When I was younger, I had deadlines. Guy friends left at nine promptly; if I was out I needed to be home by ten, tell them where I am every 45 minutes and no car ever. Now if I’m with a PH (Prospective Husband Type) I get the car, no curfew and complete privacy. If I ever make the mistake of calling home, I’m told to hang up immediately as I was offending our esteemed guests. Sometimes I get the distinct impressing, if I was ever kidnapped by one of the PHs, my folks would take solace in the fact that he would get to spend some more time with me.
So when they put my profiles online, I was in trauma. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine. I enjoy photography, movies, theatre and museums. All of which was flatly ignored. I was portrayed as a “homely” girl who likes to cook, and doesn’t touch tobacco and alcohol. I should have realized the trouble I was gonna get in, from right there. I didn’t. I know better now.
The routine was simple. They look for a guy, they match horoscopes, if that matches then we talk on the phone, the parents come home, If the dude is in the same city, we meet, we see how it goes. If he doesn’t, we talk until we meet. If all’s well, we get engaged, If not, we say our shaloms to each other to each other, wish each other all the best and move on with out respective lives.
When the boy’s folks decide come over, there is an entire orchestrated exercise. My usually spotless abode then looks like the inside of a surgical ward at Breach Candy. The house is cleaned and recleaned with a feverish aggression. Every window grille washed, every corner dusted, AC’s serviced, fans cleaned, every single sheet of crystal polished, every little bit if glass was squeakily cleaned, first with a glass cleaner , then with newspaper, washrooms scrubbed till you can eat off them, TONS of food made, clothes folded and ironed, washcloths folded and ironed, bed linen upholstery and curtains all changed. The family pet terrapin, Nefertiti, would be scrubbed lovingly, her nails clipped, her shell waxed, her tub changed and she would be put in a small bathroom for the duration of the visit. My brother would be told to behave himself and sent off to get a haircut. Asha, our domestic help, usually well turned out at the best of times, ends up looking spectacular. If my mom had her way, they would have the apartment and the building repainted.
This was nothing compared to the wonders that it did for the Sachidanandan family life and it’s morale. The family, sarcastic and unintentionally amusing at the best of times, morph into shrill loud paranoid monsters. I would be asked to clean out my cupboard, drawers, refile all my papers, and rearrange all my books and DVD’s. After a long day of work, this particular set of chores is never on my list of evening plans. Result? War.
Clothes were an issue of course. I would want to wear jeans; my mom has set aside a saree for just this occasion and would insist that if I didn’t, I was even more ungrateful than she thought. Only tarts wore jeans when a boy came to see them. My question, why would a boy come to see a tart? This is also about the time that I would seriously start contemplating hiring a lawyer and getting emancipated from my family. Matricide was another option. My long suffering daddy would finally step in and we would compromise on kurta and jeans. Every single time. All this for a two hour visit.
By this time, my blood pressure is dangerously high, my tolerance levels dangerously low. I have a hatchet hidden under the bed (polished, of course) and I hope I never have to repeat this charade again.
But I do.