Sleep, eat, roam about lazily, repeat. This, is how my Sundays go, I’m sorry, used to go. Being 25 and unmarried just ruined everything. Sundays became the time for me to converse with strangers for like, half an hour and decide whether to marry them or not. Four such horrible Sundays passed by in three months. This, is the fifth.
“Varshu! Aren’t you ready yet?” That’s Amma’s voice. A worried voice to be exact. Not only her, everybody at home were so worried. Especially, when Amma’s sister’s cousin’s daughter Reshma got married at 23, Appa’s colleague’s daughter Sanjana quit her job to go to the US with her husband and ended up successfully giving birth to a baby boy at 22 and here I am, unmarried with a successful career. Now that, should hurt a lot!
Arranged marriages are complex, already. Horoscopes and the mathematical calculations that decide whether a boy and girl can have a successful and good married life make it even more complicated. Despite the horoscope matches with the four guys I previously met, nothing worked out even in the half hour talk, forget about the rest of life. Arranged marriages don’t give you soulmates, I know that. Just to find a person who is like, tailored for me and not only my horoscope, I am doing this.
“Varshini, listen. Please tell me what you are going to talk to the boy?” When Amma calls me that, it means she is pretty serious. And yes, that question is the outcome of all the fear she has about the way I talk.
“Sorry ma! I’ve told you everything that I feel and everything that has happened to me in life. But this, no. I don’t want to get advises on what to talk to the guy and what not to. So why don’t you just trust your daughter and let her be herself?”
“All these days, I’ve let you be yourself, and the result? You’re still not married while all the girls of your age are with two kids and settled down in life. I don’t even know if you care about us when you talk something to the guy. I’m talking to you! Varshini? Look at her, she is not even responding?” she told my father.
“Till you have this stubbornness, you’re not going to get married at all!”
“Chitra, please let her be! Varshu, I believe in you. Just talk whatever you feel like talking okay? Now go, get the bike key” Appa. Someone who trusts me to the fullest and believes whatever I do will be right.
“Thank you for all the trust that you have in me, pa. Just wait for two minutes, I’ll be right back” I had to actually fight my tears on the way back to my room.
Amma didn’t mean any of those harsh words, I know that, but I had tears filled in my eyes and a sudden rush of negativity.
How can I spend the rest of my life with a person who doesn’t like me the way I am? Am I that terrible a person that nobody will ever like me? I was lost in these thoughts! I had so many questions. I know someone who would have answers to all those questions too. I logged into Skype and waited for Shravan Kumar to come online.
Shravan is my best friend since the time when hormonal changes made us adults, so basically, we know both the child and adult part of each other. Gender has never been a bar for our friendship. He knows me in and out and we share literally everything that happens to each other. We’ve discussed about arranged marriages right when we were teens. He used to ask me “How do you decide whether a person is your life partner in just ten minutes?” I mean, how right he was?!
He came online. “How long should I wait for you?” I shouted.
“Hello! I was ju… Hey wait? Were you crying? What’s the matter, Varsh?”
“Shravan, this is the fifth guy that I’m about to meet. The guys whom I met with before apparently ‘didn’t like me’. Am I that bad a person? Mom says I won’t get married till I change, I don’t know… I am just too low. I’m kind of in a complex that nobody will ever like me. It’s all bleh! Shravu, can you… can you actually come here?”
“Why do you think so much at a time? Varshini, get this straight into your head. You’re the most confident and strong woman I’ve ever met in my life! And YOU are failing to be yourself because of some stranger guys?”
“I don’t know, Shravu! I just hate this phase of my life. It’s ruining me!” tears that I controlled earlier fell mercilessly from my eyes.
“Stop crying now. This is not something that I want to witness over a Skype call sitting several thousand miles away. You shouldn’t let any situation ruin you Varsh. I have seen you face worse crises and you’ve handled them boldly. Just throw everything out of your mind and go meet him as Varshini Raghuram. For now, you are not her.”
“Okay if I be myself, you think this guy will like me?” I asked him like a kid.
“That, we can’t tell. But… ”
“Varshu it’s 5 minutes to raahu kaalam! Can we start now?” I just realised that I kept Appa waiting.
“Okay Shravu, that’s Appa. I will leave now. Can I have a hug?”
“Yea you can. Hugging and supporting you with all my might. Now stay calm and be yourself, don’t forget that!”
“Alright! You go to bed now, don’t stay up too late.”
