ETWA|Ch 8a: Insubordination

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Every Thing We Are is a coming of age novel where Samyukta aka Sam learns that every thing we are is not always on display. This is my first attempt at writing a novel. I started this project as part of #NaNoWriMo2020 before I fell off the wagon. Hope you will read along as I get back to writing it. All episodes of this series are available on the ETWA page. Subscribe to my writing here.

On Siddharth’s end of that long distance phone call, his wife Chanchal, though seated at the dining table next to him, was far away in her thoughts. Midway through the siblings’ conversation, she had drifted away to her wedding day.

Their wedding reception had been a grand affair hosted by Siddharth’s family. Both families had brought their own photographers to make sure the wedding was adequately documented. Her entire team from work was there—a boisterous bunch turning heads of all the guests. When it was their turn to greet the newlyweds, Siddharth’s photographer suggested that they do a classic wedding photo. One where all the men pulled her towards them while she tried to hold onto Siddharth using her other hand. Her colleagues obliged and for 15 minutes or so they lit up the evening with their shenanigans. They played their parts with panache, clutching their broken hearts and cracking up the guests with an agreeable dose of corniness. Once the performance was done, they hugged her and took their party off stage.

Much later in the evening, when the rush of guests had subsided, they got off stage to get dinner. Siddharth turned to her and said, “You know…I am a modern, liberal guy. Tonight was fine but now that you’re married, I hope you will keep a respectable distance from your colleagues. They are men afterall. You know what people will say.” That was odd. But she had smiled and let it pass because she didn’t want to start the marriage with a fight. She did stop to smirk at his odd choice of words though. “It’s not just me that’s married. We are married”, she thought to herself.

She was definitely not happy with how Siddharth was taking the news of Ammu’s affair. Their arranged marriage was a toddler, learning to walk in a child-safe living room in the UK, bumping into arguments, finding its feet. She was thankful this was happening far away from the watchful eyes of their families. Turning to Siddharth, she said,

“Why are you so mad at Ammu?”

“Why am I mad? Are you serious? He replied, answering a question with a question.

“Yes, I am serious. I would like to know why you are mad.” Chanchal took the bait rather purposefully.

“Okay, I am mad because Ammu is my sister. I want her to have a good future. Her actions have consequences not just for her but also for our entire family.” Siddharth explained.

“What world do you live in? Even if you go by the law, it’s been decriminalised in India. That means even the most regressive folks who run the country, think it’s time to accept homosexuality. You might say it’s for votes. But even then. I mean, it’s the most natural thing, isn’t it?” Chanchal said, wondering how they had never discussed homosexuality before.

“Have you stopped to think what your parents would say if they got to know?” most of their serious conversations usually circled the family-culture drain.

“How does it matter? They are my parents. How does their opinion matter in your sister’s life?” She knew that using logic against this cultural reasoning was always a bad move.

“What world do you live in where your parents’ opinion doesn’t matter? Maybe it doesn’t matter to you. But it matters a lot to me. What they think of me and my family matters a lot to me.” Indian culture was always his trump card.

“What world do I live in? A world where you are not the centre of my universe.” She would not back off this time. This was important.

I would say keep your feminism to yourself. Or maybe you could go back to India and make your independent decisions there?

“Haha, what an independent woman! Err…without a job might I point out. Oh, and don’t forget about your dependent visa!” he scoffed. When his work allowed him a transfer to the UK office, she had quit her job and moved with him. Back in those early days of marriage and romantic hope, she was sure that it was the right thing to do.

“Well, it’s only a matter of time before I find a job. And stop being so petty.” She refused to lose this argument. This insubordination would definitely make her mother cringe.

“Oh that’s good. So until then, I would say keep your feminism to yourself. Or maybe you could go back to India and make your independent decisions there? If I had known that you were so forward, I wouldn’t have married you. All I wanted was to marry a nice, simple girl who would make my life easier. And don’t you dare stuff my sister’s head with this rubbish.” Siddharth presented a veiled threat.

“I will talk to your sister if I want to and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” Chanchal was defiant.

Siddharth wanted so badly to slap her. How dare she make light of such a serious issue? But thank goodness for his presence of mind. He remembered that slapping your wife might have legal consequences in the first world. Just for this freedom, how he wished he lived in India. Anyway, as long as she didn’t have a job in this country, he could keep her on a tight leash. 

“Let me tell you what you will do. You will call Ammu and calmly convince her that she needs to get married when she turns 18 in July.” he said, having regained his composure.

But before he could continue, Chanchal put on her coat, grabbed her keys and stepped out of the house.

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Next Chapter | Ch8b: Insubordination

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