Our marriage reception party was superb. Good food, drinks and dancing. We received numerous gifts. We left for our honeymoon to Thailand. It was a lovely week exploring Bangkok and Phuket.
I loved the long speedboats on the Chao Phraya River and did the rounds of many Buddhist temples. As I was getting back to my boat after one of these temple rounds an old woman caught my scarf and said, ‘please’ in the most plaintive way. I looked at the frail old woman wearing very thick glasses. Her eyes magnified by her glasses had genuine tears in them. She was holding out a reddish Buddha in a meditational pose.
“Ten dollars” she said.
I gave her ten dollars out of pity and took the Buddha from her. It was surprisingly heavy.
“Bless you, happy marriage” she said and shuffled away.
We did the usual shopping. When we got back home there was a big pile of gifts and shopping packets to be opened and assigned a place in my small apartment. Deepak promised we would move into a bigger place he was soon going to buy when he got his promotion.
The last package I opened contained the six inch tall statuette of the Buddha meditating sitting in the lotus pose I had bought for ten dollars. It was dark chocolaty brown and red. I loved it. I had just been married and my husband was the best in the world. Six months of bliss. I installed it on a wall unit with the other gifts we had received. Over time I noticed the meditating Buddha changed its colors according to my life moods. It was dark when my life was not going so well but became lighter if I was happy. Perhaps it was just in my mind.
Sadly, things began to sour after that. Deepak had an anger problem. He could not hold a job. He would fight with his colleagues and eventually throw a punch at someone or other. He began to turn violent against me too. I went into shock.
This Deepak I discovered is a big lout of a fellow but a gigantic pussy. He is a Mamma’s boy. Mamma has been promoting his tantrums for ages. Mamma (Mom-in-law) rang up every morning and checked with her son about my doings. Did Sania make breakfast for you today? Is she using her credit card? Why does she need to work? We are landed people our bahus (daughters-in-law) don’t work. These service people don’t have any culture.
I tried to melt into the great culture of my husband’s violent family. Fisticuffs were common between my husband and his cousins, brothers and his uncles. It was their sophisticated culture. They settled every dispute on the spot and then went on arm in arm to that great Punjabi male chauvinistic Nirvana in the sky. I sadly could not hear the piper they danced to.
There had been love between us. I stuck to that romantic dream.
“He will get ok when he gets a good job.”
His mother would ring up daily and I approximated after ten calls I was primed up for a beating. My friends and colleagues asked me to run away. Alas it was my home. I was still paying installments for my tiny apartment. I would not budge from my home. Sadly the beatings increased and I ran away to my cousin’s place nearby. This pattern of existence continued for years. He would beat me, I would escape to some family member’s place. He would become repentant after a few days and somehow make me come back.
This is the time when the practitioners of Feng Shui, group chanting, long forgotten aunts appear to give you home truths of the highest order. My aunt Sushma took one look at my apartment and said, ‘bad vibes.’ She glanced over the souvenirs and gifts I had installed in a wall unit and ‘tut tut tut’ she went.
‘A sad Buddha meditating always brings misfortune; throw it out’ said my aunt.
‘I will. I will just give it away to someone’ I reassured her. She had lunch blessed me and my sulking hubby and went on her way.
I picked up the Buddha and could not bring myself to throw it into the dustbin. It is an Indian religious thing. Every deity is sacred and can wreak devastation upon a home if not carefully handled. Ok I would just go and place it under a Peepal tree. That was the sanctuary for all discarded house gods. After Diwali that is where the rough pottery Ganeshas and Laxmis are relegated. Someone takes them away eventually. Someone who believes in God more than us city people.
I indeed had to run away. I gave all my things to my friend Kolna to sell or donate. She brought her car and helped me fill my car with my clothes and meager things that my nasty husband would allow me to take away. I went away to a new city which I still will not reveal to others because of my fear of my ex-husband. Of course I felt like Julia Roberts in ‘Sleeping with the Enemy.’ At tremendous cost of time and money I would go to New Delhi to attend divorce court appointments. Deepak harassed me till he found someone to love in his demented way. I said good riddance and signed on the dotted line though in my heart I hated his newfound love.
