2007 has left, clumsily, with the death of the last hope to a troubled neighbour. Bhutto was what sweaters around the waist are to inexperienced mooning sixteen year olds.
Nearer home, actually, at home, things were similarly distasteful, if not as fatal. I was turning twenty four on the eve of the new year, and since, unfortunately, it is not a very easily forgettable date, many concerned relatives decided it was time I was given advice. Since advice must be laughed at collectively and then secretly taken, I thought it best to share.
For the first time in four years, I spent my birthday and the succeeding New Year's with my parents. The fact that I came down and stayed with them for close to twenty days meant only one thing for the rest of my relatives. I was getting married.
Since my father is an ardent relative's-house-hopper, I happened to meet many kins of blood I either never knew or had forgotten had existed. But every time I did meet someone, valuable knowledge was passed down to me to carry along with many quarter kilo packs of mutton from Bakr- Id.
Courtesy: Pale Lady of Market Circle
There's a reason I call her that. She is pale, and she lives in a market circle. Her house was the first my father dragged my mother and me in ball and chain to. She sat, very palely, of course, and smiled at us. When the tea and coffee discussion shifted drearily to the rising price of LPG and sugar and to Modi, she decided to focus her attention on me.
"So, your birthday is coming soon!"
I smiled like a kitten in a blanket.
"How old will you be?"
Her smiled melted into her white skin, leaving no trace it was ever there.
"Are you getting married?"
I looked at my mom and tried hard to not look at Dad. Then I smiled foolishly again. "Someday!" I said.
"Its already late, no?"
I saw myself in her eyes. My skin was in folded wrinkles, grey hair falling over my cataract blue eyes. My knees had been replaced twice and gold teeth shone when I sipped my sugarless, decoctionless, caffeine free tea.
The discussion shifted from me to parental responsibilities to an old unmarried relative in another part of town which my father secretly took note of. My mother squirmed uncomfortably as I held onto my walker and spat out my dentures.
As we were leaving, she handed me a quarter kilo pack of meat and spoke into my ear.
"Youth doesn't remain. Don't rely on it."
Courtesy: The Noisy Hypochondriac
This too, is a reasonable nickname.
After an hour of watching her scurry about the house in diffrent directions still talking to herself, the walls, sometimes us and occasionally me, the Noisy Hypochondriac sat down. She confided in us about how she was certain she suffered from some fatal disease because she sneezed last year in the summer. And her doctor-he has wasted a valuable MBBS seat in his time. He was always certain everytime she had cancer that it was bronchitis.
Then, she turned to me.
"You'll be twenty two, day after, no?"
"No. Twenty four."
"You're worrying me." She suddenly looked many hours older.
She continued, holding her heart, controlling an attack. "Did you meet anyone?"
"I mean, did you meet any boys?"
"Isn't that why you're here?"
Before she fainted, we decided to leave.
My mother shot murderous glances at my dad who was busy planning the next house visit. As she handed me my next quarter kilo of meat, she said to my mother and me.
"The older the girl is, even older the husband she will fetch."
There were many lessons more, but I will share them next time. For now, my old eyes water from the brightness of an old screen. Oh, woe! To be twenty four! But yet, I will wisen. I will learn, as I did this New Year and as I did from the Family. I learnt patience and tolerance and how to scratch your feet without seeming to do so.
And prominently, that it'll take you till twenty four to make half a kilo of mutton out of house visits.
Happy New Year!