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A Good Boy For Your Girl

Popularity 2Viewed 2003 times 2019-5-7 19:38 |Personal category:StoryTeller|System category:Life


Disclaimer: This is a fictional story, inspired by real events. I have used artistic license to fill-out, fill-in details. While characters depicted may seem to resemble real characters, they are to be considered just a figment of my imagination for the purpose of writing a ‘good’ story.

 I have lovely neighbors in Australia. They are also originally from my land of birth – India. They are from the north of India while I am originally from the south. We speak different languages traditionally, but also the common national languages Hindi and English. They are a couple with two kids, I am a single parent with my two kids. My children grew up here in Australia. While on the outside they can pass for Indians, inside they are more Australian in spirit than anything else. We get along very well, share our cooking sometimes and are there for each other should we need a hand.

The old parents (in or near their eighties) of my neighbor lady and gentleman visit them from India occasionally. I too get to know them a little and spend time with them. They are much like my own parents who I miss having around. My kids always greet them with love and respect, though they could not talk in their language. The old folks are not fluent in English and my kids cannot speak Hindi (though they can usually follow what is going on and understand about half of what is being spoken – thanks to Bollywood movies). I am usually the translator for my kids with the old Indians.  Like typical Australian teenagers and youngsters, my kids would greet them and after a small chat go to their rooms or on to work in their busy lives. When I had some time to myself, I would go for walks around the neighborhood streets with the old parents, particularly the old visiting father, show them around and share old stories from many years ago. Gradually, they started to feel like family. When the parents had to return to India, it felt hard saying goodbye. They too blessed us like our own elders, invited us and made us promise we would visit them in India when I next went there. With elders, at their age, it is always unsaid that we never know if we will see them again and all goodbyes have a feeling of a possible last goodbye. We never know when the next time we will meet, if…  We continued to remain in touch through some phone calls, messages to their family using our modern technology. 

So, it was with some delight that I saw the old mother (Ma-ji, as I addressed her) of the neighbor lady visit once again. She came over one day as my daughter K_ was home with me in the living room. The old lady sat down next to my daughter and as my daughter said “Namaste” with folded hands and a bow, she placed her hand on my daughter’s head to bless her with the traditional gesture.

“K_ तुम कैसी हो? (How are you?)” asked the old lady.

“Good, good,” said my daughter smiling.

“कितनी बडी हो गयी!! (O, how much she has grown up!!),” exclaimed Ma-ji.

“She is almost 18,” I said, “She’s finished high school and just joining university.”

“अच्छा! तो क्या पढ रही है? (Good, So, what is she studying?).” 

I looked over to my daughter, I could see that she understood what was being asked but hesitating to reply.

“Global studies and media,” said K_ in her perfect Australian English. 

Ma-ji looked puzzled.

I could not help but smile but translated roughly into “Political science and Computer news”. It was all a world very different from what Ma-ji had grown to understand, but she nodded to acknowledge her acceptance of a brave new world.

“तो आगे क्या करना है? नौकरी? (So, what afterwards? A job?),” Ma-ji asked me. K_ seemed to understand what was going on but perhaps wondering why Ma-ji was asking me all these questions about her and not her directly. She turned her attention towards the TV that was on, muted.

“शायद और पढेगी , या काम करेगी, उसकी मर्जी (Maybe she will study further or work at a job, it’s her choice),” I said.

Ma-ji looked at K_ once more (She was looking at her mobile phone), then looked towards me, lowered her voice confidentially in all seriousness and earnestness (K_ still sitting right next to her) and whispered loudly enough, “तो  K_ के लिए कोई अच्छा लड़का देख रहे हो? (So, are you looking for a good boy for K_?).”

I was just  a little surprised and looked towards to K_ if she was paying attention. Indeed, she was, even as she had her phone in the hand. I could see it took her a few seconds to translate the whole sentence from Hindi, all in her head and then put in a context. Then there was a priceless moment when the meaning of Ma-ji’s statement dawned on her and her expression changed from a teenage casualness to almost a red-alert. K_ was stunned, a bit embarrassed, a little flustered and yet had commendable calmness. She did not say anything. She looked at me searchingly, anxious to see how I would respond. Internally, I could see all the flags raised and various thoughts going off in my darling Australian daughter’s head, who had plenty of exposure to the Indian culture, Bollywood, media here in Australia. I could sense her thinking about all the dramas and movies she had seen about India and from India, family and friends she had known, people who seemed to decide who a girl should marry and give their promise on the family honor to get her betrothed to some guy she never met or knew! A disproportionate number of Indian movies that K_ often watches are full of such stories. The drama is even more so for kids of Indian origin who grew up in other countries. My kids have long known my own personal values and attitudes to these, both in my own life and what I have expressed. However, the kids judge us on how we handle a real-life situation.

