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It was Sahana Sood’s favorite mistake—weekend yoga with her mom, Sharmila Sood. And like all mistakes, this too began with a good intention—a gift card for a month of lessons at The Lumi Yoga Studio. Her mother had insisted the gift would remain incomplete unless Sahana came along. “Like chai without samosa,” she had added for effect. At the time, the request had appeared harmless. Harmless.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” Sahana muttered under her breath, plodding onto her yoga mat while her mom set up next to her.
“You still haven’t told me why you went to see your OB-GYN last week,” her mom said, as she centered herself on her mat. “It wasn’t your annual check, because that happened a few months ago.”
“Take a deep breath in, as we begin our full body flow,” came Penny Dalla’s swami voice. She was a gorgeous blonde with a perfect yoga body—tight abs, tight butt, tight everything. “Get your energy flowing, actively channeling it into Tadasana or Mountain Pose, starting with your feet, to your calves, to your thighs, to your hips, your waist, breathe out and in again, as your pull your stomach muscles into your spine, remembering to breathe in deep—”
“Sahana?” her mom whispered, leaning closer to her. “Why won’t you tell me?”
“It was just a regular visit,” Sahana whispered back as Penny’s calming voice continued to flow through the room.
“Close your eyes if you want to or leave them open. Derive your intentionality as you fold your hands to your heart in Anjuli Mudra…”
“But there’s something you’re not telling me,” her mother insisted.
Sahana closed her eyes and breathed in deep. “I wanted to talk to her—my OB-GYN—about my options.”
“Inhale, yogis, let your breath comb through your body from head to toe.”
“Options for what?” her mother asked.
“Stand by yourself, through the practice as we move our arms down, touch the flat of both palms to the ground, with them resting side by side next to your feet, bend your knees, ground your palms, and one leg at a time, stretch out to Plank Pose, like so.”
Sahana followed Penny’s instructions to a tee, with her mother reluctantly following suit. “For freezing my eggs,” she replied in a flat voice.
The words instantly caused her mother to surrender her Whatever Pose. She sat up on her haunches. “What? What did you say? Freezing your—”
“Mom, really, it’s no big deal,” Sahana said, as she continued to hold her plank before transitioning into Cow Pose, led by Penny’s voice.
Her mother frowned hard. “Not a big deal? It is the most bullshit idea I have ever heard.”
There appeared to be a pause in the room. Sahana, who was by now immersed in Downward Dog, lifted her head up briefly to eye her mother as a few heads turned around to look at them before turning away. To the outside world, her mother was the quintessential Indian auntie, the matriarch of the Sood family, following the death of Sahana’s paternal grandmother. In the family’s eyes, Sharmila Sood was poised and traditional. But behind the curtains, where there remained no witnesses, her mother tended to curse like a bridezilla. Sahana let out a sigh. Capitulating her pose, she sank into crossed legs on her yoga mat. “It’s not bullshit,” she said, locking eyes with the older woman. “I’m thirty-two, single, without the slightest hint of the whereabouts of my Mr. Right. I need to be realistic with myself.”
Her mother shook her head as her eyes softened. “Sahana, God has given you everything. You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re a great cook, you love kids, you’re respectful of our traditions—”
“And yet, somehow, I can’t find a husband,” Sahana stated plainly. This was, after all, the bottom line. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried. It wasn’t as if she didn’t want to get married. She loved the idea of starting a family of her own—a husband, kids, mommy groups, and visits to the Hindu temple down the block. She’d been brought up to believe that was where the river ended. Without that piece in place, her life felt unfinished. And she was supposed to be the overachieving cousin. The Sood who’d nailed success in all the relevant aspects of Indian-American life—career, money, upholding traditional values. That was the image she’d lived up to all these years, and yet, every single underachieving cousin of hers had managed to race past her in the love department. They were all married, either happily or unhappily, with babies and baby bumps, hither and thither.
“So, if you can’t find a husband, you’re going to put your eggs in a cold freezer? Is that your solution?” her mother asked.
“No, it’s not a solution. It’s a plan. A backup in case things…I don’t know, if I don’t find a man, I can at least have a child. I’ve had this on my mind for a while, and I wanted to put it into motion. I’m tired of waiting,” Sahana said, turning to watch the others enter Savasana. “I think we should continue.” She gestured to Penny who was giving them both the stink eye.
Turning around, Sahana lay flat on her back on her mat and closed her eyes. She did what Savasana entailed—entered a Corpse Pose. Her mother gingerly followed, but she was clearly in no mood to play the game.
“You may be tired of waiting, but I am not tired of trying, Sahana. I don’t want microwave-grandbabies,” she snapped, resting her head on her mat, and closing her eyes while retaining a deep-set frown.
But this caused her daughter to sit back up. “Please don’t tell me you’ve got more boys for me to meet?” she asked, pleadingly. This had gone on for almost five years. Five years of meeting eligible Indian bachelors at varying locations, only to discover they were eligible morons. When they weren’t morons, the few that she’d liked, had been uninterested in her. One of them, Hari Singh, a handsome doctor from a wealthy Seattle family had ended up falling for one of her cousins, Laila Sood.
