I was getting married in two days. My father-in-law was coming for a little talk with me in two hours. My husband-to-be disappeared on his Bullet (motorcycle) in exactly two minutes. Not a very auspicious beginning but I stayed brave. I saw a gleaming white Ambassador arrive adorned with a whole bunch of fluttering flags. Then I saw white shoes emerge followed by white pleated trousers, then white buttons, and then a white hat. I saw all these white things marching up to my little pad. I was expecting a normal looking father-in-law not an Admiral in full Navy regalia. Nonetheless, I welcomed the Admiral and gave him a little stool to sit on. For the entire time of the Admiral being there, I was transfixed by the rickety condition of the stool, which threatened to crumble any time. Perhaps the Admiral too realized that and recommended we go for a ride in his car. I couldn’t agree more and so we marched down the steps to the waiting car. I counted the first salute from the chauffeur; there were many more to follow.
I sat in one corner of the seat and the Admiral in the other corner. Then the Ambassador speeded down the road and what a spectacle that was. Any time the gleaming thing stopped, I saw regular traffic police salute the car and then the Admiral smartly return the salute. Somewhere I thought I should do the same. So while my father-in-law returned the salute from one side of the car, I returned the salute surreptitiously from the other side of the car – to everyone and no one in particular. I was amazed at how shabbily the traffic treated the traffic cops. No one paid any attention to the traffic cop and he was just pivoting round and round with his whistle. I thought he had gone mad. Then suddenly he spotted our Ambassador and blew his whistle for so long that all traffic stopped out of sheer surprise. He saluted and our car breezed by. Boy, was I impressed!
To break my reverie of such traffic surprises, I heard my father-in-law say ‘do you know what you are doing because my son doesn’t, neither does his mother and nor do I’. I thought he should have added my name to the list as well. Then I heard him ask how were we both going to support ourselves, where were we going to live etc. Frankly speaking, I hadn’t thought about such existential questions before. Suddenly, these became very concrete much more than the pending marriage itself. I thought I should impress the car and the Admiral and almost told him that I was working for UNICEF and that when I stopped, his son would find work and that the hole er the one-room pad would suffice and that men and women somehow found a way to get by. Thankfully enough I said nothing. In fact, I joined the Admiral in wondering as well. My mind had also begun to wander about what exactly was the correct way to do the Navy Salute. Was it palm up or palm down or palm straight out. Was it on top of the nose or the forehead or on the side just near the ear? God, was my mind confused? Damn, I could’ve at least asked the Admiral’s son about it. But the Admiral’s son was absconding and here I was trying to learn the salute and how to descend gracefully into marriage.