“Yea, I won’t. You take care and ping me when you’re back! Love you dumbfuck!” and he kissed me good bye. “Love you too! Bye!” Talking to him was like a therapy, I felt so relieved and positive. This asshole should’ve been here with me, I thought as I started yet another journey to find my better half. Whoever invented this word to describe a spouse is such a legend. Appa’s bike stopped.
Okay, I’m in front of Adyar Ananda Bhavan, a restaurant which is usually suggested by my parents (I guess even that was years ago, they in fact come up with suggestions like BBQ Nation and Cream Centre these days) and Harish Rajagopalan has asked me to come here, of all places.
“Varshu, he’ll be waiting for you. Once you finish talking, come back safely in an auto or give me a call”, Appa told. I just wanted to go back home with him right away.
My eyes quickly scanned the entire restaurant to find a face at least little similar to the one they saw in SS matrimony (One can never rely on the photos in matrimony sites, they are always the best possible photographs of the person). I couldn’t see anybody like him so I called Appa and asked him to call Harish and find where he was (Tambrahm has it that the guy and girl shouldn’t exchange numbers before finalising the wedding). Looks like he has been waiting for me in the first floor.
I entered the hall and there I could see him, pretty recognizable. Harish Rajagopalan, height 6 feet 1 inch, weight 75 kilos, Senior Software Developer at Zoho Corporation, Chennai. Above all this, something that is of maximum priority, he is Bharadwaja gothram, Kadaga raasi, Poosa nakshathram.
“Hi! I’m Varshini. Harish?”
“Hey! Hi Varshini! Vaa ukkaaru (Come, have a seat)” That isn’t the way you address a stranger, I thought as he went on. Not judging, though.
“So, how does it feel with all the marriage alliance – seeking and the horoscopes and stuff? Boring isn’t it?” So that’s how you start a conversation? Not judging, again.
“Haha yea” Faked it.
“So Varshini, if I’m right, I’m the fifth guy that you’re seeing for marriage?”
“Uhm, yea?!” I stopped with that, though the voice inside me screamed ‘You have a problem with that?’
“Do you know why the four guys you saw previously rejected you?” That was it. I couldn’t stand more crap of a conversation. I mean, who does he think he is to use the word ‘reject’?
“Well, I don’t know Harish! I don’t want to, but let me guess, those guys might be as narrow-minded and drunk with arrogance as you. I am not jobless to come all the way to a place like this and get ridiculed by a stranger! You know what?! Before you say a word, I’ll just leave! Good bye!”
I entered home intoxicated with anger. “Varshu, why are you home so soon? Did you like him? What happened?” I just brushed all these questions away and stormed into my bedroom.
When I woke up it was 8 in the night! Shravan’s call woke me up! “All the best da” I blabbered in a sleepy voice. “My exam got over an hour back. So what happened in the meeting? Was the guy cool?”
“He’s the most disgusting guy I’ve ever met Shravan. Rude, arrogant, ill-mannered…” I narrated him the entire story.
I was so pissed and there was Shravan trying to ‘draw positivity’ out of this incident. “You know what, I’m really proud of you for being this bold. Before you went, you were all down and after meeting him you’re at least not low, in fact you shed all that complex shit though you are pretty angry. I should thank the guy for that.”
“Yea, right! That’s how you thank someone who insulted your best friend!”
“No. That’s how I thank a guy who made my best friend speak her heart out.” Actually, I didn’t realize that until Shravan told, I did open up, yea.
Appa came in “Varshu, you woke up? Harish called just after you reached home. He apologised to you, seems like he had a really important work and so he had to leave. Only then did I and Amma understand why you came early. Thank god, he called and informed. That’s why I didn’t wake you up!” Okay, I didn’t have the slightest clue of what was happening! Why did he have to lie to my father?
“Sorry pa! I can’t see him again. I’m done with him.”
“But… why kanna? He just apologised for leaving early, no? Are you angry for that? ”
“It’s not that pa…”
“Okay, we will discuss about this once you are done talking in the phone, alright?” He went outside the room saying this.
“There’s nothing to discuss pa!” I shouted at the void behind the open door and continued my phone call “Varsh, what was Appa saying? I heard something like the guy wanted to see you again?”
“Yea, I don’t know why he lied to my dad that he was the one who left. Anyways, I don’t want to see him.”
“Varshini, you should watch out for this guy! I think he is cool and I also feel that you never let him talk. Probably that’s why he wants to see you again. So you know what, you have to meet him again!”
“No way, Shravan! I won’t meet him again.”
