by Rudy Ravindra
Ganesh said, “I got admission at Cleveland.”
“Great! Great! Congratulations!” Sivaram hugged his son. “This course, for how many years?”
“This is a program in biomedical engineering, about three years.”
Sivaram said, “Ganesh! You got a degree in electrical engineering. Why are you changing subjects now?”
“This is a very exciting area. Lots of scope. I can learn about instruments used in the medical field.”
* * *
“I think we should find a good girl for Ganesh, you know, before he goes to America. Then he won’t be snatched by those American women and get into bad habits.” For Subbulu, America was a cesspool of immoral, half-naked women who drank, danced, and debauched.
Sivaram laughed loudly. “Ha, ha, ha. That’s a joke. Forget about American girls, our own Indian girls won’t bother with him. He is so, so, so nerdy, a bookworm.”
Subbulu glared at her husband. “Hmm... not everyone is like you, chasing women. He’s a good boy, no bad habits, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke.”
* * *
Subbulu asked, “Ganesh, you have seen some very beautiful girls. But not even one appealed to you. What are you looking for?”
“I... I... I... think, she... she... she... should be modern.”
Subbulu was frustrated that a suitable girl could not be found. Time was rapidly running out. Ganesh was due to leave to America in a couple of months. She didn’t understand her son’s fascination with modern girls. It wasn’t clear to her what modern meant. Did it mean wearing those tight-fitting jeans and T-shirts and exposing all one had for the whole wide world to gape at? Did it mean chopping off one’s hair, getting one of those bob cuts, and hair falling all over the face? Did it mean drinking and dancing in those sleazy bars on Brigade Road?
She asked, “What’s this modern?”
Sivaram looked up from The Hindu. “It can mean many things, actually, for instance—”
Subbulu cut him off tersely. “I didn’t ask for a long lecture. Ganesh is so, so, so—”
Used to his wife’s brashness, Sivaram was unfazed. “I know, I know. Ganesh isn’t clear about what he wants.” He stroked his chin in a professorial manner, a trait he had picked up from a steady client at the university. “Let’s see, what if—”
Subbulu wrung her hands. “I wish that boy was not so difficult, all this America-going—”
Sivaram said, “Why don’t we let Ganesh meet a girl by himself? None of that old-fashioned stuff, the girl wearing a heavy silk sari, and all that gold jewelry. Let’s avoid the conventional approach of bride and groom meeting in a traditional setting, amidst parents, a bunch of aunts, uncles, and neighbors, watching each and every move of groom and bride. Just the boy and the girl, let them meet at a restaurant, you never know—”
Subbulu put her hands to her face. “Toba, toba, that’s not done, that’s against our customs.”
“We need to move with the times. There’s nothing wrong in a harmless meeting. C’mon, think modern.”
* * *
When Manjula, in stylish stilettos, like a model on the runway, putting one foot in front of the other and seductively swinging her shapely hips, sashayed into the posh West End tea lounge, Ganesh stared shamelessly.
Subbulu was all excited and was planning a grand wedding. She had compiled a long guest list. However, the family purohit said that, according to the Hindu calendar, there was not a single auspicious date for the next six months.
Subbulu said, “Sir, what is wrong with this calendar, not even one good date? Ganesh has to go to America in a month.”
“Madam, there is rahu kalam. You know it’s very, very bad. We can’t perform any auspicious events during this inauspicious period. Wait six months; everything will be okay.”
“But you are a learned man,” Subbulu said. “Find a date. Ganesh should be married now, not after six months.”
The purohit folded his hands and looked up as if he was conferring with God himself. After deep meditation for a few minutes, he emerged from his trance and shook his head vigorously from side to side. “I’m very sorry, madam, we can’t go against the rules. My sincere advice is to have a simple civil ceremony now. We will find a muhurtham after six months.”
* * *
In Cleveland, Ohio, Manjula was bored stiff, stuck in the tiny apartment the whole day, watching TV, and waiting for Ganesh to come home. And Ganesh didn’t know how to entertain his bride. He did not take her sightseeing, did not take her to a walk in the park, did not take her to an art museum, and did not even take her to the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He would come home late, tired after his classes and laboratory work. He would eat and watch dull programs on the Civil War or other American history. Before sleeping, he made love to her. No romantic music, no candlelight dinners, and no flowers, the things Manjula read about in Mills and Boon novels.
As his reading was strictly limited to engineering subjects, Ganesh just didn’t know anything about such things. In the darkness of their bedroom, he kissed her clumsily and did his thing. He did not know how to approach a woman with finesse, and did not peruse the Kama Sutra, the quintessential love manual for aficionados of amorous activities of all types.
He did not know how to arouse her with subtle strokes and smooches, and had no idea of her erogenous zones, let alone her G-spot and other mysterious aspects of the female body. Also, he was remote in his manner, always in his own world of computers and robotics. While she made it easy for him to penetrate her private portal, it was hard for her to decipher his motherboard.
The marriage failed due to a complete lack of communication. After a few months of the dull life, she flew back to her parents, to her familiar and comfortable world of Cox town, and to her Brigade Road gang.
