It started as a normal enough conversation. He was watching a ManU match, so I assumed he’d hear every third thing I said. A few days ago, his parents had arrived in town for their annual visit to their older son. I had prepared myself for two weeks of no sex and conversations that would take place mainly over the phone. Admittedly, I wasn’t really looking forward to the next two weeks. I’ve heard a lot about his parents and I know they’re lovely people, but I wasn’t excited about the prospect of him having little or no time for me.
I told him about a movie I wanted to watch. He mumbled a promise about making time to take me. And then a few minutes later, he said something wholly unexpected. “We’ll go with mum and dad.”
Now that really threw me off. Somehow, I’d always taken it as given that I’d never meet his parents. I’m not even sure if ‘assumption’ is the right word because that would imply entertaining an idea, thinking it through with reason and then arriving at a logical conclusion. That never happened. Our families are a part of our relationship that exists only in conversations and photographs.
Later that night, I was surprised by the extent of my surprise at his willingness to introduce me to his parents. And I started to think about it. Other couples do it all the time; why should the idea seem so alien to me?
I’m a little ashamed of the answer. I think I was so taken aback because I’ve always known that what we have right now is the most that our relationship will ever amount to. We’re never going to get married; even moving in together isn’t really an option, considering there are other men and women in our lives. So I guess I assumed that since I’m never going to be a part of his family, there was no good reason for me to even meet them.
Which is entirely untrue.
There is a good enough reason. They’re people who’ve shaped a large part of his life and thoughts. Every time he talks about incorruptible government officers, his first reference point is his father. Every time we talk about religion, he speaks of his mother, a Hindu by birth who converted to Islam. He moved out of home and came to this city at a very early age. So there’s a world he’s built for himself that they are only a very small part of, the world I exist in. But for the first two decades of his life, they were the looming figures in his universe. I know only fragments of his life from that time. He doesn’t talk much about his childhood. Unlike me, who is happy to share minute details of my school years, finishing school, the many ‘first’ kisses, captaincy wars and every other memory that is stored in my head, he prefers to use the blanket ‘happy enough’ to describe his growing-up years. So many times, my detail-hungry brain has yearned for more... to fill in the gaping holes in his timeline. But he’s just not given to that kind of conversational detail. So many times I’ve felt the frustration typical of a story half-told. A little like a giant jigsaw puzzle I’ve only managed to piece together a very small part of. Today he lives the good life. There are international vacations, designer clothes, fancy gadgets, a house with a view… everything a man dreams of by his 40th. But there was a time when his lifestyle choices had more to do with putting his brother through college than wanting to buy his dream car. I know the stories, but I’ve never met the main protagonists. I am a part of his present and, hopefully, the future, but I’d like to know his history too.
And yet, I was seeing his parents through the prism of marriage. Like they were one of those annoying little details a couple turns to only once the wedding preparations are well and truly on… like whether to serve jalebi or gulab jamun as dessert.
I’ve always believed I have a less-than-conventional take on relationships. I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe I’m just another cliché. Because I could take all of his history and put it in a small capsule to be swallowed only when the doctor deemed fit. And since we don’t have the golden marriage hour engraved on our relationship clock, we deserved to go without? No.
Meeting the parents isn’t simply about stamps of approval and exchanges of heirloom pieces of jewellery. It could be about that also, but there’s more. It’s a pity I thought it came only with a marriage memo attached.