Anand was staring into his monitor. It was well past midnight. He had already consumed seven cups of coffee in the past ten hours, and presently, he quickly glanced at the coffee machine. There was some coffee left. He cursed his job, as he got up for another refill. His cell-phone beeped at the same time. A sms from his mother. It read, Kanna, there is a super match for you. Can you check ssmatri.com for ID f92822. He sighed and cursed under his breath again. This was the “hell” week, days before the project went live and his mother had started bothering him with photos and profiles again. “Just what was missing eh!” he chuckled to himself, and knowing well that Amma will not understand his work pressures and deadlines, replied back to her sms saying “I am really busy with work. Lets talk about it next week when I come to India”.
His mother was averse to any kind of technology. When he gifted her a mobile phone few years earlier, she would bring it to him as though it was an a bomb when it rang and ask him to answer it. But the bride-search business had made her a sms and internet expert. So, Anand was hardly surprised when the email notifier beeped after an hour or so. “Kanna, this seems to be a great match. The jyotsiar has given 100/100 for the match and the girl’s family is also interested. She meets most of your criteria. I am attaching the family profile that her father sent me and some pictures. Take a look and tell soon. This is a good match kanna”.
Anand was tired and irritated and had no intention of reading the profile mail, which bored him to death about the family details, the good-looking, smart, intelligent, multi-talented girl and her need for a friend and a person who understands, and a few pictures, with a mandatory one from her abroad trip with the IT company. He knew his mother well, so he did not even think about telling her to wait for a week, and quickly replied “OK. Proceed”, planning to tackle his mother next week during his holiday in India.
Even the excitement of India could not infuse energy into his tired body as the plane landed in Chennai. He dragged himself through customs and baggage claim, the bed and a fifteen hour sleep, very much his only desires at that moment. He got out of the airport, searched for his mother, found her and waved at her, and then was surprised to find his generally reticent mother talking to an elderly woman beside her. He reached to her, gave her a quick hug and found himself being introduced to Nandini and her mother by his mother. As they were walking to the parking lot, Nandini told him that she was against this but the parents wanted to surprise him, and started enquiring about his job and life in SFo. In the car, Karim, the family driver for over fifteen years winked at him with a mischievous smile. And back home, Amma told him that they had been invited for dinner at Nandini’s home the next day, and before Anand could even protest, she added that it would just be an informal meeting. Nothing needs to be decided yet.
He woke up well past noon the next day and quickly opened his email and read the “profile” mail that his mother had sent him. Chitappa and Chitti joined later in the afternoon, and in a blink, it was 6pm and they were headed to Nandini’s apartment in Anna Nagar. The tiny apartment was filled with relatives spanning every possible relation, neighboring maami’s and Nandini’s friends. After what seemed like an eternity of introductions, began the “informal” question-answer session. After being thoroughly interrogated and deemed fit, Nandini was ushered into the room and Anand’s amma and chitti got their turn to ask questions, to which she replied meekly with a subdued yes or no and the shake of her head. At around 7.30 pm, some uncle quipped that they should let the main actors speak in private for a bit. Privacy was the bedroom, which looked tinier with all the furniture from the living room being dumped there, and for a bit turned to be exactly 5 minutes. At 7.35, some maami knocked and invited Anand for dinner.
Anand did not mind the dinner, as he could concentrate on the food, and did not even bother saying no to extra large helpings of food at periodic intervals.
After half an hour of furious eating, as he was devouring yet another Rasagulla, Nandini’s thatha blurted out ” What Mapillai, did you like our daughter?”. And instantly all activity ceased and forty pairs of eyes turned towards him. The room went silent, and each tick of the clock made it worse for Anand, and he in a feeling which was an equal mix of embarrassment, fear, shyness and to hell with this crap, faintly nodded “Yes”. Nandini’s mother then whispered the same question in her ears and she coyly nodded her head. The room quickly filled up with happy chatter, and thatha, again in his booming voice declared that the next day was an auspicious day for the engagement because of some arrangement of the boy and girl’s stars. The happy chatter, quickly turned into purposeful chatter about the modalities of the ceremony, and Anand, slowly slipped back into his chair, hardly believing anything, wishing that it was better during the hell week back in SFo. Things were completely out of control now.
Back in the car, Amma was gushing happily about finding a good family and how the girl would be just correct for Anand, and how difficult it was for a widowed woman to search for a bride, talk to people etc. Anand, turned towards Karim and asked “How the hell were I to say anything other than yes in that intimidating environment”. Karim just looked back at Anand’s mother and she started telling Anand that it will be ok. This is how marriages happen. It is destiny. Anand just felt that he had no control over anything and that he can never regain any control again.
The engagement happened in a flash.
Later that evening, he called her and told her “It was exhilarating to travel at the speed of light, but would you mind a casual stroll in the mall for coffee and dinner”. She giggled and agreed. And somehow, Anand felt that everything would be alright.
The story is inspired by Vidya’s and Sashi’s (@sashikrishnan) engagement stories.