Smiles all around.
"Thank you and haha! We actually got up late today, there was just enough time for all of us to take a bath, forget breakfast!"
Typical Amma. She would rather walk on a bed of nails than admit that she (and her daughters) actually made an effort to look good. If whatever she told each nice maami everytime they paid a compliment were true, then apparently we all just wake up every morning with perfectly set hair, blemish free skin, and in my case, minty green eyepencil-led eyes.
"Haha! Lovely to see you all. Tell your husband I said hello. How is his health these days?"
"Oh yes, I will. His health is okay, he's been doing all that he can to keep his sugar under control, work has been hectic."
"Ofcourse!" chimed in Harrods maami from nowhere. "Isn't that why she is doing CA? Taking up her fathers empire, such a responsible daughter you have!"
We repeated our well rehearsed smiles. Oh-I'm-so-unaware-of-my-own-daughter-raising-skills-so-thanks-for-pointing-it-out smile for Amma, the oh-I'm-so-unaware-of-my-own-sense-of-responsibility-so-thanks-for-pointing-it-out smile for me and the oh-I'm-so-proud-of-my-big-sister-and-I-think-she-is-amazing-and-supercute smile for my sister.
Well, maybe not the last one.
"How old are you?" Abhiramapuram maami, who had only been a silent spectator so far, joined in the conversation.
"I'm going to be 22 this March"
"Knowing your parents, they'll try to marry you off when you're 23-24. Don't settle."
"What?" I laughed nervously, and noticed the strain that was starting to creep up on my mother's smile. Clearly, Abhiramapuram maami didn't know Amma.
"These arranged marriages - who knows what you're going to get yourself into? I say, it's about time you went out and found your own man - a man you know will like you for who you are. Someone you can talk to, you know, someone who knows you and will stick with you no matter what; and one that meets your parent's expectations! I'm sure you're mature enough to pick well."
Mature, apparently. Abhiramapuram maami didn't know my mother, and clearly she didn't know me either.
"I know it's not that easy, but it's not that difficult! Start searching now, you're young and you're capable of handling all this! Besides, everyone's...what's it called, dating, no?"
Now that she had mentioned the D word, the little brain cells in my head switched to panic mode. If that Maami kept going on about me finding a boyfriend in front of my mother, as Russell Peters would say, somebody gonna get a-hurt real bad!
"Ehe, Aunty I don't know if I have the time for all this" I started.
"Time?! Sweetheart you're twenty one! You have all the time in the world! Wait until you're 27, 28 to be married- It's only by that time you'll be independant and levelheaded enough to make the decision."
I flashed back to 2 weeks ago, when I had just come back home from yet another haircut and Amma had predicted that I would be baldheaded by the time I was 28.
Just as I was about to make a Crazy Mohan-esque "Level headed illa, baldheaded" type joke in a somewhat desperate attempt to shift topics, I turned to see my mother with her eyes mildly welling up. She had very obviously been thinking of me getting married at 28. With a bald head.
"Think about it, ok? I'm sure your mother will agree, w-"
"This is such a pretty saree!" interrupted Harrods Maami, in what could only be termed as a divine intervention.
My mother immediately picked up the cue. "Oh, I got it for her for Deepavali. She's wearing it only now. In fact, she only agreed to come to the function because she could dress up! She had been complaining for a long time. You know how it is with her internship, she only wears Kurtas, never gets a chance to dress up."
"Yes Aunty. And this is such a nice shade of pink, no?" I contributed.
"Yes, yes it is. Ok, Habba, she left. Don't listen to her, okay. Listen to me, I will give you advice."
I immediately activated the laser jets which were cleverly embedded in my heels and flew out of the scene. Or I wanted to, but nodded instead. I know, I'm lame.
"She is young, so she has all these ideas in her head. We know our families and how they operate. They will not agree to all this dating, calendar and all."
"Yes, tell her! Find your own boy it seems." It was pretty obvious whose side my mother was on.
"I say, let your parents search. You can pick what you like, no? I'm sure you'll have a long line. Look at you, you're so young and pretty. Get married at 23 - 24 only. I mean, who knows how long you'll be nice looking!"
The next time I feel like dressing up, I'm going to wear a Saree and sit at home.