I turn around and see that striding behind me hurriedly is a skinny young Indian woman – sort of pretty and petite, probably weighing no more than 90 pounds (41 kg.). In her early twenties, she is dressed in the traditional sari. She is almost limping, trying to keep balance between what seems like a heavy carry on bag on one shoulder and her purse dangling down from the other. Both of them are precariously close to slipping off her shoulders and thump on the ground. She is wearing a pair of red chappals – the light weight Indian sandals. I notice the orange-red outlining the bottom of her feet and intricate mehandi motif applied to the top of them. Her hands too are mehandi covered on both sides. Climbing up her hands almost up to her elbow are clanging multi-colored glass bangles intermingled with thin gold bracelets. Her forehead is daubed with overlapping multiple vermilion tikas, to which a few grains of rice still adhere.

I stop and respond ‘Yes?’

‘Help me uncle, please!’ she looks scared and disoriented, giving me a confused look. Sensing the question what? on my face, she somehow manages to put down her carry on and fishes out of her purse a crumpled little booklet of the old fashioned hand written on flimsy sheets of the paper flight ticket and hands it to me.

‘See, please see!!’ It becomes apparent to me that she doesn’t speak much of English, so I switch to Hindi. She seems to understand it a bit better, but not quite. From her darker skin and the features, I place her somewhere in the country in Maharashtra, outside of Mumbai. She is from Pune. I switch to my limited fluency of Marathi to which she responds with a sigh of relief. I glean from her itinerary that she boarded the Air India flight from Bombay bound for Rome, and from here she is to continue on to Montreal. I look at the departure time on the ticket and realize that her scheduled flight has long left. I quickly glance at the flipping departure board, it’s already close to five in the afternoon and there are no more north America bound flights scheduled that day. Actually, there aren’t many flights scheduled to go anywhere for a while. Other than a lone passenger walking past here and there, it’s just the two of us standing in the middle of the wide passage.

‘You know that your flight has already left?’

‘Has it? No, it can’t be.’ And then I see the expressions on her face change from disbelief to dismay to I don’t know what to do helplessness.

‘Uncle, uncle, please help me.’ She urges. Her face contorted on the verge of breaking down in a cry. She obviously has no clue as how to negotiate her situation and/or what to do next.

‘It’s alright. Don’t worry. We’ll figure something out.’ I try to comfort her. I still don’t know what though! But as we stand there for a couple of undecided and uncomfortable minutes, the whole scenario unfolds in the front of my eyes.

She is newly married. Probably plucked hastily from a bevy of eligible suitable young candidates by a newly graduated and a year or so in his well paying job as an engineer in one of the western countries. The usual routine would be: a brilliant young man graduates from prestigious school in India, enrolls and is admitted for the post-graduate studies abroad, most probably in America. Alternately in England, Germany or Canada. Earns his Master’s degree, probably with honors and is offered a job. It takes him a year or two to feel settled, acquire his Green Card or an equivalent thereof from the respective country, and has saved up enough money to take a month long trip back home in quest of finding a mate. His family has lined up several prospective brides from other compatible families for him to see and to consider.

I imagine him making rounds of their homes in company of a close friend and couple of his own family members. I imagine one of them being the home of the young woman, standing in front of me, whose name I know from her ticket is Kajal. Sitting in her parent’s living room is the man she may or may not marry, depending on how they like each other, and if from a conservative family, whether or not their astrological charts concur.

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