“Hurry up, Priya! The bridegroom’s family can arrive anytime soon.”
“I’m coming, Ma! There’s no need to shout. Anju is here with me to help.”
“That is all good; but do send Rahul downstairs. I need him to go to the market to get some sweets for the guests.”
“But we already have so many at home,” Rahul said, entering the living room.
“I know, but they just informed us that their entire family is coming,” answered Anjali.
“Damn those people!”
“Rahul, mind your language!”
“I’m sorry, Ma. But you know how much I detest this ‘arranged marriage’ stuff. I can’t understand how didi can agree to marry someone whom she hasn’t even met.”
“Now, that isn’t true. That is why the prospective bridegroom’s family is coming; to meet your sister.”
“Ma…,” Rahul said in exasperation. “… You know I did not mean that type of meeting. You can’t get to know a person in an hour and then spend the rest of your life with him. You need to get to know him gradually, know his likes and dislikes, his tastes, his nature, his personality. And then, only then, if you still feel that the person is perfect for you, should you marry him.”
“All this is nonsense.” Anjali brushed him off. “Your father and I never met beforehand; we met only once before our marriage and that was enough for us.”
“But what about love, Ma?”
“What about it?”
“How can you marry a person without loving him?”
“Who says that I didn’t love your father when I married him? The first time he and his family came to our house to see me was the first time I set my eyes on him; it was love at first sight.”
“Whatever.” Rahul rolled his eyes.
“Don’t forget to bring those sweets that I told you about,” Anjali shouted after him.
“Won’t,” Rahul called back over his shoulder.
* * *
“Come in, come in. Please do come in,” Anjali said to the family standing at the door. “Please take a seat. Rahul, go get some lemonade for our guests.”
“Quite a nice house you have, Mrs. Shekhar,” the prospective groom’s father said.
“Sab bhagwan ki kripa hai; it’s all God’s grace.”
“Would you like some lemonade, Aunty?” Rahul asked the groom’s mother.
“Such a respectful child; I am sure that if your son is so polite, your daughter would be sanskaari as well. Where is she?”
“She’ll be down in just a moment,” Anjali replied. “Rahul, why don’t you go and see what is taking your sisters so long?”
“You have two daughters?” the groom asked.
“Yes, beta; Priya is the eldest with Anju and Rahul following her.”
“You have done a brilliant job in bringing up your children single-handedly, Mrs. Shekhar,” the groom’s father commented. “It is not easy to do so, especially being a widow in this society.”
“Mr. Shekhar was kind enough to do his part when he was alive. I merely carried on his work,” Anjali replied sadly.
* * *
“So, how does he look?” Priya asked excitedly.
“Like a pig,” Rahul joked.
“Shut up and tell the truth!”
“Ouch! You didn’t have to smack me that hard. He is okay looking, but is too uptight.”
“How about his younger brother?” Anju asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Hey bhagwaan! They’re here for Priya’s proposal and not for yours.”
“A girl can look, can’t she?” Anju said in a mock-hurt tone.
“She can, but not at the younger brother of her prospective jiju,” Priya commented, sending a wink in Rahul’s direction.
“Okay, okay, enough talk. Ma’s getting jittery downstairs, all alone. Anju di, you take didi downstairs while I make arrangements for lunch.”
* * *
“Ah! Here they come. See how graceful both my daughters look? The taller one is Priya while the other is Anju.”
Priya put the tray of tea down on the centre-table and bent down to touch her prospective in-law’s feet. “Namaste Uncleji, namaste Auntyji.”
“I was right about her upbringing. Beti, take a seat, don’t be shy,” the groom’s mother said in a cooing voice.
Pulling her sari’s palloo over her head, Priya sat down next to her mother.
“What do you think, beta?” the groom’s father asked him.
“She is beautiful, I like her, papa.”
“Congratulations, Mrs. Shekhar. Our son likes your daughter. Here, have some sweets and celebrate this announcement,” the groom’s father told Anjali.
“This is great news! Rahul! Come here quickly! They have said yes!” Anjali shouted.
“We should get the kundalis matched and ask panditji to give us an auspicious date. What do you say, Samdhanji?” the not-so-prospective groom’s mother asked.
“That would be wonderful,” Anjali said with tears in her eyes.
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