A day in Spring

Daisy lays in an elaborately carved rosewood bed in a hotel, in a small town in Bombay. A dazzling sunlight falls through the wood shutter. The first thing she sees is a slender lizard dash up the front wall. From the bathroom: splash, throat clearing, the slap of a towel, she knows that it is time to wake up and get ready to meet her new family, in a new country. She has decided to marry her law school sweetheart Arush and they are on their way to meet Arush’s parents.
It is early spring, but so hot in the cab that her cotton dress sticks to the seat and the driver drives hectically, one hand on the wheel through ramshackle town and potholed roads. After driving for an hour, on the edge of town, quite suddenly, they are in the most spectacular place she has ever seen: a dream of water, earth, and sky as bright green fields and gorgeously colored trees seem to float.
“Are you nervous?” Arush asks, at last acknowledging the momentous day ahead. “You will shortly disappear within my relatives and they will be very curious about you.”
“Not nervous,” Daisy lies. “Excited.” She is looking at a small boat adrift in a dazzling stretch of water. After ten minutes or so, down a dusty road lined with coconut trees, Arush grips her hand tightly.
“We’re less than a mile away,” he says. And in ten minutes, there it is: a small one-story house against a lush backdrop of trees, Arush exhales slowly. “This is it,” he let go of her hand. In the gap between the trees, there is half an acre of neatly planted vegetables. Three women weeding the vegetable patch straighten as they pass and give her a hard, bright stare and wave at Arush.
“Do they know you, Arush?”
“They do,” he says, waving them back, his whole expression brightens. The cab stops at the front gate. Through the gate is an immaculate graveled courtyard, its low walls covered in geranium, hibiscus plants. The whole house is framed by exuberant tropical trees and above it the bright blue sky, so bright it hurt your eyes to look at it. Daisy could hardly breathe, she is so nervous. A young girl in a pink long dress is standing on the front veranda, looking down at them. Her hand is over her mouth as if to stop herself screaming.
“ Maa, look brother is here.” Another lady opens the door and rushes down the steps and breaks into a stumbling run. Daisy hears a muffled sob as she stretches out her arms, a long string of words. Arush touches her feet and they match with an out pour of emotion.
“Maa,” he says, releasing her, “ I’d like you to meet Daisy, my friend. She is overly excited to meet you and dad.”
A shy smile covers Daisy’s face and she bends down on her waist to touch her feet just like Arush. Arush’s mother tidies the tears away with a quick, deft gesture and heads out a gracious hand.
“Welcome to our house,” she smiles with a gesture of welcome. Daisy follows them into the house through the huge veranda. Arush’s mother walks with them to show the bedroom. It is large, whitewashed room, furnished with two chairs and a wooden bed carved with fruits and birds, made up with a peach-colored sheet and thin looking pillows. On the front of a calendar on the wall, there is a beaming lady in an orange sari floating down the Ganges and advertising Horlick’s-it is good for you. Inside the air feels moist and heavy.
“Please freshen up and get ready to meet all our relatives and friends,” her mother-in-law says with a big smile.
Daisy opens her suitcase and pulls out a pant and a long kameez. Arush shows her the bathroom. The odd-looking room has a large copper cauldron of cool water in the corner for the bath. Above the bath, there is a shelf holding a bundle of twigs, and what Arush says are ayurvedic oils for hair and skin.
“ We’re often short of water in summer, so use accordingly and don’t drink it. I will ask the cook to boil water up later.” The lavatory, he says, is a short walk outside the house, next to the garden. “ Sure,” Daisy says wrapping her arms around him: her anchor in a shifting world.
“ They’re waiting for me, so let me go ahead and I’ll come back to get you.”
After half an hour of waiting, at the sound of a car horn, Daisy leaps to her feet and, through a bamboo blinds, watches her new family members arrive. A group of women steps out of the car, dressed in dazzling clothes in every color of the rainbow: emerald, ocher, gold, orange. They are chattering like jays, jiggling up and down on the spot as if they could barely contain themselves. The children explode from the car next, skipping across the courtyard. One after another hug Arush. A plump old lady waddle through the courtyard: mouth half-open, a little off center, walks toward the room, and then all follow her. They walk through the bedroom door to greet her with beaming smiles and perfect politeness. It is hard to listen as everybody talks at the same time. Arush asks Daisy to touch some of the elders’ feet and just hug to some of the younger ladies.They sit in the bedroom, some on the bed and some on the floor. Daisy has never seen so many people in one family. It is almost one o’ clock and a small boy comes running to announce that lunch is ready. It is a long hall, banana leaves are arranged on the floor. Daisy has her food in a china plate edged in gold, crystal glass, and spoon and fork.
“You must say grace, Arush,” her mother says, a deep emotional throb in her voice. Arush closes her eyes. “For these and all thy gifts, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen,” he mumbles. One of his sisters serves the food- elegantly spiced rice, lentil, creamy fish curry, sauteed okra, crisp fried pappadams.., each one giving off its own tantalizing aroma. Arush helps her in showing how to eat with her right hand. “Make your rice into a neat tight pile like this,” Arush’s mother says,” And put it in your mouth. It tastes better with lentils, a little curry sauce and there,” she smiles at her.
“Like this?” Everyone watched, fascinated, as Daisy feels a blob of bright sauce on her dress, half a handful of rice on her new pant.
“You’re doing fine,” one of the sisters says. After lunch, all of them sit in the veranda and introduce themselves to Daisy. And the tea party starts. One of the cousins prepares tea infused with cardamom, clove and brings out in batches of trays. The smell of the tea is heavenly. The laughter and their chatter fill the air. Daisy doesn’t understand the language, but she can feel their happiness and excitement. Through the mild peach-colored air of early evening, she could see some of Arush’s friends and uncles playing chess on one side of the veranda. And the sight of the- teacups on the floor, bare feet, dark heads bent together- is very comforting. The soft jasmine-scented breeze from the plants scrambles over their wall.
It is the tail end of dusk, some of the relatives get ready to return to their homes with the promise of coming back soon as her mother-in-law leaves to the prayer room. The smells of incense, the sound of conch and voice of prayer fill the evening air around them. “Life happens to you sometimes in strange ways, you can’t control it.”


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