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Up For Grabs by meghna
Chapter 1 : {TO MARKET, TO MARKET, TO BUY A FAT COW}
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11


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Umm hi. I’ve been wanting to write a story about a crazy, conservative Indian family for a long time, and I finally found the words to put it down. I know Indians might find this a bit stereotypical – but it’s not in any way an exaggeration. There are families in India whose whole lives revolve around getting their children married (I’ve seen them with my own eyes. It’s not a myth) and settled down. Not all blokes are as misogynistic as the suitor(s) depicted here, but a vast majority are, so I’m going with the generalization, no matter how crass. This is fiction, after all. You’re allowed to do that, I gather. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the read. My knowledge of Hindi is far from extensive, and pretty much comprises of the seven words mentioned below, but I’m sure they’re the right meanings. Do correct me if I’m wrong. Happy reading & jsyk reviews are much appreciated :3 ♥

 






 

{ A GLOSSARY OF HINDI WORDS MENTIONED }
in chronological order ..

 Chai -- tea
Jaan -- literal meaning: life; used as a term of endearment; short for jaaneman or sweetheart/darling
Bakwaas -- rubbish/nonsense
Dilly -- native pronunciation of 'Delhi', the capital city of India.
Bevakoof -- idiot/fool
Garam Masala -- a spice mix used to make curries and savoury items in Indian cuisine
Chalo -- a way of saying "let's go"; contextually meaning that she is leaving.

 






She landed with a cough and a splutter, her trunk flying to the other end of the room and knocking down one of the tea tables.

 

The floo network. She would never master it.

 

“Paroo!” came the shrill voice she identified to be her mother’s, followed by the clatter of her rubber slippers against the wooden stairs. Her mother came rushing down with her hands outstretched, scooping Parvati into her embrace and cracking her ribcage. “PADMA! BRING YOUR FATHER! SHE’S COME!” she hollered into her ears, while drawing back to give her a once-over, her lips puckered as she pulled at Parvati’s chin and cooed with endearment.

 
She began to wonder if it’s too late to floo back to London, and if she really can endure a whole three weeks back home. Especially with her mother around.

 
“Hi ma,” Parvati managed through her mother’s painful grip on her chin. She heard her sister plod down the stairs, followed by her father, and hugged them both.

 
“You’ve gone chubby,” she commented, inspecting her sister Padma who swatted her hand.

 
“You haven’t been living with this one,” Padma replied, rolling her eyes in the direction of her mother, who was staring at Parvati’s backside and shaking her head.

 
“Let the girl breathe, Ma,” said her father, sounding surprisingly calm and presumably used to his wife’s eccentrics. “She only just got here, don’t start going on about how much she needs to eat already.”

 
He embraced his daughter, and Parvati felt relieved to have one sane human in the family.

 
“My trunk went flying across the room. I’m sorry about the table,” she muttered apologetically, tucking a strand of dark hair behind her ears.

 
“That’s alright, you can buy us a new one with all the good Wizard money you’re making. Come now, let’s have chai.”

 

*

 

“Did you hear Roy Uncle’s daughter is getting to married?” asked Parvati’s mother as she dropped two more sugar cubes into her tea than she had asked for. “They found an engineer who makes a good lump a year, but his family lives in another city. Reenu was telling me that she’s very upset to leave home. You know what Reenu told her?” she asked Parvati, who shook her head and took a sip of her sugary concoction. “That she’d never be able to live with an unmarried, twenty-six year old in her house!”

 
Her mother laughed loudly and Parvati gulped.

 
“Be thankful that I’m not that wicked,” her mother shot her a look obfuscated with multiple meanings. Parvati brushed it aside and cleared her throat.

 
“What else is going on?” she asked, directing the question to her father, knowing she would get an answer of relevance out of him.

 
“Dolly and Sweety are engaged as well!” her mother butt in, making her sister roll her eyes and dunk her biscuit grumpily into her tea.

 
“Mum you’re obsessed,” Padma sneered. “Just give it a rest, would you?”

 
“Of course I’m obsessed! This is important, especially when I have two daughters myself and only one of them is engaged,” the look was cast in Parvati’s direction again, but she ignored it. “You just wait till you have children. We’ll see what you talk to them about.”

 
“Quidditch maybe,” mumbled Parvati, sipping her tea again, hoping her mother wouldn’t pick it up. But her ears were sharp.

 
“Broomsticks and bakwaas!” she cried angrily, sitting down at the table finally and pushing her badly cut bangs out of her hair.

 
“Tell us about London, jaan,” her father says with a sigh, before Mama Patil can go on with her tirade.

