He’s wearing the white silk veshti that only a few men can carry. Well everyone can hopefully carry them without the occasional accident. What I mean, is that he wears them well. He’s excited. Like most boys of his community, he wasted his adolescence on entrance exams and after-school tuition. On this short break from California, he hopes to marry. A wife he can take back to make him his food, and perhaps pose with him in the photographs taken near the Grand Canyon or with the Statue of Liberty mid-sneeze looming in the background.
He’s mildly excited. He has a good feeling about this girl. They showed him the photograph. His mother said she had sharp features. What one means when one says sharp features remains a matrimonial mystery. Does it mean the girl has a nose that could replace a paper cutter? Or that her eyes were so razor sharp, that one look could take care of a two week stubble? They pile into the old Ambassador car. Someday he wants to sit in the back of this ugly white ambassador car, (or amba as they call it in his house) and have a driver who will take him on roads that stretch next to paddy fields. Like a feudal lord. But for now he must focus on going back and getting that bloody green card.
Back to her photograph. She is fair. Yes, she is no Madrasi chick. Apparently, somewhere in the years between getting a postgraduate degree in some pointless subject and getting gold medals, she also mastered the crucial arts of South Indian cooking, embroidery and sewing buttons. Her father is almost retired. Her mother is generous. He prepares his stomach for all the food that one offers during this ponnu pakkardu business. He asks his mother, “What is her name?”. In his mind he is already devising nicknames for this lovely creature in the photograph. The more he looks at the photograph, the lovelier she becomes.
“TripurasundariTripurasundari: Tripura Sundari, also called Shodashi, Lalita and Rajarajeshvari, is one of the group of ten goddesses of Hindu mythology, and these goddesses are collectively called mahavidyas. [From Wikipedia]”. Gulp. “Amma, what sort of a name is that?”. His aunt, suddenly monstrous, sweating in her blue Kancheevaram saree is swift to swat his hand. “Subbu, it’s the name of a Goddess.”. He mulls over possible nicknames for her. Tripura, Trips, Sundu, Darcy, Tee-Ess. Nothing fits. Goddesses are fine. But one can’t marry a girl called Tripurasundari. Why couldn’t they just name her Lalitha. What would the immigration official say? In fact, how would he say it?
He opens the Ambassador’s thick, padded door. And runs out.