Saturday, 2 September
Have your parents ever done something to you that was so MORTIFYING that you wished you could have just buried your head in the ground and died?
That is exactly what happened to me earlier today and I am still recovering from the incident!
This whole saga began a week ago when my mother called me up at work in the morning to have a chat.
“What are you up to?” she asked, like she always does.
Despite living in the same house, I must admit family time is a precious commodity for us and over the last couple of years with my sister starting university (she basically lives there) and my father and I both becoming increasingly busy at work, telephone is the only mode of communication that keeps us up to date with each other’s lives.
So, mom calling me at work for a chat has become quite normal.
“I’m at work mom, what do you think I’m doing?” I replied to her as usual as well, while updating the morning trades into the register. “Did you need something?”
“No”, she replied. “I was just wondering if you’ve heard about Lily?” she asked, her tone suddenly changing to one I have become very familiar with over the years.
It’s a tone that all DESI aunties (whether consciously or unconsciously) use as a prelude to gossip – a tone based on a mixture of curiosity, intrigue and scandal combined with a sense of twisted pleasure, excitement, self-righteousness, accentuated words and an annoyingly shrill voice .
It annoys me beyond description to know that even my OWN mother is no better than the rest of them when it comes to gossip!
“No”, I replied, trying not to let my annoyance show. “Did something happen to her?”
“Well you know how she went to Bangladesh with her parents for a holiday? They arrived back in Perth last week and Lily is married … to a DOCTOR!”
“WOW!” I said with as much shock and enthusiasm towards the news as I could muster – which was NONE!
The truth is, I already knew about Lily. Gossip travels fast in this community, and faster amongst the kids than the aunties, but we just let them think that they know first.
Besides, if I had told my mother that I already knew, she would start grilling me about why I hadn’t shared news with her earlier myself and given that I already knew which direction this conversation was heading – the fact that Lily married a doctor (my mother’s ultimate life goal for me) – I was already zoning out of her conversation and focusing on the Bloomberg screen in front of me.
So, who is Lily you ask?
Well to answer that question I need to explain how the Bangladeshi community works in Perth (or anywhere for that matter).
You see, Bangladeshi’s, no matter where they go will always find other Bangladeshi’s and form their own little insular communities around some common ideologies. One of these ideologies is that if you grow up as a kid in the community, you are expected to be friends with EVERY other kid in the community, whether you get along or not.
Lily is one of these kids and to be fair, she and I were quite close until second year of university. That was when she decided that she didn’t like the attention I received from the boys in the community and started spreading vicious rumors about me being a needy and mentally unstable individual.
Needless to say, that was the END of our friendship!
I must admit, I’m brutal when it comes to forgiving betrayals. It’s a vice of my character that I have consciously come to recognize in the past few years … and I know I do it to protect myself, so naturally I haven’t spoken to her in years. But that doesn’t stop me from knowing all the things she’s been up to.
I heard about her wedding from another community friend Asha who told me the details through WhatsApp. She, herself had heard the story from another community friend, Reya who heard it from her mother, who is very close to Lily’s aunt (who probably heard it all from the cat’s, dog’s, neighbors fish! – You get the gist) that the wedding was not planned.
In fact, Lily had no idea what was about to happen to her!
Basically, from what I’ve been told, Lily landed in Dhaka with her parents and they made their way to their family home in a city called Chittagong, where Lily’s extended family had a guy already lined up for her. A DOCTOR – which apparently no Bangladeshi parent can EVER say NO to as a son-in-law, because her parents basically FORCED her to marry him only a DAY AFTER they met!
You see here lies the problem! No one talks about how it all happened, or shows any concerns about how Lily might’ve felt about the whole situation, or is STILL feeling!
Like my mother, everyone’s sole focus is on the fact that she married a DOCTOR! – “Such a blessed match, such a lucky girl … blah blah blah” – YUK!
Talk about rose colored glasses!
Despite our past, I do feel bad for her. No one deserves this kind of fate, especially after growing up in Australia – but unfortunately this type of thing is not uncommon, and it’s sad that the community condoned it.
Anyway, my mother continued to chatter on for a while, telling me the version of the story she heard – I admit I didn’t pay enough attention to it until I heard the words “DOCTOR” and “WANTS TO MARRY YOU”.
She then had my FULL attention!
“What did you just say?” I asked.
“Baby aunties nephew wants to marry you”, she repeated. “He just moved here from Bangladesh, and is doing his exams to get his medical license in Australia. Baby aunty really likes you and they want the two of married as soon as possible”.
“Hold on just a second”, I told my mother and put the phone down onto the receiver before grabbing my mobile and walking into the boardroom and shutting the door. I dialed our home number and brought the mobile to my ears. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” I fumed, yelling as quietly possible. “WHO IS BABY AUNTY AND WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I’LL MARRY HER NEPHEW?”
“What do you mean who is Baby aunty?” my mother retorted. “She lives down the road and comes to our house all the time”.
“I’VE NEVER MET HER AND I’M NOT MARRYING HER NEPHEW!”
“Look Rimi”, my mother said in a stern voice. “You’re going to turn 30 this year, and you can no longer afford to be picky about who you marry. Besides, he’s a doctor and your father and I have already discussed this. He is a good match for you!”
“BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW HIM, AND HE’S FROM BANGLADESH! I REFUSE TO BE MARRIED TO SOMEONE WHO ISN’T AT LEAST BROUGHT UP HERE”, I explained. “I CAN BARELY SPEAK BANGLA AND NOT TO MENTION THAT WE WILL HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON!”
