Losing a Cousin: The Sequel

Sequel to Losing A Cousin To Society.

She bends down low to serve the tea to me. Awkwardly, I grab a cup, some biscuits, and try to avoid eye contact. It’s not easy because she’s looking directly towards me.

The place is right out of a prime time K-serial. The family, seated around an implausibly elegant drawing-room. The outwardly smiling, “stern” Mother In Law. The aloof, unconcerned husband. The subservient parents of the bride. And, of course, the coyly gracious bride herself.

The mother in law goes on and on about how she saved the world with a matchstick. Polite smiles are exchanged. It’s all sickeningly sweet, just like the tea I’m trying to finish. I don’t even WANT to be here. My presence is merely a logistical necessity.

The husband gets out of his ostentatious aloofness and cracks a spouse war joke. More polite, rippling laughter. He’s allowed to crack these jokes now, to prove how hen-pecked he is. To prove how much he supposedly bends to his wife.

How gracious of him.

I clamp down on my annoyance. No point getting upset. There’s nothing I can do about this, and getting angry isn’t going to serve any purpose. Calm down.

There’s a clink of bangles and jewelry. The bride’s gotten up and she’s heading into the kitchen. I see my excuse to get out of the room and follow her. Awkwardness be damned, I’m going to talk to my favorite cousin.

As I enter the gleaming, surgically clean kitchen, I catch sight of her face. She’s looking radiant in the blood-red tones that the setting sun casts.

She looks at me. I look at her. I go first.

“So…how’s life?”, I ask her

“Oh! Good, good. Yours?”

“Just the usual.”

“Mmm hmm”

She gets some samosas out of the fridge and pops them in the microwave.

“How come you deleted your Facebook account?”, I say, by way of casual conversation. as we watch the lazy rotations of the turntable.

“Well, I’m married now, you know.”, she replies

“As is something like thirty percent of the Facebook population. As are my parents, for example. As is your husband.”

“Shut up, N.”

“Is it because ‘He’ doesn’t like it?”

She pulls the plate out of the microwave and begins to arrange the triangular delicacies on a tray. Her expression is inscrutable.

“Well, YES. Happy now?”

Not particularly

“Relax, I’m just asking!”

God. I REALLY need to calm down. Keep this friendly, I remind myself. She’s the victim here, not the culprit. Don’t chew her out.

“Okay, so now you know. Are you going to help me with serving this stuff?”

“Sure”

I pour out the chutney in the bowl and watch as the former corporate exec flits across the kitchen like a hapless, newly minted Domestic Goddess. God knows I’ve always been a better cook than her.

“S, just listen to me, okay?”

So this is it. I’m cutting to the chase. I know I’m going to be completely out of line. I know I’ll be going out on a limb here. But I will say what I have to say. Maybe I’m being stupid, but I think it’s important to say it.

She doesn’t respond. I know I have her attention, so I plod on.

“Look, S. If you ever feel you need help, if you need anything at all, I want you to call me. If you don’t want to call me, or if you think a woman might understand it better, call my mom or my sister. I think you’re too perceptive not to know how we feel about this whole thing. Still, we will respect your choices. I promise you that I will respect whatever you choose and I’m ready to fight for it. Just remember that we’re all here for you. That’s all, okay? Just don’t ever feel alone.”

She’s quiet for a second. Someone calls out her name from the drawing-room.

“It’s really not that b–”

“I’m not suggesting it is. Just remember, okay?”

A slow nod.

I turn around and walk back to the room, once again struggling to clamp down the anger and irritation. There’s nothing more to say.

I’m not even supposed to be here, like I said, much less get involved. But the heart does not listen to rationalizations of that sort. the heart does what the heart wants. And right now, it just wants to bro-fist its favorite cousin again and see that spunky confidence ONE more time. That’s all.

Losing a Cousin to Society

So, I had a family night yesterday. Went to this marriage ceremony.

The thing with Indian (or at least North Indian) marriage ceremonies is that despite the tremendous efforts of a small army of forced volunteers and the tremendous expenditures, they can end up being so excruciatingly boring for everyone (bride and groom included). There are only three classes of people who seem to enjoy going to Big Fat Indian weddings: foodies, alcoholics and Aunties.

For biological and sociological reasons, I am not an Aunty. Also, while I enjoy Paneer Tikka and the occasional pint of beer, I am not sufficiently monomaniacal about either of those to jump for joy at the thought of the next wedding in town. Company is generally rare. I feel out of place at both the car-o-bar and the food stalls. So I can usually be found sitting around with others of my ilk in one of the numerous chairs scattered around the place, intensely absorbed in a game of Angry Birds or some such.

Maybe I’m too young, or maybe I’m too naïve, but I really don’t see the point of all the showbiz. I don’t see the point of Inviting Three Hundred and Fifty Seven people, not counting kids. I don’t see the point of giving out obscene amounts of food and alcohol, and spending obscene amounts on what’s basically a big party. It’s not just that, though. After all, many Indians are more than rich enough to afford obscenely expensive parties. I may see it as a waste of money, but who’s to say my definition of waste is better than theirs? That’s not what I really want to write about. Last night, I witnessed something much worse than just showbiz.

Last night, I went to a party thrown by parents who pressurized their daughter into marrying a misogynistic moron. These same parents then paid a pundit to chant Sanskrit verses in the background in the hopes of making her married life a happy one. Last night, I went to a party where these parents sold out to social conventions that unilaterally decided their daughter was ready to be married. I saw them surrender to the toxic brew of a fake morality, of a fake culture,of such an…intensely, incorrigibly fake country. I saw them leave someone they surely loved, to the mercy of the winds on the rough seas of life.

I knew this woman, one of my cousins. I say knew, because I no longer know her. She was ambitious and smart, spirited and cultured, happy and vivacious, confident and charming. They took half of her away. I can see only the smartness and the culture, the vivaciousness and the charm .The ambition is gone. The spirit is gone. The happiness is vanished. The confidence is non-existent. All the rest of her is gone, into some deep recess of her conscious mind, some black hole from which there is no possible escape. What’s left is a vast, overpowering, overwhelming darkness around the fake halo of a fake personality. They succeeded in fitting a square peg into a round hole, destroying the peg in the process. They’ve built this sickeningly beautiful porcelain doll that smiles and laughs and cries like a human, but has nothing truly human about it. They did it without turning a hair, in yellow-bellied deference to that cruel mass called society, that terrible force which spares none and takes no prisoners, that horrible agency which makes devils out of loving parents.

I felt nauseated last night. I felt sick. I felt angry. I felt sad. The sort of sadness one feels when looking at a hurt kid.  This cousin is older than me. She is no kid. I should not feel that way, but I do. It’s none of my business, but saying that over and over does not cure the nausea. She’s a grown woman who married a grown man who expects her, in this day and age, to simply give up her career because he says so.  Married a man who talks about treating her like a queen, but orders her around as though she might be a bonded slave.

I felt so completely sick of this nation last night. So sick of it’s perversions. So sick of it’s horrible conventions. Screw you, society.