‘You feel their behaviour was acceptable?’ Sarika questioned her mom indignantly, explicitly disagreeing. The incident was not one that could be brushed off as trivial.
‘We cannot judge them based on a small incident…could be an internal matter too’ – her mother tried to slight it.
‘Being the boy’s parents does not confer them with any natural right to be so discourteous’, Sarika retorted, clearly hurt.
More appalled by the fact that her education, professional standing, good looks everything seemed at naught as against her present position of ostensibly being the one in need, the attitude of that family was indigestible. She couldn’t help feelings of indignancy, helplessness and guilt overwhelming her. Telling her mom anything, at this point of time, would be futile.
The conversation related to her latest matrimonial alliance for which her mom had called up the boy, Jai’s father, to check if this meeting could be kept on the coming Thursday i.e. two days later. But strangely, his father had responded very curtly on phone when he had asked her to call back. Quite taken aback at this inhospitable behaviour, Sarika’s mom resigned as she knew it was a no choice situation and tried to cover up, when her father questioned about it.
Sarika was fair, beautiful, smart and a family-oriented girl, from a middle-class background. A metropolitan bred, software engineer of 29, her path towards her current position of a Vice-President in an MNC, involved years of abundant toil and the sacrifices of her family too that highly valued education, so much so that the major portion of her 20’s had been spent away on assignments abroad coupled with further studies. With all this in tow, marriage had seemed a far-fetched idea then.
Marriage never comes with a guarantee of self-subsistence. So, her parents had allowed her to proceed with her career aspirations but not before extracting a promise that she would not marry anyone outside of their community. Sarika hardly minded it. She dearly loved them and highly valued the hardships they had endured in educating her and her sister and accordingly, had remained extremely focused on her goals until this day.
Even as her family had been discreetly approaching alliances since sometime, her two-year overseas projects contract proved to be a major deterrent as families were unwilling to wait that long. Some financially affluent families with eligible suitors approached with a proposition that the girl give up her career after marriage and focus only on the family needs which was not acceptable to any of them.
Jai was 31, an architect, working as a Vice-President for a multinational company, in Singapore. With an only sister married and settled, the situation appeared to be a perfect one for Sarika since, if all goes well, she would be shifting base to Singapore, while his parents would continue to live in Mumbai. Jai’s father refused any formal girl seeing ceremony until the girl and the boy approved and therefore a meeting between Jai and Sarika had become inevitable. Jai had come down on a holiday, so Sarika’s family had hastened to his place for a preliminary meet-up on Sunday where Jai had not been present but a copy of his photograph was handed over to them.
Looking at Jai’s photograph, Sarika could not refute the fact that he was an extremely handsome guy. But she was not willing to decide marriage at face value since it concerned her whole life. Meeting him to assess compatibility was important to her. Besides, he would have to understand and accept her independent attitude, career aspirations and her responsibility towards her parents too.
One hour later, when her mom re-dialled, it was his dad again at the other end. His voice grew louder when he realised it was her again, ‘You have called back so soon’…he snapped, ‘why are you people in such a hurry? wait…’.
Then he could be heard calling out to Jai..’Jai… would you meet her on Thursday?’
Jai’s voice could be heard aloud in the background…’What is this? What is so urgent about this? Can’t they wait for some time? Why all the pressure?’.
Then the speaker went mute and a few minutes later, Jai’s father curtly said, ‘Alright, he will be there on Thursday’ and disconnected the phone.
This vexatious encounter had created a stir of tumult in Sarika’s house. Sarika could not comprehend where she was headed for. Besides, she felt deeply disturbed and agitated at her mom’s outward trivialisation of the whole episode who refused to admit that if people could be so insensitive at such a preliminary stage, what might not follow later. Sarika felt a bit lost and out of control and could only earnestly hope to get hold of a good reason to end this whole charade as soon as possible. Besides, she was not comfortable with the gentle pressure her mom seemed to constantly apply though she understood her worries, as considering she was already 29, if they had to find a boy of her stature, with her rising age the odds against her were only going to increase. But for now, she firmly and silently decided to let the matter rest until she met Jai in person.
