NaNoWriMo Day 1

I don’t know where else to turn, so I will rely on the anonymity of the internet and the chance of gaining an online support group of readers who will help me soldier through this really weird period of my life. You don’t really need to know me – only that I’m 23 and about to make the craziest decision of my life.

No, I’m not about to quit my job and backpack through Europe or streak around the block…twice.

What I’m doing is probably much crazier. I’m about to accept an arranged marriage. I’m about to marry Jay, the man my parents picked out for me, and I’m about to convince myself that somehow, we will find love at the end of all of this.

Arranged marriage is a weird concept and very scary as a girl who was born and raised in the United States. As somebody who went to a very liberal university in New York City, I still cannot believe that I am going to allow my parents to make the biggest decision in my life thus far rather than try to blunder about until I find my man by myself.

Part of me is excited by the challenge of an arranged marriage, and part of me is revolted that I am feeling this excitement at all.

Mostly, I am just trying to reason through why I am saying yes, and explain myself to my friends and family. I don’t want to become bitter and resentful before I even give marriage a chance, although I admit that I feel as though I am giving up on love by saying yes to Jay.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him – that’s not the problem. The problem is just that we don’t love each other, and I don’t know if marrying a man I don’t love will ever work out.
I wish that I could live out our possible futures in a dream and then pick the best possible path to happiness. I think Sabrina was lucky enough to have that chance in one episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. I think I am rambling.

The first time I met Jay was sufficiently awkward enough to convince me that I was right in despising arranged marriage. I think I was skeptical because I have kept so much of my life hidden from my parents that I don’t expect them to know what kind of man I can see myself with. They’re sheltered, you see, and what they don’t know won’t really hurt them. I don’t kiss and tell. (Except on this blog, and I’m going to enjoy the anonymity and blog away)

—-

I’m going to try to remember as much of our first conversation as I can.

“Hey, it’s nice to meet you,” I said to the guy as he slid into the seat across from me. We were at a Starbucks in the city located geographically in between my office and his.

“I’m Jay.”

“Yeah, I know. Hi, what’s up?”

I could already tell it would be awkward. We’d spoken on the phone once before when setting up this meeting and then texted earlier today already to make sure we were going to the right Starbucks. Clearly, he was Jay.

“Trust me, this is weird for me too,” I said to him.

“Oh. Yeah, I don’t often meet prospective wives either. Talk about pressure”

“So you mean you’ve met other prospectives before? Should I be flattered I’m getting a chance?”

He smiled a little and then the silence stretched on uncomfortably.

“So what do you want 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.”

Then we settled into another silence as we contemplated what it could possibly mean that our first conversation was about whether we liked the smell of coffee or not.

A minute later, he got up to go order our coffees and I sat there mentally running through my checklist. The fact that he didn’t have an Indian accent was the most relieving part of my day.
“I’m sorry, this is really weird for me,” he says to me when he returns with our coffees. I made a face and shrugged. It was a weird situation, period. We just had to make the most of it.

“So pretend that this is our first date then. We met at a party last week and exchanged numbers. And now here we are.”

That’s what broke the ice – it was something we could both relate to because we’d both grown up here and it was a more comfortable introduction than a contrived meeting to discuss if we were compatible for marriage.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I think the beginning of that conversation was worth blogging about. Something to look back on and laugh at? Maybe despair over. Not sure yet.
So yeah, coffee. He loves drinking it, and I love smelling it. So far, so good.

I have this list of questions I wrote in High School when my parents threatened to marry me off to a guy from India if I didn’t get into a good college. It had been a joke, but I wanted to be prepared.

1. How many kids do you want?
2. Do you smoke?
3. What’s your opinion on women who drink?
4. Are you a virgin? (Probably NOT a good idea to ask this one at our first meeting unless I really want to scare him away)
5. Do you like to dance?
6. Are you a morning person!?
7. Favorite food? Cuisine?
8. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
9. Do you like to travel? (He had better answer yes to this one)
10. Pets?
11. Have you ever had a girlfriend?
12. Ass or titties? (Okay this one was mostly just for fun. Maybe a good test of his sense of humor?)
13. How religious are you
14. Do you like long drives?
15. How athletic or into sports are you?

When I was younger, I thought that list was a good rundown of the basics. The simple questions that I didn’t want to come later as a surprise, and the small things that I know I wanted in the perfect life partner that I fantasized about.

It’s strange because I made this list right after I went with my cousin to meet a girl our parents had picked out for him. “She comes from a good family, beta,” they told us both over and over. I was skeptical and I’m sure it showed on my face when I first met her. They had exchanged pictures before and were meeting in person for the first time today. With the whole family in tow.

I am so thankful that my first time meeting Jay wasn’t my first time meeting his whole family as well. I’d have blown it for sure.

See, I write things like that and wonder why I am trying to please them all. My parents, his parents, and him. Why should I care? Why didn’t part of me choose to rebel and dress in really repellant clothing and eat a lot of garlic before meeting him?

