Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Melba on his chest

Manoo, our driver, had his wife's name Melba tattooed on his chest. He got the tattoo before his impossibly difficult love-marriage (as opposed to the arranged marriage, greatly preferred) to Melba, one year before the marriage in fact and when his parents found out his father screamed at him, "Are you mad? Shall I take you to an asylum? Or should I burn this abomination off your chest with acid?"

The inking seemed a rash move made under the influence of raging hormones, unrequited love, the   Romeo effect cranked up to ten on the dial.

He fell in love with Melba when he first saw her working in the chemist's shop. She "liked" him which in Indian romance parlance means she would be amenable to marriage -  but her parents wanted nothing to do with him. He worked for a travel agency, no university education, no house, nothing much to offer. For five years he worked on them to convince the family he'd make a good husband - proving himself in every way. Her uncles visited his workplace, his employers were grilled. Her family finally agreed to the union, but kept throwing in conditions which they thought would discourage him: no dowry; no payment for the wedding or engagement; he had to agree to pay for her nursing school education, all of which are obligations usually assumed by the bride's family. For the five year dark period, during the convincing years, he never touched her - but he longed, he burned, he loved. And because he had to do something, anything - he tattooed.

Manoo told me this story as we were sitting together in the van waiting for the others. He glowed when speaking of the love of his life. So alive.


  1. "Son, let me help you get this off your chest."

  2. I almost missed this and it was so interesting. What a story! I'll bet you'll have a million more when you get home. I can't wait. I love Manoo and Melba.

  3. I wrote a great comment on this last nite on my Ipad forgetting that I can't make comments on that worthless thing. it's not really worthless, but I sure wish I could comment. So now I'll try again. That was a great story about Melba. Loved it.