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 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.