“Oh oh, I’ll be dancing with myself
Oh oh, I’ll be dancing with myself
Oh oh oh-oh
Well, there’s nothing to lose and there’s nothing to prove
When I’m dancing with myself”
Kimmy Sahni leapt across the length of her room, swaying to the beat of Billy Idol’s iconic number. The upbeat music and consequent release of endorphins always cheered her up. After the yelling match with her mother today, she definitely needed some cheering up.
Adjusting to living with her parents in Delhi had not been easy. When she first moved back 10 months ago, just before lockdown was imposed, she hadn’t realised the long-term effects of this move. The feeling of being caged kept increasing as the months wore on, with no real outlet to let off steam. The move had been a collective family decision, as 34-year-old Kimmy was the youngest of the three Sahni offspring and the only one as yet single and unattached. She came to care for her ageing parents Brigadier Baljit Singh Sahni and Rosie Sahni, but hadn’t realised that being boxed in for months with them would turn into such an ordeal.
Kimmy had always been close to her parents and was particularly proud of being the apple of her father’s eye. In the larger scheme of things, she knew her relations with them were healthy and full of love. However, sharing space with them after a gap of many years had proved to be very tiresome. It had been made amply clear to her that the household functioned according to her parent’s timings, and though indulgent of her sloppy and lazy habits, they never refrained from commenting or berating her about them. Every morning, when Kimmy emerged from her room, she was immediately asked the reason for being late. Every night, her mother would quietly knock on her door, having seen the light peeking through, and remind her to sleep on time so she could join them for breakfast the next day. And every day, this cycle would repeat itself.
For 10 years, Kimmy had lived alone in Vancouver, on her own terms. Though she undoubtedly felt lonely at times, she had appreciated not having to answer to anyone for her actions and lifestyle. Having been raised in a regimented home with her loving but strict parents, she had cherished the freedom that allowed her sensitive and creative nature to flourish.
As if the nagging wasn’t enough, a new problem raised its head a couple of months ago. Kimmy’s cousin Gulpreet got engaged to a boy she had known for just 3 months through an online matchmaking service. Gul, as she was known in the family, was 6 years younger than Kimmy, and according to her mother Rosie, ‘not even half as pretty’. Gul’s mother particularly enjoyed gloating about the upcoming marriage to her sister-in-law Rosie, who took it as a personal affront. She couldn’t stomach the idea that her beautiful, intelligent, successful and independent daughter remained unmarried when less worthy candidates surged past her in this department. As a Brigadier’s wife, she wasn’t one to let things go lightly. Before long, she made it her mission to find a suitable match for Kimmy in 2021. And so began the unending round of arguments and disagreements.
Kimmy was genuinely happy for her cousin but hadn’t anticipated this reaction from her mother. In her early 20s, Kimmy had met and dated a number of eligible suitors, some through her parents’ connections and some through friends. After a string of bad relationships and toxic fights, she had decided to leave Delhi and its narrow-mindedness behind, following her siblings abroad. Her parents had been her strongest emotional support through each heartbreak and failed meeting. It had been tough to see their daughter in acute emotional distress, and hence they were happiest to leave the matter at rest. The Brigadier, reconciled to the fact that Kimmy may never settle down in marriage, had made sufficient financial provisions for her in his will. Rosie too seemed to have accepted this fact on the face of it, but Gul’s betrothal had fuelled in her a desire to see her beautiful and bubbly daughter wed too.
In recent weeks, she had taken to setting up random meetings with unmarried or divorced sons of her friends, and even consulted a matchmaker. Try hard as she might though, Kimmy stood her ground. She refused to meet a boy in a hotel lobby over a cup of tea and play this game of charades that had caused immense pain in her younger days.
Kimmy thought back to her carefree days in Vancouver where dating new people didn’t entail this amount of pressure, and could actually be a fun activity. She had always wanted a companion, but it had been difficult finding the person that ticked all her boxes – a man who would understand and respect her, indulge her artistic temperament, appreciate her Indian culture and not be emotionally aloof. So far, this man of her dreams had eluded her.
She was aware that her mother’s traditional attempts at matchmaking were unlikely to produce results. Fortunately, her father supported her, and teamed together they had managed to get Rosie to back off for a bit. But as soon as it seemed that peace had prevailed, the topic was reintroduced today.
Rosie enjoyed close friendships with her neighbours, many of whom had been around since she and the Brigadier had first moved to their Defence Colony home. This afternoon at the lunch table, she had innocently mentioned the arrival of a new tenant who had moved into the second floor of the house next door. He was a young Sardar from America, working for the WHO and posted to India for a project. With her uncanny detection abilities, she had found out everything there was to know about him – he was in his late 30s, divorced with no children, born and raised in America where his family resided, was currently working on a special Coronavirus related report, and unlike many young Sikhs raised abroad, had never shorn his long hair. After extolling his wonderful characteristics, Rosie grandly announced that she had invited him for dinner in the hopes that Kimmy and him could ‘strike up a friendship’.
That’s when Kimmy lost it. Quite dramatically, she banged the table and stood up yelling, “will you ever give up? I’m sick of your relentless matchmaking! And imagine this poor guy… He’s just arrived in India and the first ‘aunty’ he sees is out to snag him for her daughter!! Mom, please just leave me alone!!” With that, she left the food on her plate uneaten and locked herself up in her room.
