3 January 2014

*Short story* - Expectations


Suman snorted in consternation. She was weaving her way through traffic, her patiala pant billowing in the wind, as she made her way to office; a ride so routine, that it had become mindless. Her thoughts instead, were with the morning conversation.

She seethed inwardly. So she had agreed for Amma and Appa to search for a boy for her, that did not give them the right to randomly propose guys to her. Why can't they understand that what she wanted in a husband, was very different from what they wanted? Actually, Amma and Appa seemed to be searching for a family, not a groom. As long as the family had a good reputation, meaning stable jobs and appropriate assets, they were ready to hear the proposal. In vain she had implored that she was going to marry the boy, not his mother. No, said Amma. You will be marrying the family.

The latest proposal was from landowners who lived off their plantation; the closest town to their home was 50 kilometers away. How will she live there? No malls, movie theaters and importantly, no friends! Why can't her parents understand that these things are important? Her parents were raised in a village, but she had been born and brought up in the city. To top it all, they had already set up a meeting with the prospective boy's family this weekend, for Saturday, when she went to Rukmini's bar. That was another thing that would be missing there - would these simple people be OK with a bride who drinks and sometimes, slyly smokes?

Suman burned with these thoughts and was distracted at work. While her fingers tapped away on the code she was working on, her mind visited the morning conversation again and again. Finally she got time at lunch to call her friend Maya. They decided to meet at the bar to talk things over.

Being a weekday, Rukmini felt relaxed. There were few people in the bar and she could spend much of the time obsessing and cleaning the countertop. The circular motions of wiping calmed her and something about a gleaming, clean surface made her feel positive, alive; a clean slate held many possibilities. She noticed when Suman and Maya took a seat, and gave them her loyal customer smile. Their talk was in low voices, with an occasional swear word escaping loudly from Suman. Rukmini had always found Suman to be ignorantly opinionated, so she assumed her rant to be about something frivolous.

Maya was the eternal sweet friend. She listened to Suman without interrupting and made soft, sympathetic noises at regular intervals. She tried hard to make Suman look at the situation differently - her parents had only organized a meeting with the boy, they weren't forcing her to marry him right? What's in a meeting? All Suman had to do was deck up and serve coffee. If she found it distasteful, she could pretend that she was acting in a play. Suman was not ready to consider any option that went against her current feeling of anger and annoyance. She wanted her parents to feel bad and decided that she would sleep over at Maya's to further demonstrate how irritated she was.

On Saturday morning, a dark cloud hung over the household. In order to explain and calm Suman, her parents had asked her brother, who was in the US, to talk to her. After hearing Anna's plea, Suman relented to going through with the meeting, without looking grumpy the whole time.

His name was Arya. He came accompanied by his parents and two aunts. Suman's heart gave a little tug when she first saw him, for he was handsome. Preliminary conversation was banal, with both sides trying to trace common relatives and acquaintances. It was Arya's mother who finally requested her parents that the two of them should be given a chance to talk in private. Amma looked at Suman to indicate how this gesture was so forward looking and to pay heed. Suman tried not to read between the lines. At their private meeting Arya finally spoke at length. He had a strong baritone; a steady, calm voice which immediately caught Suman's attention. He described himself: he had been educated in boarding school and then trained overseas in business management. He worked for a while as a consultant but city living didn't suit him, so he moved back to the plantation. He found great satisfaction in working with the soil. He then asked Suman to do the same. By this time Suman wanted to make an impression; she was smitten with Arya. In a relaxed manner, Arya led the conversation, trying to convey his personality through his decisions, stories and what he wanted in a partner. He allowed Suman equal expression and attention. When the conversation stalled naturally, Arya suggested they go back to the families. They decided that they would continue to speak over the next couple of weeks.

Suman fell in love; she had never before experienced the agitated anticipation of meeting a man or waiting to hear his voice. Arya was no different from when she first met him; she ascribed that to his nature which did not get easily excited, bordering sometimes on ascetic. In her fantasies she was the apsara who would change everything for him. They conversed about many different things and Suman realized that he was deeply knowledgeable, well traveled and engaged wholly in making a good business of the plantation; contrary to her expectations on all counts.

In a few weeks time she was certain she wanted to marry Arya. She told him this and was taken aback with his response. With a warm smile he said,"Suman, you flatter me immensely. Let me think about this." Think about it? That was not what Suman expected. She wanted at least on this one occasion, for Arya to become sentimental. And what did he need to think about? She had already conveyed her thoughts to her parents and felt crushed. Arya sensed her disappointment that day, but didn't discuss it anymore. He dropped her home and as was his routine, texted her when he reached the plantation.

The next few hours and days were agonizing for Suman. As per decorum, her parents were waiting to hear from Arya's home to finalize the commitment. Arya had planned previously to take a vipasana retreat and wasn't available to take calls or meet with her. It was a testing time. Every day Suman would come home from office expecting to be greeted with a smiling Amma.

The phone call came two weeks later. They had just finished dinner and were clearing the dining table. Appa picked up the phone and immediately, from the tone of his voice and his greeting, they knew who was calling. The next few minutes, Suman watched as her world changed. All she heard was Appa say, "Of course, of course. Yes, Yes."

Arya did not want to marry Suman.

2 comments:

  1. Ohhhhh! That's must have been disappointing for the girl... Well, she'll get over it.

    Love,
    S

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  2. Not my best attempt. Had to make something happen to Suman that would sober her up. Couldn't work in Rukmini too! Blah.

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