That was the best thing about them.
We began to live together when we began to fight
We began to fight when we became unafraid of losing.
What were we afraid of losing?
I know I was afraid of losing him.
I was afraid I would be hurt
Now I treat words like falling leaves, not a sharp knife.
When I have no words to counter the barrage from him
I leave the room.
Sometimes I stay and make faces at him
I let him fight with me.
Because that is love
Love slicing through silence like curtains pulled suddenly.
Too much sunlight makes us wince
Sometimes the view distracts us.
Why are you fighting with me, he says
You know why I am fighting with you, I say.
We fight because the silence stifles us
We fight to find out if we are still friends.
I fold some fights in the pages of time
Letting them mature over years.
By the time I bring them out between us
Some of them have become stories to tell.
Sometimes we start fighting as soon as we meet
As if we must accelerate everything.
There isn’t time for everything
It was a really random question I asked my mother. We were finishing dinner, she and I. The children had already eaten, I could hear a music based reality show on the TV in the other room.
“She’s back home, didn’t I tell you,” my mother said with alarm in her voice.
“Oh, she had a terrible experience. The man she was married to was already in a relationship with someone else. He even had a child with that woman.”
“Yes. He used to go out alone for long walks after dinner to talk to her on the phone. He would lock his new bride in the house, telling her that it was not safe for her. She didn’t even have a cell phone.”
My mother’s friend is a smart, rich, modern Indian woman. She has no children of her own. Her niece lost her father when she was a child. She has been raised by her mother, her grandmother, her aunt and her uncle (her mother’s brother)
One child among 4 adults. One young, pretty, educated, Delhi-born and raised working woman to be married. An arranged marriage is arranged. And botched.
How did they manage to do this? How did they meet and check out a young man and his family and not get a whiff that they were going to be cheated so badly? I want to know.
My mother tells me more. The in-laws had lied about their property and income. They had been greedy about the dowry they expected. There had been rudeness. Now the girl’s uncle has hired a detective who brought the news of his lover and their child.
No, no, no. Don’t tell me this happens all the time in India. Tell me HOW? Tell me how you guys do it. How and why do you betray your own children like this? Answer me.
What do you do with your brains? What do you do with your love? I know you felt love for your daughter when you were raising her. What did you DO WITH THAT LOVE?
Did you bury it in a shallow grave and pat in down with your shoe? Put it in the back of a drawer and let it die in the darkness? Leave it whimpering in the dark till it lost its voice?
My mother tries to calm me down. I ask her, “Mamma, when they could see that the in-laws were being greedy, that the groom was acting rude, then why didn’t they probe deeper then?”
“It’s not easy to tell these things,” she says.
“They hired a detective now, right? Why didn’t they hire one earlier? Oh I know that’s not how these things work.”
“People can’t tell these things,” she says.
“How can they NOT KNOW? People show so many signs, why do we overlook what is OBVIOUS. Or suspicious.I can SEE IT.“
“You were like this even when you were a child,” my mother says.
I know I am screaming for me. I am screaming for all daughters. I am screaming to release the muffled voice inside me. Inside my mother.
I also wanted to live, Neeta screams at the end of Megha Dhaka Tara. “Dada, ami baachte chai.”
Rescue me, she says. Let me live. Give me permission to live. To love.
He is a Muslim and I am Hindu. Both by birth and choice.
The first year after we were married, we went over to my parent’s home and sat with them for the annual family Diwali puja. We sing a bhajan and do a small pooja.
The second year, he was uncomfortable and he said, you go ahead and I will join the family later after the pooja is over. So he did not have to participate…… perhaps he felt coopted and pressurised to assimilate.
The third year I refused to visit my parents on Diwali. I called it cultural confusion…. and it depressed me. As the evening progressed, he just did not feel right about it and very belatedly, when it was all over, we turned up at my parent’s home to meet on Diwali. They were almost already in bed by then.
This year was the 5th Diwali. My original plan was to get away from it all by arranging to be in Lahore on Diwali…. for a workshop I have been invited for. So I thought, its a good way to avoid the confusion on Diwali. Could not get visas in time, so plan failed.
His mum was in town and ironically her enthusiasm seemed to give me permission to be happy on Diwali. We all dressed up (I wore a sari!) and attended the puja, I sang the bhajan along with my parents, my daughter’s sat in dadi and papa’s laps, my father put a teeka on everyone’s forehead, Mum gave us lots of presents….. and it was fun for most people. He and I were quite tense….. but it was much better. And all because the person we are afraid of offending was there and led the way.