Waiting For V-Day
After the usual I-am-so-and-so information was exchanged, he shot a question at me. ‘‘Are you married?’’ No, I replied.
Mr. X (eyes getting wider): ‘‘Why? How old are you? 28? 29?’’
Me: ‘‘I am 35.’’
Mr. X (the sockets not allowing further expansion of the eyes): ‘‘What?! You are older than me?! And you are not even married. I have a four-year-old daughter!’’ Then he added: ‘‘Don’t you think it is high time?’’
In India, once you are on the wrong side of your 20s and still not married, it is common to attract such concern from total strangers -- you may meet them in the gym, in the bus, in the train, in the bars, at the workplace. And their concern is usually genuine. ‘‘Beta ab to shaadi karle, teri maa to kuchh aaram milega (Son, it is still not late. Get married now. Your mother will get some rest).’’ That’s the advice I have always received from elderly women in the train during my trips to (and from) the North.
I have always dismissed their advice with a smile: for me, nosey neighbours are one of the hazards of long-distance travel. But the other day, when Mr. X asked, ‘‘Don't you think it is high time?’’ it set me thinking.
Okay, it did please me immensely when he mistook me to be 28 or 29, but who am I kidding? I am 35 - the age when people remain single only when ‘‘something is wrong with them’’. Is something wrong with me? Or have I simply missed the bus? Or am I getting worked up unnecessarily? I don’t know.
People in India get married primarily for one of these three reasons: 1. Persuasion by parents, which stems partly from reason No. 2, which is ‘‘what will people say’’; and No. 3. Out of love.
But youth, in its arrogance, refuses to recognise any reasoning: it only follows its instincts, which are often basic in nature. Then, one day, life pulls the rug and you stumble into the threshold of middle-age. The world suddenly turns upside down. Till the other day, pretty young women were not willing to associate with you in any way till you promised marriage. Now, women -- young as well as older -- are willing to associate with you only if you don’t propose marriage. ‘‘Can’t we be just friends?’’ they tell you - exactly the stuff you told those young women in your younger days.
The arrogance might have deserted me, but hope hasn’t. We live on hope, or dreams - dreams peddled by Hollywood, Bollywood and the several other Woods that obsess the nation. And there are many stars in these Woods who are happily single in their 30s and who marry 25-year-olds even at 41.
So I am giving myself one last chance this Valentine’s Day-eve, desperately stirring up hope that some secret admirer will emerge on that magical day and ask me: ‘‘Will you marry me?’’ It that happens, you won’t ever see me using this space again to talk about romance and marriage.
If that doesn’t happen, you still won't see me doing that. For the day I had the conversation with Mr. X, I promptly registered myself on Shaadi.com. Very soon, I might bring home someone whose hobbies are ‘‘knitting, cooking, interior decoration and indoor games’’.