Time was moving by at a snail’s pace. Nothing in new in Geetha’s life. That is, until a phone call came from Siva Rao, giving her a jolt.
Siva Rao called Bhanumurthy and told him that a young man came from America in order to get married, and Geetha might be a good match for him. He added that there was not much time, and that Geetha needed to be in Guntur on the next Saturday with her parents.
Geetha did not like the idea but, out of respect for Mamayya and Atta, agreed to go along with her parents.
Siva Rao and Kanakam were elated to see Geetha. “How are you? How is your job? Everything going smoothly?” Siva Rao asked affectionately.
Kanakam’s face lit up like moon. She asked, holding Geetha’s chin in her palm, “How’re you doing? How is the job? Hope not troubles.”
Geetha was touched by the warmth in their voices. She replied to their queries appropriately.
Siva Rao told them about the groom. “Hari came from America to find a bride and get married. If both the girl and the boy could agree on the proposal, the marriage will take place right away.”
Siva Rao and Kanakam kept it very simple. Geetha wore an ordinary cotton saree and jasmine flowers in her hair. After a few minutes, Siva Rao asked Paramesam to follow him into the library. Kanakam stood and said to Kamakshi, “Come, vadina garu. I will show you our house.”
Hari and Geetha were left alone in the living room.
Hari started the conversation. “The whole thing is sudden. Let me know if you have any questions.”
“Questions about what?” Geetha said slowly.
Hari laughed. “I don’t know either. When I left America with the intent of getting married, I thought I would just get married and return to the States. Once arrived here, everybody has a girl to introduce me to, and I am as much in a daze as you are now. Never mind. Just tell me what you are thinking now about this arrangement.”
Geetha felt relieved as he spoke candidly.
“I feel the same way. They dragged me here saying, ‘come, come’, and I came. I don’t even know what to think anymore.”
“Okay, I will start. You stopped your studies with B.A. Is it because you are not interested to continue?”
Geetha hesitated to reply. She was not sure how he would take it, if she told him she had to discontinue because of her father’s financial situation.
Hari said, “That’s okay. I was only trying to find what your interests are. There can be any number reasons for someone to do or not to do something. Let’s forget that. Tell me this. How do you feel about moving to America?”
Geetha took a few seconds and asked, “Are you settled there, or, will you return back to India?”
“I can’t say one way or the other yet. You know our lives are where our jobs take us to. Probably, I would have to say for now yes I will stay in the States. You will have to resign your job here.”
“So many people are struggling to land a job. How can I a leave a job on hand?”
“That’s also true. How about taking a leave of absence without pay for one year. We can see later how things go,” Hari suggested a compromise.
They chatter this and that for another half hour. “My mother forgets time in company. Do you mind asking her to come here,” Hari said.
Geetha smiled and went in to escort the three women back into the living room.
She started to think seriously. She was very pleased with his demeanor. He addressed her with ‘meeru’, a polite form of second person singular, and asked for her opinion in each instance. She was impressed.
“What do you think?” her mother asked.
“Seems like a good person,” she replied.
Hari’s mother said, “I know it is rushing but he is hard-pressed for time. We don’t know when he can be back for the ceremony. The marriage has to be performed tomorrow.”
Paramesam and Kamakshi were startled. “In two days? How can we arrange that on such a short notice?”
Siva Rao assured them he would take care of all the arrangements. He called a few friends, used all his clout and had the ceremony finished reasonably well.
Paramesam and Kamakshi were grateful beyond words. “I am her father in name only. You took care of her education and marriage, too,” Paramesam said to Siva Rao, with moist eyes.
“Oh, no. Never say that, not even think like that. You are her birth parents and will always be. Kanakam and I are always Mamayya and Atta to her; and we are happy to be so. Geetha means as much to us as to you,” Siva Rao said fondly.
Geetha was reveling in the memories of past until the phone rang. Telemarketer. She said, “Not interested,” and hung up.
Phone rang again. She picked up and was about shout, “Again,” but Hari said hi from the other end.
She was thrilled to hear his voice. “Are you coming home?” she asked enthusiastically.
“No, Geetha, not yet. In fact, I called you to tell that. There is something I need to finish. Don’t wait for me. You eat, and go to bed. It could be quite late by the time I come home.”
“Okay,” she said. Disappointment in her voice was obvious.
“I’m sorry. I know you are bored. I am disappointed too. What can I say? That is the way things are here. Lot of work, very little time. I will try to come as soon as I can,” Hari tried to appease her.
“Yes, I know. I understand,” she said and hung up.
She looked around. Suffocating loneliness, not one human face anywhere to see. Devastating boredom. Thoughts of friends back home got to her again. She sat down to write to Satyam. She filled four pages describing Hari and his job, her cooking, about the vast space, and the small populace. Waiting for similar letter became a past time for her for a while. No letter came. Um, our Indians, she grouched and let it go.
She turned to her life in America. Everything here seemed to be diametrically opposite to what was in India.
We say keep left, they say keep right. We turn the light switch down, here it is up. We take a bath first thing in the morning, here they do in the evening. At home, mother always used to say, to get home before dark. Here life starts in the evening. Everything, big and small, is different. It is almost like what is wrong in India is right here. The thought made her smile.
She thought of what Radha had said. She was right, I must adjust to this new environment, Geetha told herself. I jumped into the ocean, knowing full well I had not learned how to swim. Now, I am here; I had better start flapping my arms and legs, call it swimming or not.
She made a strong coffee and finished in a couple of minutes. She opened the front door and stood in the doorway. What harm could happen if I just went out, and kept on the same street? she thought. After all, how could she get lost if she went on the same street and turned around walked back on the same street? She stepped out. The door closed shut behind her.
Oh, my God! Hari had told her quite a few times that the door would close automatically. What can I say, she did not remember, that’s all.
(July 8, 2022)