Even though it’s a hundred degrees outside, he is dressed up in his suit and a tie. His brother and his friend accompanying him not so. Only slight comfort from the heat comes from the ceiling fan whirring up above. They are surrounded by the male members of the girl’s family, involved in animated chit-chat about the way of living between the east and the west. The young man, let’s call him Manoj, is, if not exactly nervous, is a bit fidgety. After all, this is one of the most important moments of his life that would define the rest of it.

Waiting in the inner room and in the kitchen are the females of her family. Kajal is dolled up in her best sari and the glittery jewelry like a Bollywood starlet. When an appropriate amount of time has passed, as if on a stage managed prompt, she walks slowly towards the living room with other women following. Her hands slightly shake as she tries to balance a snack tray with cups of tea already poured in, and little dishes and bowls filled with Monaco crackers, Glucose biscuits, home made chivda and sev, penda and other sweetmeats bought from the best Punjabi halwai.

Anxious, her heart is filled with the fear of unknown and yet she feels incredibly excited as she walks across the hall and places the tray on a low table next to the man who could become her husband. Her head is partially covered by the end of her sari. Her eyes are lowered. She raises them as discreetly as she could to get a closer look at the young man she has already seen photos of and glanced at from the slight opening of the door from the inner room. He is allowed to be a bit more obvious in raising his eyes and taking her face in and whatever else he is able to discern of the rest of her torso covered by her sari.

Whatever the outcome, this has got to be one of the most thrilling moments of their lives. They may choose to meet once again and sit face-to-face in a café for small talk, mostly accompanied by a friend or two, who may discreetly excuse themselves for a short while, giving the two some private moments.

Let’s suppose that everything goes well and both families pop a rock of sugar in their mouths to celebrate forging of this new lifelong union. Now there are only a couple of weeks left for Manoj to hurry through the rest. First of all, to get married. As importantly, to apply for the papers for now his wife to come and join him in Canada. Both of the families switch to the whirlwind gears. The wedding is arranged, hundreds of friends and relatives have blessed the couple. The days filled with lots of laughters and happiness. And then they see him off Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. His face smeared with vermilion, flower garlands hanging around his neck and a coconut in his hands, which he must discard before landing at his destination. Go back to his job and wait for the immigration formalities to clear and wait for his bride to join him.

‘Come with me and let’s see what we can do.’ I say and pick up her shoulder bag and return to the lounge with Kajal in tow. The receptionist is hesitant to allow her in but seeing that I am Lufthansa’s gold status Senator, she reluctantly allows me to bring her in as my guest. Settling her on a couch and getting her some chips, nuts and Coke, I let her tell her story.

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