Friday, November 4, 2011

How would you know? - part II

I recognized the expression on his face because I had worn it at the end of the 1st date. He was the one that was bored now and not very hopeful of finding anything to anchor him to the alliance. I wouldn’t blame him because I myself had expected some kind of miracle to happen when I shook his hand for something and even that little bit of physical contact hadn’t stirred up anything in me. Disappointment? Yeah you could say that.

But both of us had been willing to extend our attempt into a third date. More resistance and more confusion. We had set a rule however. The third would be the last. If we didn’t ‘know’ anything by then, we would just part and wish each other the best.

I knew more about him than the first time I had met him. He wasn’t totally repelling. He was likeable. But wasn’t marriage all about sparks and bam and kaboom? Isn’t that how you ‘knew’? Sigh.


Third date. Maybe it was because both of us were sure this wasn’t going to work, but the mood was a bit more relaxed than it had been earlier. We were bold and ordered foods with more calories than the previous times. We ventured out to joke more and grow nervous again when it was time to move on.

There were huge puddles of water below the sidewalk in front of the coffee house and more all along the way. Recent rains. Even rain, with all the hopes and dreams of romance wasn’t helping. I looked up, sighed and shook my head. The moment was approaching. Even if you expected it, telling a person that they weren’t exactly what you wanted is hard, whichever way you looked at it. After three dates Adhi had definitely earned my respect. But that wasn’t enough to be married was it? Because I would then have to be married to Gandhiji or Nelson Mandela or my high school English teacher. No wait. That was a lady.

‘They are never going to fix these roads’ he said as he judged the size of a puddle and jumped over it with precision, landing on dry road, the puddle now forming a water filled chasm between us. I looked at it readying myself for take off. Flat footwear didn’t  help with calisthenics born out of rainy weather.

‘Wait’  he said. He offered a hand. I fixed him with a glare. A little puddle of water and you think I cant cross it, my look conveyed. ‘You never know. These things are mighty slippery’. I looked at him again not very impressed with the way he was making me out to be sloppy. I sighed and took his hand. Nope. No spark. Maybe I would slip and fall on purpose and he would catch me, I thought. Too much drama and probably honking vehicles asking us to get a room. Just a jump.

I put one foot forward and launched myself into the air briefly for a moment. The pressure of my take off reflected on his hand and he tightened his grip. I landed safe and smug having proven my point at being a master resident of the city. I looked down at my hand, still in his, held tight many seconds after I had made it.

They had all told me I would know.

It wasn’t about the eyes or the way he looked. It wasn’t about what he liked or what he ate. It wasn’t about how much he earned or how much we had in common. It was about his willingness to hold on. To be there. To make a commitment and see it through.

I knew.


He still jokes about it. That he had only held on because I was heavy and would’ve pushed him into the water over a skid. But that’s just what he tells anyone that would want to go with his joke. Because its twenty five years today since it happened and he has held my hand through every single puddle on the road and in life after that.

I recall all this because my daughter came into the room a little while ago to sit beside me and ask me the same million dollar question. ‘How will you know ma?’

I smile and tell her, ‘You just do.’


How would you know? - My hunt for a husband

How would you know?

I had tried finding a reply to that question from so many sources and the only effect was my growing exhaustion. No one was able to offer me a satisfactory answer. I remained as nervous as I had been the first day that my folks had started dropping hints about an impending groom hunt. At twenty four I was already late in entering the race they said. I couldn’t disagree, with one eye resting on a simple white invitation that requested my presence at a christening ceremony for the tiny little bundle of joy that one of my juniors had recently had. That is how late I was!

How would you know? It was the one question on my mind, different versions of it floating around freely, hampering my thinking process, my workflow, my ability of normal response. It held me at gunpoint through sleepless nights but wouldn't answer itself.

Movies and romance novels don’t help. Things don’t happen that way in reality. Men with a sensitive side and killer eyes don’t just materialize out of thin air. It was getting harder to even have crushes on these on-screen eligibles what with the responsibility of choosing one for good and absolutely real, looming ahead like a ticking timebomb waiting to explode. Adultery in advance, it made me think.

Women sometimes are not the best ones to go to for advise. They can talk to you for hours and make you feel special and mushy but when you finally ask them how you should pick a suitor they are at as complete a loss as you are. I tried asking one male friend the same question and he tried to explain things in relation to choosing a bride and we somehow ended up making sexist jokes but save for a few tears from laughter I was not a bit clearer in mind.

How would you know if this guy could be your husband for the rest of your life, just because your horoscopes put you at an advantage? Big talk. I wasn’t brave enough to remain single for eternity, if that’s even considered something. Practically, I wasn’t brave enough to go out there and find me a man. Why else would I be subjecting my poor lazy self to a ritual that, if the scriptures are right, has been happening since the time of kings that battled each other for just an extra piece of land? Maybe that would work. Maybe we could arrange a battle of wits and strength, I had a wild thought. Not without risking the fact that no one would turn up, I couldn’t help but conclude. Bad idea.


