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From behind the steering wheel

By Prasad Natarajan

Swish, swash, swish, swash, the wipers tirelessly cleared the windscreen of the pounding rain.  Seemingly effortless, each stroke was mesmerising.  No confusion.  No worries.  No rights or wrongs.  Just up and down.  The shiny black interior of the car portrayed a picture of serene calmness, contrasting sharply to the turmoil of emotions raging through him.  The knot in his stomach was nearly palpable.  His heart had repositioned itself near his throat while his cold hands gripped the black steering wheel, the whites of the knuckles showing.

Racing down the poorly lit road his mind focused back on the day the whole affair began.  It was in a smoke- filled student union party that he first saw her.  Through the vast hordes of people, he had spotted her simple yet good looking face.  Her long auburn hair cascaded down her bare shoulders.  She had been wearing a black pair of tight fitting Levi jeans coupled with dark blue Angora top.  He had gone over and made the usual introductions.

Slowly over time he had found that more and more he enjoyed her company and she his.  They shared similar interests, had similar friends and it seemed they were just made for each other.  Before long, with seemingly no effort, they started to go out with each other.  Therein lay the root of his problems.  Although he loved every minute he spent with her, fermenting away in the back of his head was the realisation that ahead of him in the path of love lay trouble.  The rain increased its battering of the car and in the distance he could hear the low rumbles of thunder.  Perhaps, he mused, a storm was coming in.  He swerved the car to the right to avoid a ditch in the road.  Once things were calm again, his pained mind drifted back to his troubles.

wheel The essence of the trouble lay in the fact that while he was a Hindu, she was a Christian.  His parents had had an arranged marriage and it was assumed that he too would have one.   Yet he was a final year engineering student and was old enough to decide for himself.  Although now everything seemed cosy, in thinking ahead for the future, he was perturbed.   One half said that there were several positive factors in an interfaith marriage.  The positive aspects of both races could be absorbed and passed on to his young.  His child would get the best of both worlds, a unique and exciting chance to delve into two old and culturally diverse religions.

The other half of his mind said that while in theory all that sounded good, there stood in the path a great many practical obstacles.  He knew that inherent within everyone was a selfish gene, one that coded for the proteins of self preservation and perpetuation.  He secretly desired for the child to be brought up as a Hindu, to soak up its values and grow up amongst its rich cultural heritage.  Yet he knew that this was fraught with difficulties.

A resounding clap of thunder boomed in the storm raging outside.  The electric arc of lightning for a split second lit up his face, accentuating the haggard furrows of deep thinking.  Just as he wanted for the child, he would want as well.  Next came the problem of language.  Not being fully competent in his own language was a sour point he had always been ashamed of, a fact he had wished to compensate for by ensuring that his first born would learn it.  Yet he feared and knew that his wife too would have a selfish gene, one that would want the proteins coded for a British culture.  So then what?  He was saved answering this question by a brief flash of lightning followed by a huge clap of thunder.  Despite being warm, he shivered in the proceeding darkness.

He doubted that he would ever find an answer.  Intrinsically he knew that he should trust the wisdom of his deep- rooted culture although his heart advised otherwise.  Should he not trust the evolutionary strength of gut instinct rather than the swayable heart?  With this question pervading the deep recesses of his mind, he parked the par and stepped out into the rain-filled night.

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