“No listen… ”
“You listen! The guys whom I met before, told my parents some stupid reasons after meeting me to avoid the alliance, alright? This guy, isn’t even that courteous. He was so rude, blunt and spoke to me in such an arrogant way.”
“Varsh, hang on. Just recall what you told right now. The fact that this guy is different from all the others came out of your mouth. And you know what, he never said he didn’t like you. Even if he said so, he told it to you at your face directly right? So, isn’t he your type?”
“Don’t try to change my mind-set Shravan. I just don’t want to see him again.”
“Varshini Raghuram, if you don’t have a valid argument against my view, just shut up and listen to what I say at least.”
“No it’s not that… ”
“You’re time is up. You’ve not got a point against Shravan! Accept your defeat and agree to meet that guy. Go and tell Appa, NOW!”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I’ll go talk to Appa and agree to meet him, alright? Bye” He laughed and I kept the phone down.
I agreed to meet Harish again on Monday after office. This time he asked me to come to KFC, a total contrast of a place!
“Would you like to have something? To eat, to drink?”
“Krushers will do. Thanks”
“Okay I’ll order Hot Wings for me!” Hot Wings… is supposed to be chicken right? Oh my god, apparently the white cross isn’t pure white. He continued talking “I’m sorry, are you still angry?”
“Why do you even bother about all that? Please tell me why you lied to my dad and why you wanted to meet me again.” I was about to utter few more words, but he spoke like a rapid-fire, “Because I like you and I wanted to spend more time with you” Shravan was so right in telling that this guy is outspoken, I thought.
“Wh… What?!” I gasped.
“Yea! Just let me complete what I was about to tell you yesterday, will you?” our order came. “Chicken saapduviya?” (Do you eat chicken?)
“Yea so, the question I asked you was to give a good start to the conversation, but I just didn’t use the right words… ”
“Okay, you asked me if I knew why those guys ‘rejected’ me. This, you believed, would’ve given a good start?”
“Yea, I know. I apologise for the word. I just meant if you ever thought why those guys would’ve responded in negative.”
“No I didn’t. In fact, I don’t want to think about all that.”
“Well, even if you don’t want to think about it, I want you to know, so please let me talk…” he continued. “Uhm, my family kind of did some ‘research’ about how you are as a person and all that. So… they were told you are a bold personality, outspoken, talented and everything, but they were also told that you are not a ‘cultured person’, you are quite ‘modern’, and you always hang around with the guys, you know, such stuff.”
“Oh okay, so you say that those guys would have ‘rejected’ me hearing all these? You know what, I really don’t care… I…” I… was interrupted.
“Relax Varshini! Just calm down. Will you please listen to me fully?”
“Why should I listen to what people bitched about me? Huh?”
“Because I want to let you know that I don’t give a fuck to those opinions of people.” I got bowled over by this reply, to be frank.
“What are you saying?”
“I seriously didn’t want to judge you with all these talks. I just wanted to let you know what is going on around you, considering that you might be clueless about what really went wrong with these guys that met you. And that just didn’t go the way I wanted, I’m sorry for that. In fact, I feel if there’s mixed opinion about a woman and there are people who bitch about her like this, she must be someone who follows her heart without giving a damn to what people think about her. Above all this, if you hang around with so many guys as they say, all of them can’t be your boyfriends, right?” he winked. That sentence angered me.
“Oh, so? If I had a boyfriend and I broke up with him, you’d have judged me like the rest of the people?”
“Absolutely no! I’d think that the guy whom you broke up with couldn’t just hold on to a woman like you.”
“A woman like me? How well do you know me to make that statement?”
“Well, I don’t know you much, but I would like to know more about you! Because, I personally feel that you’re an awesome woman already!” I was afraid that I would decide in haste if I stayed a little longer. So I told him some lame reason and rushed home. When Appa and Amma asked, I told I need time to think.
I called Shravan and told every word of the conversation I had with Harish. “See?! I told you he’s not a bad choice. This is why you’ve to listen to me…” he just ranted on. However, I couldn’t come to a conclusion with that meeting. Shravan suggested that I meet him again. But how, this meeting itself is ‘illegal’ according to my relatives and the elders in my family. I can’t ask my parents to meet him once again, so I chose not to tell them.
For the third consecutive day, I met him. He suggested that we walked the talk.
“Look here, Harish… to be frank, I loved the way you spoke yesterday. But, will it be practically possible to implement your views in life? I am even doubtful if they are really your views.”
