Previous- My Wedding Day
I was somewhat upset. There was this ritual in their family of celebrating the daughter-in-laws’s first cooking venture at her in-laws. They had skipped that. Reasons- I had already taken an initiative to cook since P aunty wasn’t keeping well on 21st evening. Moreover, I had done dishes at their place many times before; so, I did not qualify L The day Shelly had come in to meet me; I had suggested that I do the dishes- as I had a few times earlier too. I couldn’t understand her refraining me to do so that day; I now do. She didn’t want Shelly to witness the proximity that had developed between me and their family..!! ..As was later told by auntie. And that’s when I was to be married in the next couple of months. Literally.
Hemant had somehow talked her into doing the ritual; she had given in reluctantly. I had prepared Halwa. I knew how to; but feigned ignorance and had asked her to guide me. I had wanted her to feel special too. She had been feeling too left out ever since I had entered their home a day back. Ratan had wanted to know if I had attended some finishing school where they may have taught me how to serve food!! They had enjoyed that sweet and had “blessed” me in turn.
The following evening while I was in Kitchen; I was told that had my parents been around, they would have come to take me back for “Pag- phera”. I had called up Ruby and she had arranged to call- me back to complete that ritual too. The gesture wasn’t appreciated. I still had a few off- days to myself. I used to go down to the 1st floor every morning, and spend the day doing the house- chores. The wood- work was still pending on my floor. I had collected the money that had come to me as “shagun” and had gotten that completed. The locks and keys were still to be fixed. But they never were. Since that was a gesture of creating a rift within the family. If I had owned anything that was supposed to be under lock and key, it was to be placed at the 1st floor.
I was sternly told that I was to only prepare Dal and Roti for dinner, and one dry veggie for morning breakfast. She had wanted me to stick to the measurement by a certain bowl too!! There was absolutely no concept of the “left- over” in the fridge for the next meal or next day. The quantity that was cooked in the morning was only enough for Hemant to take in his tiffin, and Mr. Sharma to have it in his breakfast. A little was saved for his lunch. I was to eat namak- mirchi wala parantha with tea. (Indian pancake with salt and red-chili)
Whenever I had fell sick in my childhood, my parents faced a tough time making me eat Milk and Bread or Roti and bread. For starters, I am a rice- eater, 2ndly, I can’t ingest milk and if that’s not enough, I may have some of my likings to what to eat and not; without having to explain or understand as long as it is healthy. I don’t like too much of salt, neither do red chillies. Green chilies are what I freak out on, and that caused them their stomach to go upset. Rice was only cooked once a month- if at all. I have survived in real no- money days and even then, I had always managed to eat a veggie with my rice. I had loved parantha- I still do; only I had started hating them when I was made to eat that salty- red stuff fried in Dalda, every morning the 1st thing.
A couple of times, I had tried preparing a veggie at night or even something else at lunch. I was ridiculed no end. I was only to enter the kitchen not before 7.30. Hemant left by 8.45am; I had to rush in so much haste and in haphazard manner. The parameters were set for me- deviation or alteration was not a possibility. I had started to feel suffocated already. There were too many of those How and What definitions clinging more to WHAT NOT- COME WHAT MAY- for a daughter-in-law. There was no Geyser fitted on my floor. Their washroom was as small as 2.5 x 1.5 mtrs. There was no curtain at the adjoining space outside the washroom. I just did not appreciate washing in an arrangement where everyone sat bang opposite the washroom. Wasn’t I the newly wedded daughter-in-law and supposed to feel a little awkward? Since I was the daughter-in-law, I wasn’t supposed to feel a thing.
Shelly’s mother had passed away 10 days after my wedding. Auntie had to go and stay at Shelly’s place for a week then. Of course, I felt a little baffled. C’mon, which newly wed would want to slog in the kitchen- the whole day soon after her marriage and also do the sweeping swabbing on her own? I was not a dedicated Hindi film lower class daughter-in-law. Hemant left at 8.45 for his work, then Mr. Sharma would have his breakfast at 10.30, Ratan would- after an hour. By the time I would clean up the kitchen and house; it used to be lunch hour.
My palm skin had started to peel off- as result of washing in icy- cold water. They had no culture of washing the bare minimum utensils like glass or spoons on their own. Even if a spoon was pulled out of the rack to stir, it went straight inside the sink. The cooking gas- table was never cleaned- ever. The dalda ghee bowl had sat uncovered for- ever on the gas- table. The dish they prepared the dough, was never washed: as it was a bad omen to do so at nights and was then placed in the area under the sink. I had managed to clean that only for a few days that the lady was off to Shelly’s place. Ditto for the rolling pin, board and girdle. I didn’t know whether to accept such unkept and dirty habits; or to try and change those. Spices meant Turmeric and red chili powder.
Hemant’s boss’s son Amit had invited himself over to Saket un- informed one day. I was made to hide inside his parents’ bedroom. Till he worked with PE or even later; he had never declared his marital status. Why was he so scared? Because, I had worked for a couple of months there: so what about it? I had been a dense- headed one to declare mine @ Hutch; and then later in Convergys too. I was not ashamed of my marriage to him. But now, I am.
