Slam! Sanjeevs monitor
shook as the front door banged shut. He stared blankly at the Java code on the screen
while the image settled back into place. The few lines hadnt changed for the last
twenty minutes. Ever since his sister had come in and told him she was leaving. He
wasnt surprised; what else could she do after the fight shed had with their
parents that evening? He didnt blame her. He just knew he was going to miss her.
Sarita was nineteen, three years
older than Sanjeev. They looked like brother and sister, yet their tastes were so
different, it was amazing they were related at all. Though both of them had been
well-schooled in technology by their parents, Sarita wasnt able to fathom how her
brother could sit for so many hours in front of his computer staring at the cryptic
symbols that compiled into his code. Sanjeev cared nothing for his sisters studies
of ancient Sanskrit literature. He thought she was crazy to spend her days in the
university library staring at the obscure symbols that were supposedly the great works of
Sanjeev lived on the classics of
Indian cooking: curries, tandoori, and tikka. Sarita spent most of her time at the
espresso café or McDonalds. Sanj wasnt much of a talker in a crowd he
appeared aloof and distant. Though Sarita was a young university student, she appeared
much older. Sarita was full of confidence and carried herself like she owned the world.
But there was one thing they did
share: music. They both loved it. In fact, Sarita had turned Sanjeev on to rock when he
was quite young. Shed given him his first album: The Beatles Let It Be
and he was hooked from that moment on. Though their tastes didnt align on all types
of music, Sarita was a Flavor-fan so Sanj couldnt complain. And Sanj actually
started liking Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn after Sarita had made him listen to it about seventy
Sarita was more than just a big
sister to Sanj she was his friend. They had spent long hours together when they
were young. Their parents were both electrical engineering professors at the university
and early in their careers there were many demands on their time. Faculty meetings, lab
planning sessions, staff get-togethers; these all left Sarita looking after Sanjeev when
they were little. It wasnt that Mr. and Mrs. Surati were bad parents. It was the
opposite. They loved their children very much and worked hard to raise them right. Part of
that was providing a good home and an excellent education. Knowing the cost of those meant
working hard and establishing their positions at the university, which they had done over
the years. They were now respected members of the faculty and the community.
Neither Sanjeev nor Sarita felt
abandoned during those early years. They loved it. And when they entered their teens,
theyd sneak off together to the clubs in the town to listen to the newest music from
local bands as well as the few that toured from the England and the U.S. Though he rarely
told her it wasnt like Sanjeev to get mushy he loved his sister
dearly. She was his pal. His music-mate. And besides the Kids, his best friend.
It had been painful listening to
Sarita and his parents argue that evening. It had started as it usually did with
Sarita talking about Raj.
Raj was a boy shed met when
she was on holiday in Goa the year before. The cruise ship he was on had stopped there and
he had a rare night off. Sarita and Raj had fallen in love instantly and spent nearly
every moment together. When Sarita returned home, she told Sanjeev that shed met the
man she was going to marry. She wrote to him daily and he wrote back. Sanjeev was happy
for her. But his parents were not.
Raj worked below decks on the cruise
ship Star of Asia one of the few ships that frequented India. He had a
menial job, but it was a job. For Raj, that was good. He came from a very poor family. His
father was Hindu and his mother was Moslem. In India, that made things difficult.
Certainly in Mumbai where he grew up. Rajs father drove a rickshaw while his mother
cared for him and his seven brothers and sisters. At fifteen he left home as the family
could not afford to feed him any longer. For years he did a variety of horrible jobs
until, through a lucky connection, he got the position on the Star of Asia.
Compared to his childhood, working on a luxury cruise ship was the height of comfort
even below decks. Though he worked long days and had little time off, he always had
food and a bed.
Mr. and Mrs. Surati were not so
impressed with Rajs job. When they first found out about their daughters
correspondence with him, they tried to stop the relationship. But both parents had
miscalculated the determination of a nineteen year old in love. Sarita had always been
ruled by her heart. She had fought with her parents (and lost) when she wanted to move
into her own apartment when she began college. She had fought with them (and won) when
they opposed her changing her major from computer science to ancient Indian literature.
