Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Women

Chapter Seven: Ready to Serve

Today’s evening snack menu: Paneer pakoras, hot jalebis dipped in syrup and ginger tea. Just the thought of food made my stomach turn. It never ceased to amaze me how the Sahais ate so much. And today was special. Bade Papa and Mummy were coming to visit. Their excuse: “Oh, we haven’t seen bahu rani since the wedding!” The real reason: Good weather for some free pakoras and pampering.

I guess the menu stands to be corrected. The only item on the menu was the latest addition to the Sahai clan – Me aka Bahu Rani, served on saree-clad platter accessorized with a ton of gold. Okay, I didn’t mind the gold.

Every time I had to parade myself in front of the elders, I could hear my mom-in-law announcing, “Presenting – the girl who is almost good-enough for my son,” full, with background music and all. The spectators would make their judgements, depending on my behaviour and also on how good the refreshments tasted, and eventually leave. I would then crib to my husband while getting out of the 30 metres of cloth, he would comfort me while sneakily watching television. My mother-in-law would return to the kitchen, more or less satisfied with her performance, and possibly with mine, while heating heaps of food for the Sahai men, and me.

Trips to the in-laws’ house was mostly all about talking, eating and eating some more. For the women of the house, it was about feeding and playing roles.

Visits to the Khanna house were liberating. My mother too, was all about pampering. But the subject of her attention was me. I could legally bully my sister and charm my mother into doing anything. When Papa was around, I could take it all one notch higher. We would both join hands and transform Eeshu virtually into my slave, all on the pretext of one statement, “Didi is only here for a few days after all.” Being married had its perks, I guess. I threw unreasonable tantrums. Once, Papa woke Eesh up, just so that she would run to the shop and get me some rusk with my morning tea. A run-of-the-mill biscuit was simply not good enough for his long-distance daughter who seldom visited.

Papa and Eesh had their moments. They had a love-hate relationship. Actually, Eesh loved to sleep and hated being woken up by Papa. He is the only one who dared such a feat, Mom and I gave up long back, for fear of loss of life or a useful body part.

Papa’s departure had been really tough on her, I thought to myself as I poured the tea, which had copious amounts of ginger may I add, into the kettle. All this business of biking to the Himalayas was a rebound. Or maybe not. She had always been attracted to such outdoorsy activities and wanted so much to be like Papa. I could only hope she found a way to cope with the changes that life had offered us. Life, the only thing I couldn’t protect my baby sister from, I sighed.

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