The next morning Dad and Younger Bhaiya excuse themselves from the breakfast table, leaving Younger Bhabhi, Sweet, Feisty and me in the dining room. “What else will you eat for breakfast? An egg? Waffles? More toast?” Younger Bhabhi asks. I still have half a papaya and two slices of barely buttered toast sitting in my plate. I reach for my room temperature tea -- like Dad’s family I like my food so spicy hot that it sets my tummy on fire, unlike Dad’s family I don’t like tea that burns my tongue.
I pop a bite of fruit into my mouth and wonder how to explain to a slightly chubby woman that I am not living Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life on the farm, hoeing the fields, milking the cows and walking baskets of eggs to market. Mine is a bit more sedentary and requires about 1,500 calories daily. “Let me finish this and see if I’m still hungry,” I suggest, thinking this is the kindest way to say no. I raise my teacup to my lips and mid-sip, Younger Bhabhi asks, “So is it that you don’t want to get married?” Oh here it is payback.
I am sure Dad’s family thinks that Dad’s reputation is blemished from having an unmarried daughter in her late 30s. And while Indians are arranged marriage people, Dad’s family REALLY subscribes to that religion. Of course I don’t believe she asks because she cares about Dad, her only mission is to make me feel bad about my unmarried circumstance in life. However, I don’t think this is a fire Younger Bhabhi should ignite. Her elder daughter’s, Sweet, engagement broke off because the boy’s family was too drunk and too meat eating for our tastes. And that should tell you something if a Punjabi family would turn down another Punjabi family on the basis of booze and meat.
I let a few minutes pass during which time her daughters shoot glances at one another and shift in their chairs. Their mother’s conversation topic is causing them discomfort. This has me wanting to ask Younger Bhabhi if it is her preference to have teeth that have the look and texture of a corn cob after all the corn is gone. Between her rich father and well-to-do husband she could afford dental maintenance. Instead I ask, “I don’t know what you mean? It’s not up to me, it’s destiny,” I explain and shove toast into my mouth. Sweet and Feisty sigh loudly. Their reaction leads me to believe that talks of my marriage were banned from conversation. And only because Dad and Younger Bhaiya are out of earshot is she daring to ask.
Later I will learn Younger Bhabhi told Dad that she thinks it was a mistake to educate me. That there was no reason I should have a Masters degree, because no Indian man wants to marry someone who will talk back or be smarter than him. Another reason I am so thankful that Durga had my back and got Dad out of India and away from his idiot relatives. My American life may not be perfect, but it is perfect for me.