“You can get to know each other after you’re married, and you don’t need common interests for a successful marriage. Your father and I have nothing in common and yet we’ve been married for so long. Plus we can’t refuse now that we’ve already shown interest. Your father and I have a reputation to maintain!”
“NO! I REFUSE!”, I said one last time, before cutting the line.
Surprisingly, my mother left the topic alone for the rest of the week.
In hindsight, this should have been a sign of what was to come.
I woke up this morning, late, around 10am to find her rummaging through my wardrobe.
“What are you doing?” I asked, lifting my head off the pillow and opening my eyes slightly to let the light in.
“Trying to find the blue lehenga you wore to Tania’s wedding last year”, she replied.
“It’s Mili’s son’s birthday today. Have you forgotten?” she looked at me.
CRAP. I had forgotten.
I don’t usually go to these Bangladeshi parties, but Mili, a distant cousin (not exactly sure how we are related) had personally called me during the week to make sure I was coming to her daughter’s first birthday party.
To be honest, I don’t understand the fuss about celebrating first birthdays and everyone seems to be doing them so extravagantly these days too.
Seriously, does the kid even remember it?
Anyways, the point is, I was obligated to go.
“I’m not wearing a lehenga”, I told mom getting out of bed. “Going in jeans”.
“Oh no you’re not!”, my mother looked at me angrily. “This is not some casual party, the entire community will be there. You will dress up nicely and traditionally!”.
I could tell by the determination in her eyes that I was not going to win this argument.
“Fine, but I’ll wear the green and grey lehenga” I told her walking into my en-suite
At around one-thirty, dressed as traditionally as one could possibly dress, and after redoing my make-up three times to my mother’s satisfaction we arrived at the Atwell Community center.
The entire place had been decked out in pink. Pink tables, pink balloons, pink doll houses, pink back drops, pink streamers … pink, pink, pink! (pink-gasm!)
“Riimmiii, you came!”, Mili came running towards me and embraced me in a cloud of perfume which definitely was NOT Channel No 5.
Whatever it was made my head reel.
“Of course, I said I would, didn’t I?” I pushed her away gently, searching for fresh air.
“Well, come over here and sit down”, she led me towards a table.
As soon as I saw the table, a bad feeling started to develop in my guts. Sitting at the table was a dark, skinny man with slick oiled hair wearing an ill-fitting grey suit, which was at least two sizes too big for him.
“I think I’ll sit at that table”, I said trying to move away from Mili.
“No, there’s someone I want to introduce you to”, she said grabbing onto my wrist tightly, as if her life depended on it.
There was NO escape!
“Rimi, this is Nilesh”, Mili introduced me to the man. “He’s a DOCTOR”, she grinned at me emphasizing the fact. “Why don’t the two of you sit down and get to know each other?”
I shot an angry look of betrayal at her, but she simply patted my shoulder reassuringly and pushed me into the seat next to him before walking over to where my mother stood watching me with another woman (who I later found out was Baby aunty).
“Hello, I am Nilesh”, he said in a strong FOBish accent. I cringed as I noticed the strong-smelling waft of coconut oil which he had clearly used in his almost dripping hair. “I am doctor from Bangladesh, you and I, let’s make friendship”.
I looked around desperately!
I needed to escape, and I glowered at my mother when I met her eyes.
I then spotted Asha entering and making her way to a different table.
“Nice to meet you”, I said to him with a fake smile. “If you’ll excuse me, I see one of my friends at that table, so I’ll see you later”, I got up and started to make my way towards the table Asha had just sat down at.
To my HORROR, Nilesh got up and followed me like a loyal puppy.
It was SOOOO awkward – the entire party, no matter how far I tried to get away from him, he kept following me. He didn’t say much, obviously because he struggled with English, but he kept following me around to the amusement of EVERYONE present.
Even when I retreated into the lady’s room, he stood guard at the door.
It was MORTIFYING.
I wished I could have just died.
“So, I see you’re going to marry a doctor as well”, Asha teased me when it was time to leave.
“NOT if I have anything to do with it”, I told her.
When I got home all hell broke loose with my mother. She was angry because apparently, I was being very rude to Nilesh and that I should try to just accept him.
“HE IS YOUR LAST CHANCE AT HAPPINESS!”, she yelled at me. “DO YOU THINK ANYONE WILL MARRY YOU AFTER YOU TURN 30?”
“I DON’T CARE!”, I yelled back. “I’LL STAY SINGLE. I AM AN EDUCATED WOMAN WHO MAKES A LOT OF MONEY, DO YOU REALLY THINK I NEED A MAN TO MAKE ME HAPPY? AND HAPPY IN THE EYES OF WHO? SHALLOW PEOPLE LIKE YOU? WOULD YOU HAVE EVEN CONSIDERED HIM IF HE WASN’T A DOCTOR?”
We kept arguing until my father stepped in and told me to go to my room.
I’ve been in here ever since trying to cool down.
In the past when it came to similar situations, my mother at least took some of my concerns into consideration and things never got this bad. But this time it feels different – my mother is being stubborn, specifically because he is a doctor!
And also perhaps because I’m turning 30 soon.
Maybe she’s scared that I truly will remain single forever.
Still it’s NO EXCUSE to make me marry someone I don’t LOVE, let alone LIKE!
I WON’T LET MYSELF END UP LIKE LILY!