Arranged

Arranged

I have found that there aren’t many easy ways to explain arranged marriage to my friends. When I first mentioned it, they looked at me sympathetically and told me things like “Oh, but you always have a choice” or “But you’re only 23” as if these thoughts hadn’t gone through my head already. Then, they gave me sympathetic looks and told me “We’re always here for you if you need to talk” and “I can’t believe you’re going through with this” as the date of my wedding to Jay got closer and closer.

I’m not alone, and my story is not too unique. Instead of being told who to marry, now our parents tell us who to meet. They tell us who to go out to dinner with, and who to talk to. They tell us who is eligible and around our age. They nudge us into similar social situations and hope that something will click. They call relatives in India and ask if they know of any nice, eligible boys for their daughter in hushed voices so they won’t be overheard. And while they are doing all of that, they tell us in simpering sweet tones that they are just doing what is best for us and would we please stop teaching them how to be parents.
July 23, 2011 –

“Hey, it’s nice to meet you.” I said to the guy as he sat across from me at the café.

“I’m Jay.”

“Yeah. Hi. What’s up?”

“Trust me, this is weird for me too.”

“Oh. Yeah, it’s nice to meet you anyways. So how do our parents know each other?”

“High School. I think. Doesn’t really matter I guess. What would you like to drink?”

“I’ll take an iced coffee. Love the smell, can’t stand the taste. Of hot coffee, I mean.”

“I’m basically addicted to coffee so as long as you don’t mind the smell, we’re cool.”

I smiled a little and felt some tension leaving my body. He didn’t have an Indian accent! But he was going to have to be pretty amazing to cheer me up, because my argument with Dan earlier today had been devastating. I had nothing to say to him when he ended our relationship because he was tired of waiting. I would have been tired of waiting too, if I had been in his place and had to keep everything a secret for so long. We couldn’t have a “proper” romance, he couldn’t meet my parents and promise my dad he wouldn’t bring me home too late. There were just too many pieces missing in our puzzle, and I understood that, but when we hung up the phone, I was crying anyway.

“I’m sorry, this is really weird for me,” Jay said.

“You said that already,” I said, and snapped out of my thoughts – they were leading me to unhappy places.

“Right,” he said.

The waiter came to our table and he ordered two coffees, one iced with milk and sugar. He looked over quickly at me while placing the order, but before he could affirm, I nodded and said, “Yeah, milk and sugar please.”

This wasn’t a date, because Indians don’t date. At least, the good ones don’t. There is no word for “boyfriend” in Hindi. I told my mother that Jay and I were going to talk to each other and get coffee, and she agreed enthusiastically. Probably because the plan to meet over coffee had been the combined idea of our mothers anyway. As I had been getting dressed, my mother had said, “Have a nice time with him. Try to get to know him. He’s a really nice boy, beta.” She only used terms of endearment when she knew I was going to hate what came after, and this was one thing that I was really and truly dreading.

They still never called it a date. It wasn’t a date. We were just getting to “understand” each other, as my dad told me before handing me the car keys.

The coffees came, and his mug of coffee had one of those pretty leafy designs swirled into the froth on top. Maybe it was a latte?

I spent the next hour getting to know him as I had been instructed. It was even more weird than all of the mandatory icebreaker games I had played at club meetings in the beginning of my Fall semesters at college.

August 12, 2011 –

“FINE Ma, I’ll do it”

And just like that, I sealed my fate. To Jay Chopra. There was silence around the table because my parents knew better than to act excited. Maybe they were relieved, and they were probably at least a little bit guilty. What could they possibly say to their daughter after she’s agreed to an arranged marriage? My mother got up to call his parents and invite them over for dinner. She had the decency to do that in the other room.

If Dan had been Indian, I think I could have loved him. I could have pretended to meet him for the first time and gone for coffee. I could have invited his family over to my house and cooked an amazing Indian dinner to impress them.

As it is, I cooked for Jay, his parents, his older sister and her husband tonight. My mother oversaw the whole affair and I kept my tears to myself the entire night. If Jay could tell I was upset, he kept it to himself and the two of us played at acting like we were happy.

Our tikka (tick-a) ceremony was completed that night. My mom procured gifts for the family out of thin air and just like that, I was off the market. I felt pathetic – I had only lasted three weeks.

