The sutradhar’s daughter had a scooter. Or was it a Luna? His riding pillion was the only thing they continued to enjoy after their wedding. Without another worried woman to save him from, she quickly lost interest in him. It took Mr Yogi much longer to realise that she needed a rescue fantasy to be interested in a man. She was unlike every girl he had seen since the ‘Mother serious’ telegram had brought him back home. Her short hair and distracted smile had soothed him each time he walked away from a prospective bride. Everyone was surprised at the marriage but who could object? Who could say that they sensed her cold heart? It was no longer okay to object to independence. And they did want him married.

How many women had he turned down? He doesn’t remember. The tall, queenly creature in a brocade saree, rising unexpectedly above him from a charpayee, then slouching apologetically. She had said in a voice memorable for its husky bad girlness, that she wished she could cut her legs off. He was sure he could not marry someone whose voice was full of gold tassles and cabaret stages. He had ignored its rich sweetness, its generosity.

How had he been so sure of his reasons? How had he been so sure? Later on, he understood that the sutradhar’s daughter specialised in being unlike any woman a man knew. She could flicker her gaze and be elusive. She did not care about anniversaries. She never spent any time trying to coax him into buying things like the ads said. If he disagreed, she was still amiable. She was the first Indian he had ever met who shrugged. His mother thought she had picked up the gesture abroad but she had always had it. She laughed a lot and shrugged. So why was it that, ten years later, he wept so often? One day he remembered the tall girl. After that every night he dreamt of a different rejected girl. Dreams in which he was grateful to each of them for getting him away.

He wept for the days when his mother and others had had a say in his life. Now they showed him deference but he longed to be told he shouldn’t be married to the sutradhar’s daughter. As astonished as the sutradhar had been at the marriage he was now genial. He was fond of young men and showed it by being sardonic.

Then, another event that the sutradhar had not anticipated. Yogi was back home and his mother was actually ill. He drove the maid to the vegetable market. In the mandi a comet in a cotton saree blazed across his horizon. Her thin arms in a brilliant white blouse, slashed the air as she bargained. Her plastic basket filled with drumsticks and snake-gourds didn’t stop her from keeping a short leash on her son. When she was done, she left shopkeepers grinning weakly. Her white saree never touched the mud. She seemed to be striding towards him. Her fierce eyes took him in. Eventually she took him home and his sleep was dreamless once more.