 
“London’s great,” replied Parvati, grateful for a change in topic. “Work is keeping me really busy. But Potter Week is next month, so we all get time off, and I’m going to the festival in Essex with some friends.”

 
“Boyfriends?” pipes up Padma, making Parvati roll her eyes.

 
“Shut up. Anyway, I haven’t – ”

 
“What? Answer it! Are you going with boys?” it was her mother this time and Parvati sighed once more.

 
“Yes, ma, of course boys are going to be there!” she groaned, draining her tea cup and walking to the sink. With a quick swish of her wand she cleaned the cup as well as the pile of impending dirty dishes.

 
“Are they clean?” her mother enquired and Parvati laughed, unsure if she was talking about the boys or the dishes for a second.

 
“What does that even mean? Are you asking me if they shower?”

 
“Bathing is important. Do they have a bath twice a day?”

 
“Merlin, I don’t know!” cried Parvati, looking at her dad for help.

 
“Who is Merlin? Your boyfriend? I thought his name was Roger!”

 
Sitting down at the table again, against better judgement, Parvati let out another sigh.

 
“Merlin is not my boyfriend, ma. And neither is Roger,” she mumbled. “And can we talk about Padma, here? She’s the one getting married!” she cried, flailing her hands around.

 
Her mother’s expression changed at once, and a wide smile spread over her features.

 
“Ohhhhh let me tell you about Ramesh,” she says dotingly, exchanging looks with Padma who rolls her eyes. “He’s a lawyer. Very wealthy, but the boy has such good manners. His sister is a wizard, so – ”

 
“Witch,” corrects Padma.

 
“She’s not a bitch! I don’t know why don’t like her!” cries the outraged mother, and everyone else shakes their heads.

 
“No mum, I’m saying she’s a witch, not a wizard,” Padma tries to explain.

 
“Bitch, witch, all the same! Have some respect Padoo, she’s older than you!” she snaps and the sisters share defeated expressions. “Anyway. His sister is a wizard, so he knows all about your magic business. They have a house in Dilly, did you know?”

 
And she prattled on. Her father picked up the newspaper and got lost behind it, Parvati tried to listen to as much as she could, while Padma stared into her empty tea cup as if she could see the figure of the Grim in it.

 

*

 

“Remind me again why I wanted to move back to India?” Padma asked later that night with a heavy sigh. Parvati was lying on her stomach, her face squashed into a fluffy pillow from the nose upwards.

 
“’Cause you knew it would make you happy,” mumbled Parvati in return, mentally questioning the premise for her sister’s doubt.

 
All she got was a groan in reply.

 
“Are you happy, P?” she chanced, hoping the answer would be positive.

 
“I guess,” conceded the twin. “I mean, mum’s having some serious kittens about the wedding and she knows how to do a number on your sanity. But I have fun helping papa out and .. well, I’m getting married aren’t I?”

 
“How’s the bloke?” enquired Parvati, trying to conjure a mental image of this Ramesh, the lawyer with a house in Delhi who apparently looked like a Bollywood star. They all did, before they got married, but she decided not to raise that point.

 
“He’s actually really nice,” muttered Padma and Parvati took her word for it. “An improvement from Ron Weasley anyway,” she said, and they giggled for a bit, remembering the complete let-down that was The Yule Ball.

 
“Isn’t he married? And Potter?”

 
“Yup. Ron’s got two kids, with a third on the way. I’ve lost count of how many Potter’s got,” chuckled Parvati.

 
“We managed to land some pretty decent dates, didn’t we?” said Padma cheekily and Parvati rolled her eyes.

 
“Those two had as much charm as a Nargle with a Bubotuber infection,” she said snidely.

 
“What was that about Roger earlier today?”


“What?” mumbled Parvati, pretending like she didn’t understand.

 
“You know what,” said her sister sternly. “What’s going on with you two?”

 
“He broke up with me,” she let out, after a couple of minutes of debating whether to lie or not. “Something about .. us not being right.”

 
“Bollocks!”

 
“Yeah. Neville reckoned he was cheating on me.”

 
“Longbottom? You guys still in touch?”

 
Parvati nodded.

 
“What do you think about the wedding?”

 
“What does that mean?” this time, she really didn’t understand.

 
“You think .. I should do it?” Padma looked worried and unsure.

 
“Of course, P! I mean – you said he’s a great guy, right? If you like him and you think it’s going to work – ”

 
“But you hate arranged marriages!”

 
“No. They’re just not for me. We’re chalk and cheese, Padma, you know that. Just because we’re twins it doesn’t mean what works for you works for me.

 
“Mum’s been doing the nut about that, by the way. Reckons you better settle down with a bloke or she’ll settle someone down for you.”

