Three years back, I ran away from Kolkata. With a job in Noida I hoped to bypass the matrimonial onslaught. My relatives would ask me often “When are you getting married?”, “When are you getting married?” I was tempted to tattoo the answer on my arm: “I’m an engineer, not a fortune teller.”
Last Sunday night I was on sleeping pills as my mind was on a racing track of nightmares. I was finally cornered by my parents. They had flown in from Kolkata to put the brakes to my sweet, dreamy spinster life. Their emotional threats forced me to say yes to meet a prospective marriage match, ‘Pyare Mohan’. The meeting was fixed for Monday 7 p.m. at my relative’s house in Sector-27, Noida. I was terrified and fearful of my first arranged encounter.
But I was not willing to take it lying down. After a prolonged Google survey on How not to get married, I prepared a Master Plan of questions for that evening to arm myself to the teeth.
At my relatives’ house, a two-hour long community-training program conducted by my aunts and uncles on mannerisms and attire tried to brainwash me of all my ideologies. I realized that the criteria for professional success- initiative and communication skills were hazardous for ‘arranged matrimonial alliances’. I was instructed to act nervous by using lot of uhs and ums. The most important instruction was don’t ask questions.
Then came other instructions- say yes if questioned on your domestic capabilities like cooking, sewing, sweeping. I realized I would be playing the role from Haldiram Halwai, a tailor to Kammo maidservant in the life of Pyare. Parallely, fourteen attempts to drape a ‘saree’ to make a woman out of a girl like me failed when the ‘pallu’ did not work out. My natural beauty was gift-wrapped in artificial jewellery.To make me more beautiful, my spectacles were replaced with contact lenses. But these foreign objects in my eye made me look like a flickering tube light rather than Priety Zinta.
Then the doorbell rang. The ‘enemy was at the gates. I revised the Master Plan. Suddenly I realized that I had not washed my dust-covered face. I rushed to the washroom and applied the face wash. From the burning sensation I figured out that I had applied men’s hair gel. I turned on the tap but there was no water. I could not even shout. I wiped my face with a towel and nervously walked into the room and sat down with Pyare and his parents. Men’s hair gel was still tingling at the back of my ears.
Soon, the Kaun Banega Mera Pati of my life started. Can you sing? Can you cook? Can you sew? My answer was No, No, No. NRI Pyare’s desi parents asked how fluent I was in English? To prove my point, I thought of delivering Toastmaster Project 6 on Body language. The samosas on the table kept reminding how hungry I was. Then, I was given the opportune moment to confront foreign returned Pyare in the adjacent room. But before that I went and washed my face with Limca, remember there was no water.
When I got back, my may-be Pyare handed me a paper, which he claimed was lying on the floor. It was my Master Plan. What if he has read my strategies? The blueprints have leaked. The war has been lost.
Anyhow, I started with the Master Plan score-sheet with assorted objective questions, which I had graded. Can you cook? Yes with ten on ten and No with zero. Bank balance? Fixed or Exponential. Condition in stock market? Hedged or Broke. During rapid-fire session, Pyare had an analog eye contact and a digital smile. By then, my newly acquired contact lenses started their involuntary movement. I struggled to keep them in place. Pyare caught the wrong signal and seemed interested- with or without marriage. But my flickering eyes were glued to the samosas. I moved out to eat a mouthful of spicy Uncle chips. The lenses were troubling. I tried to adjust them with my spicy fingers. My eyes started burning as I re-entered the room. I thought it would be too embarrassing to leave again.
So, I decided to stay back. In no time my eyes turned red. The pain became unbearable. I rushed out and splashed Limca into my eyes. My contact lenses were flushed out. I was speechless and blind as a bat. I was unable to find my glasses as they were strategically hidden.
On my way back, I bumped with the door, consecutively with the chairs and table. I was dumb and blind. I smelled of hair gel and Limca. I looked like a drunkard. My sweet Limca face attracted a number of flies. In an attempt to drive the flies away, in my blurred vision I landed a slap on Pyare’s face.
A confused, disheartened Pyare Mohan left with his parents. They said no for the marriage two days later. I thanked Uncle- Uncle chips for this unexpected rescue. My parents cursed the contact lens vendor and planned to verbally abuse him next day.
I was reminded of a quote, “Marriage is a three-ring circus-engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering.” Now, I know that ‘arranged marriage’ surely involves a lot of ‘arranged suffering’. I also understood why people fall in love. Simply to escape this ‘arranged suffering’. But for me, the first battle was won but the war is not over. Yet another meeting has been arranged and it continues…