A short story by Nimarta Narang

I quickly take a peek at the mirror and see sweat already faintly gathering in the armpit of my blouse. I take a quick whiff – strong notes of the heavily doused Impulse spray along with hints of the humid air and my body odour. Basically temple smell so I’m still safe.

“Maya, hurry up we have to go see the bride” my mum calls out. Before I even fully turn to my sister to ask for the bride’s name, she blurts out her full biodata and info on how we’re related to the family - my very own ESPN, but for the South Asian marriage circuit. She also tells me my bra is showing, and that I should have worn a nude colour to match my yellow kurti and salwar. I make a point to leave it
out for the world to see.

“Oh Tina, you are looking so good! Your daughters are so grown up!” one of the myriads of aunties tells my mum. I give the quick, “Satsriakal ji” greeting and smile, and my sister does the same. Dad says smiling is usually a good response to a comment on how grown-up we look, lest we say something to dispel that illusion. The
aunty gives us a quick scan and she lingers on my bra strap. As soon as she is out of sight, mum violently adjusts my blouse to hide my strap. My third-wave feminism has to wait for now.

Where are you?? I’m so bored. Jai’s text arrives just on time. I tell him to meet us on the fifth floor as Mum wants to hang with the bride and her crew, but he tempts me with chai. One quick stop, I tell Mum. She rolls her eyes but catches herself before she ruins her expertly done eyes that took the makeup artist an hour to
do.

“Yo, you saved me only one?” I tell Jai when I see him.

“The uncle was staring at me for taking two. I don’t want him to talk to my father about dieting.” Fair enough.

“So where’s your mum?” I ask as I grab two more samosas. He was not wrong about that damn uncle. I decide to grab another one.

“With your mum only. These sisters travel in packs.”

“Speaking of, we should probably head upstairs. I want to see the bride’s outfit.”

“50 Baht it’s pink.” he mutters under his breath.

Lo and behold, I now owe him 50 baht. And it’s not just vanilla pink, it’s that damn fluorescent pink that is now in style after that actress wore it in that one film last year. To complement the outfit, the bride’s makeup rests on her face like cake frosting. I can tell she was already naturally beautiful but this was just a makeup artist’s work on drugs. Too much eye makeup, countouring, bronzing, and all the
other ‘ings’ that come. But wait, I must not judge. Her day, her life, her choice.

“Oh Maya is looking so grown up these days” some aunty remarks. She does that same full body scan with her eyes, classic aunty move, and shuffles around her chunni to hide her chai bump. She looks at another aunty who smirks and nods in agreement. I return a smile and say “that’s what happens when you grow up.” I almost
add that my tits finally arrived last year but my mum’s glare shuts me down.

“You should have told her she looks so old these days.” This is why I bring Jai with me to these things.

The sister walks over to us to bask in the judgment hour. Which aunty is next, she asks? The one in the dirt-brown sari much too tight for her? The one with the purple lipstick? The one with a beehive hairdo? Jai, the sister, and I start snickering and are silenced by his mum’s glare.

“So Maya! What are you up to these days?” the purple lipstick aunty asks while snagging my last samosa. Gossip goes hand in hand with samosas and chai with these people.

“Finished second year of Uni. Going to Oxford next year for my year abroad actually!” I announce. The parents have finally given me permission to tell. It’s all political.

“Oh Oxford….” She falls silent as she eyes her daughter ten feet away.

“But it’s only a study abroad program right? Not like you’re taking real Oxford classes?” the beehive aunty chimes in.

“Yes, going to Oxford means taking real classes aunty. We can’t all stay at home and eat samosas right?” I eye the purple lipstick aunty. Ah, bit harsh. I grab a plastic cup of water nearby to cleanse my mouth. I see my mom’s mouth almost curl into a smile but she stops herself. I’ll take it as a win.

“Nice one.” Jai tells me, and my sister nods as well. The aunties leave us to concentrate on the bride. I take this opportunity to gaze at the other aunties, their hairdos, frosting adorned faces, and tightly clad saris. It’s a beautiful sight, until someone opens their mouth.

“Ready for your wedding night?” a cheeky cousin of the bride’s asks. I like her.

“Omg shush Ria!” I don’t even know how it is biologically possible for the bride’s face to go even pinker.

“What is this now?” another aunty tries to probe. I roll my eyes and Jai giggles.

“We don’t even know more than half these people.” I tell him.

“What to do? Our mums do.” The sister agrees.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!” An overly
enthusiastic friend of the bride exclaims. She brings in a three-tiered birthday cake that seems much too white for a South Asian setting. But it has dairy and it’s a big hit with the aunties anyway. They all huddle over the cake and begin squeaking about how scrumptious it looks. A bit of back and forth ensues as they claim to not even
want even one bite but come on, we all know that is just a formality. I see you, aunty.

“Renu, this cake is marvelous” The purple lipped aunty remarks. I notice my half-eaten samosa nestled next to the cake.

“Maya, have some?” My mom hands me her leftovers. Classic mom move giving me the rest whilst having barely a bite. I share it with Jai and I eye the purple lipstick aunty scanning our plates.

“How exciting that Rachna is getting married on her birthday! Any plans for after the reception?” The beehive aunty asks. That hairdo really moves with her as she speaks.

“Well, we’re thinking of getting a birthday cake with candles to be put in their honeymoon suite so she can blow the candles with her husband!” the bride’s mum goes.

“Well, that’s not the only thing she’ll be blowing tonight” I snicker to Jai. Unfortunately, a little too loudly. The purple lipstick aunty drops her spoonful of frosting, and the cake goes down along with it. And then the samosa falls. My mum surprisingly looks calm but it may be the calm before the storm. Jai, shell-shocked, guffaws but quickly straightens himself. The sister does a full 180 turn away and the
bride and her mum stare at me.

“Sorry… blowing what?” an older aunty who has probably never seen a vibrator asks.

“Balloons, aunty, balloons” Jai offers. I start laughing. He starts laughing. Then bride’s friend starts laughing. Soon someone’s phone rings and the room is brought back to life. Oh, thank god.

Mum looks at me and I leave – I needn’t be told twice. Jai follows suit and so does the sister. I’m already not looking forward to the parental scolding tonight.

Born and raised in Thailand to a South Asian family, Nimarta Narang has now lived in Bangkok, Boston, Oxford, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. Her favorite past-times include drinking chai, reading up on psychology, and sassing aunties and uncles alike. Catch her derping around on Instagram here.  

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