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.