I could not help smiling, it was the least I could do to hold down my laughter at K_ that would have offended Ma-ji even though I never want to hurt her feelings. I knew exactly where Ma-ji was coming from.

I said to Ma-ji quite casually, “Well, I have not yet started to look for a boy yet for K_. She has expressed a desire to study for now, at least 3-4 years to complete her degree. She will let me know what she wants to do after that. She is free to do whatever she wishes and I will support her.”

My daughter was looking at me intently, as if to say, “I thought I knew you all these days, Dad!!  Let’s see how you really deal with this.”

Ma-ji was wise to judge the surprise in K_ (she thought it was perhaps her shyness) and was re-assured in my tone. She proceeded to let me know meaningfully that one of her relatives, the level of her grandson, studying in university in India, would be visiting his family and friends in Australia in the year ahead and that he would be visiting Australia and that we could probably see him. 

“अच्छा लड़का है! (He is a good boy!),” said Ma-ji  and continued with genuine enthusiasm,“हाँ आज के बच्चे अपनी मर्जी से करते हैं। एक बार मिल कर देख लो। अगर एक दूसरे को पसंद आए तो उनकी मर्जी ! (Yes, I know the kids these days choose for themselves these days, but why not just meet him and if the two like each other, it is their choice).”

Now it seemed K_ was starting to have doubts about me. Why had I let the conversation come to this point? “They are already talking about a specific boy, that I none of us have seen or known before” must have been racing through her head.

I looked at K_ and gave her a partly wicked smile. She looked like she might lose her composure. But she also seemed to have a fierce determination to see how I would proceed. She was almost challenging me to try and go down the path of the “Indian parent who sets you up with someone you never met”.

I looked at Ma-ji and in her eyes saw her true motherly concern for me, grandmotherly concern for K_ from her perspective of the old culture and tradition. They were genuine. This is exactly what she would have told about one of her own grand-children. It was not meant to coerce or force anyone. It was a genuine compliment to how she viewed me and my family that she would consider cementing the bonds of friendship with marriage between her family and mine. The compliment is even greater considering they know we are from different regions, speaking different languages even in our roots. It is an acknowledgment of how Ma-ji saw us, felt comfortable enough to consider us family. It may never happen, the boy and the girl may meet or not, they may like each other or not. I never let even my own parents decide who was for me. I would never even dream of doing such to my kids. I know Ma-ji also knew that.

“Ma-ji, we are honored that you feel this way about me and my family. I am glad you could tell me what is in your heart. K_ will finally decide when, who she wants to be with and we will support her as best as can. At the moment, she does not seem to think about marriage. I too wish she will find a good person and that is not easy to come by.”

Ma-ji chatted a bit more and then left. Afterwards, I sat down with K_ and explained to her the wonderful compliment Ma-ji had paid us, as a family. She was looking out for us in the best way she knows. We need to take that alone if nothing more. In modern times we often meet our future partners through friends and acquaintances, so why not another well-wisher like Ma-ji? It just requires an open-mind as we expect the older generation to have.

“No pressure K_... I will never put you in a spot. No one can force you or coerce you anyway. Just remember, find yourself a good boy in reasonable time, or I will ask Ma-ji to find good boy for you!” I said to K_ with a wink. She walked away laughing.

Copyright © KIyer 2019
All rights reserved

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Comment Comment (2 comments)

Reply Report Liononthehunt 2019-6-5 16:24
Just wonder if a hefty amont of dowry still has to be paid by the bride for the marriage between two Hindu Australians.
Reply Report KIyer 2019-6-9 10:19
Liononthehunt: Just wonder if a hefty amont of dowry still has to be paid by the bride for the marriage between two Hindu Australians.
Nope..

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