As is the case with most other damsels my age, the pressure of the big “M” weighs heavily on the mind. For those who are lucky enough to have escaped the trauma, “M” is “Marriage” – a dilemma society will insist on thrusting one into. It is the dreaded deliberation that causes a furrow on many a young, fair brow in Indian society.
Having now found myself well and truly ensconced in the rigmarole, I plea-bargained myself some time to mull over the prospect before giving a definitive answer.
And in this pensive state of mind, I made my way to the northern frontiers. As I gazed out at the vast, brown and dusty expanse that makes up most of UP, I sent a silent request up to the powers that be. “Show me a sign”, said I, “show me that this is the path I should go down with this man of arms.”
Almost immediately, my vehicle came to a grinding halt at a railway level crossing. With a sigh I turned a rather glazed eye toward the passing train. Lo and behold, it was filled with army men. Slightly hassled, I shrugged it off and proceeded to challenge the powers that be to send me another sign. This could have been pure coincidence.
We passed through more towns – all cantonment areas so I could barely miss the bright sign boards with the names of various regimental centers and so on. I was still unconvinced and continued bickering and reasoning with myself about these so-called “signs” when I arrived at Dudhwa National Park. What do I get presented with there? More signs, of course. Our guide, Rana – an eager Nepalese boy – was dressed in army-type camouflage pants.
“All right, here’s a toughie”, I hissed at the powers that be, “show me a tiger. That’s a surety.” I sat smugly through a number of safaris as we quite fruitlessly looked for the elusive striped cat. A “just-five-minutes-ago” pug mark was all we were rewarded with. A hearty brunch to appease the wailing gastric system and I waddled onto the terrace to take in some sun. I gazed out into the grassland, shutting out the sound of my brother commenting on the strange fact that spotted deer were running away from the area. Were my eyes deceiving me? No. For there, slinking through the grass was one of those elusive stripes. I gaped as the form quickly blended into the tall amber grass.
I guffawed mentally, now rapidly sinking into denial. “Well, it wasn’t a very good view, so no deal”, I reasoned with the powers that be. “I need more.”
And “more” is exactly what I got. I walked into “Dilli Haat”, a shopper’s delight in Delhi where one can pick up various specialties from different ethnicities of India. The “theme state” was Kashmir. I entered and stood still for a moment – for there were rows and rows of stalls set up by (a drum roll should be good right about now)… the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA).
The powers that be were not finished with me. They socked it to me in the form of a portly co-passenger on my flight back home – he was dressed in a camouflage sweatshirt and remained in my line of vision at all times, even on the bus ride from the plane to the terminal.
Needless to say, I kept my eyes closed during the drive back home on Airport road. I knew full well I’d keel at the sight of the numerous ASC Centers, army sentries, and the war tank on the way.