August 20, 2011

The reality was sinking in, and the nights were getting chilly. Jay and I met each other for the first time exactly one month ago. I wasn’t happy, but my upbringing was forcing me to think optimistically. The rationalizations were killing me but they were better than the burning frustration the rebellious thoughts came with.

They wanted what was best for me. He was good. He grew up here, didn’t have an accent. We had both fucked somebody else already.

The mental list in my head was trying its best to expand. Reasons why Jay and I getting married might not be so bad.

I laughed as I thought about how it took me only 21 days to meet and agree to marry Jay. Just three weeks. My laughter was hollow as I contemplated just how defeated and desperate I must have felt to say yes to arranged marriage and give up a chance at love. “You’ll grow to love him. It’s better that way,” my mom told me, but growing up in America, I simply couldn’t believe that. There was just no way.

My parents’ marriage was arranged. All of their siblings entered arranged marriages too. Stepping down to my own generation, many of my older cousins had married the people they met through family. I had grown up thinking I would break that expectation, smash the tradition and meet the man of my dreams. He would sweep me away and family be damned, I’d marry somebody I loved with all of my heart.

But then, my parents asked me if I would marry Jay and I thought about life without any of my family. That’s why I said yes. It wasn’t because I thought we would make a good couple, but I knew that marrying Jay would mean that I would get to keep the rest of my family, and I loved them more than I loved my own heart’s desires.

Their timing was impeccable. I was vulnerable, bitter, and jaded. I felt like I could blame my parents if our marriage failed. It added a layer of defense, and I ensconced myself in thoughts like these and tried to tell myself that everything would be their fault.

September 3, 2011

Today was supposed to be a really exciting day – it was our engagement. Our mangni (mung-knee). I was dolled up in a new outfit, one of the twenty new ones we had picked out and had custom-tailored for my wedding. This one – a lengha – was an elaborate affair of teals and purples, my two favorite colors combined. There was gold needlework all along the blouse and the long, flowing skirt had splashes of gold-rimmed mirrors sewn onto an elaborate arrangement of flowing layers of teal and purple material.

The excitement of the wedding was getting to me – I had grown up enjoying so many of them, although this one was dampened by my perspective of being on the other side. I couldn’t help but think back to the engagements of my past, where I had dressed up, whirled around the dance floor all night, and enjoyed the buffet and Indian music. They really were joyous occasions, and as engagements go, this was supposed to be the ultimate one. It was my own engagement and I was surrounded by happy friends and overjoyed family and the pure joy on their faces overruled my heart’s doubts for tonight. I was glowing like a bride-to-be and swept away along with their visions of my perfect wedding.
I was starting to warm up to the idea and Jay and I were making the most of it. Having spent practically every single day since we met with him somehow, we were really getting to “understand” each other. We got along, and he helped me plan out all of the little details of our rushed wedding, which is more than I can say for some star-crossed lovers. We had a mutual understanding developing – I can see why my parents had phrased it that way now. He tolerated my friends, and I tolerated his, though the two circles hadn’t really meshed together yet. No matter, after our mangni, we had many more weeks of festivities before our wedding.

I hadn’t touched alcohol since we were promised to one another, because Jay didn’t like it. I also didn’t want to risk the entire house falling apart if he mentioned it to my parents or it came up in an argument. There are some things a lady must never tell, and there was no point stopping the inevitable now. We were getting married. And marriage was compromise.

If you had asked me when my next free weekend was, I would have had to ask you to come back to me next year.

December 17, 2011

Dance. Fireworks. Joy?

It was our shaadi! Jay and I sat next to each other in the wedding altar. I shifted uncomfortably and tried to stop my legs from falling asleep and he poked me playfully. Behind the sehra hiding his face from me, I could see him raise an eyebrow, a gesture I now knew meant he was asking me if I was alright while simultaneously implying that he found my discomfort amusing. I was surprised we knew each other so well already. It hadn’t even been six months but I could see us together.

