It was another typical lazy Sunday of my life when I discovered that the uneasiness I have inside is actually an itch to visit home and be with my family and friends. I was just about tired of not having any
work in office lately and needed a break big time.
A week from that fateful Sunday, I sank into the aisle seat on the Lufthansa flight to New Delhi and closed my eyes. "Aarti, bete, apni seat mein baitho theek se, uncle ko pareshan mat karo, wo marenge" ('Aarti, child, sit down in your seat, don't bother uncle, he'll beat you up') said a rather huge mother in the adjacent seat, lovingly to her five year old, as the kid stepped over me for the umpteenth time, trying to get out of her seat. I smiled philosophically at the mother. "So I'm an Uncle now ...", I think to myself, "Well, whatever".
After several tiring hours, a 2 hour stopover in Frankfurt, and a few more tiring hours, the plane landed at Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi at 1:00 am in the morning.
The long queue, the heat, dust, omnipresent dirt, and the lactic acid in my blood vessels, all together made me miss my apartment and nice cold breeze of Bay Area and I had an intense desire to undo the entire journey so far and continue my monotonous event less life back with lazy Sundays and all. But if wishes were horses, if life was undoable ... I would undo several other things too ... breaking up with Mabel for one, but that would had happened sooner or later, we were just two very different kind of variables. I'll undo our coming across each other itself if I could.
There were dozens of tired looking badged people everywhere around the immigration desks who were seemingly very busy, but the speed with which the immigration queue was moving, they were apparently not
really achieving anything significant.
I came out of the terminal and saw hundreds of people waiting to receive their loved ones, one would think its a riot or something. Boy!! how many people does this country have? And I suddenly saw that two of these 'so many' people are my parents. My mother saw me and waved a hand at me, and pulled on my father's shirt to show him in my direction. It'd been just two years I last saw them; I never imagined they would've changed so much in this time. My father looked much older than I remembered, and my mother looked much shorter too. Maybe because it was too late, they were both obviously tired and sleepy.
An almost tearful reunion followed, my mother just couldn't have enough of touching my hair and my face all through the drive back home. My father kept telling me about changes he has made in the house, built a new room, got a new carpet. "How's Mowgli" I asked when I finally thought of something to ask; Mowgli is my pet canine. At the risk of sounding shameless, I should state that I probably missed him the most while I was away, its something about unconditional love your dog gives you. Mowgli was fine, a little lazier lately, maybe it was all the heat.
My first week in India was rather amusing. Irritating at times, funny others. Everything was romantic and colorful and cute - grown men chasing buses with newspaper in one hand and tiffin carrier in the other. Old,
rusty Ambassador cars, Marutis ("Have they started making them smaller?", I asked my father, "Can't believe how small these things are...". He didn't know how to respond, so he just smiled.), newer cars Hyundai, Daewoo, Hondas, all making their way around corners and each other using horns, yells, and street abuses I have long since forgotten.
The most I enjoyed was the Punjabi food! No one makes it better than my mother.
And there were pep talks to younger neighborhood kids about my life in California, and how can they also get to live the same. There were repeated showings of photo albums, and videos from my visit to Vegas et cetera.
And at last the eventuality raised its ugly head, my mother started pressuring me to get married. "You remember the Duttas who used to live in the next street. They moved to Bombay a few years back, their daughter has done something in Mass Communication and reads morning news on Star TV...". 'So that's why I'm being subtly pushed to watch news every morning', I thought to myself, 'Gawd!!! thankfully I am still under jet lag and am too dizzy in the mornings to see TV clearly.'
"...or there's another girl, this family lives in Kalkaji in Delhi, the girl has done some thing in Computers, very good family, they used to live in the same village as us in Punjab before partition."
"When did we live in Punjab? How old are these people??", I ask.
"tch ! don't be funny, I mean their forefathers and our forefathers.", my mother replies.
"I don't even want to see any girl amma", I protest.
"Just see her. What harm can that do?", my father looks up from newspaper and says. He thinks that'd do the trick - just seeing the girl. What am I, some teenage boy in heat?
"And beta, have you looked at yourself lately? You're of right age to get married. How old you want to get before you get married? And would it be easy to find a girl for you when you're 30 or 35 year old?", my mother starts. "Uncle" - the word echoes in my head, uneasiness follows on close heals. "Your grandma is already ninety two and she would go happily if she sees you married and ..."
"I don't feel mentally prepared for it"...
"Just see her, seeing is okay beta.", my father adds.
Within a week the pressure started to get me. I realized that it is a no-win situation with parents. They are on the offensive if I go on the defensive and they get very defensive if I raise my voice.
What's really worrying me is that I'm a very nice person by nature; the idea of saying no to a marriage after putting a girl through all the first meeting, seeing, etc. is very discomforting to me; And so I might end up saying 'yes' to the very first girl I meet and I may later regret it. Maybe that's my parents' master plan.
Suddenly I feet the heat and humidity of Ghaziabad. I'm craving for the air conditioners. I can't believe how dirty Ghaziabad is in general, how crowded. And the nosy relatives, the chaotic traffic, spicy food, and the friends have all got so busy with their own wives and lives, they don't have enough time to hear me whine.
Not that my life is too much better in the States. I have different but enough issues there as well, my inability to blend into the culture for example, I'm still puzzled and pained by the way Mabel and I ended up. The first hand taste of an American romantic relationship was very bitter for me. Will I ever really fit in? Where do I belong? Maybe nowhere anymore. I'm a first generation immigrant, no one understands my life, and I'm myself as confused as any outsider trying to understand me. And well, I'm not getting any younger...
I'm walking on the roof of my house with Mowgli, I stop for a moment and look up. The sun is setting behind the Shiva temple in the distance. The sound of temple bells is reaching me like some sort of a morse code. I decide to atleast "just see the girl". My mother would be as happy as she gets when she learns this. And my father would be so proud of his scheming. I never intended to make them happy after what they are putting me through... the thought brings a smile to my face, "Can it get a little more juvenile please?", I look at the temple and ask Lord Shiva.
>She's sitting across the table from me, my probable future wife