Young men find out getting married isn't the same from culture to culture from an Indian with a sense of humor and an unusual Hindu taste for beef.
Copyright for Jerry W. Engler by Print Source Direct and Kansas Publishing Ventures
Getting married is a matter of faiths
Brandon Brigstone came from the bright autumn day of a college campus, with red oak leaves drifting across the sidewalks, and into the fluorescent-lit rows of tables where graduate engineering students drew their plans.
The brown, blonde and red-haired young men concentrated their efforts on fine line drawings that showed everything from auger settings to electrical hookups to conveyor systems.
Brigstone was here to meet his roommate, Charlie, who was amid the dozen young faces that looked up in greeting as he walked in.
One face shone with unusual intensity and curiosity from the middle of the group--white teeth shining from nut-brown complexion that contrasted with the other pink faces. It belonged to a man a half-head shorter than the rest of them who was introduced to Brigstone by Charlie as Shuklah.
“I am very, very pleased to meet you, Brandon,” said Shuklah, grasping Brandon’s hand. “I like your roommate, Charlie, very much, and I enjoy all these fellows, even Ed over there.” Shuklah gestured at a blonde smiling from the corner.
“You just say my name like Shoo Claw, OK?”
“That’s all the name you have?”
“It’s enough name for you. I don’t try to get Americans to say the rest of it, OK?”
“Shuklah is a new grad student who just came this summer from India, Brandon,” Charlie said. “We’ve been having a good time helping him get familiar with everything.”
“Yes,” said Shuklah. “Right now I am helping plan a feedlot so someone can raise more cattle to eat. It even has its own miniature railroad. Some setup, eh?”
“So, Brandon,” said Charlie, smiling with an even more knowing look at his roommate, “do you want to eat lunch with us, or are you seeing Sue for the noon hour? How are things going with her anyway?”
“Ah, you have a girlfriend do you, Brandon?” asked Shuklah. “I am going to be married soon, too.”
“You are?” asked Charlie, turning to Shuklah.
“You didn’t tell us,” said Ed, getting to his feet with a half-dozen other young men to gather around Shuklah. “Well, tell us. Who is she, Shuklah? Somebody here, or is she back home.”
“Oh, I don’t know her yet.”
“Then how can you be getting married soon?”
“My parents are finding somebody for me. They are advertising in the Delhi and Bombay newspapers for somebody of my caste who will have gone to some college like me. We will have a Hindu wedding next summer.”
“But you don’t know her. You won’t be in love with her. Why would you want to do that in this age?”
“Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, eh, Brandon,” said Charlie with a wink.
“Of course I will love her,” said Shuklah. “She will be my wife.”
“But you won’t know her,” said Ed shaking his head. “Sounds like the recipe for a divorce to me.”
“I think I will get to know her very well, and I will love her,” replied Shuklah. “She will love me. By the time I come back here next fall, we will be very much in love.”
“You come back. Won’t she come back with you?” asked Brandon.”I would hate to have just gotten married and then not bring her back with me, if I was in your situation.”
“That will depend on how much money our families have. If she doesn’t, we will write to each other,” said Shuklah.
The young American men looked at Shuklah, and at each other smiling, a couple of them with tongues in cheeks.
Charlie said, “Shuklah, don’t you have any id, any pizzazz to pursue a woman on your own? How about this, Brandon? Do you have so little drive you want your parents to go pick a woman for you? Would they have chosen Sue?”
“Well, Charlie,” said Brandon, “they have met Sue, and they do like her. But she also has obvious attributes that had something to do with my interest that at least my mother might have missed. Besides, Sue might have missed seeing it if we advertised--wouldn’t even have thought to look.”
“Hey, I have id. I have pizzazzes, or whatever you called it. I am, as you say in your movies, a red-blooded man too. As a matter of fact,” said Shuklah, “I can hardly wait to be in love.
“Doesn’t your Jesus tell you to love your wives? Hey, tell Joseph John to come in here. He is a Jesus man. Joseph John, come in here.”
The door swung open, and a small black man in suit and tie walked in.
“Brandon, this is Joseph John. He comes from Zambia. Joseph John, you are a Jesus man aren’t you? Tell us about your marriage. You must explain to Brandon how old you really are, too.”
“Yes,” said Joseph John, who looked to be in his 20s like the other men around him. “I became a Christian many years ago. You see I am 55 even though most people here seem to think I am younger.