I mean, I couldn’t see myself with anybody else. And that was a huge improvement in my condition when I first found out that I was going to be told who to marry. Briefly, my attention wandered as I thought about whether my parents had found out about Dan and I. Maybe that had fueled them into finding me an appropriate groom?
I was snapped out of my reverie with another poke on the side. Now he looked a little bit mad, but honestly, this part of the wedding is boring. I’d been sitting here for three hours now listening to the priest drone on and on, explaining my marital duties as a wife and as a woman. I couldn’t help but feel sleepy, and the thirty pounds of lengha, jewelry, and accessories I was bedazzled in weren’t helping my frame any.

These were the ugly realities that I had been oblivious to when I attended weddings growing up. I never really thought about being in the bride’s shoes. They were uncomfortable, and I caught myself before I sighed out loud and annoyed Jay even more. The mutual suffering was sure to create some memories we could bond over later. Most of my guests were wining, dining, and dancing. The only people who sat around the altar for this part were the immediate family; everybody else was happily eating and talking quietly amongst themselves. The older aunties were eying my friends, and I could see them mentally sizing everybody up and making more matches in their heads. Thinking things like “Oh she’s the perfect height for him” and “Look at her manners, bringing her parents food before getting any for herself.”

As much as I was enjoying the decor, the dress, and the food, the fact remains that I was about to marry a man who I barely knew. Of course, the past six months had helped and we were certain we wouldn’t kill each other, I didn’t know whether he snored at night, or if he was better at waking up in the morning than I was. The things that mattered were still a mystery, and although the little girl in me found a sadistic appeal in the uncertainty, the mature romantic in me was still trembling with trepidation. I was fighting my natural impulses with my inbred ones, and trying to sort out the inner turmoil.

The priest was still droning on, though it seemed as though he might be approaching the end of his speech – he was now gesturing at us with wild hand motions, and I looked sheepishly at Jay, afraid I had been caught again. He was still staring devoutly at the priest, but before I could poke him, his sister reached over for my hand and placed my left hand over his right. This would probably be the most prolonged physical contact we had ever had.

I tried better to pay attention to what was going on and I felt Jay swirling his thumb around my knuckles. I wasn’t sure if the gesture was absentminded, but I liked it.

February 14, 2012

“Jay, really? Pick up the damn dishes for once in your life,” I yelled.

“Sorry babe. I’ll get them, just leave em there,” he said.

“Fine.”

I turned away from the dining table toward the dishes in the kitchen and walked right into him. I stepped back and glared at him, mad that our first Valentine’s Day together as a couple was complete shit compared to the ones I had fantasized about. No breakfast in bed, no romantic movie, and no kisses. He was a complete bore. I guess that’s what growing up in business did to him.

“Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. So…so happy valentine’s day?” he said.

“Why do you say it like it’s a question?”

“It is though isn’t it? Are you happy? Are we?”

“I see a pile of dishes in the sink, I haven’t properly cleaned the house in a week, and there were no chocolates on my bed this morning. So yeah, I’m pretty unhappy.”

“Here, let’s stop arguing. Happy Valentine’s Day. I’ll do the dishes and make tea, you go sit on the couch and find a movie to watch or something”

“Kay, bring popcorn”

It was a different kind of Valentine’s day, but like two roommates faced with the knowledge that they couldn’t live apart, we really were trying to make the most of it. It wasn’t love, and I was still torn up about it, but he was beginning to be comfortable and dependent, which is what my parents might have wanted for me after all.

The mysteries were beginning to unravel at last. He only snored at night if he ate something right before bed, and I snored when I was really tired – an embarrassing fact that he still hadn’t quit teasing me about. And I knew he woke up early in the mornings because by the time I got out of bed, the shower was cold and he had coffee ready on the table for us both. So it was a good partnership. We had the teamwork thing down, now it was the relationship that we needed to build.

When he came into the living room, he brought the tea, but also brought me flowers, chocolates, and a note as well. A rare glimpse into his heart, it read:

I know our romance wasn’t ideal,
But our relationship and marriage is real.
Please keep believing that it will work –
You may not have fallen in love with me,
But I know that we can love each other.

March 15, 2012

I had just finished telling Jay how my best friend and I had mixed up The March of Ides with the Ides of March in high school, and how I had never been able to remember which one was right ever since when he leaned over and kissed me on my lips for the first time – it’s the kind of fact that you know you’ll never forget, and I filed it away in my mind right next to “almost falling asleep at my own wedding” and “accidentally pushing Jay off the bed on our first night as a couple.”

