Chapter 4: The Cow Stood in the Middle of the Road

Read Chapter 3 here.

The cow stood in the middle of the road.

Now, lunch hour at Trinity circle was a riot, even without Pinky gesticulating angrily from the car.  The traffic police was absent, as was his replacement, and the traffic signals were reinterpreted as per everybody’s convenience.

The presence of a cow, holy or otherwise, was not alarming and seemingly more of a challenge for the motley of expert auto wallas, bikes, cars, and sometimes trucks and buses.

Pinky wasn’t in the said class of expertise, and sat behind the wheels of her car, wearing an expression more suitable for a Calculus exam that she’d been surprised with.  The mobile phone that sat on the dashboard vibrating away, was not helping her case.  Accha calling, it nagged.

Why did her father always choose the worst times to call? Knowing his capacity for hyperbole, he probably wanted to know if he could start printing wedding cards, and what she thought of baby names like Pinshu or Vinky or some godforsaken combination of their names. She ignored the call and focused on not barfing.

She attempted to maneuver the car, through a non-existent portal between the bikes that whizzed through and the ass of the cow, which was facing her, a perfect dung filled hole of flies.  Now, the magical theory of Indian traffic stated that if she kept moving, a path would form on its own. She’d not attempted it yet, but there was a first time for everything, and time was running short.

Achcha calling, her dashboard indicated by threatening to push her phone over and pretend it was accidental.

The cow suddenly whirled, as if in a moment of divine inspiration. A whole 90 degree in Indian traffic was a moment of bravado even inside a vehicle, leave alone with your own body.  The vehicles around fell apart and scattered, like an ocean splitting into two for the Lord himself.  And the cow’s face covered her windshield, its eyes threatening a reckoning.

“Stupid Cow,” screamed Pinky at it, realizing that she’d been checkmated, forward the animal, and behind the honking vehicles, and not an inch left for her car to move. Her hand flung to her mouth suddenly, at the same time the cows eyes locked into hers.  Now she’d gone and done it!

“Forgive me” she begged, kissing first the idol on the dashboard, and the cupping her hands to the cow.  She didn’t need the Karmic point reduction associated with pissing off a cow.

The phone at the feet of the idol buzzed again, divine prodding to answer her father’s call.  The cow’s eyes concurred.  Well, there was nowhere she could go now.  She picked the call, in the middle of a green signal.

“Acchcha, I am in a meeting,” she said, automatically.

“But Pinky mole, this will only take a minute!” her father fathers voice streamed in painfully cheerful.

The cow had flicked a huge blob of saliva right onto her windshield.  It was a trajectory that could give birth to a new Vedic Physics, thought Pinky. “Stop doing that, stupid!!”  she shouted.

“Pinky?” said her father.

“Sorry Achcha, this cow…”

“You have a cow at your meeting?” said her father.

“No…Forget it.  Tell me Achcha…what happened?”

“Well, you tell me!”  said Achcha.  “Did you like the boy?  I know his dad is a bit difficult, but you and Vishnu will be off to the US of A! So who cares.  And the boy seems so well mannered….don’t you think Mole?”

Her father had many defects, but his worst trait was his bubbling optimism. It was like a rainbow with one end in cotton candy and the other in the devil’s storm.  She looked at the cow and mouthed Help, but the cow was chewing on what looked like a piece of grass that had materialized out of nowhere, as calm as he would be in a paddy field. So much for divine interest in her life.

“Accha…I don’t know what to say to you…” she said.

“Ohh…that’s OK.  Your mother was as shy as you were.  Sat on the bed on our first night and twisted her pallu around my fingers until they hurt and burnt.“

The visual of her shy mother was not helpful.

“But not to worry” her father continued, “I will list down all the qualities the boy has.  And then I will let you decide, because as you youngsters say, it is your life, isn’t it?  We only want what is best for you.”

Pinky sighed, but not with relief. There was nothing comforting in her father’s attempt to be modern, “OK Achcha,” she said.

“To begin with, he has a job in America! A luxurious house in a wonderful locality, quite close to Jisha’s place.  You girls can meet all the time!  Fair-skinned, well mannered, Green card, and Oh…did you know he has a Benz car?”

