falling in love at first sight at forty five. But his aura is overshadowing me. I request him for some drinks. He replies with a glow of moral pride, “I don’t drink and am vegan.” I know it is a virtue to be teetotaler and vegan here. I waited but he did not order drink.
I am still expecting offer of a drink. I am looking at his face like a child. Mom says ‘compromise’. So, I will not drink and eat meat all my life. He will object to my smoking also. I know it won’t work long. But my mother wants YES and only YES from me. She had told me to keep cool. She had told me ‘Once married the prohibitions will go.’
He ordered cold drink and snacks, not to my taste. He played some jokes that were not that tasteful but I kept a forced smile on my face. He said, “You can give a try. It can be live in relationship. If you find that our frequency is not matching you can move out.” He speaks after a pause, “You will not move out once you are in with me. I will keep you like a princess.” It is elating at thirty seven.
My mom had said, “You marry first and then adjust frequency. Premarital sex! Don’t ever you talk that shit. Once you live with a guy without marriage, not even a moron will marry you. The guys are so conscious of that part.” I didn’t give two hoots to her views. But she has experience of decades and she understood things better.
The man with clever words took me to my world of fantasies where I was the only one who mattered and he will be a slave. Lost in my fantasies I loved to hear more. At his moment a lady enters the restaurant. She is nearing sixty, wearing traditional saree, had extra contrasting make up and walks towards us swiftly not expected of her age. I am taken by surprise. Before I could comprehend what it’s all about she is on our table and the guy is on his legs. Like a child he said, “Mom, she is Jasmine.”
I exchange smile with her. He introduces me to the elder lady, “Jasmine she is my mom.” She wasn’t expected on the table where her son was on a date, at least that’s what my perception of date is. These mothers; they can’t leave sons alone.
But mom had advised on that also, “Baby, all boys think they need a mom. It’s for you to make the child feel that he can do without mom.” So a new challenge is in the waiting and that is I have to replace this woman. Great. I can do it. I have come out as a winner in challenging situations in past.
Mom had said, “My child animals mostly are territorial and it’s in their genes how to defend their territory and if required how to snatch the territory from others. Woman has a territory and that territory is her family. When you will grow up, you will have a family and no one will be above the family.” My mom had dexterously replaced my grandmother from life of my father. I was around thirteen when I heard my father shouting at my grandma over some issue involving her and my mother. My grandma after few days had left the house and did not return till date. If we wished we had to visit her at ancestral village.
I returned to table. The guy was missing. The elder lady is too glad to see me. She talked things about her family mostly insignificant and trivial. But she is happy. With broad smile on her face expecting consonance to whatever she is going to lay down, she said, “Dear, he is gone to attend a call. I wanted to be alone with you. He is my only son. My man left for heaven when he was hardly six. You know the bonding of son and mother. I have none to fall back upon than him. Any woman in his life can put me away. I don’t have that strength now to stay put alone.” She sighed.
She put right hand on my left cheek and with misty eyes said, “You won’t put us away from one another? I am sure you won’t. He is coming.”
Why will I? I am not coming in his life. That’s what I wished when I started for here. I wish to live single. Most of customers had left. It is time that we also leave. But the guy and his mother were delaying departure as if they wanted me to follow them as bride. The elder lady is looking at me with a smile that my mother had before I left apartment. The laugh of driver of cab echoes in my ears. I can share my room with the man.
The guy finally asks, “Do you love to be with me?”
I have no answer.
“Should I take it as YES.”
Marriage! No, I do not want it. Why should I break his heart with a NO. Is that not love?
I breathe deep and gather courage to finally say NO much against the wishes of my mom. I see the face of old lady and petulant look on the face of man and final word is uttered.