 
“She’s gone real barmy this time, hasn’t she?”

 
“Good luck surviving the next – how long are you here for, again?”

 
“Three weeks.”

 
“I’ll repeat: good luck surviving the next three weeks.”

 

*

 

“PARVATI GET UP! PARVATI! PARVATI PATIL!”

 
Parvati swore loudly and earned a gasp from her mother, who smacked her arm.

 
“Get out of bed right now, young lady! There are people here to see you!”

 
“Who?” groaned Parvati, pushing the hair out of her eyes and turning onto her back to face her mother.

 
“Mr and Mrs Krishnan are here with their son,” her mother hissed with urgency. Parvati’s eyes bulged out of her sockets. That spelt trouble.

 
“Why are they here to see me?” she whispered back, eyebrows knotting together in confusion and worry, dreading what she was about to here. Her mother rolled her eyes.

 
“Why do you take the cow to the market? Don’t be a bevakoof, Parvati Patil. You’re up for grabs!” cried her mother jubilantly. “Wear some respectable clothes and come down in ten minutes.” And she stormed out of the room, leaving Parvati stunned and unable to move.

 
Parvati swore again, but this time under her breath. Then three more times.

 
One week since she had got there and her mother was already bringing in blokes for interviews? Blokes with engineering degrees and houses in the capital? Blokes with marriage proposals?

 
She swore again before crawling her way to the bathroom, stripping herself of her ratty old Chuddley Cannons pyjamas and turning on the shower. The water fluctuated between hot and cold like it always had, but Parvati was so preoccupied trying to sort out her muddled brain that she had barely taken notice.

 
Okay. Strategize, Parvati. Be hostile and rude, that’ll put them off for sure, she thought, but just the sight of her mother’s face contorting in anger made her abandon the plan.

 
Do something unladylike. Be disgusting. Don’t cross your legs. Don’t say please or thank you.

 
Dig your nose?

 
Eww no.

 
Spill tea on the bloke and cause him some serious burns?

 
He could get seriously injured.

 
Say you have a boyfriend.

 
But I don’t.

 
“Parvati get out there or mum’s coming after you with a bludger!” she heard Padma call and understood that it was probably time to step out of the bipolar shower and face her fears. She squeezed herself into the tunics her mother had laid out before waking her up so rudely, dried her hair with her wand and went down the stairs.

 
She could hear the ominous sound of her mother’s high pitched laughing and the clinking of tea cups.

 
They were down to business.

 
It was as if the clock stopped ticking for a few minutes when she stepped into the living room. The already small room seemed to have shrunk considerably upon her entry, but Parvati didn’t have time to dwell on it, because her mother had swooped in on her like an eagle with its talons outstretched.

 
“Paroo, come, come!” she cooed, almost making Parvati want to run out of the door screaming. “This is Mr and Mrs Mukherjee, you know them, right?”

 
Parvati gave the couple a tight lipped smile, thankful that they looked more normal than she had imagined.

 
“She looks just like Padma!” cried the mister, and Parvati almost raised her eyebrows at him and went “seriously?”. But her mother’s grip on her arm was so tight it was cutting off all the blood supply to her fingers.

 
“And this is Sameer,” said her mother demurely, pointing the bloke who was seated rather uncomfortably next to his father. Parvati couldn’t tell if it was circumstance or the itchy upholstery that made him look so uneasy, but she offered her hand anyway.

 
No, not in marriage. To shake, for Fudge’s sake!

 
“Hi.”

 
“Hi.”

 
An eternity of silence, till her mother let out a clap and a shrill giggle that almost made Parvati’s eardrums bleed.

 
“You children go to the verandah and sit. Let the adults talk for some time,” she swats her daughter away, patting Sameer on the shoulder. He stood up promptly and stuffed his hands into his pockets, following Parvati out into the balcony that offered a poor view of the living room of the house next door.

 
“So. What do you do?” she decided it was better to engage in conversation, rather than to contemplate the number of ways she could throw him off the building and make it look like an accident.

 
“I’m an accountant,” he replied, not meeting her eyes. “I make good money.”

 
“So do I, asshole,” she refrained from saying. Instead, she went with “Oh. Do you like it?”

 
“My job?” he asked, and she nods. “Yeah. It pays well.”

 
“Hmmm,” she said, with another tight-lipped smile. “What do you do in your free time?”

 
He snorted at this, and she had to count backwards to stop herself from raising her eyebrows and sneering at him.

 
“I’m very busy. I don’t have hobbies,” he said, as if she had asked if he had herpes. “I like watching cricket though. And I enjoy good food.”

 
“Right.”

