call me

For the past 7 years, I’ve been more or less “on the marriage market.” I was 23 when it all began, a fresh graduate; average height, average bone structure, average beauty. But I was young, and I was smart. Because my parents weren’t rich at all, there were only a handful of men who walked in and out of my parent’s middle-class sitting room who I could vaguely imagine living with. They had average degrees, they worked as salesmen usually, they were related to our relatives, they tied their belt buckles well above acceptability, they were well mannered and incredibly dull. I do remember one young man who struck the fancy of my family, to the extent that my mother started calling me “Mrs. Baby Pink,” before dissolving into fits of giggles. He was a fair skinned man who blushed easily. Hence, the name. He worked in the Middle East (foreign job), he was fair (looks like a foreigner), he could speak english (foreign tongue), he earned quite well (foreign currency), and I was given three days to decide whether or not I wanted to marry the man of my family’s dreams. I insisted that I needed to have at least one conversation with the man before giving a conclusive answer. Hesitantly, my father agreed, on the condition that the meeting would be strictly chaperoned. Something was better than nothing, and so I gave in. We spent an evening, squashed on a corner bench in Yummy’s 36, staring into bowls of watery vanilla ice-cream, as three of my cousins, both my sisters, and some aunt’s newborn baby sat listening to every word we said. “What do you want to do with your life?” I asked him, finally. “I want to provide money and care for my children and my wife, and take care of my parents,” he said. It was a perfectly good, well-rehearsed answer. “What do you want to do?” he asked me. “I want to write books,” I said. “For children.” He chuckled at this. “About jinns and bhoots? Fairytales?” he asked me. I thought about this, and uninterested in talking much more about it, I said yes. “I won’t let you,” he suddenly exclaimed. “I won’t let you write about lies.” Everybody stared at his outburst, and slowly the conversation turned dull again. We finished our ice-cream, he paid for all of us, I got home and told my parents I wasn’t going to marry him. My mother was devastated. “You will regret this decision one day,” she yelled. “When you’re old and nobody asks for your hand, you will regret not marrying him.”

It took months for my parents to move on from Mr. Baby Pink. Surprisingly, after him there were very few suitors asking about me. “The market is saturated,” my mother told my aunt. “There are too many pretty girls, and no boys.” But it had been my decision to turn down the Perfect Man for the Middle Class Girl. I had made that choice when I saw his lip curl viciously; when he had taken control of my life’s dreams without my invitation, over a cup of ice-cream. And so, here I am. Still single. Still unmarried. A deadweight around my parents’ necks. My younger sister got married three years ago, and the youngest has just been engaged. I, on the other hand, am living out the prophecy my mother made. Only, I do not regret it at all. Why should I? Why should I be ashamed of making an intelligent decision- a decision that made sense to me? Why should I have agreed to spend the rest of my life with a man who thought it was acceptable to crush my hopes? I’d rather be this way; writing my books and dreaming about a better future, than giving in to the darkest regret of all: the thought that I could have done more with my life.