The wedding was not a small event. It was buzzing with people everywhere. Kids were running. Grands were sitting. Gents were eating and ladies were showing off their pieces of jewelry made specifically for that day. I hadn’t been given any responsibility other than conversing with the guests. My husband’s elder and younger sister did most of the work, and me—the new addition—wasn’t going to be tested with anything yet.
Even though my husband and I were born and brought up in India, we came from different parts of it. The dialect in India changes every five kilometers. Our native languages were four hundred times different—the distance between Mumbai and West-Bengal. I was very new to Bangla. If someone asked me “Bangla bolte paro?” (Can you speak in Bangla?).
“Kichu kichu” (a little bit) was my standard reply.
If the person continued to speak to me in Bangla, I would smile and nod, not really understanding much of what they were saying. In one of the more regretful instances of my life, I wished I had just smiled and nodded. But I didn’t.
One of my relatives at the wedding—my husband’s eldest cousin sister—widowed early in her life. She was the most sought-after helper in the house—fun-loving and jovial. But still I’m not sure if she spoke to me in fun or if she meant every word of the hurtful question she asked me in front of all the cousins whose mouths I left open—either with my broken Bangla or my matter of fact answer.
“Bahu-moni, come see all this.”
I smiled “Yes.”
“See, this is all that will accompany the girl. It is from our side of the family to the boy’s side. Look at this teak wood furniture. Look at this motorbike.”
Looking at a room full of gift-wrapped boxes I said the other Bangla word I had learned and used a lot: “Bhalo,” which means either “Wow” or “Good.”
“Isn’t it too much?”
My exact words were “Bhalo-e ache.” (It is nice only.)
“Did your family also give like this?”
I didn’t answer. I was trying to figure out if she really meant what I think it did in Bangla. Was she really asking me what my family had given me for my wedding? Was I being compared?
“Tell tell. Did your parents also give something or no?”
Why was she asking this? Nothing was asked from my family and yet so many things were given and in front of everyone. So why this question?
“What happened?” she continued to ask, pulling on my arm.
“Yes.” Words slipped me before my sense could stop them. “We gave furniture and utensils . . . and clothes and plants too.” My fingers did the counting as I dramatically told her my answer.
She said, “Bhalo,” and left the room.
To this date, I don’t even remember who else was present in the room to witness me losing my temper over something so trivial.
Personally, I don’t remember what I did next. I must have left the room. I don’t remember much from the wedding except for this instance, the instance when out of comparison I opened my mouth and lost everything.