Aug 22, 2010

It takes two to err… marry

This story is not a work of fiction but the names and identities of people, to some extent, have been changed. If you would like to read more of the story, mention it in the comment section and I will try to post the next part of the story as soon as possible. Due to my bed rest, there is no recipe this time with the story which is written for Of Chalks and Chopsticks, a food fiction event started by Aqua and currently being hosted on this blog.  

Raj and his parents looked at each other incredulously. They didn’t know what to think of Naina. Every few minutes she would excuse herself and go behind the curtain. Having lived in a small flat like this one all his life, Raj could guess that the curtain shielded a narrow hallway which probably led to a bedroom on one side, bathrooms on the other and a small kitchen at the back. They could clearly hear the girl blowing her nose in the sink. From the amount of noise she made, they could deduce safely that the sink was just outside the bathroom, a few feet away from the curtain.

She came back in the hallway again, wiping her hands on her duppatta. Her nose was a beetroot red but she didn’t seem to care. “She is so nonchalant,” Raj thought. “Doesn’t she care who we are? Aai (mother) is certainly not going to be happy,” he thought with dismay.

The nose blowing girl could feel the disapproving glare of the boy’s mother sitting across from her. Naina had to pinch herself hard to stop from laughing out loud. She couldn’t get the image of the woman, all prim and proper in her starched sari, with a band aid on her nose, out of her mind. She knew she had been making excessively loud noises blowing her nose but she didn’t care. The unwritten rules of the matchmaking ritual demanded that she be presented as a docile, homely and sweet natured girl. Ever the rebel, Naina was determined to break every rule. Blowing her nose loudly was a minor infraction in her long list of penalties.

Two years ago, since she had been deemed of marriageable age by her parents, Naina had refused to carry the mandatory tray laden with tea and biscuits or to wear a sari and strings of necklaces to impress the visiting “dignitaries”.

In India, the ubiquitous tea and biscuits are almost always offered to guests.

Her defiance had increased when she found a job working for a major newspaper in Bombay. She was staying with her cousin sister, Priti tai, at the time and was falling in love with the fast pace of the city. Her new job and the financial independence were too exciting and tempting to give up for a life of matrimony. Every time she went through one of the “viewing” sessions, her resolve to resist grew stronger, her violations more severe.

There was that time when she had to visit with Priti tai one of the boy’s home, an hour’s train ride away. Tai’s two kids, aged 4 and 1, had also tagged along. On reaching the destination, the boy, Naresh, turned out to be missing in action. “He had to go to work all of a sudden,” his father had said casually.

“They couldn’t tell us that before we started for their home?” Naina had ranted later. She was beyond furious. Travelling two hours on Mumbai’s crowded local trains with two young kids was not her idea of fun.

“It wasn’t enough that they refused to send a photo of their son, they had to call us over all the way so they could see how I looked and behaved in person.” 

She had always hated it when the boy was thrust up casually in the scene but his family demanded not only her photo but would also call up to find out her complexion, height, weight.  One family even had the temerity to ask if she wore glasses. “We don’t want a girl who wears glasses. My son doesn’t even want to meet the girl if she wears contact lenses,” a woman wearing bifocals had once told her mother proudly.

Naresh’s family had turned out to be distant relatives of Priti’s mom and so the little detail of inconvenience  was ignored. Naina had sat listening as her cousin sister and the boy’s father traced back relatives and brought up old acquaintances and caught up on the missing family links.

Before leaving, Priti had asked for a photo of Naresh. “Suresh, come here,” the father called someone from inside. A thin, bespectacled young man came out and stood smiling nervously around. “Naresh looks exactly like him, just a little older,” the father explained. “But don’t worry; we will arrange a meeting with him shortly so he can meet your niece.”

“He can meet your niece! What about asking if the niece wants to meet their son?” Naina had ranted afterwards.

“Now Naina, I know what they did wasn’t very nice, but since we know them, it is the right etiquette to meet the boy. We will do it at your cousin’s place so you can be comfortable. And if you don’t like him, you can always say no,” her cousin had tried to placate her.

