Literature & Fiction | 2 Chapters
Author: Kanupriya Iyer
“Stay away from me,” he screamed and walked out. He stormed into our bedroom and locked the door shut. I heard the distinct crash of the bedside lamp. I didn’t know what to do. I curled up on the sofa, hugging myself, as tears welled my eyes. Akash had completely adored Samantha from the moment he laid eyes on her. They were the perfect couple; the source of envy for everyone who saw them together! What, then, could possibly cause such a ....
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Stay away from me,” he screamed and walked out.
He stormed into our bedroom and locked the door shut. I heard the distinct crash of the bedside lamp. I didn’t know what to do. I curled up on the sofa, hugging myself, as tears welled my eyes.
Akash had completely adored Samantha from the moment he laid eyes on her. They were the perfect couple; the source of envy for everyone who saw them together!
What, then, could possibly cause such a huge rift between them? Would they ever be able to reconcile, or would this leave a lasting dent in their relationship?
Embark on a journey of life, love, and everything in between, with Kanupriya Iyer’s debut novel, HUMSUFFERS!
June 7, 2019. The day we finally got to meet him. After long weeks of correspondence over IndianWeddings.com, finally, his family agreed to meet us. Mumma and Papa were literally chewing my head off, reminding me time and again to greet them with a Namaste, touch their feet respectfully and act coy and artless around them.
“Only then will you seem like the traditional bride everyone wants,” they said.
Ugh, do I have to put on this mock show? This is the thing about arranged marriages; you never know what the other party is really like until it’s too late. And with a typical Indian family like mine, where only arranged marriages are respected, I cannot expect any better.
We’ve already rejected seventeen guys; a few right after the first DM and the rest, after we met face to face. Some of them due to their looks, others their manners, and there was this one guy who was so self-absorbed that he never let any of us speak. His parents kept smiling awkwardly as he kept going on and on about how his boss made him work day and night. That was one weird day.
Akash seemed a little different. Firstly, his bio didn’t seem to be written by parents who were too desperate to get their son married. He seemed interesting. An IT guy, easygoing, had a passion for music, could break into a dance anywhere and loved bikes.
The best part of all was that the words: ‘Wanted, a fair, homely girl of average height, who cooks well’ were not found anywhere in his profile, which was the reason I rejected 90% of the guys on the website.
His profile picture had also looked good. Straight, trimmed hair, the beginning of stubble, a genuine smile, not something he had faked for the cameras (or maybe he was just a really good actor), sharp jawline, big, black eyes; he looked like the college stud who also scored top marks. Maybe he was the one, I had thought to myself and smiled when I saw his profile for the first time.
Anyway, we were to meet him (and his family), and if things worked out, we were to be off on a few dates (‘arranged’ by the families, of course), and then, if it still looked good, we were to get engaged. A typical arranged marriage methodology.
It was almost 4:45 PM. They said they’d be here around 5 PM. The whole house was bustling with excitement. Mumma had cleaned the house four times already. She was rearranging all our pictures on the showcase, checking out various angles.
Papa, stoic as ever, pretended to be least perturbed by the fact that another family was coming over to interact with his daughter, and quite possibly fix up an alliance, but we all knew it was an act. He had been reading the same page of the newspaper for the past hour, so if that was not a clear indication, I don’t know what is.
Sami couldn’t stop gushing over her ‘Jiju’. Every two minutes she came up with stupid ideas about whether our babies would have his eyes or my hair, whether we’d live in a farm with tons of them or in a skyscraper with none of them; you get the drift. It was completely cringe-worthy stuff, curated simply to tease me. I had reminded her time and again that nothing was final yet, but even I couldn’t help the blush that crept over my cheeks when I thought of him.
Ugh, I felt like a schoolgirl.
Ting-tong! Please open the door! Our doorbell rang.
Gosh! They had arrived. I checked myself one last time in the mirror, adjusted my kurta, looked for smudges in my kohl, and went out to welcome them.
“This street is too narrow! How will our car fit through?” Maa kept grumbling as Papa deftly swerved to avoid hitting a roadside dog. It was not bad at all. Indira Nagar housing colony was one of the best in Mumbai. Maa had this typical mother-in-law attitude. I hoped she didn’t say any of this at Samantha’s place.
