Cimenatography: Paramvir Singh. Screenplay and Direction: Kaevan Umrigar.
© FTII, 2003-04
But today, how I wish that she had to stick to those words she uttered in all her seven-year-old innocence. My Ana, you see, is getting married to a non-Parsi.
I have still not been able to forget the moment when she told me about it. It was a Monday morning. I was in the bathroom, shaving. In the mirror, I saw her approach hesitantly. She stood there at the bathroom door, and waited without a word. I thought she wanted money, the travel agency didn’t pay her as much as she deserved. Ketla paisa joiyech, I asked. No, it’s not about money, she said, I just wanted to talk to you. Tell me, I said, putting down the shaving brush and picking up the razor. I wiped away the shaving cream where it had covered the sideburns and positioned the razor at its edge. I’m … I’m planning to get married, she said. There and then, I knew the sentence that was going to follow, even before she said it. I couldn’t move the razor, it just stayed there at the edge of the sideburns. I stared at our reflections in the mirror. Ey non-Parsi chhe, the words finally came out of her mouth. She waited for my reaction. But I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t find the words to say anything. I was upset, disturbed. There was only one thing to do. I began to shave. I was rough with myself. I kept nicking myself. I scraped off skin. I drew blood. She stood there at the bathroom door throughout. I can’t say if she flinched or not, I was too upset to care.
I got ready for work. But I didn’t go. We sat on the sofa, Goolu and I. I was outraged. My thoughts finally formed into words, and they burst out — When those two kids of Cyrus downstairs married parjaats, I should have suspected that our Ana too could… — I thought she was sensible. Why is she doing this to me? — Couldn’t she find a nice Parsi boy? There were so many in our colony…
Goolu heard me out. She had been thinking too. And it was clear to her that Ana had already decided about it, that our no’s were not going to make a difference to her decision. She’s the only child we have, she told me, think about her happiness. But I just couldn’t accept the idea. Goolu made tea, but none of us touched it. We sat on the sofa, busy in our thoughts.
When Ana returned back home that evening, I still didn’t speak a word to her. Goolu didn’t too. Ana sat with us, not speaking, waiting for us to say something. Finally, Goolu broke the silence and asked to meet the boy.
He came on the weekend. His name was Vikas. I refused to see him. I sat with my thoughts in the bedroom. But I caught a glimpse of him. And their conversation travelled to my ears through the open door. He seemed a nice enough boy. A little too talkative, but I could see that was what drew my shy Anahita to him. He had a way of making her feel comfortable. Goolu seemed to have taken an instant liking to him. I heard her throaty laughter often during the time he was there. Maybe, he would make a fine husband. But he wasn’t Parsi, and that was that.
The next few days were very painful. I became an unwelcome presence in my own home. Often, I would find myself interrupting a sharing of confidences between mother and daughter. The easy banter I would hear from outside the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, wherever the two of them would be, would be replaced by an awkward silence the moment I entered. They would glance sideward at each other, shift uncomfortably in their places, and find some other work to do.
One evening, when this happened again, Ana drew herself away from Goolu and came towards me. I had settled myself into an armchair and was blankly switching channels with the TV remote. She took the remote from my hand and switched the TV off. She looked into my eyes and pleaded, Please, Daddy, I really love him a lot. Daddy, please. I was overcome. Vaaru, I consented. She buried her face in my lap, and held me tight.
The Sonawane family paid us a formal visit, once I had overruled my own objections to the marriage. I didn’t want to meet them — I had begun to regret I’d agreed, but I didn’t have the courage to take back my words and ruin my daughter’s happiness. I forced myself to go through it, but I hardly spoke a word, and listened to even less. In my thoughts, I couldn’t believe this was happening, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I had trapped myself.
And so, now, today, it’s my daughter’s wedding day. The wedding is less than an hour away. It is going to be a simple registered ceremony, with just the two families present. Tomorrow evening, there will be a reception at Palamkote Hall. The wedding will take place here in our home. Rusi, my brother-in-law, has gone to fetch the man from the registry, and the Sonawanes must already be on their way here.
I should be getting dressed to welcome them, I should be helping out with the decorations and the refreshments, but instead I am sitting on the sofa in my sadra, wishing I hadn’t said yes. I would like to tell them at the door, sorry, there will be no wedding, go back home, but I know it is too late for that. I shouldn’t have relented. I should have put my foot down. I should have got her married to a nice Parsi boy when she turned 21.
«Jehangoo, why haven’t you got ready yet. They’ll be here any moment.» Goolu has come to shake me out of my thoughts. She helps me put on my dagli, giving me a comforting smile, everything will be all right, we are doing the right thing. She ties the bows neatly, and even before I can voice my doubts to her, she’s moved on to Ana, fussing about her, chiding her not to move about, to sit still in one place.
I am standing uncomfortably in the middle of the room, not knowing what to do. Goolu has moved to the kitchen to check if the champagne has chilled. Anahita is sitting by herself, smiling her shy smile at me. Her saree shimmers. I walk up to her and sit down next to her. I take her hand in mine. Ana…, I tell her, the words leaving my mouth the instant they form in my mind, Ana… Vikas is a fine boy … he comes from a fine family … see, I can’t tell you not to marry him, I know that … you marry him, don’t marry him, you’ll still be my daughter … but … but I can’t bear to see this wedding take place … I just can’t bear to see this wedding take place.
I leave her hand and walk away. Before she can get up and stop me, before she can call out to Goolu to stop me, I walk out of the door. I walk out of the colony gates, into the traffic of the city. I walk for one kilometre, then two, then more. Behind me, I don’t know if pens have scratched signatures on paper, if champagne corks have been popped, if Cliff Richard has sung Congratulations on the tape recorder.
In my mind, a multitude of thoughts, doubts, questions are jostling for space. I am unable to think clearly. I cannot concentrate on anything at all. And suddenly, a memory from long way back emerges with extreme clarity, pushing out everything else in my head.
When Anahita was seven or so, I showed her my wedding album. She recognized me and Goolu in the photographs, but she had one question, where was she? I laughed and told her, you weren’t there then, mahri jaan, you were born much later. She banged the album shut. You didn’t invite me to your wedding, she made a face and told me, I am not going to invite you to mine.