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Just Another Family Lunch

That the anniversary lunch ended as an absolute disaster was no surprise to any of us. Every year, it’s a different story, but the same ending.

I hated these lunches because they’re like a chronological record of all my failures. 2017 was the one when I broke up with Nitin. I think amma and appa were more in love with him than I was. 2018 was when I quit my six-figure job. Amma used to gush over me all the time when I had that job. Good times but didn’t last long enough. And then there was the year when amma couldn’t stop talking about the new greys on my head.

I’m not even sure why I continue to go to them. I guess I’m just not good at saying NO.

Amma started making a big deal out of her wedding anniversary ever since Kiran, my sister aka her favourite daughter, happened to get married on the same date. The double anniversary is the kind of serendipity I could have done without.

I was helping amma set the table when I made the mistake of asking her why she tires herself out cooking an elaborate fare. Pat came her reply, “If you aren’t giving us the opportunity to enjoy a wedding lunch, I can at least keep myself happy this way.”I decided to shut my mouth and simply enjoy the spread.

The way she complains incessantly about my marriage, you’d think I’m old. I’m just 27. Just because she got married at 20 doesn’t mean I’ve to. Of course, it doesn’t help that Kiran met the love of her life at law school, got married by 24, and had twins the very next year.

“Amma, let Shakti get married whenever she wants to,” Kiran was now giving amma’s hand a squeeze. I’m sure she was relishing this moment, hiding her smirk behind that huge mouthful of mysorepak she was taking a bite out of.

That’s my other problem with these lunches—having to watch the love story between amma and Kiran unfold. It’s traumatic to sit like an extra character in a movie, while these two communicate in silences and gestures.

“It’s not just the marriage. This is her third job in the last two years. The girl just doesn’t seem to know what she wants.” Amma wasn’t letting this go.

“I know what I don’t want,” I said, “and that’s a good start.”

I looked at appa for support. But, as usual, he gave a weak smile, which was useless against amma’s snappy words. For years, I’ve tried to balance out amma and Kiran’s relationship by trying to get close to appa. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? One child is close to the mother and the other to the father. But I realized appa isn’t close to anyone. Amma is his medium to talk to the rest of the world, even his own sisters and brothers.

Once, I went to appa’s law firm with a friend, who wanted his opinion on a property. That was the longest I had hear him speak. He went on for an hour, listing the pros and cons of the investment, and I just sat there transfixed, amazed at the possibility that his vocal cords could work so well for such a long period of time. As embarrassing as it is, I consider that as one of my special moments with him.

His only contribution is naming us sisters. He was adamant on giving us unisex names and I still don’t know why. Maybe he had a quirky sense of humour.

“How are the twins?” I asked now, wanting to change the subject. Thankfully, the tactic worked, and Kiran was now passing her phone, showing off pictures of the kids in their new uniforms.

“Why didn’t Akash and the kids come today?” I asked, but Kiran didn’t seem to hear me. For all that’s frustrating and annoying about Kiran—her successful job, perfect husband, her bond with amma, and the way she seems to manage everything effortlessly—I’ve to give her credit for one thing: producing those two kids. It’s the one highlight of coming to these lunches, and today, I seem to have been robbed of even that.

“I’m getting a divorce,” Kiran blurted out. You know how in ancient black-and-white movies, everything comes to a standstill…the trees stop swaying, the earth stops moving, hands stop midway…I swear, that’s what happened to us.

Amma recovered first. “What do you mean, you’re getting a divorce?” She thundered, and unexpectedly, Kiran started to wail.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kiran cry. When we were watching Titanic, while I kept bawling, she sat unfazed.

“Aren’t you even the slightest bit moved?” I’d asked.

“Yes, I’m very sad,” she’d said, but looking at her face, you couldn’t make out the slightest twinge of emotion.

The lunch turned out to be an absolute disaster, as I told you right at the start. The only surprise was that my sister was the cause of all chaos. The law of averages had to kick in at some point anyway.

I’ve never seen amma this upset. I don’t know what she was more upset about, that her perfect daughter’s life wasn’t perfect or that she was clueless about what was going on in Kiran’s life.

You know how you always hate this one person, and you’ve this uncontrollable urge to score a win over them every time, but then something terrible happens to this person, and then, instead of feeling awesome and wanting to celebrate, you feel like an absolute moron. That was me, then.

I sat next to Kiran, who appeared lost for the first time in her life. I nudged her on the shoulder and gave a hesitant smile. For once, it felt like she could hear me through my silences and gestures.


This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jayashree Pillai

    Ah .. this is something, I really enjoyed. Nothing complicated and yet hit well with that sudden twist . One suggestion – that part of the divorce came too abruptly – a slight bit of build up would have helped. Perhaps the word limit kind of prevented that . Thoroughly enjoyable.

  2. Avatar

    Loved the way the tables turned.
    A nice attempt, though a crisper editing could have been there.

  3. Avatar

    A nicely wrapped package. That was what I did call this tale. I liked the MC and the mother’s dynamic. Appa however (I feel) could have done away with. Those words could have been used for a built up.
    Rate 7/10

  4. Avatar
    Urmi Chakravorty

    A very fresh and unusual interpretation of the prompt, one that I thoroughly enjoyed!
    A contemporary setting and a perfectly relatable girl-next-door protagonist manage to cook up a very humorous scenario where all is not really well! Quite a few societal expectations have been challenged without sounding preachy.
    The twist at the end is nice but as a reader, I’m curious to know what could possibly have led to this trouble in their paradise!
    The easy, conversational language enhanced the narrative flow.
    8•2 would be my rating for this entry.