On a Saturday, a few weeks later, Naresh came down to meet Naina at her cousin’s home. She had disliked him from the get go. Looking exactly like his younger brother (“at least the father was honest about that,” she had thought), he prattled on about his plans to settle in a village someday and take up farming; on how he didn’t like his colleagues socializing after office hours.

“I don’t approve of unmarried young men and women going to movies and restaurants together. It is not our culture,” he was saying as Naina was thinking about the upcoming picnic she was planning to attend with her colleagues.

He went on and on, espousing his philosophy on what constituted as appropriate behavior for young men and women in the workplace.

“Would you like to come with me to my workplace for a little while?” he asked looking at his watch.

Naina was startled out of her reverie. She had been thinking about the pav bhaji her cousin’s cook was going to make for dinner; tomatoes and potatoes, sweet peas and mushy green bell peppers, a hint of cauliflower, simmering with spices, sparkles of finely chopped onions and garnished with finely chopped fragrant cilantro and a slice of lemon.

“Well, would you? I have some papers to sign with HR and then I will drop you back. It will take an hour and a half,” he was saying.

An hour and a half more of this?,” Naina thought. “Let me go ask my cousin,” she said.

“Tai, I don’t want to go. Lets tell him we have plans,” she had implored her cousin.

“Just go with him and we will tell his family later about our rejection,” Tai had said with a smile and Naina went reluctantly to fetch her purse.

Photo courtesy: Sunshinemom

As the two of them approached the bus stand, her footsteps had started dragging. At the bus stop she had the strong urge to turn around and start running. But she stayed where she was and didn’t move when the bus stopped in front of them. She watched as Naresh climbed the steps with the rest of the passengers. She saw him looking for an empty seat and then turning around to look for her. She didn’t move when the conductor rang the bell for the bus to start. As the bus began to move she saw Naresh zeroing in on her, a look of disbelief on his face as she started waving at him from the shade of the bus stop.

To be continued…

My version of Pav Bhaji is here.

Besides my regular link to Sra's Soup that came alive, here's a link to the talented and creative Sunshinemom who took time out of her busy schedule to take the above click of a Bombay bus stop just for this story. Thank you Harini.  She not only has scrumptious vegan and vegetarian recipes on her blog but her delicious, because that is what they are, clicks will make you drool and almost lick your computer screen. So head on over and check out her blog.

Note: Arranged marriage is a long standing, ancient institution of Indian culture. It has changed a lot over the years, from girls and boys betrothed at a tender age to the high tech world of matrimonial sites. Contrary to the popular belief, the grown up girls and boys are not forced into arranged marriages. Instead the families arrange for them to meet, often in a casual setting, at home or a restaurant, where they can chat and get to know a little bit about each other. Both sides are free to reject the other, though even now, the rejections from the girl’s side are few. In a society where dating is not very common amongst the classes, arranged matches offer a chance for people to meet from the same socio-economic backgrounds, making transition to a life of matrimony easier. There are exceptions to every rule. Arranged marriage is no different. Sometimes, even after all considerations, arranged marriages fail. On the other hand, a love story not failing ever is no sure guarantee either.


  1. Hi Jaya,
    I would love to read the rest of the story. Wishing you a quick recovery.

  2. How can you do this? Give us such a wonderful piece of writing and ask us if we want more? Of course I want more :)

    And I loved the way you have described Arranged Marriage in your note. This captures everything that it stands for.

  3. It is kind of funny for me to read this story. When I was taken to meet the 'boy', he wasn't there at home either. My sister and brother-in-law and I were thinking of leaving and he showed up. It wasn't really the mistake since my sister hadn't confirmed about our visit. I ended up marrying that 'boy' and we are married for 11 years now. Loved the narration. I hated going to see the guys too. Luckily I had to do it only 3 times.

  4. i want the rest of the story please ....

    and get well soon.

  5. Jaya, you must write the rest of the story! I am dying to know whether they get together, whether Naina settles in the village or not! Thank you very much for your appreciation apart from sharing the link. I am blushing:).

  6. Very good read Jaya. In arrange marriages the onus lie upon the parents who select the match. While it is the chemistry of both the partners in love marriage which can make or mar. They can't pass the buck to others in case of failure.

