“I promise to learn…if you agree to polish my shoes whenever the maid takes the day off!”
“No, no, no!” I had stormed out yesterday leaving my Mum baffled and Shabbi Auntie angry, when she brought in yet another rishta-seeking brigade. Can you blame me? Who do these women think they are, bringing along all the Maamis, Chachiis, Khalas and Phuphiis to approve of me? Approve of me - they’re not even bothered whether I would approve of them!!!
The chubby, eternally smiling khala said to me: “What glowing complexion she has!” And the thin Phupphi with heavy specs had piped in, “A lovely addition to the house she would be!”
What does one say to that? Except…maybe…as I did: “Glowing? So you can keep me in the dark and not be bothered with the hide-and-seek that electricity plays these days?" Not on your life!
“Oh, what a nice sense of humour she has!” Chachi’s turn.
To top it all, the guy asked me but one question I could’ve done without: “Do you cook aloo-paratha?”
I was so touched by his highly intellectual concern that I could’ve happily wrung his thick aloo-filled neck that very moment! Did he really not realize he’d be taking on a whole lot more on his plate than just aloo-paratha by consenting to marry me? Poor thing!
I smiled and replied reassuringly, “I promise to learn if you agree to polish my shoes whenever the maid takes the day off. Deal?”
Mum didn’t speak to me for two days after their hasty departure. Not fair, I tell you. She thinks I’m out and about to ruin the remotest chance of my ever getting married, by the way. She’s not all that wrong, I have to admit! I can think of a hundred and one reasons why I don’t want to be making aloo-paratha to please an idiot for the rest of my life! And why is it so hard for everyone to accept that a gal does not have to get married these days? Who’s going to take care of her, you ask? Why, who else but she herself! It might not be entirely ridiculous to assume that she actually has the capacity to take charge of her own life!
This morning, I’m told, another rishta-seeking party is coming…some ‘foreign-settled’ guy. Mummy has already warned me to keep my unruly tongue in check. Sure, I say. Hmm… Oh, do I hear the bell? Goodness… could it be them already? Mummy’s calling…I’d better go.
“Salaam Auntie.” I hug old Shabbi Auntie - she’s so soft and warm that I can’t help liking her despite her irritating favourite past-time! She introduces us all. Hmm…now, why is the dude staring at me like that? After his stay in Walayat, I should think he’d be used to the female of the species! Humph - minus five for rudeness.
He looks up as I approach with cold drinks. He winks. Oh my God, he actually winked at me…right in front of my Mum!!! Whatever happened to cultural sensitivity??? As he leans forward to pick up the glass, the tray tilts ever so slightly - entirely of its own volition, of course - and the contents spill neatly onto his lap.
“What the …!” he jumps up.
I feign embarrassment. “Oh…I’m so sorry…what have I done…” I stand there wringing my hands, just like I saw the heroine do in a soap recently on TV. She seemed to get away with just about anything twisting her dainty hands and biting her shiny red lips.
Alas, I’m not so lucky… he’s not even listening to my sincere apologies! Mum’s all red and blue and every other colour imaginable…and she’s apologizing too! How embarrassing…Mum, stop!!!
“It’s alright Auntie…just an accident…I’m sure she will learn to be a proper wife in no time!” Croaks the Fresh Prince, looking me up and down.
I hate him. Utterly, completely, absolutely.
Mum looks up sharply. “My daughter is perfect just the way she is. I think it’s time for you to leave.”
My, oh my! I never saw her like that before…icy chill in her voice, fire in her eyes!
They’re stepping out of the door! Good riddance.
Mission accomplished! And now I can go off to work with a relaxed mind. Hopefully, the boss will not have noticed my turning up late today as Mina would’ve covered for me anyway. I can’t wait to relate the whole story to Mina.
As expected, she’s doubling up on the sofa giggling like a school girl! Three cheers for your Mum, she says. Hmmm…and for me? I smile, celebrating my small victory.
Sabina joins in – not again, puhleez - with her sob stories…yeah, yeah…husband did this, husband did that. Why doesn’t she do something about that awful huzz-band of hers?!! No point in whining about it uselessly, is there?
Ramis walks in. He’s attracted to women-woe-tales like bees to honey. I can’t stand it so I yell at Sabina to stop, and at Ramis to find something better to do with his time! What’s this? Her eyes are turning into pools of overflowing lava…oh my God…I just have to get out of here! Ramis offers to take me home as my ‘ride’ isn’t free yet…which is my other colleague, Lamia. Why is he doing me a favour after I yelled at him? I wonder. Whatever…I need the ride!
In the car, he says, “Why are you always rude to Sabina?”
I bite an angry retort and ask him instead why he encourages her to throw her sad-tales around?
“She needs to unburden.” He replies matter-of-factly. Like hell! I mutter under my breath.
“You should encourage her to take a stand, if you really want to help her.” I speak through clenched teeth.
He turns around and looks at me as if he’s seeing me for the first time.
“What?’ I glare.
“You’re a strong woman…or one without experience to reflect on.” He shrugs.
“That’s how I’d feel in any case!” I snort.
Two days later, Ramis is standing at my doorstep – with his Mum.
"Hi, Auntie!” I beam at her and hug her warmly…and stick my tongue out at him over her shoulder. He laughs.
Auntie and Mummy are talking animatedly. Funny how they seem to get along so well given it’s their first meeting!
“So what’s the idea?” I turn to him.
“Meaning?” Mr. Innocent raises one eyebrow.
“You didn’t bother turning up the last time I practically begged you?”
“I suddenly found my manners.” Tongue in cheek.
“And the moon is made of green cheese.” I nod, understandingly.
“You have such a lovely daughter…Ramis talks so much about her” Auntie looks at me adoringly.
Ramis, you’re so dead! I glare at him, but he conveniently busies himself with staring into space. Such an important activity!
”Has Ramis told you about his lady love, Auntie?” I ask sweetly.
“Huh?” Auntie turns to stare at Ramis.
He looks up with a start. I smile…sweet revenge.
“She’s a married woman, but don’t you worry…she’ll soon get a divorce. Ramis is so nice and supportive listening to all her sad tales, you know.”
Ramis’s threatening look actually has the opposite effect – like, he doesn’t know me? – and I describe in more detail just how supportive he is!As expected, Auntie suddenly remembers some urgent errand back home and gets up to leave. Ramis? Oh, he’s not too pleased, I can tell – teach him not to pre-suppose me on any issue in future!
At this point, however, I can no longer control the burst of laughter that is swelling up in my throat.
He turns and mouths silently: I’ll get you for this. I flutter my non-existent eyelashes…and offer my hand. Truce?
Mummy is looking at me through narrowed slits… hands on hips… she knows exactly what I’m up to… oh my… I better runnnnnnnnn!!!
Speaking from secret location - my closet - addressing all who can hear me: I’m not completely anti-marriage, okay? I just hate it that no one seems interested in me – the person. Not one of the rista-seeking Aunties or their sons asked my opinion on anything even remotely appealing to sense and sensibility! Is that fair? I just know God didn’t give me a head to think with for nothing! I have the same dreams any man has (well, almost!). I do so want an adoring guy but why can’t I aspire to find one who supports my aspirations and won’t feel insecure because I can use my brains? Is that too much to ask?
Surely there’s someone out there for me… I’m still looking!!!!
Published in You magazine of The News, June, 08.