There were no fireworks, and I wasn’t tempted to kick up one of my stiletto’d feet like they do in the movies. But it was nice and it felt right. When I pulled away, I was blushing as though he’d kissed me goodbye at the front porch after our first date. I guess that’s the day our courtship really began.

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I’m copy and pasting this from my Google drive, I’ll fix formatting issues in a bit

New Story

No title yet, sorry. It’s a WIP. this is just the beginning. Consider it a teaser lawlz –

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There are not many easy ways to explain arranged marriage to your friends. When I first mentioned it, they looked at me sympathetically and told me things like “Oh, but you always have a choice” or “But you’re 23” as if these thoughts hadn’t gone through my head already. They gave me sympathetic looks later and told me “We’re always here for you if you need to talk” and “I can’t believe you’re going through with this” as the date of my wedding to Jay got closer and closer.

I’m not alone, and my story is not too unique. Instead of being told who to marry, now our parents tell us who to meet. They tell us who to go out to dinner with, and who to talk to. They tell us who is eligible and around our age. They nudge us into similar social situations and hope that something will click. They call relatives in India and ask if they know of any nice, eligible boys for their daughter in hushed, conspirational tones.

 

July 23, 2011 –

“Hi. I’m Pryanka” I say to the guy as he sat across from me at the café.

“Jay.”

“Yeah. Hi. What’s up?”

“Trust me, this is weird for me too,” Jay tells me.

“Well it’s nice to meet you anyways. So how do our parents know each other?”

“High School. I think. Doesn’t really matter I guess. What would you like to drink?”

“I’ll take an iced coffee! I actually can’t stand hot coffee, but I love how it smells.”

“I’m basically addicted to coffee so as long as you don’t mind the smell, we’re cool.”

I smiled a little and felt some tension leaving my body. He didn’t have an accent! But he was going to have to be pretty amazing to cheer me up, because my argument with Dan earlier today had been devastating. I had nothing to say to him when he ended our relationship because he was tired of waiting. I would have been tired of waiting too, if I had been in his place and had to keep everything a secret for so long. We couldn’t have a “proper” romance, he couldn’t meet my parents and promise my dad he wouldn’t bring me home too late. There were just too many pieces missing in our puzzle, and I understood that, but when we hung up the phone, I was crying anyway.

“I’m sorry, this is really weird for me,” Jay said.

“You said that already,” I said, and snapped out of my thoughts – they were leading me to unhappy places.

“Right”

The waiter came to our table and he ordered two coffees, one iced with milk and sugar. He looked at me, but before he could affirm, I nodded and said, “Yeah, milk and sugar please.”

I wasn’t sure of myself, it had been too long since I went on a date with someone new.

Indians don’t date. There is no word for “boyfriend” in Hindi. After the disastrous phone call and a sobbing session in the bathroom with the shower on, I had stepped out to get ready for this coffee with Jay. As I was getting dressed, my mother had said, “Have a nice time with him. Try to get to know him. He’s a really nice boy, beta.” They never called it a date. I hoped that the familiar term would help me come to terms with what I was getting ready for.

The coffees came, and his mug of coffee had one of those pretty leafy designs swirled into the froth on top. Maybe it was a latte?

I spent the next hour getting to know him as I had been instructed. It was even more weird than all of the mandatory icebreaker games I had played at club meetings in the beginning of my Fall semesters at college.

 

August 12, 2011 –

“FINE Ma, I’ll do it”

And just like that, I sealed my fate. To Jay Chopra. There was just silence around the table because my parents knew better than to act excited. Maybe they were relieved, and they were probably at least a little bit guilty. What could they possibly say to their daughter after she’s agreed to an arranged marriage? My mother got up to call his parents and invite them over for dinner. She had the decency to do that in the other room.

My ex-boyfriend, he didn’t understand either. If he had been Indian, I think I could have loved him. I could have pretended to meet him for the first time and gone for coffee. I could have invited his family over to my house and cooked an amazing Indian dinner to impress them.