    Waiting for the rest of the story :)

  7. Tibik and Bhyagyashree, Thank you.

    BB, you don't say! I am glad third time was a charm for you. :)

  8. Sangeeta, the rest of story is coming soon. Thank you for the vote of confidence. :)

    Sunshinemom, the rest of the story will be up soon. Your appreciation is well deserved. No need to blush. :)

    Sanjeeta, you are so right. I am glad you caught that. :)

  9. Can't wait to read what happens next.Are u going to let naina settle in the village?Is she gona meet prince charming somewhere near the bus stop it something else?
    oh,please don't let me wait in suspense jaya......

  10. Bedrest??? i hope you are doing ok? Take care and write when you can. Tho in all honesty i love it!...and i have a good mind of taking your phone number and calling you for the rest of the story!!


  11. please post second part,..nice one,.:-)

  12. PJ, patience. :)

    Rajitha, you can have the phone no. We can chat but not about the story. :)

    notyet100, thanks. Will post the second part soon. :)

  13. Me too, me too! I'd love to hear the rest of the story. But you please rest up first, cos health is most important. A big hug to you, if it makes you feel any better :)

  14. Great start Jaya..continue, please..what happens next?


  15. Hi Jaya, Sorry to hear that you arent feeling well....hope you are back on your feet soon ! Your story was very interesting...looking for the next installment the way , do you speak Marathi ? Although I am not a Maharashtrian, I grew up in Pune ! Was just curious :)

  16. DSM, sorry to hear that you are not well. Hope you get better soon..Waiting for the ending of the story.

  17. I am dying to read the next part, please please please post it :)

  18. ok now stop teasing all of us and post the next part pronto!
    And nose blowing loudly...I think I really like Naina :)
    I think arranged marriage has a lot of merit especially in the Indian society, it is only the way the 'boy's side approaches the whole thing that has given arranged marriages a bad name.

  19. Are you feeling better now? I just read you were adviced bed-rest. Hope all is well!

  20. What is with the bed rest? Hope you are doing well Jaya! And Yes! I do want to read the rest of the story.

  21. i too would love to read the next installment...

  22. omg this is soooo funny.... so what happened .... now i cant wait to know the ending ;> hope u feel better

  23. Get back on you feet soon & tell us the remaining.

  24. Get back on you feet soon & tell us the remaining.

  25. Ha ha ha... I love this Naina who waves tata to Mr. Self-Absorbed! Too good!! :D And if this is even remotely real.. baap re.. Lol!! Defly want more of the story!

    But do take care.. being in bed with the laptop on your belly will not qualify as bed-rest. Alls well I hope. Cheerio!

  26. What is with the bed rest Jaya ? Get well soon and am waiting for the second part with flutters in my tummy

  27. What is with the bed rest Jaya ? Waiting for Part 2 with flutters in my tummy

  28. get well soon and do post the second part ..would love to know Naina 's decision.
    hugs and smiles

  29. A great read! I am waiting for the rest of the story :-)

    Get well soon!

  30. HI JAYA

  31. Looking forward to reading the conclusion of this story, Jaya. Naina sounds like a girl who knows what she wants -- and I could quite imagine the look on Naresh's face in the last scene :)

  32. Another great story from you Jaya. Can't wait to read the next part. Hope you get well soon!

  33. Le twist, it comes, non? I think I know how it's gonna end :) Too many clues, unless they're red herrings.

  34. When is the next part due? So far a nice breezy story, will there be a twist? Hope the wait is not too long.

  35. This story looks good! I'm rooting for our girl Naina. Plese don't let her fall into the clichés of life.... :)

  36. post rest of the story pppppllllleeeaaasssseeeee....

  37. following u so that I don't miss the story & other wonderful to read them..take care

  38. ok, i must be the last person reading this wonderful story of yours. you must be tired of hearing me say that you write well. Loved the story and would definitely like to hear the rest of it.

  39. Nice waiting to read the rest of this story.

  40. Love the writing and the story.....especially the nding....brought back memories of my own experiences, albeit unpleasant. Unfortunately, in some communities things haven't changed much in the past 10-15 years when it comes to arranged marriages.


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