A Suitable Alliance
by Renuka Balakrishnan
“One more cup of tea and then we shall leave, ok Bunty?” asked Yoginder Kumar Das, aka YKD. Bunty could not refuse. Bunty had a lot of respect for Yogida. Ever since Bunty was twelve years old all he remembered was being constantly rebuked to study like Yogi Da, play like Yogi Da, read the same books like Yogi Da, go to the same movies and do a hell lot of things exactly like Yogi Da did.
But Bunty often wondered what was admirable about Yogi Da who had such clumsy manners; walked with an arrogant air, especially when happy, with his legs wide apart, hands behind his back; chewed pan occasionally and spurted out betel juice without any consideration for his surroundings, oiled the sparse hair on his head till the oil trickled in small droplets all around his face. Not only this, Yogi Da also talked, at prolonged length, about the most useless things in the world, for instance how jasmine oil had a positive effect on hair, why he supported one political party over the other, what is the scientific theory behind a mythological belief etc. Topics, certainly boring for a twenty one year old happy-go-lucky Bunty.
At this stage, it is necessary to point out that YKD was not a bad soul. In fact he was quite an intelligent, reliable and responsible person. He had, however, three peculiarities. He was extremely particular about all things even remotely related to finance. He disliked people who had little or no understanding of how the green dough did its rounds in the stock markets. The jingle of coins was the most soothing music to his ears. And therefore, despite his religiousness, he did not approve much of the idea of giving or donating money for any kind of charity.
His second peculiarity was his deep love for his culture and tradition. This feature, though actually considered a virtue in most people, was termed a peculiarity in the case of YKD because he went overboard with his emotions. He had no tolerance for any other way of doing certain things except for the way practiced in his family. Again he found it difficult to stand people who belittled their own folks on matters of tradition. Once a braggart who had had the opportunity of visiting a foreign land boasted about it and made a mockery of the ways of his own land, YKD was so enraged at the guy that he got hold of the collar of the guy’s shirt and lifted him up in the air shouting unspeakable abuses. The incident was mocked at by a more liberal audience and resulted in creating an extremist image for YKD.
His third idiosyncrasy was his extreme aversion to people who were flamboyant and glitzy. Although he was quite proud of himself on various things including his looks, he thought it was vanity to broadcast these things to the world. It is certainly good to refrain from ostentatiousness but in the case of our YKD his simplicity was so extreme that he had walked into his office wearing his sister’s raincoat, which had huge bright pink and blue floral prints. Such was his interpretation of simplicity.
After this tea session, YKD set off for an important event of his life. He had to go ‘see a girl’ recommended by a relative. At the age of thirty two, this activity had become a major agenda for YKD on all Sundays for the past few months. But he had turned out to reject most of the girls. They were either too thin or too short or too young. Some had teeth jutting out while others stammered a little. “What happened to all the marriageable women?” YKD wondered.
When he reached Payal’s (the girl he was to meet today) house a huge set of relatives were already gathered to witness the event. After discussions about YKD’s familial and official responsibilities the girl was asked to appear, much to YKD’s relief. A whole set of uncles and aunties urged the poor girl to walk, sing, show her feet, play the harmonium and bring out her needlework for display for the benefit of the viewers. The time finally arrived when he was left alone with the girl. He asked her a few questions and was thinking of approving of her when she asked, “Are you religious by nature?” YKD a little taken by surprise at the strange question replied in the affirmative and asked for the reason behind this inquiry to which the girl innocently replied, “I have great belief in God. In fact I frequently visit a baba and even donated twenty thousand rupees for his ashram recently. I want to use a huge portion of our family income for religious activities.” YKD stared at her in disbelief. He thought that the woman must be crazy to even contemplate such things as his wife. The possibility of a matrimonial union with this lady was, therefore, dropped immediately.
The following Sunday he was to meet Shalu, another prospective bride. He decided that it was a better idea to meet a girl alone than with a horde of relatives and family members who pester a woman to perform acts as if she were in a circus.
