“But why should I lie?”
“That’s the way it is, beta. These things are just expected…”
“I still don’t understand. What’s the harm in telling the truth? No, I’m not saying that I’ve attended Saira Johal’s cookery classes. I’m ok with the guy’s family rejecting me for that. At least I won’t be part of a family with fake pretensions and expectations.”
“Ohho, this girl is so stubborn, Meena. It’s all your fault. With the kind of freedom you’ve given her, anybody would turn out this way.”
“Dad, there’s no reason to reprimand Mom. I decide what I say or do. And I’m not lying. Not to you, not to anyone else. I’m not ashamed of who I am. And I have qualities and talents that are considerably more unique and significant than some cookery class.”
“Beta, this is what is required of any decent girl in the community. You don’t really have to do anything, just say that you know how to cook and you’ve attended the classes. That’s it.”
“But I DO know how to cook. Just not the way Saira Johal does. And anyway, she publishes a book every year on how to cook various things. Not everyone in her class knows everything! No Mum, I’m NOT lying.”
“Fine. Do what you want. This is a very nice boy, and a respected family…”
“If they’re so nice and respected, then they might just accept me for who I am than for what I can prepare for meals.”
“Namaste. Did you have any trouble finding the house?”
“Yeah, the route is a little confusing.”
“Please make yourselves comfortable. Would you like some tea?”
“No, let’s see the girl.”
“Sure, sure. Meena, call Alvira.”
“So Alvira, what do you do?”
“I work as a banker with FCHS.”
“What kind of job is that?”
“I help people with their investments.”
“Okay. And do you know how to cook?”
“Have you been to Saira Johal’s cookery classes?”
“Ohh… what’s your best dish?”
“Ahem… what other hobbies do you have?”
“I enjoy swimming and travelling.”
“Ok… ok… Umm… anything that you want to ask, Vishal?”
“No, I’m all right.”
“Arre, don’t be shy, beta.”
Vishal and Alvira shared a quick, shy smile.
“I’ve been through this. I know how it is…”
Alvira looked gratefully at Vishal. He did not resemble his old-fashioned mother nor his goofy-looking father. His uncle was doing all the talking and making Alvira feel like an insect under scrutiny.
“Gosh,” Alvira wondered, “how do girls put up with this nonsense, several times over? I’m not doing this again… Papa can scream as much as he wishes…”
“Alvira, anything you want to ask Vishal?”
Slight nod of the head. No. Anything to get over this disgrace. Alvira couldn’t wait to end the agony. She could clarify all her questions later if the initial formalities went well between the families.
“Okay then, Bhai Sahab. We’ll talk again in a few days.”
Days turned to months. There was no communication. Would the situation have been different had Alvira agreed to her parents’ request about the silly cookery class?
Alvira couldn’t care less.
Though, she did contemplate over why families in the 21st century still believed in all this horse-shit… Would such certificates guarantee a happy, married life?