I had requested Hemant to let me place my (the one I had owned), gas table at the pantry upstairs for my untimely cuppas. Though he had agreed to do that, that was certainly not appreciated by anyone. A couple of days later, when I had informed them of switching on my fridge; that had as if unlid a can of worms. I was told that the fridge won’t have climbed up if they had known that I had possessed one..!! And just why so: if I may ask? Was I supposed to come down two floors for a bottle of cold water every- time? Forget that- I wanted to keep my fridge on my floor; so what about it? To rule out any ambiguity, they owned a fridge of their own too.
I had regretted having applied for that long leave from work. We had not gone out on so called Honeymoon. His mother had reasoned out that people would otherwise talk about their un- ending finances. His father had retired the last year. They had used up his PF money to rebuilt that 1st floor Janta Flat into 3 storey building. They had also spent on my wedding and the fact was known to all. She had not wanted anyone to think that they had huge Bank Balances to themselves. Whatever..!!
It was a building with common stairs connecting the flats fro Main Door. No stairs were built inside. That’s how all the 1st floor Janta flats had been converted to- in a certain block in Saket.
I had wanted to spend the last Sunday of my month long offs, with my family (if only they were). After a busy 20 days of guests coming over and our going over to their relatives, I had wanted a day off- so I could join my work all refreshed. I realized; I had asked for too much. Dolly had invited herself over along with her son and her husband; who was more interested in talking to me. She was an unpolished lady with loud mannerisms. I just didn’t know what to talk of with her. She was Arpana’s sister-in-law. She too was my mother-in-law in relation like Arpana was. The day was lost in listening to loud jokes and preparing elaborate lunch and then doing the dishes.
That morning was even more adventurous. I had woken up pretty early and had gone downstairs. After having prepared tea for both of them, I and the lady had gone to the nearby Mother Dairy outlet. After going back to home, I had prepared Maggi for myself and had gone upstairs after finishing the bowl. My 3rd floor room was full of bright sunlight. I was beginning to feel snug and had dozed off next to Hemant. At 10 maybe, both I Hemant woke upto a loud scream. There were loud thuds on our Main Door. A lady had been screaming her lungs out and knocking as if the building was on fire. Hemant’s mother had been beating the door wildly crying if that was okay for us to be sleeping that late. She had been yelling loud that perhaps both of us should have been made to lie at the 1st floor Living Room and then, she would have watched that how late we lay??!! We should have been made to “live” the way she was at her time i.e., without a room. That would have set us right..
Hemant had not answered to her bewildered knocks and had held me too, lest I did that. Both of us had gone down as if 2 naughty kids were caught red- handed. No, we were not making out. We had been going crazy over those non- stop travels to his relatives’ place. We had needed some rest badly. What could have been better than a Sunday morning? He had often said that his parents never appreciated his lazing around in the mornings. Even if he may have wanted to sleep over a little late; he was rudely woken up. I mean- what the heck; were they a set of buffoon-headed beings?
Big deal, so what even if we may have been making out; was it anyone’s business? Did that still qualify for that showdown? Perhaps, they had belonged to a class, where theatricals were the usual part of their regular day.
And now, was she now avenging her lost time? Was she jealous and was unable to handle her emotions over her loss?
The next day had set up the arena that had remained Live till I was thrown out of their place. I wore my usual western formal- shirt and trousers and had gone down to wait for my cab. The lady had commented that probably she had committed a mistake by marrying her son off to me. AGREED UPON INDEED. She had expected of me to have worn that Bridal look to work.
I was naïve and had shared that with Hemant. I had thought that probably he would talk to his mother and make her understand. I wasn’t the type- SIMPLE. She had fussed about the no- makeup look, with no eardrops, no bindi and the lack of a sequined suit. The ceremony was over- and everyone knew about its occurrence; I couldn’t find any relevance to announce it so loud. I can and do dress-up whenever that’s required; but, showing off- being married was like publicizing loud that I now sleep with a man, and that the Society had let me do that since they witnessed my acceptance (wedding).
Office people had gone congratulating me when I had kept nervously calm about that. As if the reality was then dawning upon me. I had anyways felt somewhat uncanny to travel back to Saket instead of Malviya Nagar. Even though that she was well informed about the 1- 10 shift (afternoon- evening shift); she had not approved of my entering their house at 11pm. That was the job that had kept me going for the past 2 years then. That’s exactly, when they had become blindfolded about my single and lone status. Why now all of a sudden the job that had stood me up in Society, Life and otherwise had become so un- acceptable to her? Why the dictates now? What authority? Didn’t we talk about that the day she had mentioned that I should now look forward to a new beginning?
