“What about this one? The color will really suit you, Dimple.” Dimple couldn’t
resist rolling her eyes at the voluminous salwar kameez Mamma was holding up.
It was swaths of gold brocade, with a vibrant peacock blue dupatta. It looked like
a costume for a Bollywood movie. “Sorry, Mother, I cannot wear that to Insomnia
Mamma lowered the offending garment, looking outraged. “Why not? You should
be proud of your heritage, Dimple.” From around the tiny shop full of imported
Indian clothing, parents gave Mamma approving looks. Dimple could see her
practically preening for the crowd. “Papa and I have held on to our culture, our
values, for a quarter century! When we came to America, we said we would
“Yeah, but I didn’t come to America,” Dimple interrupted, darting a defiant glance
at all the shoppers. “I was born here. This is my home. This is my culture.”
Mamma clutched the gold salwar to her bosom. “Hai Ram,” she said faintly.
Dimple sighed and grabbed a few kurta tops hanging on the rail next to her. They
were all variations of the same color and pattern: black with grayish-silver
accents. “What about these?” she said. She could pair them with her skinny
jeans and Chucks and look almost normal.
Mamma made a face, but Dimple could already see she was going to agree. “I
suppose that will do, but a little bit of color would really be nice for your
complexion. Since you refuse to wear makeup . . .”
Dimple hurried Mamma to the counter to pay before she could begin looking
around the store for kaajal.
Back at home Dimple texted Celia. Leaving tomorrow 8 AM! Should take me
about 4 hrs from Fresno.
Celia was one of the few other girls who were attending Insomnia Con. They’d
met on the forums and decided to room together for the month and a half.
Of course Dimple hadn’t told Mamma and Papa about that. They’d worry that
Celia would turn out to be a fifty-year- old man with a shovel and a van if they
knew that Dimple met her online. (She wasn’t. Dimple had checked her out on
Facebook.) It had been hard enough to convince them to let her drive herself.
Dimple wasn’t completely sure they grasped the concept of college—that, in just
a couple of weeks, she’d be living apart from them, making decisions for herself.
Her phone beeped with an incoming text.
I. Cannot. Wait.
Celia, who’d also just graduated high school, lived in San Francisco with her
parents. She would start at SFSU in the fall.
Me either! Do you want to meet up for lunch when I get there?
Sure! How about on campus? They have a great pizza place.
After they’d settled the details, Dimple sank back in her bed and smiled. It was all
falling into place. Her life was finally beginning.
Ma performed the ritual in the driveway. She’d set a bowl of kum- kum powder
dissolved in water on a silver tray, and she circled it around his face and
shoulders. Her lips moved feverishly in prayer to Lord Hanuman as she asked
that good fortune smile on her oldest son. When the ritual was completed, she
stepped back and smiled up at him, tears glistening in her eyes.
Pappa put his hand on Rishi’s shoulder and squeezed once, briefly, before letting
go. “You have everything you need?”
Pappa said “everything” with a meaningful weightiness, and Rishi nodded
solemnly, knowing what he meant.
“Call us the minute you get there,” Ma said.
“We’re in Atherton. It’ll take him, like, an hour to get to SFSU. He takes longer
baths.” Ashish was a few feet away, shooting hoops while he waited for his
friends to swing by and pick him up for what- ever fun weekend activity they had
planned—contracting hep C or maybe alcohol poisoning.
His mother glared over her shoulder. “Yes, but this is a special trip. He could be
meeting your future bhabhi, Ashish. Have some respect.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll call as soon as I can,” Rishi said quickly. Then he bent down and
touched their feet. “Bye, Ma, Pappa.”
He felt his chest swelling with emotion as he got in the car and drove off, his
parents waving like mad in the rearview mirror. Some- thing bigger than him
threatened to flatten Rishi, something bigger than all of them. He could swear, as
he drove down the tree-lined street in the late morning light, that he saw dozens
and dozens of flickering ghosts—his grandparents and their parents and their
parents—watching him, smiling. Escorting him to his destiny.
Dimple stretched out her stiff muscles as she made her way to the cluster of
stores and restaurants across from the parking garage. The afternoon sunlight
was luxuriant on her skin; she’d been sequestered in her car for the past three
hours. The open air of the city felt positively therapeutic after all that inhaled air-
Dimple had gotten here faster than she’d anticipated, so she’d texted Celia to tell
her that she was here, but to take her time. She would explore the campus a bit
while she waited. But first—Starbucks.
She needed some caffeine in her system before she called home to tell her
parents she’d arrived. Mamma was sure to have another litany of questions and
warnings about American college boys. Dimple had to actually roll up the car
window while Mamma was talking this morning so she could leave on time. Even
Papa had given up and gone inside after twenty minutes. The woman
was relentless, with the jaw muscles of a jungle predator. The upside was that
because she’d been so worried about being late, Dimple had driven ten above
the speed limit the entire time, refused to stop for breaks, and made it early.
“An iced coffee, please,” she told the cute male barista with the septum piercing.
The coffee shop buzzed, college students mingling like showy tropical fish with
their brightly colored hair. The sheer scope and number of tattoos and piercings
would have Mamma fainting. Dimple adored it.
Clutching her iced drink, she made her way outside and meandered over to a
stone fountain of the SFSU gator (which was turned off; thank you, drought
conditions). Dimple sat on the lip of the bowl and tipped her face up to the sky,
soaking up the sunshine and thinking about how she’d spend the next hour.
Should she go by the Insomnia Con building now or do that with Celia later? She
wanted to stop by the library, too, to see if they had the new Jenny Lindt memoir.
. . .
Man, the freedom made her feel almost drunk. She really did love her family, so
much, but being at home was starting to feel like wearing an iron corset, painful
and breathless and pinchy in all the wrong places. Although, she had to hand it to
them: sending her here was unprecedented.
Dimple didn’t know what had brought on her parents’ sudden change of heart
about Insomnia Con, but maybe she was having more of an influence on them
than she thought. Maybe they were finally beginning to realize she was her own
person, with a divergent, more modern belief system that renounced the
patriarchal dynamics of their time—
There was a sort of scuffling sound nearby, and Dimple opened her eyes,
startled. An Indian boy about her age was gazing down at her with the weirdest,
goofiest grin on his face. His straight, jet- black hair flopped onto his forehead.
“Hello, future wife,” he said, his voice bubbling with glee. “I can’t wait to get
started on the rest of our lives!”
Dimple stared at him for the longest minute. The only word her brain was capable
of producing, in various tonal permutations, was: What? What?
Dimple didn’t know what to think. Serial killer? Loony bin escapee? Strangely
congenial mugger? Nothing made sense. So she did the only thing she could
think to do in the moment—she flung her iced coffee at him and ran the other
Reprinted from When Dimple Met Rishi with permission of Simon Pulse, an
imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division. Text copyright ©
2017 by Sandhya Kutty Falls.