Ariyike admired her naked figure in front of the antique bureau in the master bedroom. Her left hand hiked up her hair in a ponytail-like manner while her right traced an invisible line into the smoothness of her dark skin. The trail started from the nape of the neck, passed between her breasts and ended just below her navel.
“All a waste” came her whisper. She quickly grabbed a night gown when she heard a knock on the door. “Who is it”? The door opened just as she managed to pull a house coat over her transparent night wear. Her father in law poked his head in the room “Bahu*, your saas* and I are going to the mandir*, please tell Vinod to pick us up at six”.
“Teak ke. Phir milenge Sasur ji*” she did a quick one knee bend as she voiced these Hindi words Vinod taught her, but she wasn’t sure it was right to have added “Sasur*” at the end. In the Yoruba culture, your father in-law becomes your father. Next time she will say “Baap*” instead of Sasur*. Her father in-law gave no indication he heard her practiced Hindi. He closed the door quietly and walked silently down the hall to meet his wife. Not until Ariyike heard the front door close, did she realize she had also greeted him the Yoruba way. He will soon mention to Vinod that her knees keep bending whenever she talks to them.
It has always been WE, THEY and THEM from the beginning
Seven months ago, she came into this very house as a guest. Vinod had finally shown courage to tell his parents about their plans to marry. She sat stoically on the sofa while her past and future was discussed. Her mother in law cried and shook herself violently clamoring “Kyon beta? Kyon? tumara patnii nahee hai*” over and over again. Those were the first Hindi words she looked up herself. She expected rejection not shame. To the Sharmas, her marriage to Vinod would result to the lost of their family honor. Their tashrif*. How are they to look other Indian families in the eye without shame? Does Vinod remember he has two unmarried sisters? Who will marry them?
Two weeks before, she had dealt with the same issue with her parents, but the worst her mother said was "no family member will attend Your ceremony". The emphasis on 'your' was for her to know she is in it alone. Her father called the extended family to talk some sense into Ariyike but she did not relent. In a mist of tears, she informed them she had made her choice, her love transcends language and culture, they would understand if only they left their cultural cocoon.
The same scenario played in the Sharma’s house. Vinod told his parents “its either her or i will never marry”.
“Beta*, they don’t understand marriage like us. They leave their husband at the first sign of trouble. Understand us beta*, we are your parents. We know what is good for you”
“She is the solution to my life”
Ariyike got up from the plastic covered sofa and knelt in front of his parents. She cried and swore never to leave Vinod. Without speaking, Vinod’s father helped her up and took her to the altar room they kept in the house; he pointed to some statues and told her to swear before them. He lit incense and chanted some mantras. Ariyike swore to Ganesh, the statue with the head of an elephant, then to Brahma, the three headed god in the Buddha position. She was also asked to present flowers to a blue colored god who is known as lord ram. On her own accord, she brought out a small bible from her purse and swore to her own God never leave to Vinod.
It would have been easy for Ariyike to cope if she experienced inevitable mundane changes of the seasons in marriage but hers was extraordinary. She left Vinod a note on the fridge to pick up his parents from the temple at 6pm. They have not spoken since she found the pictures under his cufflink box. She went to the room and stared at them again. The first Polaroid was of a naked stranger sleeping peacefully, ‘sleeping beauty’ was written on the back of the picture. The second had Vinod holding the stranger in a loving clasp, ‘frozen moments’ it said. In the third and last Polaroid, Vinod was kissing him.
She chose to stay. She had to stay. She has to prove to her in-laws that she can grapple just like any Indian girl. She has to prove to her parents that she did not make the wrong choice by marrying out of her culture. She has to prove to Vinod she is more than enough for him. She has to prove to herself that she is happy.
Bahu – Daughter –in law
Saas – Mother in law
Sasur – Father in law
Mandir – Temple
Teak ke. Phir milenge Sasur ji – Fine. Good bye father in law
Baap – Father
Kyon beta? Kyon? tumara patnii nahee hai – Why Child(male)? Why? This is not your wife
Beta - Male child
Tashrif - Honor