all ye lovely ladies, ram cobain is off the market. I’m booked, hitched, sold. I’m engaged to the sweetest, cutest and nicest girl on the planet. Her name’s Gayatri, but I call her begum (or dharam-patni, in my more modern moods)
forgive me if I’m rambling. It’s a congenital defect and one perfected by years of practice. The truth is I am very happy. The truth is also that everything feels like a dream. I’ve pinched myself so many times that my arms resemble a heroin addict. And my head feels like one too.
I had a matrimony id. Actually, make that ‘ids’. An id on tamilmatrimony.com, another on shaadi.com and still a third on jeevansaathi.com. A sure sign of desperate times, aye. The only thing I can say in defence is that my parents created my profile. And that I was opposed to the idea. After all, I’m a metal head, a gross poet, an Enfield rider and an advertising writer with a reputation and a self-image to consider. And having a matrimony id is like admitting your grandfather liked his rasam spiked. That too with rice. But this is a strange tale, and there I was, with 3 matrimony ids and an acute feeling of being in the wrong place.
searching for your better-half on a matrimony site is a bizarre experience. Most girls hide their profile snaps like they were next-issue Playboy exclusives, the few that have their pictures put up look like aged Mollywood extras and the rare cute ones have terrible grammar or begin sentences with “Seeking rich groom with a good mop of hair…” Any girls left promptly reject you. After a while, they become familiar strangers, showing up on later searches with fresh profile pictures but the same answer to your initial contact. And to lime the burn, the ones who contact you are women you’d be embarrassed to admit as relatives, worse still, they make you feel suicidal – after all if Ms. Hemlata thought you’d make a great couple, it’s too late to reach out for a self-help book.
in such testing times, alcohol is a worthy ally. A bottle or three of beer can inject fresh enthusiasm, make you feel like Prince Charming and reduce some of the ‘uncle-like’ feeling that searching on a matrimony site brings. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Kingfisher was the happiest when I renewed my matrimony subscriptions. But I sure didn’t mind.
I sent an “interest” to Gayatri during one such inebriated hunt. I admit that I don’t remember sending her one. But one afternoon, I saw she had replied. And her picture showed promise. But after meeting some living tributes to camera angles, lighting and Photoshop, I was wary of nice pictures. “Meeting is believing” was the new cobain mantra. But what impressed me the most was the dignity and restraint in her reply. She was polite but not cold, positive but not eager. Plus her spellings were correct.
we exchanged phone numbers and talked for a week or so. And hit it off so well that it first surprised me, then excited me and still later shocked me. I found that I could talk to her about career paths as well as the benign, almost-paternal feeling I felt towards my morning potty (it’s true!). We shared the same values and world view, she could be logical and irrational, loved thayir saadam (curd rice to you Wheat Eaters!) and Jack Daniels. She was witty and non-judgmental. As mischievous as a monkey on steroids, and as sweet as a sleeping child. And here’s the clincher - she found my jokes funny and my poems well-written.
then there were the smaller nice bits. Dharam-patni doesn’t use make up, except kaajal, which I love. When I asked her why she wore kaajal, she said: “Because if I don’t, I look like a dead duck.” I could have married her then, and I feel I should have too, instead of waiting till March 13th.
we told our parents, and our mothers spoke. Horoscopes were exchanged and they matched. And holy heavens – we discovered that my far-flung aunt is married to her uncle, and so background checks became easy. Phone calls confirmed that neither side has a history of hooch smuggling or ancestors prone to scratching testicles in public. Theirs or others.
begum-to-be flew down with her mother, and we were to meet the next morning. At the time when she was boarding the flight, I was shopping for a shirt. It was a plain white linen one that I planned to wear over my dark blue Levis’. Begum later admitted that her decision might have been different if I’d shown up in a yellow floral print.
was I jittery the night before? Frankly no. I had been super-nervous a couple of days ago, with my stomach in anaconda knots. I’m not superstitious, but I do like to place bets and read signs. I said to myself that morning: “If I get a great crap, things will be fine” I left the toilet feeling like Michael Corleone and knew it would be ok.
september 13th 2008. Dharam patni was at her aunt’s house in Santa Cruz. It was raining hard that morning, my taxi broke down and the autowallah was a grandfatherly man who hated Bajaj for making autos that had lousy pick-up, didn’t have doors and broke down while navigating a mongrel’s piss. As I voiced my support and low-class hindi flew between the seats, the real reason of my trip dawned on me: I was going to meet my wife-to-be.
I walked up the flight of stairs to begum’s house with my 3 close relatives – the same trio who’d been there when my elder brother met his wife, again at Santa Cruz. The door opened, the usual half-tense half-happy smiles were passed and I sat down. And then she came in.
my first impression of begum was “phew, she’s not fat!” Now, I pride myself on not being shallow, and I do not have anything against plump people. But quirks are irrational, and I beg forgiveness from the Cheese Brigade. My next impression was, she’s sweet. I liked the quick flash in her eyes, her smile and the simple, completely un-pretentious way in which she carried herself. I remember her laughing at something and promptly sitting cross-legged on the chair, something very informal and real.
now the plan was simply for the twain to meet. The common practice is to go out for coffee and talk some more. There was no sure agenda, no yes/no but more like “let’s see how it goes.” So I was unprepared when my aunt called me out to the balcony and asked me the million-dollar q.
I was caught off guard, like I’d tried to wipe a booger on my friend’s shoulder and was seen. I stalled, saying I was yet to speak privately to begum and did not know what she felt. My aunt said that begum had shyly nodded in the affirmative. The ball was back in my court. It was honestly overwhelming. How is anyone supposed to react? No number of phone calls prepare you for the moment. Me and Daddu have always believed that one meeting is enough to say no, but woefully less to say a yes. But then I thought that nothing would be achieved in an hour’s talk. The other truth is also that no amount of time is enough to really know someone, and there are no guarantees for anything working out. When there are more variables than you can factor in, gut may be more intelligent than logic.
I looked back to the half-hour we’d spent in the drawing room. And realized that along with feeling happy, I’d also felt nice. Like coming home after a long day. Smiles, tears and phone calls followed the ‘yes’. Vodafone and BSNL made a killing and continue to do so as I type.
we said bye to my relatives and I stepped back into the house. Begum’s aunt gave me a second helping of payasam and asked me if I wanted something else. I said that this flat would do just nice. Unfortunately I laughed, and they thought (and still think) that I was joking. Damn!
we stepped out for coffee, in yet another auto. By now, the rains had stopped and the autowallah was different. As the auto passed the gate, I quickly held begum’s hand. She says I won many brownie points for that.
we had coffee, and followed it up with beer and lunch at Out-of-the-Blue, a quaint pasta place in Bandra. It was time to say cheers, and time to say finally.
peace, love, empathy