There were four of them in the family. Father, mother and two sons. Younger away for an MS and elder sitting there in front of me probably going through the same thought process as I. The horoscopes had declared us a flawless match and recommended we get married immediately and hold on to each other for life, after paying the necessary consultation fee. I didn’t know anything about him. He looked decent and respectable with a moderately good choice in clothing. He had remained silent save for the initial pleasantries.

My folks engaged in jovial discussion while a storm brewed inside me. How could I know? I tried looking into his eyes hoping to maybe find a spark or something. That cute guy on the sitcom had beautiful eyes that made you want to sit next to him and keep staring. Nothing. Just normal eyes. Assisted vision. He wore glasses.

Maybe something from his posture. I summoned all information on etiquette and body language I had gotten off Competition Success Review titles  long ago. Legs crossed. Palm folded over knees. Back straight. He was ready for an interview. Good posture if he were auditioning for a lead role. No clue there either.

He had a nice smile  I had noted, but what about his sense of humor? I wanted to test if my jokes would fall flat with him like it did with my dad. How could I? His mother brought up the lifeline. 'Would you like to speak with him in private' she asked. I jumped at the chance and was mildly satisfied that he did too.

We spent five minutes staring into the distant view from our terrace, something that was usually so ordinary but seemed like a thousand strong audience that day. What the heck was I supposed to say? Why wasn’t he saying anything? What was the best opening line when you were trying to figure out if a guy was potential husband material?

He smiled at something behind me. I turned to look at what had gotten his attention. ‘There are two beautiful parrots on that branch’ he said. Eh? Parrots on a branch? Dream situation blown apart. What kind of a lame conversation was this? This was my life at stake! And his too. Shouldn't we be doing something about it? Something real? If I didn't man up I could be stuck having to be polite my whole life. No! That would be a nightmare.

"Would you like to go on a date with me?"

I promise I had never before in my life even imagined in the remotest part of my wildest dreams, not even those involving that sitcom guy with nice eyes, that I would ask a guy that question. No wonder he was staring at me like I had asked him if we could go on our honey moon right away. Good. Atleast I could be sure of a solid rejection which would give me more experience in handling the next suitor.


He seemed relieved and amused. It was my turn to stare. ‘I mean there is no way I can tell if you and I should be getting married. This arranged marriage protocol is outright taxing. Am sorry if I seem nervous. How can you know?’  he said. Nice. Honesty. Five points. Wait. Same question that was on my mind. Ten points.


The silence in the living room was deafening  It was an opportunity for all four parents to stare at us like we had told them we each had different partners waiting downstairs to elope with. I was absolutely sure I had started a life long mother-in-law complaint cum argument session. But that was only if I somehow managed to ‘know’.

It was probably the toughest decision that both sets of parents had to make. No. I wasn't marrying Mr. Adithya yet though that decision would've been much easier for the elders to handle. I was going on a date with him.


Walking back after coffee at one of the many CCD’s around, Mr. Adithya or Adhi that he wanted me to call him, was much more appealing than he had been at home stuck with looking at a girl who could be his potential bride. He was a sport and we had agreed to set aside the fact that we had an important decision to make. Not to mention having to look out for known faces that might carry information back home that so and so was found having coffee with the so and so of that household.

It would be a real mess because both families already knew, the so and so's in question were doing what was claimed and it would cause the informant to go around town advertising the fact that so and so's household had brought down the culture of marrying a complete stranger without even looking at him until the wedding and thus brought such shame to the country that even their NRI son married to a foreigner was ashamed of!

With a little bit of the pressure off, I learnt that Adhi wasn't a hero out of a novel but just a simple guy being a personality of his own. We didn't share path breaking chemistry or physics. It was mostly geography, covering the side-walks and the perimeter of the parking lot. There was no ‘What! You are this? And you like that? Oh you are my soulmate!’ No. There was nothing of that sort. It was just a light hearted conversation with a fellow citizen, not enough to set birds fluttering in my chest or chimes sounding in the background.

The evening came to an awkward pause but Adhi found the courage to ask me out on a second date. He still didn't ‘know’ he claimed. Mild humor. Five more points. We agreed to meet again the next day with a deal over two issues – one, confronting our folks back home over the ignominy of a second date with an arranged marriage proposal that interfered with the whole ‘arranged’ part of the procedure. And two, over the fact that we wouldn't try to find about each other from social networking sites. We wouldn't trust vanity.

I maintained tart silence at home that night and put my foot down refusing to call off the date. This was my decision I told them. Hmmm. Being brave?



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