The new bride was undergoing an interview with her grandmother in-law. It was their first meeting. They did not share a common language so a bevy of eager aunt in-laws were acting as interpreter. Favourite grandson had brought home a bride from a different community, and she was being magnanimous and getting to know the girl.
‘Are you a Brahmin dear?’ , was the opening salvo to break the ice
‘No’ her frank admission brought the chill back in the atmosphere.
Visions of the unthinkable unnerved the fond grandma and excited the eager aunts.
A nervous follow up query from the matriarch – ‘ Um, are you, err.. a, a Muslim?’.
There. The unthinkable was out in the open. The M word was out. Was a scandal about to rock the conservative bastion of the Ballygunge Brahmins? The aunts hoped for Breaking news that would enliven the kitty party for months. Grand mom feared the worst and only good breeding kept her from shifting away a little .
‘Oh no!’, her reply dispersed the tension in the room. The old lady relaxed visibly. The aunts tried to hide their disappointment.
“Oh, so you are a Christian?’ grandma asked, considerably relieved. Having been the wife of a Civil Servant in British India, she had seen a lot of Englishmen, who despite being Christian, were quite acceptable. Moreover, most of the family had studied in Christian schools, so they were not so alien. The previous generation who went to England for higher studies occasionally brought back an European wife, and although tut tutted at, they were tolerated. Basically, Christian was passé.
‘No, I’m not’, the bride replied.
‘Then why did you scare us unnecessarily?’ the beaming grandma retorted.’ Not a Muslim or Christian means Hindu. So what if you are not a Brahmin, marrying one makes you one.’
Feeble protests about Sikhs being a distinct community were lost in diffidence and translation.
Relief, disappointment, vague frustration at sudden loss of identity were the various emotions flooding the room.
It wasn’t till a generation later that members of the not be mentioned community were at a wedding reception of the Ballygunge Brahmins as respected in laws.
Unfortunately, the matriarch did not live to see this day