As it is, I cooked for Jay, his parents, his older sister and her husband tonight. My mother oversaw the whole affair and I kept my tears to myself the entire night. If Jay could tell I was upset, he kept it to himself and the two of us played at acting like we were happy.

Beginning My Novel

Getting started on a novel is probably the hardest part of writing. It is the same with most other pieces of work, of course, but with a novel being such a long and arduous undertaking, it is overwhelming to begin from scratch.

That is why I will not begin from scratch. I was floundering around, tossing ideas around and testing the waters. But I realized that the amount of research I would have to do in order to get a sense of my characters in all these outlandish plots was not feasible for a novel to be completed in a month.

So then I thought to myself that the one place I could look to for a wealth of knowledge was in my own past experiences. My own culture. Thank you, Rukmani, for making me see the error of my ways. I once asked you why you wrote in an Indian setting so often, and you told me quite simply, that it was because you were Indian. Something to that effect. At the time, I scoffed at my heritage and felt it to be too alienating to an American audience to write in that setting. However, now I realize that I would much rather write a novel in a familiar place because it will be better, than write something from a Point of View I cannot even begin to understand. It will be better.

I am trying to accept this. I am Indian. I was raised with very strong Indian values. I speak Hindi. Fluently. I am as much an Indian as I am American, though I was born on this soil and have lived here for many years. I have not forgotten that other country or its ways, and they come more naturally to me than trying to mimic the lives of families I have only seen from the outside and never experienced. I would have to live in a white girl’s shoes to do her story any justice.

So here we are, at a bit of a crossroads. I accept that my stories will be better when they call upon my roots rather than somebody else’s.

With that thought in mind, here is a beginning excerpt of my novel. I do not know if it will stay in the final draft or not, but the seeds of my story are here. It isn’t much; less than 400 words are posted here. But still, it is a start and I want to pursue the story that I see taking shape. Enjoy!

AS YET UNNAMED

Riya sat at the edge of her bed. Her dupatta covered her face and she was thoroughly nervous and unprepared for whatever the night held in store for her.

Any other day, she would have changed into comfortable clothes, rid her face of the layers of makeup, and crawled into the covers. But tonight, she didn’t know what to expect. She didn’t know if Arjun was even going to sleep on the bed with her. When they had agreed, they had never planned for this. In fact, she had pretended that the details didn’t exist, as if saying yes to their marriage because he seemed a decent enough man was enough for the deed to be done.

Unfortunately, Indian families didn’t work that way, and Riya had endured nearly a month of festivities before she arrived to the bed this night. There were rose petals strewn across the bed, and they formed the alphabets A and R in the middle. The king sized bed had been outfitted with a beautiful and richly-colored coverlet of mahogany and varying shades of taupe. It was resplendent with pillows and surrounded by a gauzy veil of sheer beige lace. There were candles on the bedside tables and the windowsills, and whole atmosphere screamed of romance.

She knew Arjun’s two younger sisters, Sonali and Pooja, were behind the stunt. As his younger sisters, it was customary that they decorate the bridal chamber and welcome their sister-in-law into her new home. The wedding had passed by in a blur and the ongoing celebration and dances left Riya bubbling with excitement. It had felt like somebody else’s wedding at times, and the constant merriment had made her forget that she didn’t really know him. It had made her forget and for that, she was grateful.

That is, she was grateful most of the time. Right now, she heard the hushed giggles behind the door and she sat there, properly veiled in all her bridal finery, as a hanged woman awaiting her fate. Once he walked through that door, she did not know what would happen. She wasn’t sure what she wanted more – the considerate rejection or the farce of seduction.

Day 14: Keeping Secrets (Alternative Question)

Day 14 — Because my parents never found out, I remember getting away with _____ as a teenager…

Oh dear, there’s no way I’m revealing that kind of scandalous information on a public forum when my parents might encounter it some day in the future when they’ve learned the definition of blogging! You all shall have to read my answer to the alternative question now! Enjoy below (:

Your daughter tells you she is bringing home her boyfriend for dinner. When they arrive, she introduces you to a man who is not your same race. Sometime during dinner she announces that they have been married for the last six months. What bothers you more? The difference in race or being excluded from the wedding…

I think back on this question and I’m surprised by how much of my mother is in me. The fact that she’s been married for the last six months would come as crippling news. I do however, have to make a complaint – the question is not phrased to be culture friendly. Let’s list out what’s wrong with this scenario!