And now, her obstinacy grew the more her parents tried to influence her. Eventually, they
stopped trying to change her mind and, silently, hoped the flame would die with distance.
That was until tonight.
Sarita was excited at the dinner
table. The Star of Asia would be in port in Bombay in a few days. Thinking her
parents had warmed to the idea of her being with Raj (since they hadnt said anything
negative for months), Sarita asked if she could borrow money for a second class train
ticket to Bombay so she could visit her boyfriend. Her parents looked at her, baffled.
"Sarita," her father said
frowning, "why would I give you money to visit this boy?"
"Because I love him, Bapuji,"
she answered, unaware of his renewed disapproval.
"We had this discussion months
ago," Mr. Surati said severely. "Your mother and I do not want you seeing this
Sarita looked up quickly, surprised
by her fathers tone. She opened her mouth to speak. But Mrs. Surati cut her off.
"Daughter, you know we always
hoped you would marry Chandu. He comes from such a good family. We have known his parents
since you were born."
Sanjeev could see the fire ignite in
"I will never marry
Chandu! How many times do I have to tell you? I dont love him. I dont even like
"His father owns a fine chain
of bookstores. He will one day take his place as the head of the company."
Sanjeev was often amazed at how
blind his parents could be when they talked to Sarita. They were both very intelligent
when it came to engineering, literature, learning. He had even heard them counsel
their friends on financial matters. But with their children, they sometimes acted as if
they were completely different species.
"How dare you call those stores
fine," Sarita hissed. "They dont have a book worth reading between
all of them. They open next to local stores and put them out of business. They sell
nothing but kachrapatti."
"You will not use language like
that at the dinner table, Sarita," Mr. Surati scolded.
"I will use whatever language I
"Daughter, do not speak to your
bapuji in such a tone." Mrs. Surati pleaded as her husband began to turn as
red as the tandoor murghi on his plate.
Sanjeev felt it was time to speak.
"Mother, Father, Sarita.
Wait." He paused. His family turned toward him. "This happens every time you try
to discuss this. Youll never communicate this way. You use different languages.
incompatible thoughts. You have to listen to each other. You have
to try to understand
so you can connect."
Sanjeevs words calmed everyone
for several minutes. But it did no good. His parents simply could not or would not
grasp the fact that their daughter was thinking of marrying someone who was not
from a good family.
"We have worked so hard for
you, Sarita," Mr. Surati chided. "And now you throw it away."
"Throw what away?" she
Surati raised her hands in supplication.
"Why? Because Raj is poor? Or
is it because his mother is a Moslem? Is that it?"
"No!" defended her father.
"It is just that he is not from a good family
"Ha!" goaded Sarita.
"You both act so modern so enlightened. The new India! But you still
believe in the old caste system. Only you call it a different name!"
"How dare you!"
And it got worse. Until Sarita
finally called her father a small-minded brute. He jumped up and swore that she would
never leave his house to see that boy. She swore she would and stalked to her room,
slamming the door so the whole house shook.
After he had finished dinner,
Sanjeev knocked on Saritas door. He could hear her crying inside. She told him to go
away. He did.
Ten minutes passed and she was in
his room telling him her plan. She was going to run away with Raj. She would take the
train to Bombay to meet him. She had just enough money for third class passage and she was
leaving that night. She said Sanjeev could have her CD collection. She gave him her key
chain with the keys to her bike and the front door she declared she would never
need them again. She wrapped her arms around him, kissed his cheek and told him how much
she loved him. Then she went back to her room to pack.
A short time later, as Sanjeev sat
staring at his monitor, the front door slammed. He knew Sarita was gone. He knew she was
doing what she needed to do. He knew she was doing what would make her happy.
What he didnt know was how he
would stand the pain of missing her.