“I’m American,” I tell myself over and over. Growing up, that is how I have justified all of my unique thoughts. So now, when I could have easily worked myself out of an arranged marriage, why am I even contemplating marrying this man?

—-

I have thought some more about what I wrote earlier and tried to figure out why I am okay with arranged marriage.

I think it is time to introduce my readers to Dan. Dan is the ex-boyfriend. The first serious relationship I had with a man.

We broke up when I realized I loved him.

In a word, Dan was perfect. How can I go from loving perfection to loving anything else? He is my first everything, and no matter what happens, I cannot imagine a plane of existence where I will not be powerfully attracted to him.

But we broke up because he’s not Indian, and I realized that as fun and amazing and spectacular as our relationship was, I could never let it deepen into anything more because my parents didn’t even know he existed.

If you are wondering how one can possibly hide a five year relationship, just ask a brown girl.

There is no Hindi word for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” For too long, Indian society has gone on pretending that it’s still alright for the community to play matchmaker, and honestly, I am sick of it.

I used to wonder what reasons there could possibly exist that would allow an educated Indian girl in today’s society to accept that age-old destiny and enter an arranged marriage.

Whenever Dan and I spoke about it, I would tell him I would never be one of those dumb girls without any ambition or desires of their own.

I still don’t think I am one of those girls, but I have found a reason nonetheless. That’s why I’m here in this predicament, blogging about how I might possibly be marrying a guy I don’t know. Clearly.

The reason is family. It’s an extremely unfair reason, but if I had to show you how compelling it was, I’d say envision all of the emotional blackmail, peer pressure, guilt, persuasive arguments, and bribes you have ever seen, and add them all up. Then throw in a really cute puppy for good measure.

My family is something that I have grown into and am inseparable from. I have a large family with many cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and elders. They have been there to give me life, love, advice, friendship, gifts, and wisdom.

If marrying an Indian man is the only way to sustain that family, then that is a small sacrifice to pay. Who am I to be so picky and declare that I won’t marry an Indian man.

I think that when I began dating Dan, it was to rebel against them and try to declare my independence in some contrived way. My own personal secret. But our relationship didn’t just end in a few months, and now trying to imagine a life without him is really, really hard too.

The problem is that I can’t just forget him. He didn’t cheat on me, and we didn’t have a really big argument that brought out any irreconcilable differences.

I am the problem. My ethnicity and the family that raised me is the problem. I love them, and that’s a problem.

Because the way I see it, I can never tell them about him. I can’t keep my love at the expense of breaking all of their hearts. So I broke off my relationship with him before we would get hurt anymore and now I will weep and grieve and mend in time.

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Bared to You

I saw a review of this book on a blog I will link to when I’m next on my computer (I’m posting this from my phone)!!

This is a response to Fifty Shades of Grey type book. I’ve read that trilogy so I figured I should read this too, plus its set in Manhattan.

The point though, of this post, is to share what I think is an AWESOME phenomenon that occurs to us New Yorkers after a time.

Below are Sylvia Day’s words, not mine 🙂 But they are apt, and I find myself wishing for the romance of steaming potholes again. To be so naive!

“Real New Yorkers cruised right through it all, their love for the city as comfortable and familiar as a favorite pair of shoes. They didn’t view the steam billowing from potholes and vents in the sidewalks with romantic delight and they didn’t blink an eye when the ground vibrated beneath their feet as the subway roared by below, while I grinned like an idiot and flexed my toes. New York was a brand new love affair for me. I was starry-eyed and it showed.

Isn’t this just a lovely little piece to read? The book isn’t about that in the end, I don’t think, but it is still a beautiful passage. It makes me nostalgic, because it is difficult to remember the last time I viewed my city with such reverence.

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.

Camp NaNoWriMo!

I recently heard that VeehCira will also be participating in this project with me, HOW EXCITING!! Too bad we aren’t in the same cabin.

For those who don’t know what it is, NaNoWriMo is a big challenge for novelists and writers everywhere. It challenges you to complete a novel of at least 50,000 words, or complete the first 50,000 words of the novel if you plan for it to be bigger. This means, on average, you should be writing at least 1,667 words per day I believe. You input your word count at the end of every day and watch the meter steadily rise toward the 50,000 word goal as you write and explore the novel within your mind. It’s an exciting adventure, because we start Day 1 completely fresh.

I don’t know what I’m writing. I am hoping that an idea will come to me and the novel will manifest itself. Then I will explore its depths and bring the nuances to light and ultimately, have a first edition manuscript of something I can be proud of.

Wish me luck!

I have not decided how to introduce the novel to you all, my fellow bloggers and readers. I don’t want to post daily because I am sure things will be revised and scrapped and rewritten during the course of the month.

Perhaps at the month’s end, I will post a link to an eBook download of my first edition with the hopes that those of you who read it will act as my critics, editors, readers, and friends!