The house is full of people at the moment.

 Relatives,carrying boxes of laddus and kaju barfis are thronging to visit the Grandmother who had an eye operation. Old women with snow-white hair in neatly starched white sarees are discussing morbid details of who died how over cups of coffee.They are very obsessed with its various macabre forms. They love discussing it in miniscule details,bring up how someone close had died in the most unthinkably bizarre manner and can write a PHD thesis about it(provided they get to speak and someone else writes). 

The 50-something aunts are more focussed on whose son married whom,who fought with her in-laws over fixed deposits and when Ichha will finally marry Veer etcetera etcetera. One aunt’s neighbour has a sister-in-law whose sister-in-law’s elder daughter (You put me in such a room without any mean to escape and I have all the time in the world to notice and hear everything) eloped with an engineering graduate from a not-so-well-known regional college. This she did,in spite of having a medical student with two cars as a potential suitor. The women’s ‘uh’s and ‘oohs’ and ‘iish’-es and ‘eh baba’-s and the aunt’s expression bode no good for the enginnering graduate-from-a-regional-college. From their the converstaion artfully shifts to the topic of how ‘young women these days have no moral values’ and how ‘I should never run away with someone’ I try to point  out that this is a non-sequitur and I am being unfairly put in the firing line.But then. The slightly younger women recounts several mother-in-law horror stories . This agitates the elderly women with married sons to think that they are being unfairly judged and begin their own stories of daughters-in-law from hell. Reason soon bids farewell and drops out of this conversation.The room is morphing into the drawing rooms of soap operas-the places where the whole family gets to know that the elder son of the khandaan is an illegitimate child,the youngest daughet is pregnant with the child of the family’s dushmaan’s son,the beautiful daughter-in-law is a scheming two-faced witch and so on. The Mother looks bored and irritated and tries to bring back the conversation to some territory less sensitive.The best she can do is distract people for seconds with offers of more tea or enquiries about the shops from which their sarees had been bought. Also she tries really hard not to snap at some people and is doing a very bad job about it. Some grandmommas pinches my cheeks and enquired about me. That is whether I have a boyfriend and who is he and I must make sure that we ‘dont do anything drastic and do not go against family values’. (they’ve already jumped to that conclusion on their own and the petulant drops of wise words followed.on their own).

Then,the Mother shoots menacing “we-will0talk-about-this-later” looks at me. The cousins giggle,giggle and always giggle making it so so obvious that yes I HAVE  boyfriend and..hold your breath..maybe I had already done something ‘drastic..against my family values’.The Father has found refuge in newspaper and has not emerged since the first group of aunts arrived.The phone rings.The boyfriend calls,eliciting more’ what-are-you-upto’ and ‘haha-we-caught-you-looks’ from people. The cousin wants me to go for a walk with her at a time I go to bed. The little cousin who’s discoveringis Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley Twins,is happy ransacking my bookcase,disappointment obvious on her face on finding Salman Rushdie and ..horrors! Calvin & Hobbes(nono,I am not a prude my girl and as God is my witness I love Calvin & Hobbes). I smile sadly,with a tight-arsed elder sisterly face.Her brother is hugely disappointed on finding John Denver songs in my phone and asks me why I listen to John Denver. The moment I open my mouth and say that I love his songs and ‘it’s soulful’ my fate is sealed and he drops the topic,giving me up as an old fogey. 

Next day if i run away with an engineering graduate don’t blame me okay?


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