Considering Father’s origins of a backwards village, only by a narrow opportunistic chance my father entered college, where he met Ma. Her parents frowned on the courtship. His low caste and borderline illiterate in-laws would never be a match for Ma—educated in the best private schools to be a successful, modern daughter. Grandma doubted him as the type preying on successful women—expecting a glorified mother-type rather than wife. Would he ask for a large dowry? He dare not or they’d have him killed instantly— as swatting a pesky mosquito. Paying a bribe for a gunman was not that hard.
Grandma’s suspicions dispelled when she heard about Dad landing a position in a prestigious company. After hearing many more favorable words about him she agreed. Both Grandma and Grandpa blessed their marriage. In no time, he reached the top of the company, and then gets a chance to settle in the suburb of Bellevue.
Growing up, Father always bragged about his working his way up to success, despite his village background. “You girls have no idea about poverty.”
I listened while painting my nails a Plumeria shade.
“You don’t understand the small chance… Aye, why is this tea not strong enough?” Reaching for another tea bag, he continued to emphasize the difficulties of admission to a college in India. Every time I heard similar tales from older people it seemed as though a camel passing through a needle. The more stories I heard it was not just that. It was like catching a last boat if you miss it you are stranded and staring off to the sea of future, only imagining what could happen. If he couldn’t pass college, he couldn’t get an impressive career to impress Ma’s parents.
His words resonated, “My parents would have set me up with some girl from a nearby village. We would never be here. Understand?” He wanted to continue to holding me from flying out of America by myself. Ideally, at least right after college he prefered that I stayed within the borders.
Ma remarked, “You nuh, people from around the world come to America for opportunities, while you can’t wait to jump on a plane to the East. What are you looking for, anyway?”
“There’s nothing exciting here. I want an adventure.”
“Nothing exciting. Aye, what nonsense!” Dad shakes his head. “Why can’t you settle here? There are good schools here where you can get a good salary, tenure and benefits.”
A week later, Ma casually mentioned marriage, which should come right after graduation and a career. “You must also start thinking about marriage. You’re at the right age. It’s good for a woman to be choosy but you don’t even seem interested at all. You turn everyone down. How else will you find your suitable boy?”
I cringed and took another sip of tea. “I haven’t clicked with anyone.”
“Others asked about you, at Anita’s engagement party. You nuh…Arranged marriage. We’re not strict on tradition, you nuh. I’m fully fine with you dating… Are you taking time off relationships?”
I nodded. Career success was always like second skin. I never understood love. I always described love as a contraption like a tight dress about two sizes smaller that wraps the body possessively, restricting movement and badly-fitting for my type.
I ended up departing from the US mostly because of Emily from Trenton. She connected me to her old friend, a guidance counselor of that prestigious Singaporean boarding school. Good pay and reputation was hard to come by. It would be absurd to not take hold of opportunity’s hand extended towards me.