1. Girls cannot have boyfriends, least of all announce he’s coming to dinner.
2. If a girl dates, her parents are not to find out about it
3. If a girl dates outside her own culture/religion/ethnicity, her parents are DEFINITELY not to find out about it
4. A girl lives with her parents until she gets married. So if she’s been married for 6 months, they haven’t been living together yet.

I would have to be a major failure as a parent if my daughter married somebody and I didn’t know. But the more I think about it….I do think that she should marry within her own ethnicity, so that part would bother me too. This is just, overall, a really stupid scenario though. If I pretend I am white though, I will say that I would be bothered most about not being a part of her wedding.

But I mean really, that is just NOT how relationships work! A marriage is a month-long celebration. What girl would willingly give that up and lie to her parents O.o It just makes no sense to me. There’s NO way this secret can be kept that long. Nope.

This question cracks me up. It’s structured to make everybody respond by saying how outraged they are by the hidden marriage, but I think that race does play a big part. I want somebody I can speak to in Hindi as well as English. I want somebody who will cook me an aloo ka parantha on Sunday mornings when I want to sleep in. I’m sure these things can be learned, but that level of comfort and integration wouldn’t be present in a marriage outside of our race.

Yeah, super unrealistic question. Hidden marriage bothers me more, but I am bothered by race too. If my daughter is going to take this drastic step, she should have the balls to introduce him to the family before she marries him so we can get to know the person behind the race barrier. If he loves her and she loves him, great. But Indian or not, I want him to be from a good family and I want them to have a proper wedding.

 

xoxo,
Pryanka

List of rules and questions is here

Please take a moment to check out the other wonderful blogs participating in 30 days of Blogging Honesty with me!

Arranged Disaster – Part 3 {{Sim}}

Sim had gone to college, and he had a degree: a bachelor of arts, or something like that. At any rate, this meant he knew enough English that everybody in the village went to him for their translations. Sim didn’t mind, but he did wish that more of the village’s young children aspired to go to college. Education was becoming increasingly important, as anybody who stepped out of the village would rather abruptly come to know.

But still, he could not complain much, because his unofficial role as the village translator allowed him sneaky glance s into everybody’s lives. He came to know tidbits of information which otherwise were obscured within complex family history. He came to know about the troubles, and successes, of cousins and relatives gone overseas. He came to know about the downfall of eager young villagers who had set off to Bollywood, aspiring to become famous and bring some respect to their small hometown. Overall, it was not a bad job. He peeled open a banana, ripe for one day too long, and reflected upon his life. He had gotten into a government college with a scholarship that covered all of his tuition and housing. He had snatched up the opportunity and made the most of it, graduating, as his parents proudly put it, “top of his class” and receiving the first Bachelor’s degree in the village. But then he had come back and, as was his duty, taken care of his parents. He helped the villagers translate their news, and taught English to other villagers – anybody who wanted to learn – but had no job. He was paid not with rupees, but with fruits of labor. Sometimes, he received bananas, and other times, milk freshly squeezed from a villager’s cow. The work may not have made him rich, but he was loved around town and the gifts brought to him were enough to sustain him quite comfortably.

As he pondered all these things and ate his banana, one of his closest friends came running down the small alley with a note in his hand. He looked excited. He watched as his friend bounded into the living room and, without so much as an introduction, placed the note down on the table and said “Isko mere liye angreji me padh yaar” (Dude, read this to me in English please?) He could guess who it was from – everybody in the village had noticed the love struck actions of his silly friend. He picked up the note, laughing and teasing his friend the entire time, and began to read to himself. Since the note was in English, he read it first to himself, so that he could translate it without losing its meaning. As he read it, he couldn’t help but grin, and his smile only grew wider as he read more of the note. Finally, relenting to his friend’s anxious pacing, he told him what the note said. It was actually a poem, some beautiful lines of verse. In it, she had explained the constraints of their relationship, and she hinted at her unwillingness to break away from social norms by herself to pursue her love for him. She was afraid, and sure that a rash and dangerous decision on her part could bring death upon both of them. However, she told him that, if she was worthy of it, he should never stop trying to get her. One day, she would be his. That is what the note said.

