Nix and I bumped into Angelina the hijra in the market today. She speaks no English at all, but from what she was saying I gather her “husband” had left her, so I made a simplistic joke in Hindi about good husbands staying and bad husbands leaving which, amazingly, seemed to be understood (and even laughed at) by her and all the traders in the vicinity. We then said our swift goodbyes and ducked out for chai before my faltering Hindi became over-stretched.
As I was helping Mangla prepare dinner tonight she confided in me that she had “too much tension.” This surprised me as she always seems so bright and breezy (as indeed do most Indians). I asked her what the problem was and she told me that she was not happy about the marriage that had been arranged for her - her fiancé is lazy, expecting her to do everything for him, but doing nothing for her in return (from what I have seen of him this is an accurate appraisal). She is also plagued by doubt about the future and fears she will not get any help from anyone in her life – she feels alone. Evidently the upbeat “no tension” approach to life which I have been admiring in so many Indians of late may simply be a jovial smoke screen concealing underlying worries and concerns that are fundamentally the same as mine albeit under different circumstances. I asked her why she doesn’t talk about this with her Mum. She intimated it would upset her Mum and that she wants her Mum to be happy. I told her that her devotion is commendable, and suggested that her Mum (and her Dad if he was still alive) would want her to be happy too. Her response was that things don’t work that way in India. I think it’s sad that someone so young feels her future is mapped out before her and that the road ahead is looking troublesome, but recognize that I also feel my future is uncertain. She feels we are lucky to be able to choose our partners in the West. Maybe so, but choice is no indicator or guarantee of happiness as soaring separation/divorce statistics clearly illustrate. Confusion and uncertainty seem to be the keystones of life.