The moment Maa showed me her profile I liked it.
Wide, full eyes, high cheekbones, beautiful smile, and better still, she also worked in a software company. At least I’d have someone who sympathised with my HR troubles, strict work schedules, and timelines. Her bio also said that she was interested in music, dance, and artwork. Whoa, she was multitalented too! We had so much in common already. Her profile screamed extrovert, just like mine. Thank God, I didn’t let Maa handle my profile, then I would have seemed like a traditional yet chauvinist guy, and I know there is no bigger turn-off than that.
Papa slammed the brakes as we skid to a stop outside a quaint, blue house. It was large, compared to Mumbai standards. The garden outside was artistically planted with flowering trees and shrubs. The whole setup had an air of a country-side house; beautiful in its simplicity.
Again, Maa just grunted. This was exactly what had happened at Aarti’s place. She was the second girl we had seen. She was childlike and innocent; I had liked her instantly. Maa kept grumbling incessantly throughout the meeting. Her parents said they would get in touch but they never did, and I don’t wonder why.
I really liked Samantha and prayed Maa didn’t ruin it.
They welcomed us with a smile. I noticed, Samantha’s was the biggest. Maybe she liked me too. I was stunned into silence, seeing her in person, and not in the pictures on the website. I saw she had another little sister, but she didn’t have the looks of Samantha. I grinned to myself, at this silly thought. I was being a hopeless romantic here.
Her yellow kurta looked splendid. The colour suited her so well. I was tempted to compliment her, but stopped short, not wanting to seem overly enthusiastic. We exchanged glances. She smiled at me and I smiled back.
“Welcome,” her father greeted.
“Namaste uncle,” I returned.
They ushered us into their living room. It was very well furnished; a large widescreen TV, shelves filled with trophies and photographs, a plush maroon sofa set that dominated the room and a wooden table to finish off the whole look. The lack of too many objects made the room seem bigger, somehow. I saw a few photographs of Samantha, receiving prizes, posing with her friends, and one at her graduation. She looked naturally beautiful in all of them. I was so lost in looking for more pictures, that I barely felt Maa shaking me by the shoulder.
I jolted in surprise to see Samantha asking me, whether I wanted tea. Her expression suggested that I hadn’t heard her the first time. There was a hint of amusement in her eyes; maybe she knew what I had been doing.
“Y…Yes,” I managed to stutter.
Maa instantly began her recitation of all the prizes I had won since I was a child. I could feel the cringe pouring out of all the people in the room.
“Aunty, can I get some more water?” I managed to interrupt, and in the same breath, I said, “Your house is very beautiful.”
Maa fixed me with a stare. I ignored her and started talking about my job. “Samantha also works in almost the same field, doesn’t she?” I asked her mother, as she passed me another glass of water.
“Yes. It has been her dream job. Right from the day she got her first battery-operated toy, she has been attracted to all sorts of gadgets and gizmos. So naturally, she had to work in a company that manufactured the same. I don’t understand most of this new technology. What do you call them, tidbits?”
“Fitbits, Aunty,” I answered.
“Yes, yes, those very ones,” she replied.
“She works for FitSpark, a fitness tracker company,” her father elaborated.
“She and her father have ample discussions about how technology will rule the world, but I am comfortable with my books and prayers,” she looked at Maa for a response.
“No, no. I love my phone! Without that, my world is incomplete. And talking of Fitbits, look, I have worn one right now,” she said, lifting her wrist to give everyone an ample view of the new fitness tracker I had bought her. I know it might seem so, but I didn’t do it to impress Samantha. I was counting on Maa not talking about it in the first place.
“It’s hard to stay healthy without the required 10,000 steps per day, right?”
She never leaves a chance to show-off. Aunty looked visibly squelched. I hoped Samantha couldn’t hear any of this conversation from the kitchen. I was tempted to go and help her, maybe get to know her better, or at least let her know I was not as much of a snoot as my mother was making me out to be right then. Maa’s stern glare had me glued to my seat, even as I kept glancing towards the kitchen.
The conversation flowed steadily, but my mind was not in it. Even in the very first meeting, without having spoken a single word, Samantha had captivated my heart in its entirety.