“I’m not going,” said Auntyji. “Not going to Los Angeles. Cancel the ticket.”
“Why not?” asked Mr S without alarm. He continued reading his newspaper.
Auntyji informed her husband she did not want to meet the fate of George in America. She had decided not to go there ever again. Mr S was puzzled. George. George who? Bush?
Auntyji was annoyed. She said that sometimes Mr S acted so dumb, she didn’t know why she ever married him. “We will go to India instead. Change the ticket. I refuse to take my clothes off,” she said. Mr S was puzzled. He knew his wife always wore the trousers.
Auntyji informed him that it was not easy to get into America any more. Lalita had told Rashida, who told Manjinder, who told Githa, who told Promila, who told everyone at the Tupperware demonstration about the problem, so auntyji had decided. She would not allow herself to be strip-searched as soon as she came off the plane in the United States.
“You mean the Untied States?”
Auntyji told Mr S that he was being ridiculous and that she did not find it funny. It was better to be a silent monkey like Lalita’s peanut-popping and knuckle-cracking husband than to joke in such bad taste, she said.
“Manjinder warned me that the Americans can even strip-search twice,” said auntyji. Mr S said extenuating circumstances made it necessary sometimes.
“Are you saying I’m too large?” asked auntyji in a steely voice. Mr S made a swift denial. She had sylph-like proportions, and in fact, looked the same as the day he married her, he said. Auntyji said she would slap anyone who asked her to remove her sari. She had seen that sort of scene many times in a Bollywood film. She would not travel to America, she declared. Mr S reminded her that Pappu’s wife was counting on their help with the baby.
“We are not unpaid babysitters,” said auntyji firmly. “We have been up and down for three deliveries already.” She added: “Also during Pappu’s law exams and each time they moved home from Boston to Washington, and from Washington to Houston, and then from Houston to Chicago and then to L.A.”
“Air miles should be called ‘care miles’,” said Mr S.
Auntyji frowned. Children should respect their elders, she said. Elders are not unaccompanied baggage flying from one destination to another. She would tell her son and daughter-in-law they should manage on their own. She agreed with UK Independent Party member Godfrey Bloom - a woman should keep the kitchen spotless, serve her man his dinner when he came home from work, and clean behind the fridge more often. Auntyji would tell her daughter-in-law that she should learn to stand on her own feet. And that she wouldn’t stand for any nonsense at an American airport.
(Saumya Balsari is the author of a forthcoming comic novel, and wrote a play for Kali Theatre Company's Futures last year. She is currently writing a second novel, another play and multicultural stories for children. She holds a doctorate and works in London as a journalist.)