Mini is getting married. To all of you who don’t know her (and most of you won’t since Mini is not really her name, you see), she is one of my closest friends. This is an event that marks miracles this side of the resurrection. To recap mildly, Mini is an aberration. She fits into her family the same way a pole dancer would fit into the knitting club. She is bold, they are conservative. She is reckless, they are planners. She stands a full head taller than them, they are...well...short people. Her family routinely discusses which planet they think she has dropped down from and regular blame is assigned for her faulty genes (her father’s father is the most popular culprit since his was the family had the rogues, the smugglers, the travellers and the thinkers).
Mini for her part, is an expert eye-roller. She can even roll her eyes with her eyelids shut. It has gotten to be such a habit that I am quite sure it has been taken the place of a nervous tick. She now does it involuntarily (much like her breathing) and at the most inappropriate times (like when someone poor unsuspecting soul is complimenting her).
Mini’s marriage (or more recently the lack of one) has been a source of conversation in her house since she was 21. Most girls in their family are married by the time they reach 24. 25 and single is considered a very dangerous place to be. 26 is considered dead. At 32, Mini is apparently a walking talking veteran ghost. Yet she remains unfazed. Her strategy, for better or worse, is that if you can’t beat them or join them, then ignore them. And she does it with such panache. Her not being married is not for her family’s lack of trying. There was the boy who wanted a homely girl, only to meet her and amend it to ‘quiet’ girl. Then there was the proposal where she was asked to sing. She did walk out of that one saying she was definitely underqualified for the position. There was also the boy who was 2 inches shorter than she was. She didn’t mind, he did, end of story. Her family even tried where there was no hope. The boy who was already married. Only that it was in an obscure court and could / would be annulled and could she please marry him now since he promised to get everything sorted out within the year. She was thrilled to have a reason to not talk to her family for days after that. She was 28 at the time.
A few weeks ago, Mini calls me. I can immediately tell that something is up from her deceptively calm voice that quivers just a little bit. Mini is only calm when things are going terribly wrong. Otherwise she is the human equivalent of an electric storm.
There’s a boy coming to see me, she says without preamble.
Boy? I am a bit confused.
Boy, man, whatever, she replies and I get it.
I don’t know what to say. We’ ve done the “wow, that’s great” routine way too many times. So I say the next best thing - oh no.
Oh yes, only now that I’m 32 it no longer qualifies as a proposal. They’re calling it the ‘Family Friends Visit’, she mutters.
What do you know about him, I ask her. I am always more curious about the boys than she is (I don’t think I even want to know what that says about me!).
She sighs. He’s a venture capitalist, he is with a bank, he’s 35 years old, he probably weighs 100 kgs and has bad breath, she rattles off.
I can help with the bad breath, I tell her.
I can literally see her rolling her eyes. Do you think mainly about teeth and nothing else, she complains.
I have half a mind to tell her that I think only of teeth and nothing else, but I do like to keep the image going that I have half a dozen important and interesting things perusing in my head and hence wisely keep my mouth shut.
He’s coming over tomorrow. Say you’ll come over and hang out with me so I feel like I have one friend in the room, she says.
Mini needing moral support is an alien concept. She normally has enough mental strength to booster the Indian army. But I am not about to say no and turn down the chance to be in the middle of more action than I’ve seen in a very long time.
I go to her house early the next day. I am dressed inappropriately in jeans and a t-shirt. Her mother gives me severe disapproving looks. I try to look apologetic. Mini is in her room. She has a list ready of all the things that she will not do. I first think that she is talking about her life, but soon realize that she is referring to the next 4 hours.
I will not walk into the room carrying a tray of tea. I will not wear a sari. I will not sing/dance/recite poetry/touch my toes. I will not attempt to make 20 bhajjias in 5 minutes. I will not look coyly at him and bat my eyelids. I will not cry afterwards.
I cannot agree with her more. Besides, the only thing she can do effectively with her eyes is roll them. Batting them is not in her repertoire, I point out to her.
She wears a beautiful cotton salwar kameez. In mild rebellion she ties her lovely hair up in a pony tail. Wears minimal make up which in my opinion only makes her look more beautiful. Puts on 3 inch heels which makes her very tall indeed. She’s ready.
The ‘family visitors’ have arrived. Mini is upstairs but her eye rolling has started as soon as the first hello is said between the prospective families. Her grandmother has already started her nervous cough.
This is all so blasé, she grumbles.
I look at her as strictly as I know how and say, Mini, no matter what, no matter why, please please do not roll your eyes when you get down there.
Her mother comes up to say that her grandmother is having a bad coughing fit in the middle of all this and can Mini please first get her some warm water and then come out to meet everyone. Mini puts a glass of warm water onto a tray and goes in search of her grandmother only to realize that her grandmother is sitting with all the visitors and that Mini has entered the room with the dreaded glass on a tray. I can see her kicking herself over breaking the first in the list of things-I-will-not-do, never mind that the tea is now a glass of water. Her family is creative at desperate times, I give them that. I give her credit for not rolling her eyes, though she’s had to keep her eyes remarkably fixed on her gran to prevent them from making their usual journey upwards. In all this Mini has yet to look at the boy, but I have had no such delays. As I look at him looking at her, I begin to smile. Maybe this day will be alright after all.
She finally stops glaring at her gran long enough to look around the room. As her gaze settles on him, I see her break another promise in her will-not-do list. She smiles coyly at him and bats her eyelids. The rest as they say is history. And no she didn’t have to do sit ups or sew a button in front of them. No he is not shorter than her in her 3 inch heels. And no he is not overweight, or geeky, or creepy, or just plain old, or boring (all the things she was worried about). And as she triumphantly informs me later, no he has does not have bad breath.
She’s getting married 3 months from now. More importantly, she is reformed. She tells him to drive safe. A few months ago, she would not have tolerated anyone giving her the same advice. A drive safe comment would normally push her into careening across asphalt at 100 km per hour. She now spends hours on the phone when in the normal case she is so distracted that it is near impossible to keep her on the line for more than 3 minutes even in a life or death situation. She now worries about whether he’s eaten enough. I am beyond shocked. The last time Mini worried about anyone eating enough was in 2002 when her dog fell ill. She now watches romantic comedies and cries when earlier her idea of a light flick was Kill Bill.
And finally, finally, she has stopped rolling her eyes! God bless you, Mini.