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They all lie. All of them. Don't they know that if I-with my meager mental capacity- can see through them, anyone can?
Oh, this solitaire. Ah, he just got it for me, I didn't even ask! My son is at the top of his class!That souffle turned out perfectly! We got the loan approval within two days! The property dispute is solved! The snow that year was amazing!
Perfect little lives inside perfect little worlds. No need to question anything.It's easy here, everything is with your reach. What is existentialism ?
Everything is shiny and bright and clean. Anything that isn't can be easily cut out, scrubbed, bleached, dried and replaced.
And the conversation is just the same. Always.
I want to turn to Aunt Trisha and ask, aren't you bored?
I am. So frightfully, completely, absolutely BORED.
But I know that any form of unsolicited conversation would not be taken too kindly.
You see, it's a delicate balance you ought to hang in. Smart enough to be a part of their world,but not so much that you threaten them.
So I sit back with my full plate and listen. It is so easy to lose yourself in this crowd and become invisible.
Duck out. Maiden over. Second innings. LBW. How is it possible that I've lived my entire life in a country that worships cricket and still not know anything about it? You're a woman that's why. Pass me the chips. But, did you hear about that guy, what was his name? The one who got hit by a ball and died on the field. Oh yeah, terrible tragedy, that. Pass me the salsa.
The weather is going nuts. Global warming. Sliding glaciers. Drowning countries. Pass me the fries. Well, its Jaipur. It's always either freezing cold or smoldering hot. No fumes to blame for that, just the desert.
The new government's doing great at planting trees. Pass me the ketchup. Oh yes, this government is great. Did you hear what The Prime Minister said in the one speech? No? Pass me the laptop. You have got to see this.
I know for a fact that when this same table-full of people reunite the next time, the government will be the worst the country has ever seen. Too corrupt, too conflicted. Everything was the government's fault. Rape, murder, black money, section 377, section 389, Kashmir.
Food wars. The rich have too much to eat and are willfully starving, the poor have nothing to eat and they are starving. H3N2. H1N1. Pass me the potato salad. See I told you, nothing good comes out of eating some poor animal's flesh. It originated form birds. Chicken, and the like. Mad cow disease. E coli. Everyone is a substitute doctor. We have spent years over-medicating our children. VRSA. MRSA. Incurable strains of everything. Cancer in every household. Pass me the green beans.
Oh, going to the dogs, the world is. Pass me the peas.
Everyone comes together to complain about technology. What a terrible influence for kids. They waste hours on it! Hours! We used to go out in the sun and play. We used to study from libraries. We used to talk face-to-face, not on Facebook. Oh but, my daughter told me that Facebook is a thing of past now. Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram is where its at now. How quickly things become obsolete! This is the internet generation. What is going to happen this generation?
A quiet shiver runs through the crowd. They don't want to have to think about how-quickly-things-become-obsolete. It's that phase of their lives, when they realize that they are no longer needed by anyone anymore. Their children are too old and their parents are far older. Drown it out, though. Wash away the pesky thoughts with cold wine. Pass it here, now.
I notice, but fail to point out that everyone has their phones placed next to their plates. All the cold, glistening rectangles regularly buzzing to announce the arrival of new texts or e-mails. I know, most of them are itching to pick it up and escape into another world. Pass me the Pasta Alfredo.I don't even use it. It's my work phone, you see. I use it for work. Honestly, I can't even figure out half the features on this. Pass me the bread. Freshly baked, is it?
The bombing of Lahore. The bombing of Mumbai. The bombing of Chicago. Oh my god. Those Muslims.Yes, that kind. The thing about Islam. No, let me tell you problem with Islam. Suddenly, everyone is an expert on the subject of the 'thing about the problem with Islam'
Fatwas. FGM. Sharia. Sunni. Shia. Quran or Koran? The prophet. Muhammed. His first wife was a six year old girl. Eid. Goats. Haraam. Halal. Sajda. Burqa. Hijab. Purdah. Qibla. Makruh-tahrima. Makruh-tanzihi. Fard. Sunnat. Kaba. Mecca. Malala. Taliban. Al Qaeda. Fawad Khan. Salman Rushdie.
Hindus arguing among each other what the exotic Urdu words exactly meant and signified. As opinions clashed, tempers flared and voices raised. It is the job of the hostess to smooth things over with cooling Mojitos. A careful redirection to a topic where the parents can band together again.
The interrogation of the children. The question is the same at its core. The phrasing changes as you grow. Becoming more and more aggressive and worried.
Barely contained paranoia bleeding through punctuation points.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
Are you going in Medical? Engineering? Law? Banking?
You could just become a Charted Accountant, take over your parent's business.
So, what stream are you choosing ? Science? Commerce? Surely not Humanities?
Where do you see yourself next year?
What are you doing?
Where are you going?
Law. I manage to choke through a mouthful of cheese. I'm planning on being a lawyer. Corporate, though, none of that litigation nonsense. Pass me the lasagna.
I see relief in my mother's eyes as she hears me. Whatever the truth might be, it is imperative that Uncle Jai and Aunt Tina think I'm a 'good girl', that I'm on the right path.
Now comes the time for desert. Gossip and coffee also served. The children are excluded. Neatly place in a line in front of the television, with me appointed as supervisor.
I rest my head against the wall and listen anyway, the walls have ears and if you know how, they'll tell you everything they heard.
It revolves around marriage. Do you know they're getting divorced? Pass me the sugar. He cheated, I heard. Well, if I were married to her, I'd have too. Hahaha. JAI. What? I'm sorry, honey. Pass me some more coffee. Anyway, did you hear about the Sharma's? Yeah. Oh my god. No what? Tell me tell me Tell me tell me. Their son came out as gay. Publicly. Really? I bloody knew it! His hair and the way he walks.
I can almost hear the collective shudder through the close-knit crowd.
Oh lord, poor Anita. How are they going to cope?
My mother's voice floats above everyone else's. Don't let Shagun hear you. She'll have your head on a pike. She is so....
I hold my breath as my mother searches for a word. Even after all of it, parental approval is everything to me.
Yeah, she is a feisty one for sure.
She'll make an excellent lawyer.
Pass me the spoon. Did you know Tara's engagement ended? Well, that's what you get if you are 28 and fat as f.... shh. No one is going to marry her, for sure. Hahahaha.
She ran away with a muslim. He says he wants to marry a Christian. Oh, and he wants to join the theater and act. She doesn't wear any makeup. He wears eyeliner.
What is wrong with our children?
Pass the brownie. Yes, what the f*** is wrong with the children these days? Pass the french vanilla ice-cream.
Too safe, too sheltered, too much bloody internet. To much exposure to the west. Drinking, gambling, loose women, casual use of drugs, rappers, gays, bi's, shorts, just the flaunting of sexuality in general.
Be yourself. What a stupid motto to live by. Who else could you possibly be ?
I'll tell you an even stupider concept- 'taking time off to find myself'. More like wasting my parent's hard-earned money to travel like an idiot.
Pass me a slice of Cherry pie. Just a slice. I'm trying to lose weight.
In the privacy of my bedroom, I feel myself unfurl. Tension that had locked my shoulders and jammed my throat, seeps out. Slipping off the sophisticated dress and pulling on comfortable sweats, I think about my mother's words.
How funny that the things my parents hate about me in private are the things they are proud of in front of everyone else. Why don't I get happy, relaxed, charming Mr. & Mrs. Agarwal? Don't I deserve the carefully projected image of us?
They don't understand. How can I make them?
My opinions are not phases, they are here to stay. I am here to stay.
Malleability is what came with their teenage. Conviction is what comes with mine.