Monday, August 29, 2005

The engagement

So we're sitting at a bar talking about things, you know? Life, people, prices, everything. We shouldn't be here, dressed in traditional clothes. Even in India we stand out. But we've just left the auditorium after watching the engagement and before we're on the dance floor, jiggling for the thirtieth time to 'Kajra re' in full view of a large congregation of families we will get to know better in a few months. They're sitting on cushy seats, watching us dance to songs over and over. What must they think? Great 180 by the gal in pink; who is that girl and what is she wearing?; I must find out that boy's name and status for my eligible, radiant daughter. Mostly they just sit there, clapping in a druggy haze of happiness, smiling benignly at the group of dancers.

A word about dancers. Not all of us can, right? I mean, as much as we try, some things just don't happen. Not everyone can write, not everyone can dance, but you don't hear me telling anyone to write and then clap while they're fumbling about. Look at these happy-looking dance groups carefully and you will see cracks appear. Some can't dance. They're the ones looking at others and following their steps a little late. They smile and shut their eyes and snap their fingers, pretending to be in a different place where no one tells them to dance. In their minds they're Latinos doing the tango. Or samba. Or anything that involves intertwined legs, tights, and a rose held in clenched teeth. They soon disappear, leaving the cream to feed of each other and grow into better dancers. They leave to hit the bar, talking about the better dance moves in muted admiration.

Gradually, more people from the engagement appear. Evasive at first, they start on their flimsy excuses and then give up, admitting that they needed a drink and some silence. We chat, forget the time, pop peanuts, sip wine. The engagement is going on elsewhere, and everybody is quietly happy. The guy looks great, the girl looks fine, the families seem to match. All the hard work has culminated into something good. But there is one thing that bothers me. Everybody here has had problems in love or marriage, and yet they are thrilled with this development. They are obsessed with the idea of marriage and advocate it to even those who do not want to listen. It is confounding.

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