My daughter is graduating high school this Saturday and I’m wondering what to wear to the ceremony her school has luckily organized for the class of 2020. I should be thinking about what to say to her, words of wisdom she can carry to university and beyond, but it’s so much easier to pick a sari than find the right words. What new is there to say? I’m a housewife and my story is a somewhat cautionary tale she’s heard a million times before.
Once upon a time there was a soft-spoken young girl who dreamed of living a life of adventure and becoming a conflict-zone correspondent. This was incompatible with the ideal Indian Marriage her family envisioned for her, so the girl decided to become a dentist, instead. It was not to be. The girl failed med school entrance exams and doomed herself to the wastelands of Economics, on the rebound. With a barely-passed degree in hand, she moved to the land of pagodas to spend a ‘belated gap year’ with her parents. While her friends back home interned in newsrooms, earned a living, partied, dated, and rented apartments, the girl volunteered at the international school and took lessons in guitar, painting, computers, flower arrangement, and tennis. Soon, well meaning aunties started whispering to her about Monday-fasts and a fairy godmother appeared with deets of a suitable Indian boy. Intelligent. Educated. Independent. Decent. Attractive. Similar background.
“Really?” gasped the girl, aghast.
“Life is better with a companion and when you find the right one, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” advised her father.
“The good ones get snapped up fast, so best not wait until you’re left with the dregs,” warned her mother.
“The boy’s mother is a real diamond,” nudged the fairy godmother.
So, flights were booked and a meeting of parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends from both sides was called. Tea, pastries, sandwiches, and many pleasantries later it was agreed that the boy and girl could step out into the garden for a chat. “Nirula’s Banana-split is my favourite and I love chana-bhaturas,” said the girl. “I like Hot-chocolate-fudge and pao-bhaji,” said the boy.
“Gabbar or Mogambo?”
“Asterix or Tin-Tin?”
“What’s your favourite Disney movie?”
“Mine too! Your ideal wife?”
“Intelligent, with twinkling eyes, meets me with a smile. Your ideal husband?” “Handsome, intelligent, treats me like a princess.”
“Do you have a motorbike?”
“Yes… and, better, a magic carpet!”
The ‘roka’ happened quickly, followed by a formal engagement, and before the 21 year old princess and 22 year old prince could name and shame their respective troublemaking mamus and masis, they were married and sailing into the sunset on a magic carpet… blissfully unaware
that the story was just beginning.
The carpet carried the couple way out beyond their comfort zones to faraway new lands and landscapes, some rough, some smooth; through stormy weather and calm; good times and bad; lessons, wanted and unwanted; across countries, cities, and continents, some exotic, some not. Rules were made and unmade, there were tantrums and truces, apologies and promises, a million little compromises and kindnesses, red lines drawn and withdrawn, castles built and erased, wishes fulfilled and postponed. Along the way they added a baby and when the baby asked for a puppy, they got a pup. There were diapers and TeleTubbies, picture books and encyclopedias, vaccines, dolls, birthday parties, report cards, playdates, festivals, braces, college counsellors, and holidays. There was laughter and tears, giggles and barks, debates and dictats, new mistakes and old, joy, pride, worries, and satisfaction. There was friendship, companionship, sacrifice, inexperience, romance, and parenthood. Memories were lived and recorded…
“Is this the life of adventure I dreamed of?” thought the girl, a lady now, seated on the magic carpet, sipping the tea her husband and soulmate of 23 years had made for her. The clue lay in something her daughter wrote for her university application:
“…. this is the answer to a dream I never knew I had.”
I’m not sure what to wear to my daughter’s graduation, but I know what I want to say as she steps into the same old brand new world…
“Make what you like of my fairytale, but remember, my darling… there is no script. Write your own…”