Sport 14: Autumn 1995
A Modern Arrangement
Lalita peeped out through the lace curtains at the lounge window. Sanjay was just getting out of the car. He was gorgeous in his dark green suit. His parents were with him.
‘Quick, get away from the window,’ hissed Priya, her older sister. The door bell rang. Lalita’s father was opening the door, her mother was close behind him and behind her was Priya. Lalita felt overwhelmingly shy. It was most unusual for her. She liked Sanjay. The first she had seen him was at Priya’s wedding last year. All her friends thought he was a real hunk. Lalita told Priya. Priya told her mother. Her mother had talked to old Mausi who had talked to Sanjay’s mother. Now here he was.
Lalita never told her mother that Sanjay called her last week.
‘I noticed you way before Priya’s wedding,’ he said, ‘at the Diwali function. You are so beautiful.’
Lalita felt her face flush. No one had ever called her beautiful before.
He said he was looking forward to seeing her today. Lalita floated through the rest of the day.
Mum was cooking sweets all day yesterday, jalebi, gulabjamun and barfi. Ever since Mausi came back with the news of Sanjay’s definite interest, Lalita’s mother began to think about Lalita’s glory box and to plan for the wedding. ‘These things take time,’ she told Lalita, ‘it is best to start early.’ They had to buy saris and fabrics, not just for Lalita but for just about everyone else in the family too. Mum was making up wedding lists so that they could send out invitations to family members in Canada, Australia and of course Fiji. They should be told in plenty of time so they could plan a special trip.
This morning, Lalita had got into a pillow fight with Vinesh, her eleven year old brother. He was six years younger than her but such a baby—he was teasing her about Sanjay and she’d attacked him with her pillow. Although her shabby old T-shirt was torn further in the process, she’d claimed victory. She’d been wandering around the house in the T-shirt all day until Priya arrived and nagged her to change into her new yellow and green ghargra chholi which they had bought specially for the occasion. She must have tried it on ten times already. ‘You wouldn’t recognise me for the same person,’ page 100 she thought to herself as she looked in the hall mirror.
Papa was calling her now. She remembered her mother’s and Priya’s instructions on how to look demure which wasn’t difficult. She felt incredibly shy.
‘Namaste,’ she said, as she came into the lounge. Sanjay stood up and smiled at her. She was so aware of him. He kept looking at her. When she saw him engrossed in talking to her mother, she peeped at him quickly. She looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Vinesh winked at her and grinned. She knew she would get teased unmercifully later. He was looking reasonably clean and tidy for once, she thought. With his hair gelled back on one side and falling over his eye on the other he was very cute. He copied the hairstyle from the Tom Cruise poster he had up in his room.
Priya was just bringing in some masala tea and some of the sweets they had been barred from eating before this. Everyone looked more relaxed now and Papa and Sanjay’s mother were discussing someone they both knew in Fiji. Sanjay accepted a cup of tea from Priya and Lalita got up to help her sister pass the sweets around. Sanjay smiled at her and Lalita’s hand shook slightly as she offered him some sweets. She noticed his hand was shaking too. She felt his hand brush against hers under the saucer as he steadied it for her.
She really wanted him to come to her eighteenth birthday party. It would be such a rage. And she could show him off to her friends. Wow. She wanted him to ring her again soon. Was the arrangement reasonably official now? Could she go out with him or not? Maybe he would ask her out. She’d like that. She couldn’t wait to tell Rina, her best friend, about him.
They hadn’t even discussed marriage but everyone looked very pleased with themselves. Papa laughed loudly at something Sanjay’s father said. Lalita followed Priya into the kitchen, using the empty gulab jamun plate as an excuse.
‘What do you think?’ she asked Priya.
‘Oh they definitely like you,’ Priya crowed excitedly. ‘I know just by the way they are talking to Mum and Papa. Now Sanjay will get in touch with you.’ She giggled wickedly, ‘It will probably be this evening. You watch. He can’t keep his eyes off you.’
‘Lalita? Priya!’ Mum was calling them. The guests were just leaving. Sanjay was smiling at her while her parents were saying how sorry they were that the Punjas couldn’t stay for dinner.
She wished they had stayed, she wanted Sanjay to be around a little while longer.