Tuesday, October 5, 2010


We get to my cousin’s place and she and her daughter are setting the table. They see us and my cousin says, “Oh good you've come! I just finished making breakfast. Sit, sit.” It is a good thing Mom and I had scones and coffee because breakfast is idli and upma, typically South Indian food, yummy and filling. Even though my cousin and her husband are Punjabi, his family lives in the South and my cousin has picked up the cuisine.


Indians take great pride in being exceptional hosts, which includes inducing food coma by stuffing their guests senseless. This is less of any issue for Mom. She is very disciplined and rarely snacks. I unfortunately have a penchant for all things fried and fermented, combined with the heifer genes from Dad’s side of the family, I work out like a mad woman to stay a little smaller than average. So I cannot spend my weekend gorging on desi delights.

Immediately after eating the husband leaves his dishes on the table and takes the daughter outside. Mom and I sit down in the living room and I am still surprised at how sparsely furnished the house still is. The bell rings and my cousin heads to the door, “It must be Neeta. She comes on Saturday to clean. Let me tell her to start lunch and I’ll come sit and chat.” I am full, and Mom must be too. We’re only here for four hours and we are going to be fed twice?

A few minutes later my cousin joins us. “I told Neeta to make chai. So tell me, what nonsense did he say to you all in the car?” Doesn’t she worry that her cleaning woman will overhear and know that they have marital issues. Or worse, what if Neeta tells the husband? My devotion to conspiracy theories makes me suspicious and unable to trust. This is why I could never live in India. I am not shrewd enough. There are too many people paying too much attention, to too many things.

“Not much. He makes mostly nice with us,” I reply. Mom shakes her head and sits back into the couch and her feet don’t’ touch the floor. “He told me I made the issues worse and now his parents are uncomfortable around me,” my cousin says sadly. “Doesn’t he take your side at all? I mean you are the mother of his child,” I argue. She shrugs and says, “He says he loves his daughter and says she belongs to his family and I am not really part of that family. She is his but I am not,” my cousin explains. “So where did the little girl come from if not from you?” I ask. His parents sound like they have village mentality.

Two hours later my cousin calls her husband and daughter in for lunch. They appear immediately, smelling like the wind. My cousin, her husband and Mom talk in Hindi and I nibble on my third meal today, and it’s only 1 pm. “Didi, have more,” my cousin insists. Didi is the Hindi word for sister. Generally younger siblings don’t take their elder siblings names, it is considered disrespectful. My brother has nicknames for me. In fact he so  rarely says my name that when he introduces me to a third party  it sounds strange to both of us. We both pause a second longer listening as the last syllable of my name lingers in the air and the third party has moved onto another topic completely.“I am stuffed,” I reply. Ninety minutes to meeting Broke Back, my possible future husband. I feel bad for being so excited to leave, but I didn’t sign on for suburban drama. I have enough of my own!

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