“Done! You’ve got yourself a shaver for absolutely no money!” I said to my Dad “Oh! Another thing. Ask your friend to be a little careful. I won’t care for his face.”
I knew my words weren’t soft, it actually sounds worse in Kannada, the language we speak at home, my language.
“Don’t care” my Dad replied as I climbed the stairs. I returned to my rocking chair and tried recollecting what happened downstairs a minute ago. I had just uttered words that were harsh by all standards, especially considering the fact that they were directed at a close to being 70 friend of my Dad’s. It had to be damaging.
So this friend of my Dad’s, let’s call him Mr. J, has supported my Dad in difficult times. He had lent money so that my Dad can take the risk of building a house in Bengaluru. And when I had messed up in my entrance exams and was hell bent on doing an engineering degree, quitting my Bachelor of Sciences, he had lent money to Dad so that I could get a seat under the management quota.
Mr. J has been the elder brother my Dad never had, given that he was the eldest male among his siblings. They share a good friendship and they respect each other a lot. It’s something I have always appreciated, but Mr. J is not someone who’d stay mum on matters that aren’t related to him. There have been times when I, as a school going kid, felt embarrassed or ashamed, only because Mr. J had reminded us sons of my Dad our duties. His traditional ways and beliefs, his masochistic views, his patriarchal demeanour – they all made me feel uncomfortable when around him.
So today when he called my Dad on the mobile, the topic of I not getting married came up. My Dad tried to shoo the topic away given that I was sitting next to him helping him order a shaver on Flipkart, but he wasn’t really successful in letting Mr. J know that I’m an adamant prick who wouldn’t bow down easily. Not in the subject of marriage.
It was unfortunate that the earpiece on my Dad’s smartphone was louder than it needed to be, I was able to hear every word Mr. J uttered on the other side of the call. He said things like ” no seriousness in life”, “it’s the right age, if he doesn’t do it now, when will he do it, can someone just live like that forever?” And things like “he is living with you people, he doesn’t give his salary to you to handle the household, it’s best you marry him off Sir.”
Parts of whatever he said did irritate me. I was angry that my Dad was listening to all these stuff and not defending me. He should’ve, considering we sons, although we have deviated a lot from his ideologies and his ways as we turned adults, we still have the basic values that he taught us. To not cheat, to fight what’s wrong, to stick to your words and to stand up for what’s right and to take your own decisions. But here, he didn’t stop Mr. J, he didn’t tell him that I’m not interested or that he’d let me take the decision when I want to.
I guess the worst part was when Mr. J said on something else. He added “he keeps driving by my place every week, to play. Let me talk to him, send him to me. I will tell him.” My Dad said “It’s between you two, I won’t say anything.”
Now, that’s the part which I didn’t quite like. He’ll talk to me, Mr. J will and I know how he talks. I know how he approaches us young fellows, we’re just pricks in his eyes, we don’t care for our parents and are selfish in his eyes, always. And that applies to his sons, and my Dad’s sons and all the sons in this world. What he doesn’t know is that I decided to junk a Computer Science seat from the management quota and opted for Automobile Engineering under the merit just so that I don’t put my family through hardships. Paying close to 10 lakhs over 10 years wasn’t something we could afford, and so I opted for the sane option even if it meant we’d lose about a lakh in money.
What he also doesn’t know is that I stayed back with my parents, letting go of my cravings for a glass of whiskey on the rocks every night, because they were sad that their other sons don’t live with them anymore. Indian parents expect much more than parents from possibly every other country. We’re expected to live as a joint family, even if our parents left theirs behind in search of jobs. We’re expected to marry within our religion, our caste (something typical of us Indians), our status, our language. In fact, most parents, even the educated ones like mine, expect us to marry someone they choose for us – we call it “arranged marriage”.
When I recollected my words, I realized how it’d have come across in my parents’ thoughts. When I went down stairs, I did see them disturbed. Without much coaxing my Mom blurted out that she didn’t feel very comfortable in hearing those words. So in Kannada, when someone says “I won’t care for his face”, it can mean two things. One – it can mean that I’d respond to his words in a manner he cannot imagine, be straightforward and outspoken, won’t care if my words hurt him. Two – it can mean that I’ll pick a fight and beat him up.
I meant the former and they got the latter. For them, even the former would be harsh. They reminded me about the good deeds Mr. J has done for us. I accepted all of them and yet told my Mom how I don’t want anyone on this earth to try have a say in matters personal to me. I had to point out that there’s a subtle line, a very thin one which people don’t realize it exists, that when they cross it I don’t like it.
It’s an Indian thing you see. Our culture teaches us many things, many positive things when it comes to treating elders well, taking care of siblings, family living etc. What it does discard is the privacy of people. The role of the society in people’s personal lives is too intrusive, personal spaces are not respected and them young ‘uns are just expected to fall in line per the elders’ wishes. Which is why Mr. J automatically turns into a family elder cum advisor who’ll now educate me on why I should get married. And that’s why the old lady who lives up the street doesn’t think twice before bringing a proposal to my Mom to marry her dog walking granddaughter to me.
A couple of hours later, my Mom reacted to a line she heard on the TV “Son, this line should actually be yours ‘I’m what I’m and I won’t change for the world!” Hope she (and they all) get the point.