| Ashvani Sachdev | April 2024 | Flash Fiction |

Since her move to London, this was the first time that Simran had sent a WhatsApp message as a prelude to her weekly call asking if she could make a video call instead of a voice call. The moment I saw the message, my mother’s intuition warned me that something was not right. At the appointed hour (for which I had waited with bated breath), Simran appeared on the screen, her head upright, chin thrust out, a smile precluded by pursed lips. Her first words, obviously a prepared speech, walloped me somewhere in my midriff, leaving me short of breath and of any response — suitable or otherwise.

Getting married? Without consulting me? I could have taken that in my stride. To someone I did not know and had never met? No problem. To a non-Punjabi and a non-Hindu? I could have swallowed that too. But the knockout punch was that her fiancé was, in fact, a fiancée!

Unable to speak, I looked away from my mobile screen to Gobind’s picture on the wall, the wood rose garland accentuating his absence from my world. A torrent of uncontrolled tears poured out of my eyes and blurred Gobind’s visage, even as I discerned the portents of an incipient panic attack. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, recalling how that had helped me in similar situations earlier.

Simran was quiet, and I imagined her muzzy face watching me from the screen. In my mind, I struggled to envision what Gobind’s reaction would have been. How would he have taken this news? Would he have accepted Simran’s decision as a fait accompli? Or would he have endeavoured to enforce a more socially acceptable state of affairs? I wished fervently that he was there; he would have known exactly what to do while I was floundering and irresolute. I looked at his framed picture out of the corner of my eye. But he just smiled noncommittally.

I wiped my eyes repeatedly with the heels of my palms, not bothering to look for a tissue or a hanky, and opened my eyes, forcing myself to look at Simran. I had to be strong. I was the head of the family now. And Simran owed me the right for me to take such fateful decisions in her life. “Beta,” I had always addressed her by the masculine vocative and now the irony of the context accosted me, “I am shocked and dismayed by this silly decision. You should have discussed this with me before you committed yourself to it.”

Simran waited patiently for me to finish and said, “Mom, the world has changed considerably and same sex marriages are accepted socially and legally.”

Her placid countenance annoyed me. I wanted her to be rude, to rebel, to accuse me of being dictatorial and hopelessly conservative, so that I could vent my anger at her in retort. But her serenity had me non-plussed.

I started, “I don’t care what the world says but in India………”

She butted in, “Exactly, mom. I too don’t care what the world says. And speaking of caring, I know you care for me and that is why you are concerned about my decision. But I assure you, I have thought about it at great length and am fully prepared for the consequences. The decision itself could not hold any unpleasant upshots, it is the aftermath of announcing it to our relatives and friends in India that disturbs you. But again, as I said, I don’t care, and neither should you. And if any of our oldie and fussy relatives have anything to say, let them have the guts to say it to my face.”

Her intensity was infectious, and her maturity in approaching the subject of “what they will say” quite convincing. I found myself veering towards her viewpoint but a suspicion nagged at my mind that I really had no other alternative to coming around to her stance. After all, she was an adult, she was financially independent, and she was thousands of miles away in London where same sex marriages were pretty commonplace and unquestionably licit.

Nevertheless, I told her I would think about it some more and we could speak again in a day or two. My mother’s pride was somewhat assuaged by not giving in docilely and deferring a decision that something within me wanted me to oppose vehemently, I looked at Gobind and his smile. Already my mind was assembling the arguments and justifications I would need when announcing Simran’s decision as having my unadulterated and unequivocal blessing. After all, marriages are made in heaven.


Ashvani has more than forty years of experience in aviation, holds four masters’ degrees, and is fond of writing. He has published one book, one monograph and numerous articles in professional journals.

He was awarded the Ruskin Bond Promising Writer Runner Up Award at the 2023 Dehradun Literature Festival. He enjoys writing and is working on a novel, a novella, and a short story book. 


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