“If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance
If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance
If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance”
Idol’s crooning broke into Kimmy’s reverie. She was now at the stage where the initial anger had dissipated, and she was able to assess the situation in a calm manner, realising that she had overreacted a bit. After all, even if he came over for dinner there was no obligation on either of them. Most likely he was oblivious to her mother’s machinations!
Just then she heard a tentative knock on the door, “Kirandeep?…” Kimmy raised an amused brow, her mother never called her by her given name except when she was very angry or very concerned. To allay her mother’s anxiety, Kimmy opened the door swiftly, “Yes Mumma?”
“Bache I’m sorry for upsetting you, but what’s the harm in inviting a new neighbour over for dinner?”, Rosie softly asked.
“Nothing at all Mumma. I was wrong to lose my temper, and you should invite whoever you’d like to your home. But, please don’t expect anything from me, ok?”, she ended with a smile.
Rosie hugged her daughter in response.
“I’d like to go for a jog around the colony today. I just want to clear my head and the weather is quite pleasant”, announced Kimmy.
“Sure beta, just don’t stay out too late! It gets dark so early these days,” cautioned Rosie.
“Mumma I’m not a child… But yes, I will return on time,” Kimmy retorted with a smile.
Chucking on her sneakers, Kimmy was ready in a dash. On her way out, she saw her father nicely tucked away in his usual spot in the living room – the grandfather chair. He had one paper in hand and plenty others on the side ready to be attacked.
“What’s up with the world today Pops?”, she asked with a smile before heading out.
“Nice to see you’ve calmed down Kim! I swear one day you women will be the death of me!!”, he guffawed loudly before responding to her query. “Everything is wrong my dear… the government handling of this farmer protest against the Agriculture Bill of 2020, is getting more insane by the day! It’s infuriating to see peaceful protests being clamped down in such underhanded ways – blocking the internet, sending in goons pretending to be locals from the villages, and the most ridiculous is this FIR against that environmental conservationist, Greta Thunberg. She’s just a child who doesn’t even know they exist!”
“I don’t know what’s happening to our great country…. It’s a sad state of affairs”, harrumphed the Brigadier.
Kimmy realised she had opened a can of worms, and if she wasn’t careful, she might be waylaid for a long while listening to her father go on about his favourite subject – the politics of the day. She quickly planted a kiss on his head, reassuring him with a trite, “don’t worry Pops… These things have a way of sorting themselves out!” Before he could respond further, she yelled, “I’m off for a jog now. See you later!”
Kimmy wasn’t a regular jogger, but taking advantage of the pleasant Delhi winter evenings, she had been periodically running around the C-Block parks in Defence Colony. As a posh residential colony in South Delhi, this area was quite safe with loads of people out and about, especially now that vaccines had appeared and the worst of the pandemic was over. She loved seeing little children toddling around at one end of the famous Sukun Park, with the other end taken over by boisterous colony lads playing basketball and other contact sports. Plugging in her ear phones, she prepared to retreat into her world of thoughts, when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to look at a tall and handsome man smiling at her with the cutest dimples peaking above his beard. Clad in expensive but tasteful running gear, he had salt-and-pepper hair tied in a ponytail.
“Hi, sorry to bother you but I couldn’t help noticing you came from no. 54. I’ve just moved in next door and thought I’d say hi!”, the stranger remarked pleasantly.
Caught off-guard with his friendly approach and American accent, Kimmy stared for a second before regaining her composure. “Oh, Hi. Yes, I think my mother mentioned something about you. You work for the WHO, right?”, she replied in her own accented English. It felt like eons since she’d spoken to someone from that part of the world and she was surprised to feel a nostalgic tug.
“Oh, are you Mrs. Sahni’s daughter?! She’s invited me for dinner tomorrow. Forgive my intrusion to your jog – it’s just been incredibly difficult meeting people around my age, and I couldn’t help saying hello,” he said flashing his dimples generously.
Impressed with his confidence and enjoying the attention, Kimmy responded “Please don’t apologise. It’s nice to have company and we could jog together if you’d like?”
“I’d love that. By the way, I’m Aman,” he said putting his hand out for an old-fashioned shake. “Don’t worry, I used sanitizer before leaving home and I haven’t touched anything since”, he winked.
Kimmy took his proffered hand and responded, “Hi Aman, I’m Kimmy… Lovely to meet you.”
As they turned round the next bend, Kimmy attempted to hide a goofy smile that had lodged itself on her face. Billy Idol’s lyrics, “If I had the chance, I’d ask the world to dance…” played on loop in her head, as she thought, “….and that’s just the beginning.”
Hi everyone, some of you may be familiar with the Sahni family that appears periodically on my blog. In case you aren’t, here are the first three stories from this series:
This story has been written for the prompt “And that’s just the beginning”, and has been inspired by all the love in the air for Valentine’s Week!
*This is not a sponsored post.
**Copyright in pictures and content belongs to nooranandchawla.com and cannot be republished or repurposed without express permission of the author. As I am a copyright lawyer by profession, infringement of any kind will invite strict legal action.