“You thought I spoke all that to impress you? Well, honestly I was very careful with the tone or the words I chose, I did try to impress you as the first encounter flopped, but what I spoke, the content, it’s something that I truly believe in, yea”
“Harish, all these years, my dad has trusted me and given me the freedom to do whatever I like. I’ve seen girls of my age who had to face a lot of restrictions. My dad was different and yes, I’ve never spoiled his trust. He has been the ideal dad! All I wish for is one thing. I need a truly ‘better’ half! A person who can give me the same freedom my dad gave me and trust me like him. I don’t want anything to change after marriage. I say “Love you” to my best friend Shravan and kiss him good bye whenever I talk to him. I don’t want that to change. My job, the way I be with my parents, friends, I don’t want any of it to change because of a marriage. Varshini Raghuram should live life no different from Varshini R Xyz. Yes, I won’t remove my dad’s initials after marriage, neither will I refuse to add my husband’s name. I want everybody, I need people…“ I kind of spoke everything that I had in mind.
“What are you staring at Harish? I’m done talking!” I said.
“I’m going to tell my parents that I like you. You just think about it and let me know. ”
“What? Harish, you never told me anything about yourself?”
“What do you want to know about me?”
“What sort of a question is this? Tell me what kind of a person you are and what kind of a girl you’re looking for and all that, I don’t know?”
“The girl that I’m looking for is in front of me.” and before he continued, I got a mini heart attack!
“And what do I tell about myself? I love doing what I like and I admire and have huge respect for the people who do what they like. You’d have noticed yesterday, I eat non-vegetarian food despite being a Brahmin. I’ve not hidden this from Appa, Amma but yea, when I go for a meal with them, I don’t eat non-veg as they won’t like it. I’m quite broad-minded… uhm… not a people person, but yea it is not difficult for me to be with people either.” He thought a moment. “What else, I smoke when I’m tensed… that’s actually a rarity and I drink occasionally. I’ve not been in any ‘relationship’ but almost got into one. And yea, I’m a virgin.” He ended, laughing.
Okay, someone please call the ambulance. Varshini has fell!
“Hello? Varshini? You’ve got a problem with anything that I said?”
“Huh? What did you ask?”
“I asked if I told something wrong.”
“No! Not at all… uhm…”
“What are you thinking? I understand, you need time to decide, right? You can’t choose in 25 minutes the person with whom you are supposed to spend more than 25 years of your life. You take your time, Varshini. I can wait. I’ll just tell my mom and dad that I like you. So, if at all this marriage alliance is dropped, I’d be the ‘rejected’ one! Wouldn’t it be cool to reject someone?” He winked at me and bid good bye. It would definitely not be cool or right on my part if I ‘rejected’ such a guy.
Something in me said this shouldn’t be the last time I’m meeting Harish. I gave it a lot of thought and even asked Shravan. He was very happy and excited hearing the way Harish spoke. “Go for it Varsh” he had said. And finally yes, I decided to actually go for it.
There were six whole months between the day his entire family came to see me ‘officially’ and the marriage. Unforgettable days, they were. Roaming around the city, little meet-ups over a cup of roadside tea or paani poori, endless midnight conversations, fights that seemed cooked up just to experience the bliss of reconciliations that followed, and what not. He taught me how to live life, with a child’s innocence and an adult’s maturity.
Thinking of all this, here I am, sitting on Appa’s lap waiting for the holy thread to adorn my neck and he, was standing opposite to me chanting all the mantras. Everybody started gearing up all of a sudden while I just closed my eyes and prayed “Dear God, the smiles, the beauty, the wealth, the kin and kith, all these might not be with the both of us throughout our lives, but let the love stay forever. Not only Harish, his family and friends are all mine too now and I should never disappoint them in anyway. Let us both spread love, more love, again and forever.” With so much optimism, I opened my eyes, they were filled. Harish tied the thaali once around my neck, his sister Shalini tied two more knots and yes, I was married. I told Harish “I love you.” He smiled. He just smiled? “Won’t you say it back?” I asked. “Why should I? Don’t you know it, for you are mine now.” he said. I don’t remember a time I’ve been happier. I looked at Shravu, he was crazily waving at me and giving flying kisses to both of us. And I can’t describe in words how happy our parents were.
I dragged Harish and Shravu and told them “I want a group hug!” They both hugged me in a reflex and Harish told the cutest sentence that a husband can ever say, “Nothing will change, I promise.” That moment will be FRAMED in my heart, forever.