Short Stories >>Vilayati Ghot Ji Golha
Written By: Smt.Sundri Uttamchandani
Translated by Mohan Gehani
When Motal landed from Lagos it appeared that the entire household had moved
into a world of imported goods; shining bags, tape recorder, grinder, thermos
and Scotch whisky. To top it off, her daughter broke a bottle of costly perfume.
It's fragrance was sufficient to spread the news in the neighbourhood that we
had guests from abroad. Grandma, sniffing a pinch of tobacco, smugly remarked,
‘I don’t like the smell of these foreign perfumes, I’d always sandalwood.’
Thinking that Motal may be offended by this remark I hastily commented, ‘Oh! I feel as though I am in London or Paris! Such a heavenly fragrance!’
My son, Manek remarked, ‘Grandma, quickly took a sniff of her tobacco because she didn’t want to feel as though she was in London or Paris! She prefers to be here!’ Everyone laughed
Grandma beckoned Motal’s daughter, ‘Come here, Sulochna. You have grown up in these five years!’ ‘Don’t call me Sulochna, it is a very old name. Call me Silly.’ She said, as sat next to Grandma
Grandma frowned, ‘Silly?’ Manek couldn’t resist the opportunity to remark, ‘Silly?.. You mean foolish?’
Motal is actually my sister’s sister in law, but we are closer than sisters. She had come to my home from Lagos. She was here to find a suitable bride groom for her daughter. The match maker, Rochan had clearly said, ‘If you sister’s sister in law has come to find a NRI match, she must have brought a lot of money with her. A fter all, everything from abroad is very expensive.’ I had previously seen packets of diamonds and gold coins with Motal. So, I assured Rochan that Motal was definitely well to do and would keep all the parties including match makers, very satisfied.
This resulted in a flurry of activity created by matchmakers. They started frequenting our house with photographs and horoscopes of various boys. Motal and I embarked on a campaign to search for the right groom.
Grandma said, ‘Why are you going crazy? Select any boy. Luck plays a major role in such things.’
Of all the people, Manek replied, ‘Grandma! You are speaking about ancient times. Now a days, even if a person buy a pitcher of water, he examines it thoroughly for any defect. They are here to buy a NRI boy. There is a lot of money involved in this deal!’
Grandma, as if supporting her grandson said, ‘Oh yes! And one cannot actually test the blood to be sure that it is truly foreign or it contains native impurities!’
I could not even laugh at such situations. I would worry about hurting Motal’s feelings. But then, when we would return home after seeing a boy, we would all laugh together. Sulochna would herself relate the entire episode to Grandma. She would say, ‘Grandma! The boy we saw today was a cartoon indeed! As he entered the hotel, he started staring at the wall. Foolish boy! I wondered if he was there to see me or to buy the hotel! And his dressing sense! Oh my goodness… his glasses were so thick that I had to finally conclude that he is a fit specimen for a zoo.’
Grandma would laugh, exposing her broken teeth and we could also not restrain ourselves.
On the next occasion Sulochna remarked, ‘Grandma! The boy would keep touching the knot of his tie because of his nervousness. I told him, if he was feeling uneasy I could loosen his tie. This made him perspire to no end. Finally, I had to offer him my hanky.’
Grandma asked, ‘so you gave him yours? Did he not have his own?’ We all burst into laughter.
Manek added, ‘Grandma, she must have stared hard at him and perhaps he could not tolerate the current of her stare.'
Grandma continued, ‘of course he must have been chilled to bone.’ Next time Sulochna came out with the remark, ‘Grandma! The boy was so tall that every time I would have to look at him, I had to strain all the muscles of neck and back! I
Grandma said, ‘Forget about the date tree!’
To top it off, Motal herself imitated his gait. All this was sufficient to cause laughter all around.
At last, one boy measured up to the expectations of both, mother and daughter. But then when he walked, it appeared, that he was limping slightly. Motal then requested Manek to take the boy for a walk to remove her suspiscions do away with her. She said, ‘Son this is a deal worth lakhs of rupees. You should somehow make the boy walk and see.’