My friend Kolna is a brave and adventurous girl. I was still learning to drive my newly bought small car when our marriage broke up. In my new city I found a good job and was after months able to build a new independent life free of the fear of my ex-husband. I found it very inconvenient to use the public transport system and wished I had brought my new car with me. It was still parked at Kolna’s large house. The brave girl volunteered to drive the car to my city all alone. I loved the idea though I feared for her safety on the unruly traffic infested highways of India.
I sat in my pleasant balcony in the evening having tea and watching the light traffic of my suburban apartment. I was waiting for Kolna. It was almost nine in the night when she arrived. I was so happy to see her. It was a weekend and we spent the night talking and talking sipping on perfectly chilled wine and home delivered food. I was finally free of Sergeant Major Deepak. My divorce was through and I admitted to Kolna about having met Mr. Right at the office. She too had met someone through a matrimonial online service and was now on her fourth date the next weekend. It was a great get together. Sunday we spent exploring the ethnic clothes of famous markets of my new home town.
Monday morning I dropped Kolna at the airport and went to work in my newly arrived car. In the morning the building’s gardener/liftman/cook/electrician/plumber named Ramoo helped me carry the packets from the car which had been left with Kolna in Delhi. Everyone trusts Ramoo and I left my door keys with him so that he could unpack the packets and place them on proper shelves and cupboards. Ramoo does not need to be told. He is super and has a woman’s instinct for storage logistics.
In the evening when I came back the apartment was looking spic and span. Thanks to Ramoo’s magical dusting cloth. Life became pleasant again. My Mr. Right, Laxman proposed and we were soon married. He moved in with me because my apartment was bigger. Of course he took care of the rent and the groceries and everything. I have never seen a more patient and generous man. Life went on smoothly for us and we were soon planning on having a baby. Laxman had already bought the apartment we lived in. So no more rent. Things were going pretty smoothly and as they in old Hindi movies, ‘Jolly Good!”
Suddenly out of my old life came an email. It was from Aunt Sushma. She was coming to visit me for a day. How did she find out my email address and where I lived? I did not even try to guess her secret informant. She came in glowing the next morning after the email. It was a Sunday.
Aunt Sushma had tea and then set out to debrief us. She wanted to know everything. Her cleverly disguised questions soon unveiled layer by layer of my life in the last years since my divorce. She filled us with information about herself too.
“See,” she said, “your life turned better after you threw away that sad Buddha. I have a feeling for these things these so called objets d’art.”
She went on and on and we surreptitiously looked at the wall clock. Her train left at five. It was still only two. We finished lunch slowly hoping the food and juices would pacify her tongue. Alas it was not to be. Laxman had volunteered to drive her to the railway station which was only fifteen minutes away. I had excused myself with a slight headache which I had really acquired listening to Aunt Sushma. She looked at the wall clock. It was four.
“Ok show me all the rooms.” Laxman volunteered. He was so good. I sat down in the large lounge chair breathing cooling mantras my yoga guru had taught me. Ten minutes later there was a shrill shriek, ‘She’s still got it. Abomination. Throw it away Laxman. This moment.’
I followed the shriek to my third room which generally is unused. On one corner shelf high on the wall was ensconced the sorrowful Buddha, Aunt Sushma had told me to throw away. I too was amazed, how did it get here? Then I remembered the hectic exit from my New Delhi house; the packing done by Kolna; the packages in my new car left at Kolna’s home. She must have brought the package containing the ‘to-be-discarded-unfortunate Buddha.’ Ramoo must have unpacked it and shelved it on the unused third room. Aunt Sushma soon left dismayed escorted to the railway station by my husband. I brought a joss stick and placed it in the tiny holder provided by the side of the Buddha. I lit the fragrant sandal wood agarbati. The aroma wafted away my fears if there were any left out of the window.
Things are fine with me and my husband. We have a two year old daughter now. Her name is Ilna. She is full of laughter. The Buddha has been promoted and now brought to the living room above the television. I send up a silent prayer of thanks to Buddha for watching over me all this time. This silent knowledge seeking and right path showing reincarnation of Vishnoo had guided me through difficult times. Behind the scenes.
People and not statues bring misery to our lives. On the obverse side, good people bring joy and happiness to our lives. People like Laxman and Ilna and of course blessed objets d’art.