  5. Avatar

    An interesting twist where the seemingly perfect sister’s life is big so perfect. The narrator ‘s character is relatable and you can feel the emotions when she can’t live up to the standards of her family. The end was a tad rushed. Perhaps some of the words from the into could be shifted here to make stronger impact. Overall well written, but the prompt (second anniversary ) didn’t take the centre stage here. But I enjoyed reading this story. 7/10

  6. Avatar
    Sudha Viswanath

    Was the story based on Kiran’s second wedding anniversary?
    Everything sounded hunky Dory about the life of the protagonist’s sister and then everything happened abruptly. Maybe some more words could have brought out the entire hard-hitting part properly. Nevertheless a good story.6.5/10

  7. Avatar
    Ramanjaneya Sharaph

    Whoa! Didn’t see that end coming! A short story of 1000 words that packs in so much: family drama, sibling rivalry, a young woman trying to find herself, and the ending where she has always wanted to score one over the sister, but feels sympathy. Excellent story, told in simple language. Could relate to every character: the overbearing mother who knows what she wants her children to be, the quiet father, the sibling who feels like an outsider in her own family, that seemingly perfect other sibling… I could even relate to the anniversary spread and the mysorepak – and thank you for calling it mysorepak and not mysorepa or mysurpa!
    The anniversary was well woven into the tale, but not second anniversary, unless I missed it. The rating is a wee bit lower because of that.
    My rating for this wonderful tale: 7.25/10.

  8. Avatar
    Ratna Prabha

    Lovely! That imperfections connect human beings is brought out really well.

  9. Avatar
    Lakshmi Menon

    I loved the tale for the relatable characters, the sibling rivalry, the unexpected twist, and the simplicity of the narration. It left me wanting to know more.

    My rating 7/10

  10. Avatar

    A nice tale involving sibling rivalry, favoritism, comparison between kids… liked the unexpected twist in the end… although it was sad… loved the simple language used… enhanced the reading experience… my rating 8/10

  11. Avatar

    I really enjoyed reading the story. I loved the narration. It was so simple, friendly, and humorous. It made me want to read more. I had to go back to check whether the second anniversary applied to the elder sister’s marriage. The ending was unexpected but then I felt I would have wanted more background. My overall rating is 7.5/10.

  12. Avatar
    Dakshata Kudanekar

    A beautiful plot and simple story touching quite many dimensions. However, Its my personal opinion that the story could have got better closure. Also, how prompt was used remained a bit unclear. Hence. My rating 6.5/10. But overall great story.

  13. Avatar

    A simple and well-portrayed tale of everyday lives with unexpected revelations. A real-life drama unfolded. Not sure, if I’m the only one who missed it as the sister’s wedding anniversary was celebrated but not sure if it was their second, couldn’t find it being mentioned anywhere.

  14. Avatar

    I am a big fan of simple narration that lets us work out what’s going on in the plot and this one delivers on that well. In simple words we come across a family that is so quintessentially next door. A mother desiring her daughter to marry, the successful daughter who isn’t so keen and the constant comparison between two siblings. The older girl who seemingly has a perfect life which isn’t so hunky dory. A bit of foreshadowing about why Kiran is taking a divorce would have helped quell the curiosity about what happened but it isn’t so pertinent.

    An apt social commentary. The second anniversary was missing though it was an anniversary dinner for the parents. Was is Kiran’s second anniversary?

    My rating 8.5/10

  15. Avatar
    Moonmoon Chowdhury

    I liked how you have portrayed the relationship between the protagonist and her family members, the conflict and the tension. Seemed realistic. But, I somehow couldn’t connect the tale to the theme.
    My rating – 7.5/10

  16. Avatar

    A nice tale told straight and simple. Breezy read. But, an abrupt end.
    I couldn’t see any prompt adherence in the story. It was just an anniversary lunch, and which or whose or what it’s all about hasn’t been mentioned. Please help me understand if I have missed something.
    The disaster part came out well. Loved the easy flow of language.

  17. Avatar
    Amrita Sarkar

    Okay, so this was a very relatable story and kudos to the writer for such a believable premise. I hated the mother for being such a prude. But I guess all mothers in her situation would be so. The USP of this story is the characters. I felt the end was a little rushed and predictable. I had expected something was wrong with the perfect daughter’s wedding. But on the whole, a enjoyable story. My rating will be 6/10.

  18. Avatar
    Vaijayanti Panchal

    Relatable issues of life as we know it have been wonderfully narrated in this tale. The connection to the prompt was missing though. It was a lovely tale nevertheless. My rating is 6.5

  19. Avatar
    Ashvani Sachdev

    A poignant tale that was easy to follow and imagine in my mind as something that happens all around us all the time. Ghar ghar ki kahani, so to say. A weak connection to the prompt with the ‘second anniversary’ bit not visible except by way of a mention. However, the narration was smooth and the protagonist’s viewpoint steadily expounded through the story. A nice read. 8.5/10

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