Raj and his parents looked at each other incredulously. They didn’t know what to think of Naina. Every few minutes she would excuse herself and go behind the curtain. Having lived in a small flat like this one all his life, Raj could guess that the curtain shielded a narrow hallway which probably led to a bedroom on one side, bathrooms on the other and a small kitchen at the back. They could clearly hear the girl blowing her nose in the sink. From the amount of noise she made, they could deduce safely that the sink was just outside the bathroom, a few feet away from the curtain.
She came back in the hallway again, wiping her hands on her duppatta. Her nose was a beetroot red but she didn’t seem to care. “She is so nonchalant,” Raj thought. “Doesn’t she care who we are? Aai (mother) is certainly not going to be happy,” he thought with dismay.
The nose blowing girl could feel the disapproving glare of the boy’s mother sitting across from her. Naina had to pinch herself hard to stop from laughing out loud. She couldn’t get the image of the woman, all prim and proper in her starched sari, with a band aid on her nose, out of her mind. She knew she had been making excessively loud noises blowing her nose but she didn’t care. The unwritten rules of the matchmaking ritual demanded that she be presented as a docile, homely and sweet natured girl. Ever the rebel, Naina was determined to break every rule. Blowing her nose loudly was a minor infraction in her long list of penalties.
Two years ago, since she had been deemed of marriageable age by her parents, Naina had refused to carry the mandatory tray laden with tea and biscuits or to wear a sari and strings of necklaces to impress the visiting “dignitaries”.
In India, the ubiquitous tea and biscuits are almost always offered to guests.
Her defiance had increased when she found a job working for a major newspaper in Bombay. She was staying with her cousin sister, Priti tai, at the time and was falling in love with the fast pace of the city. Her new job and the financial independence were too exciting and tempting to give up for a life of matrimony. Every time she went through one of the “viewing” sessions, her resolve to resist grew stronger, her violations more severe.