"Chalo beta aaj ladki dekhne jaana hai! Tayaar ho jaao!"
As I had earlier mentioned on this blog, going home has become quite rare for me these days, and as a result I find myself facing huge backlogs when it comes to being up to date with familial matters. I came to know last week that one of my distant cousins, who happens to be almost the same age as me, was getting engaged to his childhood sweetheart the day before. 'What's the hurry yaar', I asked him as I called him up as soon as I reached home that day, 'Why do you want to spoil something that's going well for you!' The problem with all my cousins, elders included, is that they fail to appreciate my deep and well found insights into intriguing matters of human concern; my remarks are routinely taken jokingly at face value, and when I reiterate that I am serious, I inadvertently manage to cause some eyebrows to be raised. No wonder that my cousin chided me for this ground breaking suggestion of mine and said 'Bachhu, tujhe jab kisi se pyaar hoga tab tu samjhega! Teri shaadi ka time ab dur nahi hai! Tu bhi koi dhund le.'
I am sure he was joking about that 'teri shaadi' part, and more so, the 'dhund le' remark. I am confident that I will never be able to find the right life partner for myself, and hence I have never even tried to. But that brilliant sally my cousin used against me struck some hitherto hidden cord in my parents' minds, and I found myself hearing these lines yesterday -
"Beta, ab tumhari shaadi ke baare mein bhi sochna chahiye. Ye bache bhi kitni jaldi badhe ho jaate hain! Tumhare liye ek achaa rishta aaya hai, kal ladki waalon ke ghar jaana hai. Chalo tayaari mein lag jaao tum!"
I don't normally swear these days, and never would even dream of doing it in the presence of my parents. But this sudden shock managed to squeeze out a 'WTF' from my mouth, causing some more eyebrows to be raised. 'I have not even graduated from college yet!' was all that I managed to utter. What I really wanted to tell them was that I am in no mood to marry so early,that I haven't even met the right girl yet, that I won't marry before I settle down nicely into my consulting job, that I don't want an arranged marriage etc. But the best that I could come up with was that I haven't even graduated yet.
"Koi jaldi nahi hai, wo ladki bhi abhi student hai. Agar ab baat ban jaaye to tum donon aaram se apne man se shaadi kar lo. Koi jaldi nahi hai. Agle saal bhi chalega. Tab tak baaki tayari kar lenge hum," they replied.
Still a student! I was sure the poor girl would have no idea of the kind of activities our families were involved in. I then told my parents some of the points I just mentioned above in an attempt to make them see sense but to no avail. It seemed as if my cousin had just opened the floodgates for female bio-datas and horoscopes to rush into my (barren?) life.
After further attempts at trying to avoid the inevitable, I found myself getting ready for the 'ladki dekhne jaana hai' ceremony. I was told to wear the 'naya shirt liya tha na tumne abhi placements ke liye' and was forced to get a neat haircut and a decent shave. To tell you frankly, I hadn't personally cared as much for my appearance for my campus placements. But then I thought perhaps this ladki dekhna is some highly sacred ritual in the eyes of my family (and her too) so I went ahead with it just to make them happy. After an hour of enduring a painful and bumpy auto ride in a typical sweltering Mumbai-Sunday-afternoon, and another half of asking for directions we finally reached the 'ladki waalon ka ghar'.
A knock knock later I found myself facing this huge towering Aunty dressed in what looked an expensive, but sadly overdone saree and overloaded with (fake?) gold jewelery. 'Arey aaiye aaiye, hum aapki hi raah dekh rahe the. Ghar dhundne mein taklif to nahi hui na?' she demanded. Now the kind of guy that I am, who can just manage a 'but I haven't graduated yet' in front of my own parents, to no one's surprise, managed a humble 'bilkul nahi' in the all encompassing presence (laterally) of this Aunty. I could not even imagine how I could later call her 'Mummy' or 'Aai' or whatever name she was addressed by her daughter.
After a couple of minutes of was-and-whens and how-do-you-dos, we were served overly sweet tea and super oily samosas. The sight of this fat-saturated-meal gave me that 'Aha!' moment - the sort I get when I make such discoveries of the causes of some phenomena that I notice in nature (I didn't know what one calls such moments until Sagar pointed out this term to me yesterday; he tells me that there is a well defined term for this, but he doesn't remember the name now and chooses to call them 'Aha!' moments - well, this name works just fine for me). Anyway, getting back to the point, I partook of the diabetic tea and was nibbling at the 'samosa' (notice the quotes. They are there for a purpose) and then entered the 'girl' (No purpose here though). I am no good judge of girls, but from what I've seen and known, I could tell that she is a very good girl, beautiful, smart and with a good nature. Trust your parents on these issues. 'Hmm, not bad. Perhaps I should think of saying yes. I can then fearlessly date this damsel for a couple of years, all the while knowing that she shall be mine finally.'
My dreams were turning out to be just right when came in, umm, (to be kind) let me say an 'extended miniature version of the aforementioned Aunty'. This new entrant and the Aunty comfortably settled in into a couch (that I feel could have easily seated 4 my size). After the usual 'Aur beta tum kya kar rahe ho aaj kal?' and 'Bahut acha ladka hai humara', the Aunty said this - 'To aapko humaari Bindya pasand aayi?' with a huge grin that to me felt like a threatening smirk that screamed out - 'You better say yes or else...'
Wait! Bindya? I thought you introduced that damsel as Sapna. I was about to raise this basic doubt when I saw the new entrant blushing and smiling and shifting around in her place (took mighty efforts, that shifting I tell you - I pity the poor couch). Oh My God! This is Bindya?! I looked towards my parents. They looked equally shocked to me. My mom was almost telling me 'Ye kaise hua? Hume bhi nahi pata!' with her eyes. It so was that Bindya was the elder daughter, and the Aunty was hoping to dump her on my shoulders - she literally looked a burden to me. But thankfully my parents stood their ground and for once supported me in what looked like a lost cause to me. The Aunty was disappointed it didn't work out. I noticed that Sapna never even chose to throw a passing glance towards me in the midst of all this debate. And so too Bindya. 'Must have overdone my dressing style', I thought.
In the end, it turned out that the only person genuinely interested in me was the Aunty. I wouldn't have been surprised had she tried to elope with me in the same auto that we took to come there. 'Chinta mat karo beta' my Mom said as we were leaving, 'Aur bhi ache rishte aayenge.' 'Haan beta chinta mat karo, hum hai na', added my Dad. 'Oh please don't. Let me live my life. (Though I don't mind coming back here for Sapna). Next time let me handle this business, and please for heaven's sake don't choose a family obsessed with cooking oil and sugar!' - my mind was screaming out. But sadly, the only thing that I could tell them aloud was -