>//CYBER.KDZ Secure Line Login. Thu, 12:12 (Thu, 15:12 GMT)
>//Welcome, Tereza. Enter Line Request: 1
>//Enter Password: ********
>//Who are you expecting to meet? Sanjeev
>//Validation Complete. Line request accepted.
>//Tereza is connecting to CK Secure Line 1....
Sanjeev: hey, tz.
Tereza: Sanj, whats the matter? Your email sounded so
Sanjeev: its been a bad night.
Tereza: Whats the matter, meu amigo?
Sanjeev: its my sister. she left home tonight.
Tereza: What happened?
Sanjeev: she fell in love with this guy last summer and my
parents dont approve. theyve been arguing about it for a year. it reached the
climax tonight. she ran away to be with him.
Tereza: Is she OK?
Sanjeev: yeah, i think. shes angry. who wouldnt be?
but I think shes happy to do want shes wanted to do for months.
Tereza: And your parents?
Sanjeev: they dont know yet. they think she just went out
to cool off. but shes not coming back.
Sanjeev: thats what she said. i hate thinking about it.
Tereza: I know, meu amigo, I know. You were so close to her. I
have always envied your relationship. It made me wish that I had a brother or sister.
Sanjeev: shes pretty cool.
Tereza: She is also young, Sanjeev. She may change her mind and
come back. Maybe in a few years.
Sanjeev: but my parents will never let her marry raj. sarita
accused my father of following the caste system.
Tereza: Does he?
Sanjeev: mostly no. but in a way, yes. india is becoming like
the west now. there are three classes: the poor, the middle class and the rich. it is like
we have replaced one system with another. my parents want a good life for us, i know that.
but they dont see the way things are now. they think its like when they grew
up. but its all changed. the competition to get into school is terrible. there are a
1000 applications for one spot. last week a kid in town killed himself because he was
worried about his level 10 exams.
Sanjeev: its true, tz.
Tereza: Then how come you are so sossegada
What is the
word? Easy-going, I think is the best translation.
Sanjeev: couple of reasons, i guess. my computer is one. when
im programming, the whole world disappears my room, the time, all of india.
its like when you lose yourself in a book, you know?
Tereza: Sim. I know.
Sanjeev: so that gets me away from it. and then i have the kids.
you guys keep me sane.
Tereza: Even Becky and Deeders arguments?
Sanjeev: yeah. its kind of like a family spat, you know?
besides, its hard to get worked up about whats going on here when beckys
trapped by terrorists.
Tereza: Youre right. It is hard!
Sanjeev: and then theres sarita. shes always been my
friend. my anchor. i cant blame her for leaving. with all the pressure, why
shouldnt she do what she wants, instead of what everyone tells her to do? why
shouldnt she find happiness? its like that line in that neptunes song:
"im gonna pack my bags and get out of town.
im gonna learn to smile before they teach me to frown."
it was one of the songs i turned her on to. she really liked it.
Tereza: Oh, Sanjeev. I see that you hurt.
Sanjeev: you got it.
Tereza: Sarita feels about you like you feel about her, yes?
Sanjeev: yeah. sure.
Tereza; Put yourself in her place. If you had to leave home,
would you not stay in touch with Sarita?
Sanjeev: id call or email or something.
Tereza: Then she will do the same. Just because Sarita and your
parents disagree, does not mean your sister will forget. She will stay in touch. And you
will know that she is out there living her life
learning to smile.
Sanjeev: i guess thats all i have right now.
Tereza: Not all.
Sanjeev: what else?
Tereza: You have me. And the Kids.
Sanjeev: yeah, i do. thanks, tz.
Tereza: Muito obrigada. You are very welcome. But you dont
have to thank me, Sanjeev. It is always nice to comm with you. It is exciting to see so
many words in a row come from the quiet one!
Sanjeev: that means ive said too many. raat.
>//CYBER.KDZ Secure Line Closed