“Well,” added Joseph John, rolling his eyes in his smooth, youthful looking face, “you see, I already had three wives when I became a Christian. One of them became a Christian, too. But the other ones still keep little figures of their gods.
“I must not turn any of my wives out because I made covenant with them. Now I must love them forever, because what would happen to them if I didn’t?”
“Where are your wives, Joseph John?” asked Ed.
“They are in Zambia.”
“In your house?”
“No, they each have their own home. I don’t have a house. I just go to their houses when I am there.”
“You see, you see?” said Shuklah. “That is even more different than me. I think I might like to study more about your Jesus and his love. I especially am intrigued by the story of how Jesus the Vishnu defeated Shiva the destroyer by rising from the dead in your history. Is Manu the monkey god in your bible, too? What kind of a Christian are you, Charlie?”
“I’m a Baptist with a wife I chose myself, although I could credit Jesus with a job well-done in sending her my way. How about it, Brandon, did Jesus and God the Father do a construction job with Sue to your liking?”
“That I guess they did,” said Brandon, turning pink for the first time.
“Very good, that’s higher than Methodist isn’t it?” asked Shuklah. “I mean you, Charlie, being a Baptist. I am Brahmin, warrior caste, to you. I must remain enlightened. I will help your people study Vishnu too if you like.”
“No, Shuklah,” said Charlie, “being Baptist isn’t higher up than being a Methodist or a Catholic or a Presbyterian or any other kind of a Christian. We’re all washed in the blood if we ask to be--it’s just different traditions.”
“So,” said Shuklah, “you can bring a Hindu in for a blood wash, I suppose?”
“You might have to make a choice to be Christian,” said Joseph John. “You can’t follow Jesus and Hinduism both.”
“Who wants hamburgers for lunch?” said Ed. “I’m going for hamburgers. How many, Brandon, Charlie, two each?”
“I will also take two hamburgers,” Shuklah said. “I love American hamburgers.”
“Shuklah,” said Charlie, “I thought you were a good Hindu.”
“Oh, I am.”
“I thought Hindus wouldn’t hurt cows. How can you eat beef?”
“Oh, this is American beef. This is your ancestors we’re eating, not my ancestors. I especially love to have one of those 16-ounce steaks--talk about a pedigree.”
“I don’t think I saw anything about Gandhi eating beef in his campaign to make India an independent nation from the British Empire,” said Ed.
“Gandhi once said he could almost become a Christian, too, if it weren’t for the Christians. But, it’s true , he was mostly talking about the British,” said Shuklah. “You Americans have been kinder. Gandhi didn’t eat beef, but some day I will go to England, and eat beef. That will taste very good since we Indians have a little bit of the English soul already in us.
“Hey, these are feedlots we’re planning. We’re stepping up the process.”
“Hey, yourself,” said Ed. “I really feel a little more like eating fried chicken now. How about it guys? Can we forget the hamburgers today, and I’ll go for a bucket of fried chicken?”
“Chicken is good, Ed,” said Shuklah. “I apologize in great sincerity if I bothered you. I can be a good Hindu full of id with a great curiosity of Jesus, and eat fried chicken, too.
“I find American chicken quite good. I will try not to explain why, except to say we are what we eat, but you know this.”
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"Getting married is a matter of faiths"
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|Reviewed by Richard Orey
|Sorry, Jerry, but I'm very comfortable with having chosen my own wife fifty-five years ago. And I like burgers and fried chicken. But after reading this little story I'm starting to have second thoughts about drinking that glass of milk at night with the cookies. I'm just not too sure of where cow's milk fits in with all of this. You know, I wouldn't want to find out later that I just drank my grandfather!
And pardon me if I get a little wild-eyed over the prospect of visiting my three wives in their three houses. Does that mean I get all the "comforts" of home and don't even have to worry about a mortgage?
I thought my thinking was okay until I read his article. Now, I'm so mixed up I might call in Harlan Medlam for a consultation. He seems to have a way of getting things done without too much effort.
Great write, Jerry. Lots of fun.
|Reviewed by Jean Pike
|Jerry I thought this story was delightful. Very different from your other works, but definitely just as enjoyable. I found myself chuckling out loud at your portrayal of the foreigner, Shuklah.
"Oh, this is American beef. This is your ancestors we're eating, not my ancestors." That was beautiful!