'Perish the thought that we can settle the date for the nuptials between ourselves.'
'Or conclude potential venues, menus or events with the authority vested in us as seniors.'
'Such decisions are not in our purview,' says Kishore Singh.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Now that he is to be wed, our son has taken it upon himself to 'improve' his family. He has body shamed his mother into setting a target for losing weight 'urgently'.
Nor is he content to shape us into his idea of the perfect family.
We must do his bidding, speaking -- or replying -- not as we are spoken to, but as he would choose us to, wearing what he approves, and conducting ourselves with the independence of mannequins.
Nor are we permitted to take upon ourselves such mundane matters as picking up a phone to summon his future in-laws for a tete-a-tete. Such matters need his approval.
Intra-family (soon to be inter-family) meetings have the gravitas of political détentes.
Rehearsals need to be organised lest we 'mess things up'.
Free speech isn't a possibility.
Everything we say, however spontaneous, requires his prior clearance.
How we address them, who is to sit next to whom, what our body language must communicate, each step needs to be pre-planned and reviewed by his committee of one.
I would say it's exciting being trained as actors, only it isn't, because we aren't allowed to bring any part of ourselves to the performance.
Which means we may not reach out to his fiancé or her parents unsupervised.
Perish the thought that we can settle the date for the nuptials between ourselves.
Or conclude potential venues, menus or events with the authority vested in us as seniors.
Such decisions are not in our purview. Not that he and his girlfriend intend to conclude these matters on their own.
No sir, these must be a 'collective family decision' in which everyone is involved, even if we merely mouth the platitudes -- and dates -- we have been told to parrot without -- perish the thought -- a mind of our own.
Why, even fixing a meeting -- over lunch or tea, cocktails or dinner -- are not to be at our discretion.
'Just do as I say,' he has taken to insisting.
We have been reduced to living in a fugue of dread.
We are no longer free to eat as we choose, or dress -- whether for office or at home -- as we desire as we continue under training.
Because his betrothed is at liberty to come and go as she pleases, we have to be 'ready' at all times, appearing gracious when, in reality, we're grinding our teeth about being on performance for an audience that may or not be present.
No longer can we loll in bed with a book because it shows bad attitude and equally bad posture. Our TV hours are as regulated as our guest list for when we want to have friends over.
So we sit like extras, posing beside lamps, sipping daintily at our beverages, using the napkins my wife had saved for formal occasions, never making do with a hastily patched together meal but tending to more elaborate fare with regulation fork-and-knife.
Crushed Ts and jeans are forbidden, our clothes must be perfectly creased, our hair neatly combed, our skin moisturised, and our bodies perfumed.
We are being educated in what we may give and what we may receive, what things call for a fuss and what must be accepted without one.
"Can I go take a pee?" my wife asks timidly. "The washroom, Mom, you need to go use the washroom," my son says testily.
I hope, in time, to show some resistance and grow a spine -- as soon as my son permits me.