 
“So. Would you like to marry me?” Sameer blurted out.

 
“Umm. Do you want to marry me?” she countered with a shaky laugh that sounded strained to her own ears.

 
“Yes.”

 
She was rather stunned.

 
“Why?”

 
Sameer shrugged. “Your mother says you cook well, and that you will take care of me. I think this an investment I am willing to risk.”

 
Outraged, in the first thirty seconds of conversing with him, she was certain she was definitely not going to marry him, irrespective of how many summer houses he had or how much money he made at his obviously uninteresting accounting firm.

 
Her mother was confused to say the least. “He’s such a good boy! So well mannered!” followed by “He’s so wealthy! You will be very happy, Paroo!” and then, inevitably, “Do you know how you’re making me feel? I’m doing this for your own good! I don’t want you to be old and alone!” with a conclusion that went along the lines of: “Where will I get grandchildren from?”

 
By the time the fourth suitor arrived, Parvati was a pro at the dismissal.

 
She was the only one who was impressed.

 

*

 

She had always had a sort of love-hate relationship with Indian weddings. The noise and endless gossiping to no end put her off more than anything else, but the food was always everything she had craved and more. Hell, nothing she had eaten in England tasted as good as one spoon of curry.

 
Parvati lived for garam masala.

 
“Bugger,” she heard someone mumble from behind her and she spun around. “Oh, not you! It’s the groom. His – well, whatever you call what he’s wearing .. it’s riding up his crotch, look!”

 
She wasn’t sure she wanted to, but she averted her gaze from the stranger before her (who was scooping in spoonfuls of rice mixed with a dark red curry into his mouth as he spoke) to the bride and groom on stage. It was true. The groom’s crotch was getting a lot of attention.

 
She chuckled, before turning back to the bloke before her, who swallowed, dropped his spoon onto his plate and stuck out his hand.

 
“Friend of the bride’s?” he asked and she nodded. “Thought so. I’m guessing your name starts with P then, unless you’re not related?”

 
Parvati chuckled and shook it. “You guessed right. I’m Parvati.”

 
“Vinod. And no, I’m definitely not friends with the bloke doing a crotch dance on stage,” he retracted his hand went back to spooning more food into his mouth, leaving Parvati in a fit of giggles.

 
“You sound English. You’re not from around here?” she questioned.

 
“I live in – uhh, yeah England. Close to London.”

 
Close to London. That was code for one thing and one thing only.

 
Parvati inspected him as quickly if she could, looking for any signs of Magical lineage. She couldn’t just ask him. Imagine the spectacle it would cause if it turned out he was a Muggle.

 
“I live in London too,” she said slowly.

 
“Great. Now all you need to know is how much my annual income is, and we’re ready to get married!” he said extravagantly, and with a tone of mock seriousness. Parvati rolled her eyes and smiled. “I would ask if you’re a good cook so that there’s at least one box you tick on the Dutiful Housewife list, but I’ve got a house elf for that, don’t worry.”

 
“So you are a wizard!” she whispered, feeling slightly proud for having been able to tell without asking him.

 
“’Course I am,” Vinod said, puffing his chest out a bit. “Didn’t think I was a Muggle, did you?” he feigned a look of deep offence and Parvati laughed at his antics.

 
“How did you know I wasn’t a Muggle?” she asked, curious this time.

 
“Are you crazy? You smell like a witch,” he pointed out and shrugged, making the aunty who passed them by shoot him a disapproving look.

 
“I smell like a witch?” Parvati crossed her hands across her chest.

 
“Yeah. You know. Diagon Alley, parchment, Bertie Botts,” he waved it off like it was nothing. “What brings you to India anyway?”

 
“I haven’t been home in three years,” she said a little guiltily. “And I had some time off from work. So I just thought I’d drop in. What about you?”

 
“I came just for this one’s wedding,” he said, jerking his head in the direction of the groom, who now looked much more at ease with his clothing. “I have no clue who the bloody hell he is, but he’s supposedly important and we’re closely related. Supposedly.”

 
Parvati giggled again.

 
“Where do you work?”

 
“Gringotts. I’m a Curse Breaker.”

 
“Ouch, sounds like serious stuff. Is it true that Goblins don’t wear knickers?” he asked, looking half-amused.

 
“I don’t know, I haven’t checked. Why, are you thinking of marrying one?” she said quickly and he laughed. It was a deep, rumbly laugh.

 
“Honestly, at this rate, I’ll have to settle for a Goblin,” he chuckled. “My friends back home bet that I’m going to go back with a wife.”

 
“How’s that working out for you?” she asked, laughing.