* * *
When he knew for sure that she wasn’t going to return to Ohio, Ganesh cleared out Manjula’s chest of drawers, and packed her clothes: panties, bras, blouses, and T-shirts. At the bottom of a drawer was a strip of contraceptive pills.
To the best of his knowledge, she was not on those pills. They were manufactured in India, suggesting that Manjula must have purchased those pills while in India, long before their move to Ohio. While it didn’t prove anything, a suggestion presented itself that she had been screwing around before marriage. He was angry and jealous at the sight of those pills.
He remembered her aversion to condoms. At that time he was obtuse, but in view of this discovery, it made sense. She must have known how it felt without a condom. His naïveté was no match for her sophisticated moves, her hot kisses, and her sensual caresses. Now, he could only dream of the stunning, smart and sexy Manjula.
* * *
Hoping that the knowledge might help in his biomedical engineering field, Ganesh audited a biochemistry course. The more he listened to the attractive professor, the more enraptured he became. If only he tried to analyze his thought processes in a rational manner, he might have realized that his infatuation with this articulate red-head had superseded his interest in Biochemistry.
Professor Julia Mead asked, “What can I do for you? Aren’t you auditing my course?”
“Yes, Dr. Mead, I wanted to get an idea of this area. But after listening to your lectures, I feel, I like to, I like to, I mean, pursue it further.”
“I see, now you want to register for my course, so you can get credit?”
“I’m thinking of switching my major to biochemistry. Is it possible?”
She looked up at the ceiling as though seeking divine intervention. “Oh boy, this is very strange. This is a first for me.” She took out a file from a cabinet. “I see you are in the Biomedical Engineering program. That’s a pretty good field, plenty of good-paying jobs; you can work for a hospital or a pharmaceutical company. But Biochemistry, hmm, ah, umm, it’s very competitive. Also, the funding situation is getting worse. I don’t know, you are taking a big risk.” She shook her pretty head.
“Biochemistry is exciting. I’ll work hard.”
With Mead’s help, he registered for a few Biology courses. They were tough courses, and he felt like crying at the ordeal. He shuddered to touch the slimy earthworms and leeches and hated to dissect them. The thought that he should drop out of this drudgery never even entered his muddled mind, a mind that was so determined to impress his gorgeous instructor.
Little did she know how her student shivered when he had to euthanize a frog to study the nervous system or how his hands shook when he had to handle a harmless hamster.
Once he completed the required courses with reasonable grades, Mead suggested that he register for a Ph.D. program.
“Don’t I have to get a Master’s before I do a Ph.D.?”
“It’s not always necessary. I didn’t get one. I went straight into a Ph.D. program after my undergraduate degree. Of course, you need to take a qualifying exam. But I’m pretty sure you’ll pass.”
* * *
Mead enquired. “Ganesh, you are gonna defend your thesis soon, what are your plans?”
“I don’t know. Look for a job, I guess.”
“Well, I’ll be moving to the Bay area to head the drug discovery division at a pharmaceutical company. I’d like you to come with me. We can do some exciting work. Think about it. Okay?”
He was thrilled at the prospect of continuing his association with her. These past few years had reinforced his awe and ardor for her. But being timid and passive, he dared not express his desire. And that she was married further stifled his craving.
Still, he was content to admire her and was content with her approbation. It was enough that he interacted with her on a daily basis. It was enough that she appreciated his hard work and rewarded him with a dazzling smile or a pat on the back. He fantasized about what it might be like to kiss her and explore her hills and valleys.
* * *
Sivaram said, “It’s good to have you back. Oh, you put on weight. Building muscle, eh?”
Ganesh smiled shyly. “Yeah, my boss is a fitness freak. So, I had to, you know, join a gym.”
“Good, good. Now, I think you should start work at the factory. It’s time you join the family firm.”
“Dad, I’m going to work at a drug company in California, join R&D.”
“Drugs? You are an engineer. What do you know about drugs?” Sivaram was perturbed.
When Ganesh informed him about his Biochemistry degree, Sivaram had a fit. “What nonsense is this? I sent you to America to study engineering, and you waste your time there. Ganesh, when will you learn to settle down and be productive?” He went into his study and slammed the door shut.
Subbulu winced at the noise. “Once you take over the factory, your father plans to retire.”
“Santosh can be trained.”
“But you know how your brother is. He’s into too many sports, doesn’t get good marks.”
Ganesh smiled. “He doesn’t need good marks to run the factory.”
“Why go back to America? If you don’t like to manage the factory, you can find a teaching job, right?”
“Yes, Mom. But I got a good job in America.”
“Ganesh, this is your country, you have everything here. I hate for you to live in that faraway land, all alone. When do you plan to return?”
“I don’t know, Mom.”
“Hmm, at least get married before you go. There are many educated girls, we can fix you up quickly.”
“No, no. I’m scared of arranged marriages. You know what happened last time.”
“We were unlucky. That’s what we get with these modern girls. Modern, my foot! Manjula had the audacity to spread all those baseless rumors about you: you drank like a fish, went after women, hmm. I know you are well-behaved. Didn’t even have a girlfriend, like some of your cousins. Always buried in your books. You know, I thank the good Lord that we did not squander money on a lavish wedding ceremony, and the jewelry I planned to give her is still with me.” She sighed.
* * *
Copyright © 2017 by Rudy Ravindra