Part - 22
“How old were you when this photo was taken, paati?”
The school had been flooded and Tara was there to spend the day with her grandmother before being collected by her mother on her way back home.
“Let me see, it was taken a week after we got married...I was very young at that time.”
“You look so different then”
“It was a long, long time ago”
“Was yours an arranged marriage or a love marriage, paati?”
“We did not have anything called love marriage back then. It was only invented after people started watching movies.”
A long time ago, when Padmaja was a young girl but not quite a woman, an aunt had once remarked, “poor thing, at this rate he will have to be very blind to marry her” and her mother had laughed along with everyone else. Later that night, lying next to Padmaja, her mother had held her hand tight and whispered that she did not want to offend her aunt and not laugh at her jokes, especially since she had been so kind in lending them some money to tide over tough times. Some day, her mother promised, a wonderful prince with a moustache would come to marry her and then they will both laugh at her aunt.
Padmaja did not share her conviction. In the mirror she saw reflected a square jaw and eyebrows that knitted too closely together, even though she tried hard to maintain that look of surprise that kept them apart. At fifteen, she was the shortest of her friends and had still not grown breasts. She feigned indifference when her classmates talked of boys who had written love letters to them. She really did not need them, especially since they only served to distract her from what she was good at. And what she was good at was studies. Love and marriage was for those who did not have much else to do. Sometimes though, she wished that her mother would disagree with her and repeat the story about the prince with a moustache, but she never did.
“Let's be honest, Paddu”, Amma began one day some years later, and even before she had finished speaking, Padmaja instinctively knew what was going to be asked of her. Talking to her mother was like climbing a familiar flight of stairs in the dark, Padmaja could tell where the next step was going to be well before she got there. “This boy is from a good family and he does not seem very particular about how his wife should look. If he agrees to this match, I don't think you should protest too much. Remember, it may not happen again.”
So when it was announced that she was to marry, it surprised everyone, including Padmaja. It seemed like the story starring herself had already been written and now the pages were turning. So it must be, she reasoned. So it must be.