Biswanath Banerjee was up earlier than usual in the morning. He was flush with excitement, outwardly though he was the epitome of composure. He did not wish to let his wife Sucheta understand what was going on inside his mind. Sucheta too lay awake in her bed much before the time Biswanath babu woke up and left his bed. She had mixed feelings, confused and happy at the same time. Their only daughter Kinnori, or Kinu as her parents called her affectionately was coming home after one year.
Kinnori had completed her Master’s degree in Engineering and was now employed with a software company in Bangalore. Her probation period had just ended and she had managed to get a two-week break to visit her parents. This was not a routine visit though; the Banerjee couple was not only looking forward to a visit from Kinnori but was eagerly waiting to see her groom too. Kinnori had informed them all of sudden that she had found her life partner and together they were coming to seek her parent’s blessings. The formal ceremony of marriage had never appealed to Kinnori and she did not want that her parents should go in for any elaborate arrangement.
Both husband and wife had been intrigued by the fact that Kinnori had refused to divulge any details about her partner. Sucheta had wondered aloud if the boy was from a different community or religion. However disconcerted she might have felt inside, she put up a brave front and declared “whoever Kinu chooses is fine with me. It is she who has to stay with him so if they are happy I don’t have a problem”. Biswanath babu had not responded to Sucheta’s comments. He had been tightlipped from the time he received the mail and then a call from Kinu “Baba we are coming on Saturday by the morning flight and will reach home by 11 AM. You and ma need not come to receive us we will get home by ourselves and please don’t worry”.
Biswanath babu was a man of strong personality. He had retired from his government job two years back and led a disciplined life. He looked young for his 62 years. His wife was eight years his junior. From the time she had come to this house thirty-two years ago, Sucheta had played the role of a dutiful housewife, accompanying Biswanath Babu to different cities during his official posting tenures. Kinnori was born six years after their marriage as Sucheta had needed treatment before she could conceive. Kinnori had been brought up with a lot of care and had the best of education and her father had managed to instill in her a sense of purpose and determination. Hard work and an open and perceptive mind had made her achieve greatness in her academic field. Her parents never made her feel inhibited by the fact that she was a girl. At 5 feet 8 inches Kinnori stood tall and her confident demeanor helped her to be treated at par with men in both her academic field and professional one.
Biswanath Babu had a cup of tea before he bathed and sat down for his morning Puja. Years of staying together had taught Sucheta that her husband hated to be disturbed during his Puja. She waited for him to complete his Puja before asking him “Did Kinu tell you what are jamai’s favorite dishes? Does he love to have sweets? You should have spoken to her in detail. How am I to know whether he is vegetarian or a non-vegetarian? I don’t even know his name.” Her husband looked up from the newspaper while sipping his second cup of tea, which Sucheta had brought him. He frowned at first and then his expression softened. He looked at Sucheta and in and said “Don’t worry Kinu is a very understanding and practical girl. If there was something about jamai’s food habits which she felt we should know, she would have told us. When she has not said anything we will assume that he will have whatever we offer him”. Sucheta kept quiet and then started to get up from the chair “I think I should fry some luchis for breakfast and then plan for lunch”. Biswanath babu motioned her to remain seated and after a few seconds spoke up “You know Sucheta, when Kinu was young she had once told me that she would never get married as she thought that all men other than her father were boring” he smiled as he recalled and narrated the incident. Sucheta knew about the incident but looked at her husband curiously as she was not used to the softer side in him and she had thought that the incident was long lost on him.
The bell rang and suddenly both husband and wife looked up towards the door. For a fleeting second they thought that their daughter and jamai had arrived. It was the domestic help who had come early today so that she could help Sucheta take care of all that was to be done before their daughter arrived with her husband. “Boudi, how does your jamai look? Is he tall and handsome?” She looked amazed when she came to know that her masters were not aware of how their jamai looked. Actually Kinnori had specifically written in her mail that she did not want to disclose anything, not even the name of her partner before they arrived. Her parents knew that once Kinu had decided not to disclose, she would never change her mind. They had assumed that the boy was either from a different community or a religion and since they were high caste Brahmins perhaps Kinu had felt perturbed to shock them in advance. It was not that they would be disturbed to accept Kinu’s choice but it would be the first time that someone in the Banerjee household had done something that violated their conventional line of thinking; they were however sure that they would get over it after the identity of the boy was disclosed initially.
The household activity started in the right earnest. The domestic help went about in getting Kinu didmoni’s room in order. The room had a double bed and all the furniture that was required for the duration of the couple’s stay. Dusting, sweeping the floor, tidying and fresh flowers in the flower vase was all that was required to be done. Sucheta got working in the kitchen while Biswanath babu readied himself to go to the market. Whatever he might have told Sucheta to assuage her tension, he had decided to play it safe while marketing. He would buy paneer as well as mutton. Kinu loved to eat mutton curry and just in case the boy was a vegetarian he would not have to go hungry.
By the time Biswanath Babu had returned from the market it was quarter to ten on the clock. Kinu must have landed at Dum Dum by this time he thought excitedly and picked up his cell phone. “Hello Kinu ma, has the plane landed?” He realized this was not a very smart question to ask as passengers on board an aircraft are allowed to switch on only after the plane had landed, but father’s affection preceded his smartness at the moment. “Yes, baba, we are fine and are on our way home, hope you and ma are alright”. Biswanath Babu’s eyes were moist and he did not know what to say “It is ok Kinu ma, we are waiting for both of you” is what he managed to say. He sat down heavily on the sofa in the drawing room and sat motionless for a few moments. Slowly he got up and made his way to the chest of drawers where all photo albums were kept. He picked out two albums which were filled exclusively with Kinu’s photographs and leafed through them looking up each one carefully and trying to recall the exact moment at which the photo had been clicked.
It was ten minutes past 11 and Biswanath Babu paced anxiously on his first floor verandah. Once in a while he tried to make out if any taxi was making its way towards his house. It was another ten minutes before he saw a taxi approaching his building. He quickly moved down the staircase and walked towards the taxi even as it came to a halt in front of him. Sucheta and the maid also ran towards the entrance with a thali full of articles and sweets necessary to receive the groom into the house for the first time.
Biswanath babu stopped in his tracks as he saw Kinu emerging from the taxi. He had expected that his beloved daughter would at least wear a traditional sari while coming to her parental home after marriage. Kinu was dressed in jeans and a white shirt and looked smart as usual, but there was more to come. A little lady in bridal make up and wearing a red sari was sitting inside the taxi. There must be some mistake he thought. He could not comprehend what was happening, Sucheta looked blank and the maid looked ready to faint.
“Baba, ma, I know both of you will be upset but let me introduce my partner Mrinmoyee. She is also a Bengali Brahmin and we work for the same organization and like each other very much. We have decided that this is the best thing for both of us and so have gone ahead and tied the knot” said Kinu in her usual confident no-nonsense manner. Biswanath Babu and Sucheta looked as if lightening had struck them. The maid managed a hoarse whisper “A girl has married a girl” and fainted.