Anuja Varghese
"Stop Rewind"

Nobody asked Anjali if she loved this boy or if she thought she ever could love him. Nobody asked her if she wanted to get married - right now, or to a man, or at all. She had been allowed to go to college - not for nursing or teaching or something useful – but for psychology (whatever that meant), and my parents were lauded for being so progressive. But now, the aunties said to my mother, now you must get her married well. Now, they said to Anjali, you must think of having children. My mom was one of four siblings, my dad one of six. Their marriage had also been arranged, although my mom agreeing to marry a handsome stranger in a black and white photograph, who offered her a chance at an adventure in far away Canada, seemed decidedly more romantic than the choice put before Anjali: Marry this man in two weeks time, or else bring shame to your family. The boy has already agreed, they said, so sensible he is, so smart. Who do you think you are to say no, they asked. See how everyone looks up to your father? What will they say about him if the eldest daughter is so difficult, so selfish, so strange? Is that what you are? Is that what you want? Is it? Is it? 

To me, it seemed exactly as wedding preparations should be - exciting and joyous, no expense spared. Every day, a parade of auto-rickshaws would arrive at the house to take my mother, Anjali and me, plus all the aunties and girl cousins (who I didn’t talk to because I spoke no Malayalam and they spoke no English) into town. We took over entire shops, harried salesmen and seamstresses bringing out endless bolts of the most stunning silks, all spread out over low tables as the aunties bargained for the lowest price. They ordered tea and demanded to see newer styles, better quality. We did the same thing at jewellery stores, at the flower market, at the hairdresser’s place, and at the bakery. I remember picking out things I liked, I remember my mom unfolding saris one by one and taking them outside to compare shades of blue in the light, and I remember smiling for pictures with the other kids as we all posed in our new outfits together. I don’t remember what Anjali was doing. It’s like she wasn’t there at all.