On Thursday, she trudged her way to the restaurant, entirely disinclined. She’d have to endure this, she thought to herself. With ginger steps as she approached the restaurant, little comfort left after what had transpired, she saw Jai sitting at the corner seat waving out to her. He was veritably a dashing guy and greeted her smilingly with a ‘hello’ as he motioned her to sit on the opposite seat. He was apparently taken in by her charming looks and seemed to mellow down as against all her conjectures. Taking a deep breath, she simply smiled and sat back. Far from any feelings of discomfort, she surprisingly felt at ease. ‘It’s not as bad as I had imagined’, she thought to herself. Nevertheless, she decided to proceed with an honest approach and try and understand the person sitting before her, giving him a fair chance.
The conversations that began between Jai and Sarika, followed as under:
Jai: So how are you doing?
Sarika: Fine…I am ok.
Jai: Hope you had no qualms over today’s meeting since that was quite a storm. Your mom seemed to be in a bit of hurry for this (he smiled as he said).
Sarika: I had no issues about coming today since this was anyway bound to happen sometime. Let’s just say I am fine (she smiled back)
Jai: Good…but first and foremost, what would you like to have? We are not going to be allowed to sit here just for a chat (he smiled). We would need to order something…would you have a plate of samosa?
Sarika: Well not really… I already snacked a little while ago…so I don’t feel like eating anything (she usually avoided making any guy pay while on matrimonial meet-ups and it looked awkward to share the bill too)
Jai: Sure?…but then it would look a little odd with only one of us eating…would you have something to drink at least?
Sarika: Ok…I’ll go in for a coffee then (she gave a tight smile)
Jai: Are you sure it’s only coffee?
Sarika: Ya..ya.. absolutely…just one coffee for me please. Thanks.
Jai: Ok (he calls the waiter and places the order, then pauses for a short while, looks at her briefly and continues)…so you are a software engineer
Jai: How do you find your job? Do you enjoy the travel?
Sarika: I very much enjoy my job since this is something that I had always dreamed of. Also, I quite liked the travelling part as I got an opportunity to see various places, be on my own and test my strengths in general, besides my confidence at managing things alone. I felt if one is a bit disciplined in their day to day affairs, it’s not so difficult. How about you? What is the best part of your job?
Jai: Well, I like my job very much because of the creativity involved. As they say, creative people are ‘some’ kind of jerks, I would say I am a kind of jerk myself as when I am focused on what I must do, I am sort of lost to the people around.
Sarika: Well, that’s a good thing as well as a bad thing then (she smiled). But then how do you find your life in Singapore? Don’t you find it lonely out there?
Jai: Not really…I have a lot of friends and their families to keep company…I like partying a lot. What about you?
Sarika: Sorry, I am never high on social life…Though I do have some good friends with whom I occasionally catch up, I like to be pretty much on my own…like that you could call me boring (she smiled)
Jai: I’m surprised and finding it hard to believe you don’t enjoy a party. I would love to party anytime of the day. My friends keep hosting these parties every weekend and there’s music, dance and drinks. And Oh! They bring in their kids too. I love to dance and when I get drunk I am pretty animated and then set out for the dance floor. I drag my friends as well as their wives too into it. I think I am a true party animal. Amazing that you don’t like it. But have you ever been to any party of this kind before?
Sarika: No (she smiles, effectively hiding the slight shock at discovering that he drinks)
Jai: Hmmm…they’re fun and a good let out.
Sarika: (Smiles) But hey you mentioned drinks…do you drink?
Jai: Yes, I do. And that’s quite common in my friend’s circle.
Sarika: But how usual it is for you to drink? Is it occasional or…?
Jai: It really depends…but what’s the harm and who cares? You need to look at enjoying life. It’s just a matter of the occasion and the mood that strikes. How about your family? What do your siblings do?
Sarika: Well, my family is very conservative and traditional. My parents always aspired for both their daughters to be educated and independent. You could say we lead a very disciplined life. My only sister just finished her medicine and is looking forward to set up her own practice. What about yours?