She had made Hemant to go starving saying- that he should be having food with me. What was she trying again? That seeing that, I would then go home early- and how? After a swollen face of dismay, we were served food at the kitchen floor. I have no issues sitting on floor and eat. In my culture, we all do. But then, we don’t bring our shoes and slippers inside our houses. We swab the floor before eating, and do that again after the meal. I was made to sit on the floor, without a mat and made to eat without letting me wash and change. Since Hemant had been squatting hungry, I had silently “froggied” and ate food. Was I in a slum house? I can’t think of sitting on a floor where all slippers and shoes had walked that would also mean from the washroom; and eat sitting there. How I had done that then: still remains unanswered.
The lady had been consistently worn a sad look for the entire week. She had asked me to tell my Office People that I wasn’t allowed by my in-laws to work so late………arrrghh. For the last more than 2 years, she had seen me working with the same Company in shifts. She was well aware of what I wore and about my other habits too. I had conveyed it hard that I would be what I was. Wasn’t it my turn to complain then? It wasn’t going anywhere. I was then given a 7- 4shift: an early morning that was fine with me; excepting that I had then become practically restless. I reached home at 4.45 and then slogged in the kitchen. Went to bed 11-ish and again woke up at 5.30 for work. Before you even ask- s*x life was not “ex-life”.
The two things that I just can’t go compromising about: My sleep and Meals. I had never appreciated being woken up from sleep. I find that too intruding. I come from a family where we all sat together on floor and ate our meals in a cordial manner; unlike this family. The lady would keep running from kitchen to living room: to serve the warm and freshly toasted “phulkas”. After all had finished their meals, she would then take two of those and eat them straight out of her hand itself. Only a measured bowl of dal was served. I was the new carrier of chapattis now. I ate, like the domestic of the house, at the end. Often she would try to pass half the phulka that she had not wanted to eat with her messy fingers. These were too many of “food fads” for me to take lightly. I had so wanted to sit with my husband and enjoy a Family meal. That’s too many demands. One, I was daughter-in-law so had no right to be desiring; two, I was to eat when I was told to; three, wife was to eat after her husband. SCREEEEAM…!!
I was not let to go to salon. I was asked that why I frequented to the salon every fortnight. The lady had demanded to know why I had needed to wax..!! Such conversations happened in living room in everyone’s presence. They had soon become the regular feature of the day. She would stretch out her arms, and pull her salwar legs up to show her limbs that she had never needed to get rid of her bush like body hair. I had taken the lady along to the salon soon after my wedding and made her sit through the sessions; I was surprised why she had then raised that query. And, I had decked up as a newly wed even though that I had to change for the treatments. Since I was not going for Work then, I could afford to put my new found status on display. Was she pleased- I would never know.
Couple of days later, I was sat in the living room when Mr. Sharma had wanted to talk to me. He had emphatically declared that either I stay in their house as per their wishes, or shift out with my husband. I was further told that if I disclosed about that conversation, he would deny having said so. What a threat..!! The lady was out to a grocery shop and Ratan too was not at home. A few days later, I was again asked to stay back while Hemant was sent upstairs. Both his parents had sat ridiculing how I served food as if in a marriage. I didn’t need to be so prim and conscious about “aesthetic presentation”. Their “son” waited starving for me to conclude all that meticulously laid table- work.
Mr. Sharma had to be operated for his stones. He had been delaying that for the past 4 years since he had felt scared. I had decided to get him operated the 1st thing. After loads of nudging and practically threatening him that otherwise I would sedate him and take him to the hospital; he had given in. I was supposed to wear salwar- suit to see him in the hospital. Back home, a new situation had popped up. Ratan was conveniently out- either at Vaishno Devi or at his friend’s place and so; the Lady was alone at the 1st floor at night. Hemant’s mother had insisted Hemant to sleep at the 1st floor. She had wanted me also to sleep at the 1st floor- along with him. My problem- I was made to sleep on his parents’ bed on the same sheet, without any mattress and with the bedroom door opened wide. Couldn’t I please close the door when I was lying with a man and the man was my husband?
I was offered no monetary help for the time- period that I had not worked. My salary- slip had “revealed” my income. I had ample. Mr. Sharma had clarified asking that if the salary slip reflected on my yearly income. He had expressed his bewilderment since I earned 13k pm then. That was more than double of that of his elder son.
Just what was their problem about? My wearing western attire; or my mute acceptance to their wild mannerisms? My patience was wearing off day by day. I had not known how to react to such obnoxious habits. Things had become difficult in just a couple of weeks and I had quit Hutch. 30th April, 2003 was the last day in that organization. I had thought of pleasing them- by being available at home all time, doing all house- work possible. It didn’t even take a month for me to have realized that I had committed yet another mistake. I was constantly teased about that how daughters go for Pag- phera and I had not. I had gone to Rohini to stay for a couple of days for the “ritual”. There, I had decided that I needed to work again. Moreover, Ruby had needed some help and Hemant had offered to give a cash amount that now seated on my mind. She had wanted to help someone that she knew. I being her close friend, I had agreed to. Excepting that I should not have “borrowed” that from him; much later, he had spilled that he had taken that from his parents. OMG, I had invited trouble over myself.
18th June, 2003. I had picked up the Ascent and had sat looking through the job opportunities.