After arriving in an upscale restaurant where he had pre-decided to meet Shalu he restlessly waited more than an hour for her. The girl, without even the slightest sign of apology for the
delay, appeared decked up in flashy western attire. YKD was taken aback and thought to himself, “What is this? Why is she wearing such clothes? Should she not have come dressed more traditionally?” Then in an effort to think better of the woman he added to himself, “But looks like she is quite modern which is good in a way because an extremely domestic girl would not make a nice pair with me. After all I am quite good looking. Mother has said so many times that my smile resembles that of Akshay Kumar”.
A conversation then ensued between the two. And in a few minutes she bragged, “My dad purchased a huge land to present for my wedding, you know. Actually he is also planning to buy me an expensive car, you know. In fact when I was a small girl, you know, I refused to travel by the school bus. So daddy engaged a driver, you know, to drop me to school. I hate to have to travel by any means of public transport, you know.” She fluttered her eyelashes at this proudly and continued, “And I also dislike having to repeat a set of clothes in six months, you know. I love shopping but that apart I love throwing huge parties for friends”, she pompously looked at her fingernails as if to bring to everyone’s attention how beautifully they were manicured. Then she looked at YKD, raised an eyebrow and inquired, “Will we be going to Goa or Australia for our honeymoon? You know, personally I do not mind even if we are going to Goa because I would anyway be telling people that we went to Australia. You see, image is all that matters.” Then setting her hair with an air of haughtiness, she said, “By the way, please let me know whatever your answer is, you know, there is quite a queue of men waiting to get married to me. I thought I will check you out because uncle said you were good. Anyway, I think I better make a move, I have an appointment at the beauty parlour, you know.”
With this she got up and without any formal good byes strutted away like a peacock. YKD was speechless.
He later recounted this to his friend, “What a disgusting woman I must say! What conceit and what arrogance. And she had a very irritating manner of repeating the phrase “you know” with a special stress on the last syllable as if she doubted I would ever be able to know or understand. Positively disgusting I must say. She thought she would “check me out”, am I an item on a restaurant menu card which she will “check out”? Our parents’ times were far better, I say. Girls were decent. Look at the women now! Not a bit of sense. I am born in the wrong age that is all I can say.”
YKD’s next meeting was with Shubhi. Dressed in a blue traditional yet modern attire she arrived precisely on time at the coffee house. YKD was quick to note that she had a pretty smile and big wide eyes and an affable temperament. After discussion on a lot of issues he seemed very positive on this case. He then asked politely, “So are you fond of big traditional houses with a small kitchen garden and open verandahs?”
“Oh good God! I hate such houses. In fact I dislike anything that is too conventional or traditional. I believe in individuality and love doing things my own way. I hate to be told how mother or grandmother did a certain thing. If I have to succeed at something it has to be my own specific style. I cannot bear people who lay so much emphasis on old being gold. Why cannot they understand that things are meant to change with time?”
YKD gulped, blinked several times, tried to control the anger that was building up inside him. Perspiring he made an excuse of suddenly remembering to run for an important errand and hurriedly left the coffee house and breathed with a huge sigh in the open air and ran home.
After his recent failures at securing a suitable alliance YKD decided he needed to take a break from this activity. And to his relief he was to go out of town on official business for the next few weeks.
A few minutes before his train took off, a young woman appeared in his compartment. After arranging her luggage she said to a man standing at the window, “Why did you give the porter extra money? Every single paisa is important bhaiyya, when will you understand?” YKD’s ears were alert now.
A pleasant ‘bhaiyya’ replied, “Its ok Anamika, the porter thought we were rich people so I just tried to show off a bit”. Anamika responded angrily, “Show off!!Oh God! bhaiyya, when will you stop pretending and learn to be simple and sober!”. YKDs eyes were wide with appreciation for the girl now. “Ok now, bhaiyya promise me that till I am back you will responsibly carry out all chores and duties exactly like Ma used to do. Do not forget even the smallest customs. Tradition should not be broken.” At this point YKD’s heart did a small dance inside him. A hundred bubbles of joy broke out in his head and spread to fill his entire being and he could not wait for the journey to begin.