In her first book, through the lives of three couples, Elizabeth Flock explores the challenges of marriage and relationships in the twenty-first century.
Scroll down to read an excerpt from Love and Marriage in Mumbai.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
In the book Love and Marriage in Mumbai, author Elizabeth Flock narrates the stories of three couples whose relationships undergo major cultural shifts.
Veer and Maya are a forward-thinking Marwari Hindu couple, whose relationship is tested by Maya's desire for independence.
Shahzad and Sabeena, a Sunni Muslim couple desperate for a child, have to deal with the changing face of Islam.
Ashok and Parvati, a Tamil Brahmin couple who meet on a matrimonial website, fall in love and plan to get married.
In her non-fictional work, Flock presents a fascinating canvas of the couples she's known for a decade, dotted by their daily challenges, possibilities of their evolving marriages and captures the nuances of the struggle within.
Presenting an excerpt from the book for you to read:
After Veer asked Maya for another year, she thought that maybe she had been mistaken, and that he did care for her after all.
But then she found the messages on his phone.
Maya remembers that Veer was in the shower, and she was in bed with a fever when she picked up his work cell phone to call a doctor.
A text from the other Maya was on the screen.
Disbelieving, Maya began to scroll through Veer's messages.
She found many messages from the other Maya, though they seemed to be forwards from Veer's second phone, so they didn't include the original messages he'd sent
In her messages to him the other Maya called him "jaanu."
Jaanu. "Darling." Like the English word: "baby."
Such as: Jaanu, I'm out of balance, I'll call you in a little while.
"What is this?" Maya asked when Veer came out of the shower.
She showed him the texts on the phone.
"There's nothing," he said.
"She's calling you 'baby' in the conversation," said Maya. "That's a little unbelievable."
He was quiet.
"You call her right here in front of me."
"I'm not going to do that."
This wasn't the first time. The year after they'd married, Maya had seen call logs that showed Veer was talking to her from the time he left work until the time he got home.
Then, Maya had said, "Go ahead and talk to her, but don't hide it from me."
"I'm not talking to her," he'd said, and she let it go.
Now, Maya saw that she'd been foolish. They hadn't been talking as friends, or even as two people who once loved each other.
They talked as if they were still intimate. Veer took his phone back, but later Maya sent the other Maya, who she knew was engaged to be married, a message from her own phone.
Maya told her that what she was doing was not right.
The message she received back was impudent; the other Maya said she'd never understand what they had.
Maya, furious, replied: Let's do one thing. I'll forward these messages to your fiancé that you sent to my husband. If he understands then I'll understand.
The other Maya did not reply.
Maya showed Veer the message she had gotten from the other
Maya, the one that said she'd never understand. "As long as I'm your wife I need to understand what's going on here," said Maya, trying not to panic.
"I think you're overreacting," he said.
To Veer, this was not cheating.
He maintained he had only met the other Maya twice in his life.
He had never seen her again after she'd ended things, which was many years ago. Yes, they texted now and again.
Yes, he still loved her. He still thought of his relationship with her as the most perfect it could have been. But that also meant it was in the past.
Their relationship was forever caught in amber. And he was married now.
Eventually, Maya dropped the argument.
She did not know what else to do. And she did not text the other Maya's fiancé. Let at least one marriage be intact, she thought.
But her thoughts about Veer ran like a tape.
Did I force him to marry me? Is he ever going to get out of loving this girl?
She saw now that the other Maya was the love of his life. And she thought she understood why.
Veer valued family above all else, and the other Maya had sacrificed their relationship for her family.
The other Maya was the virtuous one, while she, Maya -- who had risked her relationship with her father to marry Veer -- was immoral.
She was like the girl who eloped in the film Omkara, who also defied her father.
In the film, another character asks: "How can anyone trust a girl who betrays her own father?"
Veer had never trusted her. Never loved her. Never would.
And, if that were the case, then Maya thought she might as well give up thoda compromise altogether.
She would no longer compromise her ideals, and that meant no longer following the old religious rules, such as not eating meat, not cooking with garlic or onion, or being unclean during her period.
She no longer owed him anything.
Excerpted from the book Love and Marriage in Mumbai by Elizabeth Flock with the permission of publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing India Ltd.