For long years, I’ve lived the single life. Lucky you, my married friends tell me. No responsibility, no accountability, no nagging wife, no whining kids, and better yet, no mother-in-law gnashing her teeth at you. Count your blessings, I am repeatedly warned.
Even so, the woes of singleness are known only to those who have to live through them. And why kid oneself? The fact is, celibacy is a heavy cross to bear.
As one has crossed the age of fifty, one is terrified at the prospect of becoming a grumpy, lonely old man who feeds pigeons in the park and keeps cats for company. Hence, one decides to cure one’s chronically single status, and ventures forth into the world, seeking female companionship.
The odds are in my favor, I reason. Even if I confine myself to Bangalore, there are five million human females in this city. Of which, I need just one. Well, at least one.
I’m not exactly a Rolex-toting muscled young stud who drives an Audi around town. I am a sprightly fifty-year old who is too cheap to buy a watch, asks passersby for the time and rides a Volvo bus to work. On the plus side, I’m pretty fit for my age, and quite successful in my work, and I reckon I should attract a lady who shares my world-view.
And isn’t this is the age of the Internet? It should take but a few clicks of the mouse to land myself a suitable mate. I register myself on leading matrimonial websites, create an impressive profile that explains why any woman would be lucky to have me, and boldly launch myself into the Middle-aged Marriage Market.
Over the next week, I respond to, and receive proposals from various single women who seem eager to know me. Telephone calls are made, pleasantries exchanged, and meetings with five chosen ones are set up. See, that was easy. I am supremely confident that my next Facebook status update will read ‘Married’.
Yeah sure. What happened was this:
The Reluctantly Desi NRI: Gucci bag in hand, Hermes scarf round her neck, feet encased in Klein sandals and with Ray-Ban glasses perched fashionably on her head, she declares that she neither wears Indian nor buys Indian. And she will not drink or eat Indian either. She insists that I meet her at Barista, and face her interview as she feeds on Irish coffee and English muffins. If she’s so anti-desi, then why is she back in India, I venture to ask her.
Turns out her NRI husband in the US was also fond of only videshi items, and dumped her for an American lass. Post-dumping, she rediscovered her love for her home country, and came back here seeking solace and enlightenment – and a docile desi husband. And if he is found worthy and deserving, she will take him back to the US with her.
Maaf karna behenji, I sternly tell her, before paying the hefty bill, and walking off.
The Forlorn Divorcee: Why did he leave me, she moans. Why is God punishing me, why has my Baba forsaken me, who will take care of me and my children, who is there for me, she wails. And I walk right into the trap, as I assure her, “Main hoon na.”
To my utter horror, out of nowhere, her mother pops up, along with her aunt, her grand-uncle and her second cousin on her father’s side. They all converge on me, weeping copious tears of gratitude. There is a fantastic muhurat tomorrow, the stars are perfectly aligned, and the priest has already confirmed his availability, I’m informed. Mobile phones are whipped out, friends and relatives are invited, the good news races across the entire building.
My heart pounding, my brow dripping with a cold sweat, I hoarsely tell the blushing bride and her loved ones, that I’m dizzy with joy and I need some fresh air. I step out of the apartment – and I run. For my life.
When I’m at a safe distance from her building, I send the forlorn one a polite SMS – Maaf karna behenji.
And the same day, I change my cell number.
The Fulminant Feminist: You men are all the same, thunders this terrifying defender of Indian femininity, and downs a large swig of her beer while furiously puffing on a Dunhill. She proceeds to list the various laws that she can use to teach men how to respect women. Dowry Prevention Act, Domestic Violence Act, IPC, CrPC, 498A, Section 13B, the list goes on and on. Then she gleefully shares the chilling story of how she put her troublesome ex-husband into jail, after having him pulped at the nearest women’s police station. Then why, oh why, I ask her, do you wish to marry again?
She deserves her happiness, she says, her eyes shining with unshed tears. And I deserve to be physically intact, I tell her. Maaf karna behenji.
The Crusading Ecologist: She’s out to single-handedly save the planet from the ravages of Mankind. She raves and rants, and tells me how I am directly responsible for global warming, the rising sea levels and the melting Arctic circle. Don’t use fossil fuels, she warns me. Segregate garbage, reuse, reduce, recycle, hug every tree you see, feed as many stray dogs as possible no matter how many humans they bite and maim. She believes in simple living and high thinking.
I proudly tell her that I don’t own a car. I strictly use public transport. I live in a modest 2BHK apartment in Puttenahalli. I don’t eat out, I cook my own food on a solar cooker, I planted ten saplings last month, I don’t smoke or drink, I don’t eat meat because meat-eating pollutes the environment. As a result of my simple living and high thinking, my carbon footprint is negligible, I brag.
What, no car? No bungalow? And just a five-figure income? She is stunned. Where do we live? What will you feed me, raw vegetables and half-cooked rice? What will my friends think of me? What a loser, she says.
But-but-but, I babble, what about my carbon footprint? She tells me exactly where I can put my carbon footprint. Got to be practical, she snarls. I work so hard for the environment and I need my comfort, she says, before driving off in her Toyota Camry.
She doesn’t even give me the chance to say Maaf karna behenji.
The Spiritual Spinster: A divine smile on her face, that reminds me of Arun Govil in his Ramayan days, clad in a crisp white salwar-kameez, devoid of ‘vulgar’ make-up and alas, completely devoid of deodorant as well, she waves a long agarbatti around the five-foot tall photo of her beloved Guru, and sprinkles my head with divine ash that had miraculously sprung out of her Guru’s photo that very morning.
I am but a puppet in His hands, she intones. And begins a polite but intense examination of my religious beliefs. Since most of her days are spent in her Guru’s ashram, I should be willing to live and serve there. I should be happy to clean toilets and wash utensils during the day, and sing bhajans in her Guru’s praise during the night. Of course, I will be expected to yield all my material wealth in her Guru’s favor, in exchange for the privilege of being her consort.
Her Guru talks to her every evening, at 7.00 pm, she says. And it is He who will decide if our union in this life is meant to be. Problem is, Wikipedia reports that her Guru died on October 15, 1918. Which makes me wonder exactly who talks to her every evening at 7 pm.
And most important, our marriage will be a ‘spiritual’ one. It will be a pure union of souls, free from the dirty temptations of the flesh, completely independent of earthly bondage, filled with bliss – of the non-physical kind.
I tell her I am very keen to be free of any bondage, earthly or otherwise, to her divine self and her Guru. Maaf karna behenji.
The Incredibly Hot Gym Mom: This one is a divorced, middle-aged mother of two, from my own Chembur, now settled in Bangalore. And yowza, she is genuinely hot. This is my last chance. I must have this one, I tell myself. We have so much in common. We’re from Chembur. We’ve eaten idli-vada in the same Geeta Bhavan and bhelpuri in the same Gupta Bhel. Like me, she’s a gym enthusiast. Surely that counts for something. Thus encouraged, I select my attire for the meeting very carefully, to emphasise my hard biceps and the finer parts of my personality, such as they are.
Unfortunately, the restaurant she has chosen is brightly lit. Very brightly lit. I wanted to shine during this meeting. And I literally do. A thousand rays of light from a dozen fluorescent lamps bounce off my sparsely covered crown. And make it very clear that no matter how well-endowed I am elsewhere, I certainly do not need a comb.
And so, bulging biceps and rippling triceps notwithstanding, our meeting ends as have all others … Maaf karna behenji.
Thus endeth my quest for conjugal bliss.
The only question I have left is, which park do I sit in henceforth – to feed the pigeons.
No cheers … Srini.