Arranged Disaster – Part 2 {{The Note}}

He would travel to the other end of the village every night, timing it so that his arrival there was just moments prior to her own escape onto the balcony for her daily tea. His heart, racing in anxiety throughout the day, would finally find its calm when he rested his eyes upon her, his love. She would sit on her flimsy rocking chair on the balcony and sip her tea quietly, all the while writing what he had, at first, thought to be a journal. As he continued to present himself though, she became bolder as well, and after much thought, allowed one of the written pages to slip through her fingers, fluttering down onto the dingy street. He leapt up, and she saw his face light up with unabashed ecstasy. This would be her first token of acknowledgment, and he promised himself he would cherish this piece of paper until he died. He caressed the sheet, feeling its texture, knowing from a single glance that it was high quality. And as her note raised his spirits, the realization of its futility shot him down. He battled with himself – reading the note would bring him that much closer to the inevitable brink of his destruction. She was above him in every manner – she was more graceful, more beautiful, and wealthier– and his love was going to lead to nothing but heartbreak. Deep down, he knew that, but still, he opened the note.

She had written a little verse, four lines of simple poetry. Her English flowed perfectly, and her letters were written with no hesitation. She knew better English than he did, but that, again, wasn’t going to stop him. He carefully folded up the note and set off for his friend’s house.

Arranged Disaster – Part 1

He was just having fun with his friends when he first saw her. He had been riding down the dirt path on his bicycle, and he suddenly stopped, causing the posse behind him to complain as they slammed their own brakes. He got up, swaggered to the poor rickshaw driver, and snatched up an air pump.

No explanations, no questions. He grabbed the pump and walked back toward his bicycle, ignoring the protests of the unworthy man behind him.

“But sahib, my passenger is in a hurry, and I must repair my tires before they can go any farther.” He plead fervently, because if she found another rickshaw to take for the rest of her journey, he would lose the RS. 10, and with it, break his promise to his son. His son had been craving chocolate for weeks now, but every time, he had to come home ashamed, with just enough money to make ends meet, if that. There 10 rupees would leave him enough room to buy a piece of candy. The rickshaw driver sighed, defeated and helpless.

She averted her eyes, looking down at the ground. Her long hair hung down her back in a simple braid. Her face was free of makeup, and she had on plain solid colored garments. But there was something about the beauty of her village charm that stopped him – he stopped in his tracks, muttering an excuse about not having been in as much of a hurry as he had thought, and handed the pump back to the rickshaw driver.

He was in love. Love at first sight – it didn’t exist in that village. Marriages were arranged, keeping in mind family politics and society standings. But he didn’t even know her name. He just knew that he loved her. He waited until the rickshaw had been repaired, and then, hooting and hollering with his group, he chased after it. The girl did not look up. The unnamed beauty of his dreams tried her best to ignore what she knew was happening. Her cheeks burned, not with desire, but with embarrassment. She was glad her younger brother was not with her. “What would my parents say if they saw this? I should just die from the humiliation right now. The entire village will find out, and I will never step out of my house again. I’m doomed.”

All that, because of a glance. But the boy, too, was aggressive. He saw her everywhere after then, not that it was difficult to do in their small village. He was not stalking her, persay – he was merely protecting her from the evil eyes of all the other eligible men. She was his.

He followed her into the shop. He felt that she looked very adorable buying vegetables. Such a simple task it was, but she did it with such grace and beauty, casually pushing her long braided hair back as it slid forward, caressing her nape gently as it did so. Little by little, the girl was growing accustomed to him. She was beginning to enjoy the attention he gave her – she enjoyed being doted upon. Growing up as a female in that small village in India was not easy. To live there was to live in a time long gone from modern civilization. It was a simpler life, yes, but in some ways, a richer and more vibrant one. Hand pumps pumped water out for daily use, and showerheads were unheard of – the only practical way with which one could bathe him or herself was by using a bucket and a pail. The outfits too were different – unmarried young girls wore simple garments so as not to attract unwarranted attraction, and were discouraged from flaunting their body around the town. They stepped out to do household chores and other such respectable jobs: buying vegetables being one of them.