That one really took the cake.
“I have four lined up and I will send you a text with their pictures,” her mother replied. “And Sahana, I’m telling you I have a feeling about one of them. I have a feeling he’s the one.”
“Uh-huh,” Sahana nodded. “So, do I still need to meet the other three, then?”
Her mother shot her a frown. “Mohanji has said they are all good matches for you.”
“All good, huh? Mohanji said?” Sahana frowned. Mohanji was their trusted family astrologer—trusted to consistently deliver bullshit predictions. And yet, not a single marriage, or a single match ever occurred in the Sood family without his approval. He was like the side salad one ordered with a burger—customary, but wholly useless.
When yoga ended, Sahana and her mom rolled up their mats and walked out of the studio together. She was always left feeling the same way, after each weekend session—like she’d endured a slow, painful death.
“Let’s at least get lunch together?” her mom said, as they neared the parking lot.
Sahana shook her head. “I can’t. I’ve got to prepare for a meeting I have tomorrow with George Yoland, one of the managing partners at the firm.” While finding a husband was well outside of her control, Sahana had always held the reins on her career nice and tight. It was what gave her comfort on those cold, dark nights. While the rest of the world celebrated Valentine’s Day and wedding anniversaries, she spooned her legal files and client decks. Plus, it provided her the perfect alibi at family gatherings overflowing with curious relatives asking why she wasn’t married yet. “Oh, I’m too busy with my career to find a husband. I’m a lawyer.” Mic drop.
At present, her sights were set on a promotion to junior partner at her firm, Yoland and Wiseman—a goal she felt was within reach, considering she’d managed to close multiple acquisition deals that quarter for their largest client—well, except that one deal that had evaded her and which was likely to come up in her meeting the next day.
“Okay, but remember, next weekend is our Rakhi celebration.”
“Oh, right,” Sahana said. She’d forgotten it was. Raksha Bandhan, also called Rakhi, was an Indian festival that celebrated a sister’s relationship with a brother, or any brotherly figure. Sisters generally tied a sacred thread around the wrist of anyone they regarded as a brother or who they believed offered them protection and love. Rakhi was hugely celebrated in the Sood household, regardless of whether or not there was any brotherly or sisterly love lost.
“You know everyone will be there, including Laila, Hari, Mira, and Andy,” her mom continued to say. “Have you spoken to Shaan?” she added.
Sahana shook her head. Shaan Sood was her first cousin, once removed. He was tall, handsome, thirty-three years old, married with a six-year-old daughter, Misha. Sahana and he were close. She was closer to him than the other cousins because Shaan and she had grown up together. They’d lived in the same neighborhood, gone to the same school and even shared a few teachers along the way. But Shaan had been living in India the past few years, moving there after his marriage to his painter wife, Anita. But about a month ago, he’d returned to Seattle with only his daughter, and no one knew why. Not even his parents.
“I was going to go see him after work tomorrow,” Sahana said, pulling her clicker out to unlock her blue E-Class Benz.
“Tell him about Rakhi,” her mom said. “He has to be there, and so do you.”
Sahana reached forward and hugged her mother. “I will,” she replied.
Sahana lived in Downtown Kirkland near Marina Park, in a swanky community that overlooked the gorgeous Juanita Beach. It was a checkbox and she had checked it. Social status meant everything in the Sood family. What one made and how they made it, determined their pecking order in the community and by extension, the power of influence they held within it. Successfully placed children meant their parents received not only respect but the right to give others advice without notice or solicitation, a.k.a. her mother’s dream job in life.
Placing her Lululemon yoga bag on a side table, Sahana walked over to her refrigerator and grabbed herself some sparkling water. She slipped out to her balcony and sat down in one of the two chairs. Her eyes slowly grazed over to the empty seat next to her as she sipped the fizzy drink. The seat felt emptier to her than it looked. It was ironic, really. To the rest of the world, she was Miss Perfect. She had it all. What she wasn’t born with, she had achieved through hard work. She’d ruthlessly chased her goals in life and overcome obstacles big and small along the way. Sure, to some she came across as nothing short of a badass bitch. And maybe she was, in some ways, in some instances, where a badass bitch was required to be present. But no one, not even her mother knew what it was like to be Sahana Sood—to walk a tightrope all your life without ever breathing oxygen, and without a partner to lean on for balance, or comfort.
Sahana pulled her knees to her chest and closed her eyes to the gentle wind that blew her hair away from her face. Her thoughts drifted to her meeting the next day. If she could get that promotion, she promised herself she’d take a vacation, maybe even a sabbatical. Husband or no husband, the promotion would be her consolation prize.
Standing up from her seat, Sahana headed back indoors to retrieve her laptop so she could work on her reports. Ten minutes of wallowing in self-pity was all she could afford at the moment. She needed the meeting with her boss to go well the next day.
End of Excerpt