Having inherited her father’s strong will, Avanti wasn’t going to back down in this all-day argument father and daughter had been having.
“Nonsense! Everyone wants to be Yamuna’s friend,” Avanti replied. “I just don’t think they are suitable enough to be close to my daughter. They’re half-castes, at best. Yamuna is pure Brahmin. I will not allow a full Brahmin to fraternise with all these …” Avanti made a face to show her disgust. She then glanced at the wrist watch her husband had presented to her as anniversary gift three months ago. It was 5.35 and she was already an hour late in serving Yamuna’s evening meal. This wouldn’t do.
“How can you say that?” Suresh stared at Avanti, ignoring his wife, Shoba. She had been trying unsuccessfully to get a word in.
“Why not? Until she becomes a full adult, I will choose who she’s friends with. Isn’t that good parenting?” Avanti looked at her father.
Suresh looked at Shoba and said, “See what your daughter is saying. I don’t understand why she’s keeping her daughter, Yamuna, from making friends. Yamuna is our granddaughter and we don’t mind her making friends. Why? Why would you do that?”
“I’m protecting her,” Avanti said in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Protecting her? From what?” Suresh stared at his daughter.
“She could get diseases from all these … these untouchables.”
“You’re becoming just like your friends. You complain that they stifle their children’s growth. Now you’re doing exactly the same. And yours is a little worse.”
Shoba put her hand up, as though she were asking for permission to speak. Her voice was feeble when she said, “But …”
Avanti turned at stared at her mother, too angry to be respectful. “Don’t interrupt, Mummy.” To her father, she said, “I’m protecting Yamuna.”
Suresh scratched his head. Taking a deep breath, he pulled out his smartphone from his trouser pocket and said to his daughter, “You’re fooling yourself. Come. Let me show you this video I took of how Yamuna behaved when her friend came to visit.”
Avanti pulled the chair closer to her father and leaned in to look at the screen. She rolled her eyes when her father said, “Can you see how the friend is putting her hand through the gaps in our gate and calling Yamuna out to play?”
Suresh pressed ‘Pause’ and looked at his daughter, raising his chin, as if to ask, “What do you say to that?”
“That’s what I don’t like,” Avanti replied, nonplussed. “That hand is all grubby and filthy. I don’t know where it’s been. It’ll be full of diseases and infections.”
Shoba leaned against the table and drummed her fingers on the table top. “You know, this doesn’t make sense. You’re fighting with each other for nothing. Yamuna is-”
“You’re such a snob, Avanti” Suresh said, ignoring his wife. “And you’ve passed this on to your child.”
“No-lah. Yamuna is absolutely sweet.”
“Humph! Watch the rest of the video and you’ll see that your baby is also a snob.” They watched the rest of the video and when it ended about a minute later, Avanti was shaking her hands in front of her.
“I never taught her that. I never taught her to lift her head so she could look down on her friend on the other side of the gate, make a U-turn and walk away. Not my fault.”
“Humph!” her father said and picked up his glass of water. He took a sip then said, “Not your fault, it seems. You keep telling her things like she’s Brahmin and pure. You make her feel and think she’s better than all the others and she does this. And you still think it’s not your fault. It’s all your fault. This is not good parenting at all.”
Shoba banged her palm on the table. Father and daughter jumped, then stared at her.
“Stop it! Both of you. You do what Yamuna really is, yes? It doesn’t matter if she’s Brahmin or not. None of it applies to her and you’re arguing for nothing. Whole day, I’ve had to listen to both of you go on and on. Yamuna doesn’t care. That friend of hers doesn’t care.”
“But-” Avanti said, poised to defend her actions with her mother.
Shoba put her hand up. “I’m not hearing another word.” Looking at Suresh, she said, “From either one of you.” Turning her head, she said, “And Avanti, you have to remember that Yamuna is a dog. She’s not human. There’s no such thing as a Brahmin dog.”