Pinky rolled down her window, tried to wipe her sloppy dashboard, “Yes Achcha.  I was informed.”

“Sooo?”  asked Achcha.

She turned on the wiper. It droned, as if drowning in the quicksand. Silence from her end was dangerous, and had a tendency to be interpreted, most likely as shyness.  “Achcha….I don’t like him.“

The cow chewed at her with disapproval.

“I see.  I see.” her father said. His voice had dropping a few tones, like a distant rumble of thunder, “Pinky, tell me…how old are you?”

“Twenty-six,” she replied, her throat suddenly dry as twigs at a pyre.

“26.  Hmm…and next year…how old are you going to be….” One could take her father’s tone to be pleasantly inquisitive, like he was at your doorstep for population stats.

“I…27…” She said her lines in auto-pilot.

“Good, very good.  Your age is not reducing in anyway, you know this?  No updates in anti-aging technology, no? Because I am an old man, I don’t know how the youth think.  And, I’m not very clear about your attitude.”

The conversation turn was expected.  And Pinky pulled her shoulders in, as if cocooning herself into a supposed safe place, when the storm would hit.  Then she heard the chewing, the cow had retrieved her bag, and begun to gulp it like it was a bovine burger. “Stop that!” she screamed, and tugged at the bag.

“Pinky?” her father’s voice streamed like a knife through the phone, “Do you want me to stop worrying about my own daughter?  Do you even begin to understand the pain of a parent who worries of his daughter’s future?”

“No Achcha..” said Pinky.

“Exactly!”

“No Achcha…I mean…I was talking to the cow…”

“You are talking to a cow when….oh god…can someone help this girl.  Drive some sense into her.  You know Kumuda’s son Suhaas. He is getting married.  Marrying the girl that Kumuda found. None of this chatting, watting, on phone business, rejecting each other….I don’t like that..i don’t like this. No, you take what you are given.  Or you get a tight slap.  That’s Kumuda’s style.  And now she is reaping gold. And I mean that literally.“

Pinky tried to pull the bag out of the cow’s mouth.  The cow looked at her in what could only be disbelief.   It was being robbed of food in broad daylight by a puny mortal.

“And just for curiosity, Pinky.  Tell me why you don’t like the boy?  He satisfies that long list of criteria you gave us.  His accent his good. He walks decently.  He’s got good hair. Lives abroad, so you ‘get away from all this’.  His father even likes music.  I mean…what more are you asking for?”

She had wrenched her bag free, and it dripped now with cow spit, the stench of digested grass, and accompanied by a fly that alternated between perching on the bag and tickling Pinky’s nose. “Its not that I don’t like him Acchcha.  I just don’t want to get married to him.  He’s…a bit…boring.”

“He’s boring?” breathed her father, as the horns blared from behind.  The cow mooed at her through the window, its mouth almost at her ears.

“You talked to him…once.” Said Achcha, as the the cow dawdled away, definitely disappointed in Pinky, clearing the traffic and starting the horn fest.

“Acchcha…I have to go…”

“What exactly do you think of yourself, Pinky?” asked her father, as she tried to ride with the phone balancing between her ear and her neck.  “That you are some beauty queen?  You are Aishwarya Rai? That you have something that the boy doesn’t?  Well, I have news for you girl.  That boy has everything.  Vishnu has everything.  And you….” His voice hissed like the curse of a snake God, “You have…Nothing. And you will bring me nothing but Shame“

His words fell on her like an expletive, and she felt them stab at her.  He was only reacting emotionally, she tried to tell herself.  But the cold wave had gripped her body, like she was being frozen alive.

“By the way” said her father, “Sampath had called.”

She drove through the office gate.  Sampath had been in discussion with her father for many days.  Secret meetings with the leery astrologer never boded well. “What does he want?” said Pinky.

“He checked your charts.  I knew it for a while.  But I didn’t want to scare you.  I thought you were a sensible girl.  But you leave me no choice.  I cannot protect you from this.” He sighed deeply, like a doctor proclaiming an illness, “Jupiter is leaving your house.  Shani and Rahu are entering.” His voice choked and his words seemed louder than the damn horns around, “You have only until November child.  You must be married before that. The stars are clear on that.”

Read Chapter 5 here.

 

 

 

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