The date had been set. The wedding was happening when she couldn’t care less about it. All those years Tina had put into her career were finally fructifying. But no. All her reasons had fallen on deaf ears. “At 26, you need to get married. Enough about your career,” she had been told.
So here she was, standing quietly in a jewellery shop with her would-be mother-in-law–”You have to call me Aai,” she instructed–looking at traditional gold bangles.
A Kannadiga Konkani married into a traditional north Indian family, Aai had had her share of adjustments to make. A proud lady, she always had a stern, superior vibe about herself. In the days racing up to the wedding, Tina caught glimpses of the obstinacy that was fast becoming synonymous with her mother-in-law. But what made Tina really uncomfortable was that Aai was never keen on conversations and she hardly ever smiled.
The day arrived and it was a blur of rituals and people. As the vidaai neared, Tina knew she’d be back at her mother’s place the next day (the perks of getting married to someone who lived less than a kilometre away). But when Tina crossed the threshold of her new house, panic seized her. She was surrounded by her in-laws, relatives and chatter in a language she didn’t understand. A grown-up, mature woman, Tina wanted to run and hide like a child.
Sitting amid suitcases in an unfamiliar room, the fear and strangeness of the whole situation dawned on her. A sob escaped out of her, followed by a tear. Swamped by fatigue and overwhelming emotions, she started weeping. Suddenly, she found someone’s arms around her shoulders. Strong arms with traditional gold bangles. They felt strange and yet safe. Instinctively she moved into the hug–the basic, undeniable support–and hid her face in the saree of Aai.
“I know what you feel,” Tina heard her say. “I am here. Don’t worry. There is nothing to fear.” The supposed antagonist had quietly become Tina’s biggest support system.