Brother’s wedding. The time was about 3 pm. We had just finished lunch. But the rituals were still going on. It had been exhausting. Activities all through the day and previous day as well. I was sitting by myself. I felt I needed time for myself.
Suddenly the person sitting in front looked back at me. She was an old, frail woman in her late fifties. By her countenance, she seemed to be employed in the role of a governess or a maid-servant by one of the bride’s relatives. She asked me a question in Kannada:
“Are you the groom’s brother?”
“Yes,” I replied with a smile. The same smile that one has to employ when speaking to the multitude of unknown populace at a function. The same smile which one has when one says “Nidhaanavaagi koothikolli” when lunch is being served (literal translation leading to “Sit down slowly” but actually means “Have lunch comfortably”). Plastic smile, as it is called.
Wanting to be by myself, I didn’t follow up with a question of my own to enquire of her relation, if any. I just didn’t like having a conversation then. But the old woman was sitting by herself and I figured she felt like having a conversation. So she started explaining her relation to the bride herself. It was a long monologue, half of which I didn’t bother hearing but I got the gist of it and my guess was right. I just kept on the plastic smile and constant nod. That works for most conversations.
“So, where does the groom work?” she asked
“In America,” I replied shortly. One tends to learn to what extent an answer has to be given at functions like this, solely based on with whom one is talking, and to what extent the recipient would like the question answered. I remembered how I spoke about my brother’s occupation for about 5 minutes to a friend of mine who had asked me the same question just an hour ago. However, this answer was magnanimous in its own way for the old woman.
“Will he take the bride with him?”
“Yes.” She seemed happy. A fortunate thing to have happened to someone you know since a kid.
Just then, someone called and I got up to leave with a respectful nod, conveying end of conversation. But she said something that struck a chord in me. “Nimgu chance sikkidre hogbidi.” (“If you get a chance, you should go off to US too”).
Now, here is someone whom I hardly know and who hardly knows me. She is frail, old, and by her appearance and occupation, did not seem to have left India nor seemed to be the type to ever visit USA. And yet, here she is, wishing me the best of the World, wishing me to settle down in the Great Land of Opportunities and Luxury. USA, as it is for many, is for her too, like the Heavenly Paradise sent to Earth where only the Lucky Few get to live in a constant state of Wonderment and Happiness.
But I wasn’t sure which was more fascinating.
The lure of the America which has spread its widespread net over even on mediocre bourgeois thousands of miles away?
Or an anonymous woman wishing me apparently ‘The Best of the Worlds’?