 
“My parents called over a couple of girls. Two of them were working, but all they wanted to know was about my house in London – which is a bloody mess, I tell you. Anyway, I’m not marrying a Muggle. They’re far too thick.”

 
Parvati had to agree. “Well, you have a house elf. Why would you need a wife?” she said dryly, brushing the hair out her eyes with defiance.

 
“You’ve been through the same rigmarole at some point, I’m assuming?” he raised an eyebrow at her and she shook her head.

 
“Do not get me started,” she closed her eyes and sighed. “You’d think that, you know, in the 21st century, people would act with a little decency and .. ugh I don’t know!” she threw her hands up in the air. “My sister’s managed to find a nice bloke, surprisingly. Maybe he’ll have cousins.”

 
Vinod laughed.

 
“On what basis did she choose him? Number of houses or number of housekeepers? Or a cumulative average?” he said sarcastically, and Parvati glared at him.

 
“Shut up,” she mumbled. “I mean, yeah, he’s rich.” Vinod snorted. “But he’s supposedly really nice. And good looking.”

 
“They all are, before they get married.” He said, mimicking the same thoughts she had earlier.

 
“To each his own,” she reasoned and he nodded.

 
“So you didn’t like any of the blokes who turned up?”

 
“I liked them just fine. Don’t fancy marrying any of them, is all.” She mumbled dejectedly and Vinod left his empty plate by the table and patted her shoulders.

 
“Don’t worry, I’m sure someone will turn up. Probably in a fancy car with a bank balance so large you’ll never have to get off the couch again. Except to prepare his meals, of course,” he smirked and Parvati smacked his arm. “Violence is not terribly endearing. I’m sure your mother taught you better.”

 
As if on cue, Parvati spotted her mother walking towards her, a big grin on her face at the sight of the male standing next to her daughter.

 
“Paroo, you didn’t tell me you had a friend here!” she cried ecstatically. Parvati glanced uneasily at Vinod, who looked like he was going to burst out laughing.

 
“Ma, this is Vinod,” she introduced him and stepped back, letting her mother do the dutiful gushing and prodding.

 
“Are you with the bride or the groom?” her mother asked the poor bloke, who looked worse for wear within a few minutes of talking to her.

 
“The groom. He’s a cousin, I believe,” he answered charmingly nevertheless.

 
“Are you married?”

 
“Mom!”

 
Vinod laughed. “No, and unsurprisingly so.”

 
“Engaged?”

 
“Not as far as I know,” he says cheekily, with a wink cast in Parvati’s direction. She rolled her eyes at him while praying her cheeks wouldn’t turn red.

 
“You must come home some time! Spend some time with Paroo, since you are friends. She’s not here for very long,” her mother was then gripping Parvati’s hand like she was afraid she would disintegrate into nothingness.

 
“That would be lovely. I’m sure we can arrange something,” offered Vinod and Parvati raised her eyebrow at him.

 
Her mother was so giddy with happiness that Parvati wondered if they would need a stretcher to take her home.

 
“Okay, you let me know! You kids have fun then, chalo,” she gave him an unnecessary peck on the cheek and squeezed his chin the way she did to Parvati on her return, before wading away into the mob of jolly folks, in search of her next prey.

 
“My mother, ladies and gents,” said an embarrassed Parvati with a sigh.

 
“She’s absolutely terrifying,” Vinod chuckled. “In a good way. Charming lady, but I don’t think I can marry you if I’ve got to endure that every day.”

 
Parvati rolled her eyes at his gall. Making fun of her own mother!

 
“I’m sorry, that was terrible. She’s a nice lady, really, I like her,” he says with a laugh, but Parvati senses his discomfort. Dismissing his worries of saying the wrong thing, she smiled at him and waved it off.

 
“So. When are you inviting me over to your place?” he asked casually, pushing his hands into the pockets of his blazer.

 
“My mother already invited you, remember? I’m pretty sure you could turn up on our doorstep in the dead of night and she’d be perfectly okay with it,” she replied, not devoid of snark.

 
“Maybe I’m not going back with a wife. You think I can wing a date though?” he looks at her square in the eyes and behind those glistening, playful eyes, she knows he’s being serious.

 
“Parvati! Padma’s looking for you! She’s at the reception!” a cousin whose name Parvati couldn’t remember interrupted, before hitching up her saree and running in pursuit of somebody else.

 
“I’ll have to check my schedule. My mum’s got some blokes lined up for inspection,” she said to Vinod, beginning to walk away from him.

 
“Don’t be lured by the shiny cars! They’ll have pot bellies in three years!” he called as she walked away, throwing her head back and laughing. “And I’m much better looking!”

 
What bakwaas.

 


 






 




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