Manek laughed and said, ‘ Is the boy a mechanical toy that can be tested in a factory prior to purchasing the toy?' Motal told him, ‘Go ahead and laugh. You will have to go through the same pains when you will try to find a match.'
‘I am not a show off and I am not interested in money!’ retorted Manek.
When this was conveyed through the matchmaking lady to the boy they refused to entertain the proposal. We also blamed Motal of being very critical. Why did she have to make an issue of such a small thing, after her daughter had approved the boy?
Sulochna also told her mother, ‘to make a boy demonstrate his walk, is insulting indeed!’
Grandma also added, ‘A NRI boy would never tolerate such an insult!’
Mankek said, ‘Yes, after all he was a precious sample, from abroad!’
Looking at the situation, I kept quiet. To add to the fire, Rochan appeared to give her piece of mind. She beckoned me to the next room. There, she chided me to her heart’s content. She said, ‘Does your sister’s daughter think of herself as a princess? She thinks she is on a Sawyamvar*! I chose such a good boy for her and she says he is lame. Does her mother want a husband for her daughter or a horse? I don’t even know how much money she has in her hand. Can she afford an expensive horse?’
When Rochan came out, she did not spare even Sulochna. She said, ‘Girl! Just because you have come to find yourself an NRI husband, you seem to think no end of yourself. Grandma is right to call you ‘Silly!’ I have taken so many proposals after yours. Every one has found someone right for themselves by now. You must decide soon otherwise people will start finding faults with you. People enjoy fault finding and blaming others. They are only interested to find a gossip target.’
Sulochna retorted, ‘So do you think I should settle down with any boy from here?’
Rochan angrily said, ‘So what is wrong with boys here?’
‘Ewww! If boys here stand in front of you, they stink of sweat! The dust is forever blowing in India. Clothes get dirty in no time. Roads are dirty. There is no cleanliness anywhere. If you eat on a street, hundreds of beggars surround you in a minute. People neither own a washing machine nor a dishwasher.’
‘You foolish girl! enough! No need to open your mouth before a matchmaker.’ Intervened grandma. Grandma, further chided Motal, ‘Your daughter has no control over her tongue! In our times, marriages were decided by our parents and we could not even utter a word.’ She turned to Rochan and sweetly said, ‘My dear Rochan, she is the only child. She has been showered with unconditional love. Please excuse her behaviour and don’t speak ill about her to outsiders.’
‘No grandma, how can I expose her?’ said Rochan, ‘This boy will be liked definitely. He has come from London. His father says he will get his son married within a week and take his son and daughter in law to London next week itself. I will fix an appointment in a hotel and will come back at five O’ clock.’
After Rochan left, Grandmother started scolding Sulochna. She said, ‘Do you have any feminine characteristics. Control your speech and your feet! All you know is applying make up, wearing perfume and dancing with foreign boys.’
Sulochna could barely take this. She said, ‘Why? Aren’t they human beings like us?’
Grandma said, ‘Yes your highness! It is only Indian Boys, who are not human beings.’
Manek added, ‘Leave her Grandma! She is a poor child. When we stand near her, she can smell sweat.’
Sulochna sulked and said, ‘You are not included in those boys. Grandma, why is he taking this personally?’
I said, ‘He will obviously take it personally. After all, he is an Indian too.’
Sulochna said, ‘But he is not among the candidates.’
‘No, no never. If she desires an NRI boy, I want girl from here.’ said Manek.
Sulochna angrily retorted, ‘Yes! Get yourself an Indian native girl. A girl, who will always smell of onions and garlic. All day, she will make fried foods, making herself fat and transforming you into a football in no time! A simpleton, who cannot dance or carry herself at a cocktail party. Everytime she speaks in English, she will fumble!’
‘You are very proud of your manners and modern fashions. Beware, these can get you into very big trouble…’ said Manek.
Sulochna teasingly gestured at Manek and Manek pulled her arm and said, ‘you foreigner brat, how dare you tease me?’
Grandma became very angry and reprimanded Manek, ‘It does not suit you to behave like this with a female guest. Our country is known for our customs, traditions and the respect we have for our guests.’
It is very strange that Grandma doesn’t even read a newspapers but she is aware of the fame that our traditions have brought to our country. She said, ‘these foreign girls seek foreign husbands because they want to wake up late and employ servants to do all the work.’
