Something Daring: ROSALIA SCALIA
“You’re two hours late, Leila.”
“Used vacation time this morning.”
“Something … daring.”
“Your father called.”
Using the office phone, she dialed her father’s cell.
“That job must be keeping you busy. You don’t answer your phone anymore? Always voice mail, voice mail, voice mail. Been calling you all morning. Why don’t you pick up?”
“Sorry dad, busy morning. Lots of meetings.”
She hated lying to him again. But she had no choice. And about her own marriage, no less. The one that happened in the morning. No one went off and married first thing Monday morning at City Hall and then went to work. She did. She and Kamaljit Singh did. They eloped.
She smiled thinking about it.
“Mommy has something extra special planned for you tonight. She found the perfect match for you, good husband material. His family is coming tonight for the interview. It’s a great arrangement, and she’s certain. Pick up samosas and snacks at grocery. Maybe go now before they run out. Two dozen. It would save us some time.”
February, Valentine’s Day, large pink and red hearts danced in the storefronts on her way to the Punjabi grocer. She walked slowly in frigid air, her eyeballs hurt in the single digit temperatures, but she hardly paid attention.
Elated, she recalled the beautiful marriage ceremony between her and Kamal this morning with two strangers as witnesses. She fingered the red thread around her left wrist. She married Kamaljit Singh without the bridal red gharara, but she wore a red hijab for the occasion. The clerk said two versions of the wedding prayers -- Sikh and Muslim. They promised themselves to each other twice.
Kamal wore a red turban with a gold fifty and a matching red tie, and they both signed the marriage certificate.
“Finally done. You’re my own BB. I want the whole world to know!” Kamal said, using his pet name for her. He tied the red gana -- a red thread with a few seed pearls and a silken bundle with a pinch of sugar in it -- to her left wrist, while she tied an unadorned red gana to his right wrist next to his karra.
In the hallway, he produced a small box. “Our personal celebration,” he said. In the box, a pair of golden laddoos, doughy ball-shaped sweets sprinkled with powdered sugar that they fed each other.
Powdered sugar flecked his beard. She wiped it with her hand; smiling, she offered him her own surprise: she dug out of her large work purse that Kamal always referred to as her “truck,” mini cellophane-wrapped plates bedecked with red ribbons. In the plates sat four fat, fresh Medjool dates, which they also fed each other, satisfied that they began their married life with a taste of sweetness.
Afterward, she stuffed the hijab into her bag, and they kissed at City Hall before going to their respective jobs.
The Punjabi grocer counted two dozen samosas, piping hot golden triangles, into an aluminum pan. She paid for them and several bags of spicy dried, roasted chickpeas.
On the drive home, the samosas filled the car with a savory aroma. She put her hijab back on and practiced ways to tell her parents that she married the man she loved and not some
stranger in an arrangement. She imagined her parents’ humiliation, telling this boy’s family she was no longer available. She imagined all the ways to tell them Kamal isn’t Muslim. She imagined Kamal, unable to contain himself, telling his parents right away. She sucked in her breath, and excitement electrified her: the deed was done. She was now legally Leila Khan Singh.
She imagined both families disowning them. Her unMuslim name, Leila thought, perhaps attested to her parents’ own sense of something daring.
Red balloons tied to the mail box fluttered in a breeze. She grew worried, nervous, about this now impossible interview. She collected the samosas and snacks from the backseat and wondered if her parents would disown her this evening.
Her father opened the door before she inserted her key.
“There’s my flower now,” he said, smiling, taking the samosas and snacks from her.
“Come, beta,” he said. “She’s here, Zoha,” he called to her mother, his voice enthusiastic.
Punjabi music of her parents’ homeland played. Had they already agreed to an arrangement without consulting her? Turbaned men and women wearing salwar kameezes chatted with her family in the dining room. Her new husband Kamal, wearing the same red turban from this morning’s ceremony, rushed toward her, his face beaming joy and light.
“When I told my parents this morning, they decided to talk to yours right away to make the arrangement. We’re all Punjabis. It’s all good.”
* * * * *
July 29, 2015
Conversation about this article
1: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, USA), July 29, 2015, 6:35 PM.
Very positive ending for short story, but I am sorry it sounds unrealistically optimistic to me in comparison to what we hear in the "real world" about inter-racial marriages. Though I do applaud the author's positive spin - a sign of Chardi Kalaa and hope.
2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 29, 2015, 8:50 PM.
Blimey! In a few paragraphs Ms Scalia has done something amazing! The taboo subject, usually a nightmare scenario, is turned on its head into a humanistic triumph! No matter what the bigots and fundamentalists say or do, there will always be human beings being just human beings. Guru Nanak told us 500 years ago that 'There is No Hindu, No Mussalman ...'
3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 30, 2015, 7:58 PM.
Rosalia ji, You are hereby nominated as an Honorary Sikh. The rare Punjabi terminology you have used are probably not even understood by most Punjabis, especially those local born in the diaspora. A lovely 'Prem Kahani' that could stand the test of time. Waiting for the next installment ...
4: Taranjit Singh (Gurgaon, India), July 31, 2015, 10:45 AM.
Welcome back, Rosalia! Love blossoms again in your words. I wish the cultural and religious differences amongst the many peoples of the world were so easy to fix with such a happy ending.
5: Rosalia Scalia (Baltimore, Maryland, USA), August 04, 2015, 9:41 AM.
Many thanks for reading! I appreciate all your words about my work. This story was inspired by my friend Ar---, a Muslim woman in India who eloped with her Hindu boyfriend the day after they graduated from college. Nearly 30+ years and two children later, they still act like honeymooners together, and that's what inspired the story -- the passion and love that grew stronger over the years. Of course, their love was not easily accepted by their families at first, not 'til after the birth of their first child -- but I couldn't help imagining ... what if?