“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
The living room was spacious and clean. Two red color sofa, one single, another long enough for three people to sit and a teapoy were placed in the middle. There was a medium sized dining table at the far end of the room. It was a rented family apartment with three bedrooms and a kitchen. The four of them sat there chatting, hopping from topic to topic. The elder man was the host, the high school boy was his youngest son and the two young men were the guests.
The host's wife, a pleasant and graceful, slim and smiling lady joined the conversation in between her breaks from the kitchen. The husband wore a red T-shirt and pant. He looked much younger than his years. He was nearing fifty five and she was 45. They were an easy going couple. The conversation was largely jocular and easy going. It was obvious that both the husband and wife were very loving and caring for each other and for their children.
Bowing to his father’s words, the boy brought a family vacation trip photo album to show the guests. Most of the photos were taken in the backdrop of the Taj Mahal and its vicinity. Beside the handsome couple, three of their children were also seen in the photos. The eldest was a daughter and two boys below. The boys looked naughty while the daughter looked lovely and modern. She had a look of self-confidence and new-age, liberated womanliness. She wore light blue jeans and white koorta and her bob-cut hair appeared unruly and bubbly around her bright face.
“We had this journey four years ago” explained the man in his husky voice. And he narrated the unforgettable long journey and its experiences in details. At that moment there was a knock on the door. The boy opened the door. In came, like a breeze, a beautiful young girl who looked below twenty. Her lovely figure and charming face captivated the guests for a while. She had that beautiful smile revealing her white teeth that would linger on the minds of the other person even after the the meeting was long over. It was the daughter, the one they saw in the photo. This time her appearance was completely different because she was wearing an overall traditional black dress. Though it was in contrast to her image in the photo, she was yet the more scintillating.
She glanced at the strangers sitting on the sofa and exchanged a few words of brief formal introductions, then disappeared to her room. Though the young men wondered whether she would show up once more, she was never seen again,
Then it was time for the dinner. Delicious Kerala style, vegetable dishes were served. The temptation of a nice homely food made the guests forget formalities, in addition with the hosts' insistence to serve them more. After having the food and some more talking, the guests took their leave and said good bye to the family. The host, a complete believer in perfect hospitality and politeness, walked with the guests along the way to show them off.
While walking beside, his low, husky voice became still huskier and sadder. His daughter’s persistent refusal to give consent to find her a life partner was the prime reason for his melancholy. Even though she looked much younger than her age, he said she was twenty six in fact. She had a good education and now she has a well paid job and a prospective best possible career ahead. What she was missing at this stage was a loving and caring life partner. Whenever her mom and dad tried to bring this matter to her attention, she smartly managed to evade the issue altogether. This, in turn made the couple restless in their wakeful and sleeping hours. It had already taken a toll on both of their health too.
“She is our precious child. I wish if she only knew the depth of a parents' sorrow seeing their grown up daughter being single. Still, I hope that she would realize our feelings one day or another, but I'm afraid that it would be too late.” He said slowly and sadly in a broken voice.
The father being a heart patient and mother very much shaky in her fragile health, these words would have been enough to melt the daughter’s heart if she were to put things in perspective.
Under the surface of the obvious happiness and bliss, it seemed there was an undercurrent of tension and confusion that made the paradise of a family sail through uncertain waters and sleepless nights.