“Mark the date for your 20th high school reunion,” the postcard announced. I grabbed a plastic box from the closet. Among bits of nostalgia, I found my senior yearbook and a card inside. “The Senior Class Announces the Magical Memories Prom.” Mentally I returned to 1989.
I set the table. Mummy chopped cucumbers. Last week, I had shown her the card and asked permission to attend prom. Ticket sales ended Friday and I needed her to consent.
“Nisha, I already said you aren’t going.” The knife’s chops reverberated across the kitchen.
“But, Mummy, you don’t understand. Everyone goes. I’ll be the only one sitting at home watching an Indian movie.”
“If everyone jumps into the river, you will jump in with them?”
I rolled my eyes and placed spoons beside each plate. “It’s dinner and dancing. Teachers will be there, too.”
“Indian girls don’t date.” She dumped the cucumbers into a bowl of yogurt.
“It’s not a real date. It’ll be a bunch of us going together. Please.” I gave her an imploring look.
“I said no.” She snatched a mixing spoon and beat the pot of lentils.
“You have no clue how important prom is. I’ve spent the past four years buried in books, taking AP classes, getting on the Dean’s List.” I banged bowls upon each plate. “I’ve never asked to go to a school dance before. Why can’t I have one evening of fun?”
“See. Your papa and I pushed you to study. Now look. Full scholarship to Stanford. Not like those American girls who go around with boys.”
“I’m an American, too, remember?” As I filled the cups, water sloshed on the table, which I mopped with a towel.
“You are still Indian. Never forget.”
“I know. But I can be both American and Indian. You’ve taught me Indian values and Hindi and stuff.”
“Yes. You speak Hindi beautifully. Not like Gunjan’s children who never say namaste to their elders.”
“Mummy, don’t change the subject. We’re talking about prom.”
“What will people say? That Nisha Pareja dated before getting married. Is that the reputation you want?”
“My reputation won’t change by going. Besides, who cares what ‘people’ say? Other Indian kids are going.”
“Let them go. I don’t care. My daughter is not going. Look, with all this talking, all my potatoes burned.” She slammed the pan into the sink.
“Mummy, it’s almost the nineties. You need to get out of the sixties. Back then, guys and girls in India didn’t do stuff together. Times have changed.”
“Values still are the same.” She handed me the bowl of dough and a rolling pin to make the chapatis.
“You know, things in India have probably changed. Look at the movies. They show couples dating and stuff.”
“It’s all fake. You think life in India is like that?” She reached into the freezer for a bag of vegetables.
“How would you know? You haven’t been back there in 13 years.” I slapped a chapati onto the skillet. “Why did you even come here if you weren’t going to become an American? You should have stayed in India.” I clenched my jaw and stared at the dough, waiting for bubbles to appear so I could flip it.
“You know why. Your papa lived here. He wanted to marry a girl from India. Your grandparents introduced us, we got married, and I moved here with him. I decided to keep my values and not become like the Americans.”
“Going to the prom won’t change who I am. I’m capable of making good decisions. You really need to learn to trust me.” I flipped the chapati and rolled another.
“It’s not about trust. It’s about what is right and wrong. You aren’t going. Enough of this. I’ll finish cooking. You do your homework.” Mummy grabbed the rolling pin out of my hand. I stormed upstairs to my room and slammed the door.
I reopened the yearbook, remembering the AP picnic, French club dinner, and senior breakfast. Even with those memories to savor, I wondered what prom would have been like.
I now understand Mummy’s thinking, even though I still disagree. As she’s aged, Mummy softened, even once mentioning she regretted not letting me date when I was younger. For years, I was resentful and bitter toward her restrictions. Now that Christ has softened my heart, I have forgiven Mummy and extended her grace for raising me the best way she knew how.
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