Jai: My sister is a housewife. I would say she’s decently married and settled. So, what are your expectations of your life partner?
Sarika: Well nothing much. He must be qualified and most of all understanding of my priorities. As you already know that my parents don’t have any son, so my partner must understand and be willing to accept the fact that at some point of time, being the eldest sibling, they are bound to be my responsibility in the future, I mean, even though I have a sister who might share it too. What about your expectations?
Jai: Yes, you are right and that is understandable too. As for me, well, compatibility is important to me…I would not like somebody who would keep nagging me…she must be understanding and let me live in peace. Hey by the way I hope you are not a cleanliness freak since I like to stay loose most of the times.
Sarika: Agreed on the nagging part. And nope…I am the same as you where cleanliness goes but as I said earlier, I am disciplined about keeping the essential things in order…. But what about your parents? They would certainly have some expectations from their daughter-in-law since you are the only son.
Jai: Look, frankly speaking, I have my differences with my family…I don’t agree with them on everything. Even though they have not particularly communicated any expectations and I have honestly never given it a thought so far, I don’t really envision any either. So, it’s up to you, I mean the girl who becomes my wife and up to them on how they are going to deal with each other. I don’t think or imagine that they would have any ‘particular’ expectations.
Sarika: Ok (silently alarmed at the internal disconnect between the family members)
Jai: And one more thing, would it be okay with you, if we just stayed in touch for say 2-3 years? …like say we can be phone friends or chat friends and get to know each other better before taking this forward.
Sarika: Look Jai, Frankly I don’t think this sort of a proposition would be acceptable to my family. Also, there are lot of uncertainties attached to this.
Jai: (Smiling) Fine then… that was a bit of a long discussion… I don’t think the restaurant is going to allow us to sit here anymore over just one plate of samosa and two cups of coffee as that waiter has already tried to push the bill twice on our table(both laugh) …so do you have any more questions?
Sarika: Nope…I don’t think so.
Jai: Ok then, we’ll call it a day for now…we can internally discuss with our respective families and then we can revert.
They say bye to each other as they leave the restaurant. Sarika’s mom is waiting outside in the corner. Jai waves a Hi to Sarika’s mom and leaves. On the way Sarika while providing a calm update to her mom summarises Jai as under:
- Someone who is doing well
- Friendly and amicable to talk to
- If rightly dealt with he could be understanding too
- Has disagreements with his family and that’s why he is insecure
- Could get into bouts of excitement (including a quick-temper or irritability at times which was already witnessed) but at the same time is lonely inside
- Quite sadly he drinks and is probably uncontrollable when he is at it and that spoils the entire picture of her future domestic life. Even if other things might be overlooked or managed, this one habit could rob her of all peace and contentment.
‘He drinks?’, her mom squealed, totally appalled. ‘Then forget it’ she continued…’we could end up into a bigger trouble by marrying you there. So much for all the weight they were throwing…so much attitude…such arrogance…we’ll wait until something good comes along…better remain unmarried than marry someone like this.’
Sarika already knew of the outcome and was not surprised. In some ways she did like Jai for his honest, friendly nature though she certainly did not see her life-partner in him…he was not the ‘solid dependable man’ she was looking out for…but somewhere she also felt sorry for him…maybe there was something to him… somewhere he was an unhappy man and in quest of being understood, he had a sub-conscious desire for a guiding factor in life which has been denied to him so far …but yet he was also into a denial mode & declining to take charge of his own life…but for her, with her own set of problems and responsibilities to focus upon, it could be extremely unwise to take on this risk. Also, she could not disregard the way his family had treated her mom for nothing. Nevertheless, she decided to hold the communication and respond only if Jai reverts.
Four days later, she saw Jai’s text message on her phone ‘Hey Sarika, can we meet once again if it’s ok with you? I would like us to get to know each other better while I am still here‘, to which she instantly replied ‘Hey Hi Jai…It was really nice to meet you the other day though I’m sorry I don’t think this would work…but I do wish you all the very best for your future…Thanks 😊’ …’Phew!!! I hope that didn’t sound like a pay-back’, she thought to herself.