Two Darling Daughters

Drafting drafting. I’m writing a story set in Sri Lanka in 2000 – 2003, which is a little tricky for me, because of course, I didn’t live there then . So I’m going to have to check details of this with local friends from Sri Lanka, see if it seems plausible. I mean, there’s a lot of individual variation within families, so it’s not as if it needs to be completely accurate to their own experience. But it needs to be not clearly out of bounds.

Will be curious to see what they think of this — I’m not positive this kind of conversation would happen in quite this way in Colombo in 2000. Maybe? (In my family, a version of this happened in 1981 Connecticut, though we didn’t actually have the party. Whew.)

*****

When she’d attained age at 15, Amma insisted on holding a party, no matter how much Nikisha protested that in the year 2000, such a thing was hopelessly outdated, not to mention humiliating. She called their cook, Keshini, to the dining room, and rattled off a long list of instruction: celebratory dishes to make, auspicious elements for the occasion. “I want Marina’s biryani, you understand? Yours is not so good; everyone knows hers is the best. And there has to be plenty of shrimp curry – we don’t want anyone to think they need to be careful with their portions…”

Nikisha held her tongue while Keshini was in the room, but as soon as she went back to the kitchen, the words burst out: “Amma, you’re basically announcing to the world that I’m menstruating…”

“Chee! Don’t talk like that!”

“Oh my god!” Nikisha threw up her hands in frustration. “You won’t even talk about it, so why would you want to throw a party for it? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Udhya nodded silent agreement, knowing that she’d be having the same argument with Amma in not too long – they were only nine months apart, as close as sisters could be in that, as in most things.

“Aiyo! You don’t understand what you’re saying. You should be happy about this – I was thrilled when I attained age. My parents threw me the biggest party the village had seen, almost as fancy as a wedding. If anything, you should be mad at your father; he’s the one refusing to let me do this properly.”

Appa winked at Nikisha from across the dining table, and then retreated behind his newspaper, saying only from its shelter, “Money is tight these days, you know, kunju. The economy is bad; patients don’t have as much money as they did, so we have to extend credit. And we need to save for the girls’ schooling…”

“Credit, credit. You’re a soft touch, Manesh. As for schooling! Tcha!” Amma had a master’s degree in accounting herself, did all the billing for the medical practice, so it wasn’t as if she was against school. But she hadn’t actually ever applied for a job or worked outside the home, not since marrying the local doctor. “Schooling is all well and good, but getting Nikisha properly married is the priority. Do you want her to grow wild? You indulged the girls too much; it’s your fault they’re so spoiled.”

“Yes, yes, kunju,” Appa said soothingly from behind his paper. “But I only have two darling daughters, no? Who else should I indulge?”

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