Home > When Dimple Met Rishi(3)

When Dimple Met Rishi(3)
Author: Sandhya Menon

“It sounds worth it to me, if it will help your career,” Ritu auntie said into the silence. Dimple looked up in surprise. Not that she wasn’t thankful for the help, but she had to wonder at this sudden interjection. Since when did Ritu auntie think in terms of benefiting a woman’s career ? “Why don’t you discuss it with Vijay, Leena?”

Dimple looked at Ritu auntie in disbelief, and Ritu auntie winked at her.

After a moment, Mamma bellowed for Papa to come over. “Vijay! Idhar aayiye! ”

Papa came in, a wary expression on his face that he quickly converted to a warm smile for the visitors. “Ritu, Seema, hello.”

Seema didi immediately shot to her feet and pressed her palms together. “Namaste , Vijay uncle.”

“Please, sit, sit.” He took a seat by Mamma, and then, after the briefest of pauses, reached out and snagged a Milano.

Mamma and Dimple both said, “No!” but he stuffed the cookie into his mouth before they could stop him and then grinned sheepishly.

Dimple put two fingers to the bridge of her nose. “Papa, you’re a diabetic!”

Mamma sighed overdramatically. “Kya aap mujhe vidhwaa chodna chahte ho?”

Dimple rolled her eyes at her mother’s words. “It’s diabetes, Mamma. I don’t think he’s going to die and leave you a widow anytime soon.” Ritu auntie was watching this little family drama with interest, but Seema looked like she’d rather be anywhere else but here.

“If he doesn’t take his medication like he is supposed to, he will! Checking his blood sugar, eating a balanced diet—he doesn’t want to do any of this!”

The tips of Papa’s ears began to turn pink, and he cleared his throat. “Okay, okay. Now, why did you call me?”

The air in the room tensed. Mamma adjusted her salwar kameez and looked at Dimple. “Tell him what you told me.”

Barely daring to breathe, Dimple repeated verbatim what she’d told Mamma. “I have the link to the website, if you want to look at it,” she finished.

Papa and Mamma looked at each other. It always amazed her, how they could seemingly communicate without speaking. She wondered what that was like, that level of intense bond. Though she’d take to wearing kaajal every day before she’d admit it, Dimple sometimes felt a pang at the thought of never having that. Because, she was sure, the kind of bond Mamma and Papa had would require a self-sacrifice she would never be okay making.

Finally, Papa turned to her. “Yes, I would like to see the website. But I think your Mamma and I both feel that you should go.” His cheeks were tinted vaguely pink, as were the tips of his hairy ears, like he was embarrassed by this show of caring.

A beat, two beats, three. Dimple blinked, not quite sure what had happened. And then her body caught up with her brain.

“Oh my God, thank you both!” she squealed, throwing her arms around them.

Seriously? Was that all she had needed to do this entire time? Ask Mamma for things while Ritu auntie and Seema didi were present?

Her parents chuckled and patted her on the back. She pulled back and grinned at them, still not able to completely believe it. They were letting her go to San Francisco to attend Insomnia Con, just like that. It felt unreal. She should buy Ritu auntie a present.

“This is toh great news!” Ritu auntie clapped her hands together. “Leena, before she goes, you must take her to buy some new salwar kameez .” The older woman appraised Dimple’s current outfit with pity. “Clearly she could use the help, na . . .”

“Good idea. And kaajal , of course,” Mamma said, nodding sagely.

Okay, maybe no present for Ritu auntie.

CHAPTER 3

The girl was scowling. Literally scowling .

She was pretty, with wild black hair and huge brown eyes she hid behind square frame glasses. And petite, a perfect match for his five-foot-eight-inch frame. But that scowl . . .

Rishi handed the picture back to his parents. “She doesn’t look too . . . happy, does she?”

Ma put the picture away in the envelope and handed it back to him to keep. “Oof oh, don’t worry, beta . They probably just clicked it at a bad time.”

Pappa put his arm around her and laughed. “Remember how Ma and I met?”

Rishi grinned, misgivings receding. The story was legendary in their family. Within minutes of meeting each other, Ma had beaten Pappa with her umbrella because he took her seat on the bus. He maintained that, in his defense, he hadn’t seen her in line (she was rather short). And in her defense, she said it had been a long, wet day schlepping through monsoon floods. That seat on the bus was the only thing she’d had going for her. What made it funnier was that Pappa had been on his way to her house to meet her parents to arrange their marriage.

“You ended up giving her the seat after all,” Rishi said. “Even after she beat you up with her umbrella.”

“Or maybe because of it,” Ma said knowingly. “You men are all the same—you need a strong woman to keep you in place.”

“But not too strong,” Rishi said thoughtfully, looking back down at the envelope on the counter. “Dimple Shah looks . . . fierce.”

“Na, beta , we’ve known Leena and Vijay Shah for decades. You might even remember them from some weddings we’ve all attended over the years,” Pappa said, though Rishi had no memory at all of this girl. And he definitely would’ve remembered her. “Hmm, maybe not . . . you were so young. Anyway, they are a good family, Rishi. Solid. From the same part of Mumbai as us. Give it a chance, toh, beta . And if you don’t get along . . .” He shrugged. “Better to find out now than in ten years’ time, no?”

Rishi nodded and drained the last of his chai. This was true. What was the harm, anyway, in attending a program in San Francisco for a couple of weeks to meet Dimple Shah? Obviously, she’d already agreed, so she must think it was a good idea too.

Everything looked good on paper, he had to admit. She’d just graduated high school like he had, and had apparently gotten into Stanford. Which, of course, was across the country from MIT , where he’d been accepted, but he was sure they could work something out. Their parents already knew each other and felt their personalities would be compatible. She’d been born and brought up here too. They probably had a lot in common. Besides, when had his parents ever led him astray? Just look at them, arms around each other, eyes twinkling with anticipation for their oldest son. They were the poster children for arranged marriage.

“Okay, Pappa,” Rishi said, smiling. “I’m going to do it.”

• • •

Rishi whistled as he walked into the den, his heart lifting like a helium balloon in spite of himself. He fully believed romantic comedies were idiotic. There were no insta-love moments in real life that actually lasted. Rishi had watched dozens of his friends—of all ethnicities—fall in love at the beginning of the school year and become mortal enemies by the end. Or worse, become apathetic nothings.

Rishi knew from watching his parents that what mattered were compatibility and stability. He didn’t want a million dramatic, heart-stoppingly romantic moments—he wanted just one long, sustainable partnership.

But in spite of his immense practicality, he could picture her in his life. He already knew the first time he saw Dimple’s picture that their story would become a sort of legend, just like Ma beating Pappa with that umbrella. She’d have some cute, funny quip about the day that picture was taken that would totally endear her to him. Maybe her parents picked that one to send because they wanted to convey her playful personality.

And if it all worked out? If they found that they were, in fact, as compatible as their parents predicted? Rishi’s life would be on track . Everything would fall into place. He’d go to MIT ; maybe she’d transfer there or somewhere close by. They could hang out, date for a couple of years through college and maybe grad school, and then get married. He’d take care of Dimple, and she’d take care of him. And a few years after that . . . they’d make his parents grandparents.

But he was getting ahead of himself. First, he’d have to feel her out, see where she was with things. Maybe she wanted to get married before grad school.

   
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