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Everybody in the room flinched as his fist slammed the photo down on the table again.
“Beta, the decision has been made. Ye final hai,” his father said.
His brother looked over at Mahip, carefully masking the pity in his eyes. Behind that pity was a certain frustration, because he knew that his number was next. He would be the next man to walk to the guillotine of the arranged marriage tradition. But he had a few years to go, and he hoped that his girlfriend Suhana would be able to impress his parents enough by then. She was taking a course on computer programming right now. He knew that he would be able to ask for her hand in marriage only once his parents knew she was smart and homely enough for him. He had a few years during which he could pray that Suhana learned how to cook and impress his mother. If she didn’t….well, he didn’t want to think of that.
“HOW? HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ME TO MARRY A STRANGER?” Mahip yelled. Behind the fury was a rage that threatened to break down into tears. “HOW CAN YOU RUIN MY LIFE?”
“Nonsense. Beta she knows how to cook, she makes amazing chai. She’s very pretty, and you two practically grew up together!”
Mahip glared back at his father in defiance. “We live in Hong Kong. She is from America, and YOU grew up with her father. I just knew of her.”
“Knew her, grew up with her. Ek he baath hai na,” his father said.
His brother strode over to Mahip, putting his hands on his shoulder and whispering something that seemed to ease the tension of Mahip’s shoulders. “Yaar, kuch nahi hoiga. If you don’t like her, you don’t need to see her any more than necessary. She’s from America, she won’t know shit about what you do and where you go. This is probably a better life than if Dad found some fobby chick from India.”
“She’s a lawyer. Man, I’m screwed.”
They both studied the picture together a moment longer, ignoring their Father completely. Nobody else in the room noticed the Father sigh. He was doing what was best for his son, but nobody else seemed to realize that or even care. “Zamana badal gaya hai,” he muttered to himself as he walked out of the room to make sure the barat was ready. Yes, times had changed.
Mahip was left alone in the dressing room with his brother as everybody else filed out of the room following his father. A rare and blissful moment of silence ensued. He waited silently, cringing a little as he thought he heard his mom approaching, but it was just a false alarm.
“Am I just supposed to fall in love with her?”
“Yeah, that’s how its supposed to work,” his brother responded. Maybe you shouldn’t have been so afraid of commitment back when you had a girl you thought you loved. But of course, he couldn’t say that out loud, as much as he wanted to knock some sense into his brother’s head and tell him that it was his fault. Right now, the best thing to do was stay quiet and hope for this girl’s sake that he didn’t completely ruin the wedding. No girl wanted to be put in a situation like this one, and his brother was not one to mask his emotions very well.
“BRO, chill out. That desk has done nothing to you. Neither has the picture. And for that matter, neither has this girl. Just get this over with already, you know things aren’t going to change at this point.”
A little harsh, but better than the smug, sarcastic, I-told-you-so thoughts running through his head.
“Mere kismat hi karab thi,” Mahip thought. He was miserable. Completely miserable. Even if she was normal, had all her teeth, and knew how to make good tea, he wasn’t just going to love her. How was he supposed to LIVE with this complete stranger. He had never even spent more than 4 hours with his girlfriend. Except that one time their movie started two hours late – he had spent like 5 hours with her then. And the chatter had annoyed him so much on their drive back he was about to tell her to get out and take a cab home. And now he had to LIVE with somebody. And like…see her 24/7.
He thought about calling the office and telling the staff he was going to work nights now. Then thought about how ludicrous and crazy that would sound, and put his phone back down. He thought about it. I’m going to be at work all day, and then I’ll get home and sleep. I won’t even have to see her much.
I mean, it wasn’t really fair to her either, he knew that. But then WHY HAD SHE SAID YES? She was being all polite and courteous and he had to do the same thing back, but he wanted NOTHING to do with her. He didn’t want to know her favorite color (It was periwinkle or something stupid like that) or that she accidentally killed her pet bunny when she was 5. She was so BORING. He had been e-mailing her back and forth a few times since their engagement 6 months ago, and their parents were in shock that the two weren’t madly in love yet. He groaned aloud as he remembered his mom’s anecdote. “I met your father for the first time when the barat got there. i saw him from underneath my veil and I knew he was the one.” He loked at his parents bickering every day and scoffed at the words. Bullshit. You don’t ‘find the one’ because your parents are forcing you to marry her. You just make do.
This girl who he had known about for his life was about to become a wife. This woman who had been nothing more than a name until six months ago was going to be MARRIED to him. She was going to live in his room and he was going to have to wake up and say good morning to her EVERY DAY.
Shaadi? More like MAUT.
PS. Rukmani, shoutout to you right now. You definitely made me want to right more stories around Indian characters. Looking forward to your critique!