Making room for love: An excerpt from Sundari Venkatraman’s Ryan Finds a Bride

“Hi Daadima!” Ryan was smiling as he took his grandmother Ganga’s call. “Shall I call you on video?”

“Do that,” said Ganga, also with a smile in her voice. She loved her grandchildren, all four of them. Her granddaughters, Saloni and Ruma, were happily married and settled; while also having rocking careers and bringing up their respective kids. Twenty-eight-year-old Ryan was her third grandchild. He was on the verge of completing his project in the US and planned to return to Delhi in a couple of months. Her thoughts were brought to a standstill when her phone buzzed.

“Hey Daadima! How have you been?” Ryan grinned at her from her phone screen, the thick fuzz on his face forming the perfect background for his evenly placed, gleaming white teeth.

My grandson is truly handsome, thought Ganga to herself even as she returned his grin with one of her own. “I’m fine, Ryan. How about you?”

“All amazing, Grandma. What’s up with the parents? All well with them?” While Ryan was close to his mother Rati and father Shyam, he loved his paternal grandmother the best. After all, the matriarch was so loving and full of energy even at eighty. She continued to consult with the family company, going to the office three or four days in a week while running the philanthropic SM Foundation that she had set up in her husband’s name. SM was short for Shantanu Malhotra, who had died when Ryan had been a baby.

“All good. Your father had a bit of cold during the weekend. But he’s better now. As for your Mamma…” Ganga paused, wondering if she should confide in Ryan. She was the kind who preferred to live and let live; and not interfere in anyone’s life, unless she was invited to give an opinion. As for her daughter-in-law Rati, though well educated, she insisted on playing the housewife, despite there being a number of servants and a cook to manage the Malhotra household. Rati’s main aim in life was to get her four children married and settled. Despite having come up with faulty decisions in the case of both her daughters, the unfazed Rati’s present plan was to find a suitable bride for Ryan.

“Let me guess. Mamma is hell bent on finding me a wife. Right?” Ryan grimaced at his grandmother.

The grin disappeared from Ganga’s face as she gave him a nod. “I don’t want to bring any kind of discord between you and your mother. But…” She stopped again. There was a difference when speaking on the phone and talking in person; even if it was a video call.

After waiting for a few seconds for her to continue, Ryan spoke gently. “Come on, Daadi. I know you love Mamma despite all her faults. Do feel free to tell me what you want to.”

“I don’t like the idea of Rati forcing you into a marriage. You know what happened in Saloni’s case.” Saloni’s marriage had been arranged to Dr Manish Chawla based in Chicago, all thanks to Rati. Despite having completed her MBA, standing first in the university, Ryan’s eldest sister hadn’t been left with a choice but to marry a man their mother, Rati, had chosen for her. After living as his wife for two years, during which time Manish had treated Saloni like a cook-cum-serving maid, she had left her husband to return home to Delhi, her baby son Mitesh in tow.

As for Ruma, she had been a little too smart for her mother, side lining the idiot her mother had chosen as her bridegroom, only because he was rich. Having fallen in love with Lakshman Maheshwari, Ruma had set up a drama along with their grandmother Ganga and their Akshay Chacha—their father’s younger cousin—from Mumbai and had married the love of her life in secret.

Now it was his turn. At twenty-eight, Ryan was yet to find a woman he wanted to make his life partner. And he was in no hurry. Finishing his post-graduation in the US, he had worked with two different companies to gain experience. Now he planned to return to Delhi to join his father in the family business that his great grandfather, Khushwant Malhotra, had set up. He planned to get himself a partner sometime in the vague future. But that was not the priority right now.

For all that he loved his mother, he knew Rati for the control freak she was. What his mother did not know was how clear Ryan was in his goals. He would marry if and only when he met his ideal woman. And he didn’t think his mother was the right person to find his partner.

Before all that, he had to get the boundaries demarcated. The time was now, when he was returning home after six years. Yes, it had been six years since Ryan moved to the USA. While he had been back home for brief holidays, it was only now that he was going to return permanently. He had travelled extensively during these six years and had concluded that he wanted to live in Delhi and nowhere else.

“Okay, Daadi, listen. This is exactly what I wanted to speak to you about. Did you know that the duplex apartment next to ours is coming up for sale?”

A small frown pleated Ganga’s salt and pepper eyebrows as she wondered what he was getting at. “I haven’t heard. What about it?”

Ryan cleared his throat. “Daadi, I agree that we have a large house.” They lived in a duplex with five bedrooms. “But still, I think we need to space out. I… forgive me, Grandma, I love my Mamma. But after living alone for six years, I don’t think I can return to live in the same space. She’s smart and intelligent. But she refuses to channel her energy into the things which actually need it. Which is exactly what you mentioned. Her next project is finding me a bride. Uff!” He shook his head. “I refuse to toe the line.”

The frown disappeared from Ganga’s face to be replaced by a wide smile. “That’s why you are interested in the duplex next door. You want to live close enough to the family, but separately.”

“Yes, my dear Grandma. You understand me?”

“Of course I do, beta. And I agree that it’s an excellent idea. I can find out the details. We can buy the house, providing it’s for sale, before the brokers get into the picture.”

“Yes!” He pumped his fist in the air. “Yes, Daadi. And Daadi, I don’t plan to marry immediately. It will happen when I find the right woman.”

Thank God her grandchildren had their heads screwed tightly on their shoulders. “Absolutely! I am in full support. Let me find out about the duplex. Otherwise, shall I look around for suitable property? I presume you want to move in immediately, before people begin to think that you are back home for good.”

Ryan laughed. “That’s right. I love you, Daadi! You are welcome to move in with me. Just you, okay?”

She laughed out loud with glee. “Let’s see. I know your father loves your mother and vice versa. But I am afraid of leaving them alone, if you know what I mean.”

“Your wise counsel is necessary to keep them in a state of peace,” he declared. Yes, Ryan had noticed his grandmother smoothening the tension at home. While Ganga never interfered in Rati’s decisions, even if they were outright stupid, she was always there, a silent support, maintaining the peace in the family.

“Hmm. So, when are you returning?”

“I am working my notice period which is till the middle of April. After that, I have planned a trip to China for a month and a half. I will return home from there. What would you like me to get for you?”

“Just bring yourself home, safe and sound, my child. I want nothing but your happiness.”

“Love you, Daadi.” Ryan’s words were heartfelt as he blew her a kiss.

“I love you too, Ryan. Be safe.”

A soft smile played on Ganga’s face as she imagined Rati’s face when she found out that her elder son planned to have a separate home for himself. All hell was bound to break loose! But that is what life was about, wasn’t it? Change being the only constant. At eighty, she had seen it all. How she adored her family; all of them!

(Excerpted with permission from Ryan Finds a Bride by Sundari Venkatraman, published by Flaming Sun in 2021)

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Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh Born on 15 Jun 2001 an Indian author and activist from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. Live in New Delhi