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Friday, 6 April 2018

You Don't Have to Get Married to Play Hide & Seek

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
― Pico Iyer

Perhaps some of most meaningful conversations I had were with my late grand father, who rarely spoke unless interjected with questions. In his few words he made me realize that it is good to ask questions and there are probably no wrong questions. Or even wrong answers.  In other words it is alright to be!

Sometime in the last decade, I was in a house in Dubai. Attending a get together. It was a religious household with enough evidence of that hanging on the walls. We were savouring ordered out food. It was Chinese. A young lady, the next in line to get married, asked a question. Softly.      

'Can we marry XYZ Catholics?'

The question was familiar. Nobody answered for a while.  One of the elders prompted to no one in particular, 'Why? Have you found one?' Everyone grinned behind their chicken lollypops.

Another seemingly friendly elder, came closer and muttered softly, 'If he is a nice one we will... but usually we don't. Don't you know that?'

Grins were covered by the second course. Spring rolls filed with shredded chicken, cabbage and carrots.

I thought it was important to give a clear answer. I borrowed a line from my memory and uttered, 'You can marry anyone you like to.'

Nobody responded, for or against the motion. There was pin drop silence. It was time for the main course anyway.

End of scene one.

****

I was 11 or 12. One random day, I was fussing over meeting a kid whom I had met recently at a get together at my grandparents'. I wanted to play with him and kept telling his name, asking when we will go to their house in Kollam. Pullu, my grandma, was visibly unimpressed when she said, 'Why are you going on asking this? We are not getting you married to him. He is a Nair. We don't marry Malayalis or Nairs.'

Puzzled over her reaction and the possible meaning of a marriage, I turned to grandpa.

B'lu: Pappa, can I marry Chikku?
Pappa: No
B'lu: Why?
Pappa: You are too young.
B'lu: Who are Nairs?
Pappa: They are a community from Kerala.
B'lu: Are we not from Kerala?
Pappa: Not really. But we are born here.
B'lu: Is it wrong to marry a Nair?
Pappa: No
B'lu: Why did Pullu say you can't.
Pappa: (Hands & head nods in 'I don't know gestures')
Pappa: Why do you want to marry now?
B'lu: To play hide and seek.
Pappa: For that you don't need to marry.
B'lu: Then why do you need to marry?
Pappa: That only the person who wants to get married will know.
B'lu: Who should I marry?
Pappa: Anyone you like to.

The aroma of freshly roasted cashew nuts, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, drew us children and elders from the varandah to the backyard where the help was thrashing the freshly charred nuts open. The sky above us was an abstract canvas with a bizarre mix of oranges and mauves. The sun painted all the way to his exit. A beautiful vault of heaven opened to trap the wild blue yonder into its deep starry folds. It was not less than in a fairytale... even thought eyes were wide open.

Twilight: The window seat once captured the splendid sun set and a rising moon...  Can you spot the moon? It is a tiny dot of light.

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