Hearing this, Manek burst out laughing. He said, ‘All that is history now. Now it is impossible to hire servants except for very rich people. Even a well to do family cannot afford to engage two servants. All those girls who demand foreign based boys, end up doing all the household work including cleaning, washing and cooking.’
Grandma said, ‘Our girls are naive and infatuated by the idea of ‘foreign’. These NRI boys come here for a month or two, on vacation. They wear good clothes, fine perfume and carry themselves smartly. Our girls are also attracted by them. Many a times, these boys are already married. They fly down here to remarry for the sake of the entire dowry they will receive, thus destroying the lives of our innocent girls.’
Sulochna was shaken and asked, ‘then what happens to these girls?’
Grandma sighed and said, ‘what about those girls! Until they are not married, we worry about them getting married. But once, they have tied the knot, what can be done?’ Boosting her moral she said,’ don’t worry all cases are not same. Now you go and see this boy from London.’
When they returned in the evening, both mother and daughter, appeared happy.
Motal said,’ Grandma! The boy was very good, just like a European. Actually his mother was of British origin but she died in the childbirth. His father is Sindhi.’
Grandma wondered, ‘So couldn’t he get a girl from his own city?’
Motal said, ‘No, he had many proposals there but his father believes that girls from India are more faithful and loyal.’
Grandma said, ‘Motal ! So did you ask the boy, that if he wants a loyal girl, will he will remain faithful, too?’
‘Oh No!’ Sulochna said , ‘it never occurred to us… This is a legitimate question.’
Manek, who was sitting beside Grandma remarked, ‘So dear Miss. Silly will go to her prospective husband to ask this question!’
Suclochna remonstrated and addressed Grandmother, ‘Grandma, he is calling me silly. Do I look like a fool?’
Grandma, in good humour replied, ‘Do you think fools look different from normal people?.’
This again irritated Sulochna and she started protesting. Grandma said, ‘You have really spoilt your daughter. Now she is 22 years old and she still thinks she is a child .This is what happens because of excessive love.’
Motal said, ‘you have not seen the love her father showers on her. Every desire of hers is fulfilled.’Hearing this Sulochna was happy and started teasing us by showing her thumb
Just then, a phone call came and Motal answered the call. Her facial ex-pressions indicated that whatever she was hearing, was unwelcome. She kept down the receiver and said, ‘The boy’s father says that since the girl has been brought up in a foreign country, she may not have the real Indian customs and traditions ingrained in her values. Therefore he has declined the proposal.’
Sulochna who was sitting on the floor with her knees wound by her arms said, ‘Mom! Why do you bother? Dad had said to find a Sindhi boy working in a foreign country. But I wonder if a boy from abroad will be loyal or not!’
Motal said, ‘we could have opened a separate shop for the boy....’
Grandma immediately suggested, ‘Why don’t you select a boy from here and take him to your foreign country. If he stays there for some years he will become an NRI. Just like, how we purchase bags from here, but when we bring them back, they become ‘foreign’.’
As we were about to laugh, Sulochna seriously said, ‘Mummy! In that case I like one boy from here better than all the NRI boys I have seen.’
‘Where did you see the boy? We have never gone to such a boy from here’, said Motal, bewildered!
Sulochna said, ‘but he needs an Indian wife from here’, slyly looking at Manek.
Motal held her breath and blurted out, ‘Are you speaking about Manek?’
Sulochna was all crimson blush.
Makek heartily laughed and said, ‘ So this ends the chapter of the ‘Search for an NRI boy!’
Sulochna hid her face in the lap of her mother and said, ‘see he is teasing me now.’
Grandma said, ‘that he will do, lifelong. He is a jovial boy by nature. So you decided on your prey in this house, then! I was wondering why you don’t like any of the boys you were meeting!’
Sulochna again said, ‘Look Mom! Now even Grandma is teasing me.’ Motal said, ‘She is right.’
Sulochna got up from her mother and kissed the forehead of Grandma. Grandma hugged her warmly.
Manek was smiling all the while.
* A ceremony of olden times when princesses were permitted to select her husband from a group of deserving men selected by the king.