That she would be married by August, was now a fact, sent into the Universe, like a Thought missile, ready to detonate exactly on time with much celebrations on everyones part but hers. That there was no man in the picture, was not a matter that the Universe took very seriously. We’ll come around to it when needed, was the general attitude.
Pinky was not really big on this approach. Essentially because she thought the Universe had a habit of make-do with whatever was available, and expected things to resolve itself with Pinky saying something fatalistic and romantic at the same time, like “Oh it was all meant to be, I would never have imagined it, but if I were to go back in time, I’d marry this Mercedes Benz all over again! I mean, I’m just happy it’s not a goat!”
Come to think of it, she wasn’t big on marriage either. But that did not seem open to debate. She had tried it.
“Amma, how about I move out?”
“Of that Sofa? I’ve been saying that all my life….Get your fat ass to move out!”
Following which her mother pushed her unceremoniously off the sofa, and conquered the TV remote. It was Saas Bahu time, which meant her mother would feast at the sight of vulnerable daughter-in-laws thrown into insatiable families that wanted nothing more than to suck her innocent blood to submission. And they wonder why Pinky wasn’t leaping with joy at her own prospects.
Amidst much channel flipping, Pinky explained the concept of independence, “I have my own job ma….so I want to live on my own. In a separate house.” Here, she took a long breath, as if diving into cold water. “And another thing ma, I don’t want to get married.”
Her mother looked at her squarely, one of those rare moments that her mother’s eyes locked into something other than the television screen, and said, “You Lesbian? Like Sharmela’s neice?” Sharmela being the protagonist of a popular soap and someone whose life her mother was clearly better keyed into. Pinky said “WHATNOMA!!”, traumatized at the suggestion and also at the words in her mother’s vocabulary.
In the minutes henceforth, Pinky was informed, with much remote thrusting between her nose, that if she wasn’t lesbian, she could very well stop harboring such notions that was all set to bring her family shame (“single girl, living on her own terms! Sharmela should hear this!”), and that “You should pay your father some rent if you are feeling so independent. And help us buy a good TV. 40 inch this time.”
Following this, she decided that there was only one option out of this. Get married. Fill her own blank. She’d get a nice chiselled eye candy, sweetness and charm all rolled into one, with a name that would haunt her pillows with the drool of vowels.
Let the Universe figure that one out. And until then, she would frolic in some clouds.
When Pinky stepped in to the room, she felt all the gracefulness of an Indian pelican. If she dropped a pin, there would be a hundred men to retrieve it. The men twirled from their windows, flashing their profiles and green cards, all for just a ping from this new chick in town. It was a dreamlike reality, and best of all, nobody smelled. And Pinky had discovered it. The world of shaadi.com. Where mothers threw airs around their unreachable and precious sons. Where fathers flirted with mothers, all for the favor of that suitable groom. Where you could get married with just one click. Figuratively, at least. Where Pinky had discovered a simple hack.
She was beginning to realize that online was an alternative reality. A portal. And Dhruv had opened it.
Dhruv was an old friend. He had popped up when she was busy sifting through the deluge of men that her parents had skimmed over with regards to the presence of tattoos, hard rock, alchohol, and other satanic symbols. Dhruv was in creative now, he said, and when Pinky asked where he was being creative, he said Detroit, which didn’t answer her question, but impressed her all the same. Because, wasn’t this the same Dhruv that fought over tiffin boxes with her Mary’s Fish Peera? He had gone a long way if he was creative in Detroit now.
She tried another tactic, and asked him to describe a day in his life, hoping to glean more of his profession without looking disastrously stupid. In bits and pieces, but it finally came out. Dhruv was a Stay-At-Home Son, looking for a position of a Stay-At-Home husband that would allow him to continue being creative without the baneof financial restriction and the slanted jibes of his father.
When Pinky realized the man wasn’t joking, and was even pouting it as a form of refined feminism, she let out a quick cough. This kind of feminism didn’t run well with her. If men started staying at home, the very wheels of society would collapse. She told him so, as clearly as possible over a video chatting session with intermittent power outage and a man dressed in stained pyjamas. She could hardly manage going to work to support herself, that the very idea of supporting another, the other being a fully-grown man that chose to behave like a child, and who should be the one setting her off on the path of marital happiness and stay-at-home boredom, was nothing but utterly ridiculous, laugh-worthy, belly wracking, and something that Dhruv should avoid mentioning at all in the future, not just to her but to anyone else, best to be ‘creative’, as he called it, and leave it at that.
Here, Dhruv asked her if she’d like to go out with him for coffee.
Pinky was taken aback. She had expected Dhruv to be insulted by her unsolicited dating advice. This was quickly replaced with a vision of her sitting in a coffee shop, dressed up to the tee with makeup et al, having coffee and flirting with a laptop on a table for two. She screwed up her nose, clearly not approving of the vision, or the expressions of the onlookers around.
No silly, said Dhruv in response to her concerns.. He was flying down. In a month. To India. He wanted to date her.
She scrunched her nose in response, like she’d gotten a stench from the nearby garbage can, wondering if dating a college mate was a form of incest.
“Oh come on, I was joking about the job”, he added, in a very opportunistic about-turn, “I can always get a job in my dad’s firm. I just choose not to. But I can choose to too. If that’s what it takes.”
Pinky wasn’t sure of this, but long confusing sentences like that had an effect of convincing her faster. She decided that it would be easier to be flattered by what she thought was change triggered by motivation on her part. She was impactful, thats what this was.
Dhruv was goofy. Funny, even. Liked to jam around in his undies for her. It was a bit weird, but she couldn’t say she didn’t like it. Not the undies. But the playing. The music itself allowed her to look beyond her undies, and imagine him fully clothed. Besides, creatives were a bit weird, at least Dhruv thought so. He invited her to do the same, ‘Let’s jam together!’ he said, and much as she would have loved to jam together with a prospective husband and see if they could make symphony, the costume choices deterred her.
She was a flexible person, she could see beyond the nudity, and the talk of Japanese Bondage, and even photographs of him on social media, where he lay drunk on someone’s sofa, comatose to the world. The man seemed interesting at least. None of that would have mattered.
Until, of course, he arrived in India. He smelled fantastic, like he’d been scented for hours in candles. The wave of his hand and hair beckoned to her heart and soul. Just that she wasn’t the only one being beckoned and wooed. Not even the secondary choice. No, she it seemed, was one of the ten that his mother had carefully picked up and chosen, and his task was to charm them with words and perfumes, while mommy perused and chose. He’d even gotten the same gifts for all of them. Duty free perfume, wrapped in translucent red paper and a lavender ribbon, a packaging that could steal any heart, and a bouquet of roses.
Pinky wondered if her heart was broken. She decided it was. Anybody’s would be. It was really good perfume. And she had to return it.