Few Paranthas with some Desi ghee floating on top, now floating in my satisfied Punjabi stomach, cool breeze and a silent afternoon. Don’t tell me you won’t crave to sleep. Because if you don’t, I will consider you an alien! Unlike many of the readers right now, I felt damn sleepy. What harm will sleep do knowing my High School exams begin in just a week and I have my Physics class to attend at the tuition center. Big deal.
After maybe what felt like 2-3 minutes, someone poked a finger in my ear. I slapped the little finger away from my face and the friend fingers of the victim got united up against only one ambition, to punch my back and decorate the neckline of my Lucknowi Kurta with oily knuckles.
“Why do kids exist?” I snapped.
“Sorry, pleaje, thanchu, Pigeon, hahahaha!” cousin prattled.
“Yeah, I’ll have DaVinci decode this one,” I rubbed my eye and got up.
With a squint eye, I saw my cousin, only about 2 years of age, poking her nose, standing near my bed. I didn’t live in a glorious apartment. It was a 2 BHK and whenever guests came, well, to hell with privacy. What day is a day when guests are there and they don’t poke your ear in sleep, eh?
Just to avoid awkward conversations with my Aunt and Mother about my High School grades and how I had to beat my other cousin’s score to prove that my paternal family has more geniuses than maternal family(that’s what they implicitly mean), I preferred going to my tuition center instead. Indian families are generally very competitive when it comes to their kids’ scores. It’s like a relational diagram, if we want to understand. The basic layer comprises of:
A) Eating almonds
B) Switching off phones and handing them to parents before they catch you calling your girlfriend and snatch it.
C) Score better than your cousins, neighbors, themselves and nearly everyone your parents can think of. And do consider the normalization system as well.
‘Humare zamaane me to 65 bhi 95 ke baraabar tha!’
So, if you think your father scored a 60 and you get 80, ha-ha, you aren’t a champ kiddo.
D) Studying for at least 2 cervical pains, 4 fake cries and infinite mother hugs a day.
Follow these steps and you will one day become better than Sharma Ji ka beta at the Social Connections Day. Definitely.
You are not an Indian then.
The results day, I mean.
Now, that I was freshened up again, I stormed out of the building as fast as I could giving complexion to The Flash. Headed up to the bus stop and embarked upon a ‘swag wali Lamborghini’. I am not erroneous. That’s what the Jaat driver was listening to. Dude, come on, a 5.1 Ch Bose with dual woofer and Wi-Fi remote support in a shattered piece of amazing crap they call an RTV bus! That is some luxury feels! The usual distance between my home and tuition center is around 4 KM, which takes me half an hour, is easily covered listening to 2-3 Baniya aunties fighting for the bus fair daily, 2-3 Sardar Uncles fighting on which IPL team will beat Punjab this time and some fresh 467 PPM air as well.
It was sharp 4 O’clock when I ran to my Academy past the Rajput society guard with large moustache and a gun in his hand, half in sleep. It was a rich society. Just below my academy was an “Eschatological Church of the Redeemed God”.
I saw some people over there forming a proper team to play a game. There was a car just by the entrance gate to the stairs that lead to my academy on first floor, covered with balloons and flowers. I had this urge to read the name of the bride and groom. So, I leaned towards the back of the car and saw the glittery heart that said-“Chris Weds Li”. For a moment I was normal but then the other moment when I started noticing a lot of Chinese people playing some kind of game with Afro Americans or maybe Caribbean or maybe South Africans, could be Zimbabwe as well. Might be it is Uganda. OH! I stood there thinking various possible countries. I am pretty sure I must have mumbled these words loudly as I saw an old man, highly resembling Morgan Freeman, approach towards me on a wheelchair.
“Shuku shuku?” he said while holding a box in his hand in which small nuggets were there covered with coconut topping.
“I am sorry,” I woke up from my deep state of Atlas.
“Nigerian sweet, dear boy. You seem to be looking at the marriage board so long; I thought I might offer you some.” He smiled and replied.
“You seem to have a troubled mind, I assume. White hair often don’t lie, little fella. The game you might?”
“What is the game they are playing? I have never seen anything like that.”
“Oh. This game is called Dawn of Luck.”
“The Dawn of Luck?”
“Yes. It’s our family’s long believed tradition that the more paper airplanes will go flying into the wooden basket bride holds, more lucky will be the married couple. All the male members fly a single airplane each. Ha-ha, my wife got 17 in the basket. Li has already got more than 22. It will be a platinum jubilee indeed, Ha-ha…ugghh uughhh!“He coughed while he spoke in a broken voice.
“But, sir, there is a story here for sure. The bride is Chinese. Groom is Nigerian. How?”
“Funny story indeed. One day, our lad here got on a bus. He saw Li. He put his watch in pocket and asked Li for time. And here they are today, happy faces.”
“But, they both are from different castes, different religions.”
“HO-HO dear lord. You don’t see religion when you are in love. Love is spontaneous and unconditional. Either it happens or it does not. You cannot find love with a magnifier in your hand or by travelling to different places. It is all planned before you can even think. It just happens. You kids face a damn heartbreak and think that you won’t find love again. Kid, if it broke your heart it was not love at the first place. Love is a sensation, like rays of sun and air. You can feel it. It touches your stomach, touches your body and slowly and steadily touches your soul and till the time you realize that your mind, body and heart are affected by this good sensation, you have already fallen in love. Tell me boy, does air has a different behavior for white people and black people? Will the sun shine differently for a Christ and a Buddhist? Will fire be lit up in a different color for a Muslim and a Jew? Then why do people find conditions when it comes to love?”
I had a jaw drop. You see, the society we are in has taught us how to categorize people into groups based on their castes, the religion they follow, the gods they worship, the work they do and we tend to stay more with the people more like us. You will question the secularity of me and call me crazy but believe me, it is 21st century and even now we are not secular. All we have, is a mask. And the day that mask will fall, we all will realize that we actually, conscious or sub-consciously, tend to judge people based on their religion. ‘A Punjabi will marry only a Punjabi’. I don’t know about your families, but in my surroundings people still believe that. And forget people, up till now I was thinking that I am a practical and a secular fellow but you will see that nothing is secular even in these modern times. I self- realized what I have written above. Punjabis, Jaat, Baniyas, Sardars, Rajputs, these are nothing but a weak answer to the publishers of daily matrimony page in newspapers. I wait for the day when all these Marriage Bureaus will not ask whether your ‘Gotra’ is Kashyap or Khatri, but when they will ask whether you are an Indian or not. That is the day I will believe that India has changed. We have changed.
So, what needs to be done? I don’t know. I am too afraid to ask my parents. But I can ask myself. Ask yourself. I’ll go edit the story so that people don’t know about more castes and religions and turn my motto upside down.