I heard my mother calling for me as soon as I walked into the house. I responded, sighed and went to my room to take a bath.
It was a Sunday and on Sundays our house was a lunatic asylum. It was always bustling with activity and we barely managed some breathing space. I remember seeing faces of relatives I had never heard of, visited or saw again pouring in every weekend.
My mother often would say that it was my father who attracted our relatives from all over. I never really got around appreciating it much. And the best part of it was that my father disappeared every Sunday morning to play golf before these people came and returned only for lunch.
Living in a city has its disadvantages. One grows up with liberal ideas and it is difficult to understand the mind of someone who cannot imagine that a girl can stay unmarried even at the age of 22. I rarely got involved in these kind of issues which were the usual 'hot topics of discussion' when my aunt seventeen times removed would ask my mother if she was looking for a 'nice' boy for me.
I counted five heads by the time I reached my room. Today was going to be a killer. I probably won't even have time to complete my assignments. Damn, I would have to stay up late again tonight. My bath had to be over in five minutes because I heard my younger cousin coming into the room and knocking on my bathroom door. I told her I would be out in a second, and when I came out, I saw her poking around my jewellery box. "How many times have I told you not to touch my things, Meenu? It?s really annoying, you know." "Sorry didi, I was only looking."
And with that she left me to get dressed.
One of these days, I am going to strangle the girl. And if I cannot muster enough courage, I am going to take her to the terrace and lock her there for a couple of hours. She gets on my nerves all the time.
"R... A... S... H... M... I!"
And I really wish my mom wouldn't holler like that all the time.
"Be there in a minute, ma," I yelled back; serves her right. She has always told me that girls from decent families never shouted. As soon as I went down, my mother called me into the kitchen."You need help or what?" I asked.
I had made her promise last week that she wouldn't make me cook when those annoying aunts and sisters and grand-some-things were around. She had this horrible tendency of using my culinary talents to show off.
"Please dear, just for today. I am making five different dishes. How will I ever cook lunch in time, you tell me?"
"You are making five dishes for breakfast?!? Are you out of your mind? Why can't you make something simple, ma? I just don?t understand you."
"You will understand all of this when you get married. Then you have to keep so many people happy. At that time, one course, even if it's breakfast, will not do."
"I hope you aren?t planning to get me married to the Maharajah of Jaipur." With that I sat down to help her.
"You know, Rashmi, Mrs. Sen was asking about you the other day. She was saying that her nephew who is a software engineer in the US is planning to get married. I told her that you cannot even think of it till you finish your masters, but she said that maybe you people could meet when he comes down for Christmas. What do you think?"
"I think that you better concentrate on your curry if you want to serve these people a decent meal in a decent time. And if you talk about my marriage again, especially with me, I will run away and marry some useless actor from the local city film studio."
"Dear God, what nonsense are you talking about? Your father and I will have no respect left. We will have to hide our faces in shame. What will people think? Mr. Mukherjee?s daughter married a vagabond. Tell me now, Rashmi, are you seeing any boy of that kind?"
"MOTHER... If you want my help, then do something about it. I cannot have you spoil my cooking. And I asked you to give me three onions, not two." That was the end of the conversation.
For the moment, at least.
I knew, of course, that my mother had already pictured me walking hand in hand with a ruffian and romancing near the lakes. God! When will mothers change a bit?
Breakfast was served exactly at 9:30 and went on for an hour. Aunt A had to tell my mom about Uncle C's daughter who didn't do well in her graduation exams and how Grand Uncle D was very unhappy about Aunt F's son who wanted to marry a girl outside their caste. I was, of course, thinking where I could buy some rat poison easily.
Suddenly, Meenu asks this ridiculous question. "Didi, don't you have a boyfriend? Ayesha told me she saw you with a tall boy outside New Empire the other day and you were smiling and talking to each other."
Silence. For ten whole seconds. Then I heard thunder and lightning and then it began to pour.
"Rashmi, what is this that I am hearing? When did you go to New Empire? And who is this boy? Oh my god! What has become of my daughter? Will she never learn? I teach her all this. Give her a good education, let her go out alone, even allow her to wear western clothes. And this is what she does to me?"
Five gallons of tears poured out incessantly.
"When did Ayesha see me, Meenu? Ask her and come back. I never miss classes. So it is almost impossible for me to be standing in front of New Empire. And I don?t have any 'boy friend', Meenu. I am too old to engage myself in such trivialities. And mother, if you cry anymore without knowing the truth, I will have no choice but to stop speaking to you. So please don't force me."
That did shut my mother up. For whatever be her disappointments with me, she knew that I didn't take my education lightly and wouldn't even dream of wasting my time when I had classes to attend. I also kept myself busy with various activities and haven't been involved in romance per se in a long time. What happened before is a different story altogether.