A red balloon bobbed gently in the cold night air, the girl holding it was laughing, her eyes twinkling with happiness. The father, a tall, sharp-looking man, and the lanky, bespectacled mother looked at her with a faint smile on their faces. The traffic thinned and the bus moved and the sight was replaced by rows and rows of compact but ugly apartment complexes which rose into the sky like thorns. To anyone who had seen the trio, they would have appeared to be the perfect little family. But I knew that behind the most convincing smiles were hidden the angst of years of quarrels and misunderstandings.
My parents never got divorced, it is taboo, unthinkable at that time we live in. They just weren’t on good terms, they couldn’t talk about anything without it turning into a full-fledged screaming contest. But the real reason reason was that they weren’t right for each other. During the time when the fights abated, they would tell me that it was okay as I was the only good thing out of the marriage, I was the reason that they never went separate ways. I was used to my dysfunctional life, what was dysfunctional to others was normal to me. Nobody had any clue that my family was in pieces, except for my immediate relations. It was amusing that most didn’t know, and would never know, it was like living a shady, secret life inside the four walls of the house. I never was the moping kind, wailing and moaning about why my family was like that. But then I was just too familiar with that life to start complaining about it. It was hilarious how well they acted outside, what finesse, what subtlety, some performances were just astounding. Of course I laughed alone, nobody understood the joke.
I disembarked from the bus and made my way to the Chinese restaurant at the corner of Ashok street where my parents were meeting some friends for dinner. I hurried, my handbag swinging beside me, eager to play my role to perfection.