The devout go about their business, motorcyclists appear out of nowhere, people do not use public toilets with care, and then blame those consigned to clean after them, radio jockeys continue talking nonsense, middle aged women watch everyone and hold on to culture. Coming back to Chennai is like getting caught in a time warp, in spite of the new buildings that have come up, the trees that have disappeared, the Swiggy employees rushing in and out of restaurants. It feels exactly the same, and I am disappointed in everyone who tried to prepare me for how much it has changed.
Here I stood, having left work early, waiting for a man who arrived on a borrowed bike, and I would convince myself that it was the dust irritating my eyes, as we went to the beach. Here we gave the watchman some money, and he looked at us, disbelieving, surely we hadn’t come to see the famed banyan tree. Here I timed my train journey so I could make an international call, but I wouldn’t hear much through the noise. Here I walked, perpetually angry. Here my friend said her flat was empty all day, if I ever needed to use it—just to talk, I know how it is, she hastened to add, when she saw my embarrassment.
Now though, I enter home with this same man, and the spectacle of marriage has legitimised my affair, it has absolved me of my lies and tantrums, and the grudging acceptance makes way for something resembling emotion. Suddenly there is privacy, and it is disorienting, I jump every time someone opens the door. There is also incredulity, and confusion. It seems I am somehow more unbearable than I was before, my idiosyncrasies have been given space to develop, my eccentricities are encouraged, like the sour smell coming from juice that has been left out for too long.
You did everything you could to get married, my mother says, and you don’t even act like you’re married.
But that was the purpose all along.