Karma- The Quirky Matchmaker!
Not only in the qasbas and mofussil towns, but in metros too, almost every girl reaching a marriageable age, is under surveillance. It could be a close relative, a nosy neighbour, a vivacious friend’s mother or a professional matchmaker, trying to settle a perfect match for a nubile nymphet with a suitable boy.
Pinky Bhatia too was in the midst of such a maelstrom.
“Do you like the boy?” Everyone in the living room was waiting with bated breath.
“Yes, I do but!” The news in affirmative spelt such relief that nobody bothered to notice the incoherent ‘but’ of Pinky in sheer excitement: no more restless nights for mom, no more tension for dad, the neighborhood Romeos, high on testosterone, would not trouble Bablu, her younger bro for an ‘intro’ with his pretty sister, no more rounds of trayladen- with- snacks in front of prospective grooms for the infuriated girl. A very popular IBM i.e. Ideal Bahu Material, Pinky was tall, with peach and cream complexion , robust health, waistlength hair , ample bosom and a swaying derriere in short, a natural beauty, without any denting -painting of sorts and no silicon enhancements. Even the smile she flashed was nonmetallic, the row of teeth being even and pearly.
A very popular IBM i.e. Ideal Bahu Material, Pinky was tall, with peach and cream complexion , robust health, waistlength hair , ample bosom and a swaying derriere in short, a natural beauty, without any denting -painting of sorts and no silicon enhancements. Even the smile she flashed was nonmetallic, the row of teeth being even and pearly.
The mothers of eligible boys swooned when Pinky made her entrance into a gathering. They all wanted this very apsara(celestial nymph) –the very incarnation of a popular heroine from celluloid , for their son. She will mesmerize him with her beauty, forcing him to leave his wanderlust and settle down. Once their besotted son marries her, they will have him live in the same house, next to them and take care of them in their sunset years; an idea abhorrent to their free-spirited son.
The matchmaker, Amma ji , was a balding, shortlimbed, round eyed woman of sixty: tied in a frame of limited area, with a mouth full of tobacco and rotting teeth. Her sari was always well starched, emphasizing her short height and roundness. Amma ji was ecstatic that Pinky had approved of the match. After the final fixation of the match of a pretty girl like Pinky, she will hike her rate, no less than Rs.3001 for future reference.
“Nahin! Kabhi Nahin!”(No ! never!) Amma ji’s comfort zone was shattered by the shrill shriek of Pinky. “I like him very much but like a bhaiyya(brother).” How could Pinky have married Tunnu ji! She had known him since childhood. Her feelings for him were purely sisterly. Besides, the family was too downmarket to match her gossamer dreams. Her mental block was the ‘attachakki’(flour mill) that was housed in their basement. Everyone knew the family not by their name or sir- name but by the suffix
referring to that wheat grinding machine.
“How obnoxious that this old hag, in the whole wild world, found Mr.Chakki’s son suitable for me”, the inconsolable girl muttered to herself. “Hey Bhagwaan!(Oh God!”), wailed the matchmaker from deep within. There slips another match from her hand. “Why couldn’t this bird brained chokri (lass) say it frankly in the beginning? Fanning my hopes, Bah!”. Now she will have to trudge with the photograph of Mr. Chakki’s son to other houses. With eligible girls as fussy as this one and the mushrooming internet phinternet matrimonial sites, she will have to wind up her match making business. Her knees became aware of the endless journey ahead and gave her an electric jolt in return. “Ouch! I curse this girl. She will never get married without my marzi(will).” The sharp searing pain in her joints made Amma ji's venom rise in exponential quantities. A fierce battleground was set between two warring females--the girl on one side and the matchmaker on the other. If curses could ill, both would have been dead. Karma smelt a delightful situation. It lurked patiently to do proper permanent damage. If possible, on both lives! Grabbing eye- balls acted as a drug for Pinky. Addicted to male attention, she knew how to make her provocative moves in public. When all her cousins came to a wedding, coyly draped in a saree, she would move seductively in a tight churidaarkurta. When the cousins decided to wear churidaarkurta aping her in the next function, she would turn-up demure and pretty, in a saree, of course!
During the marriage season, she had to be careful about her wardrobe, accessories and make-up. Paranoid about her skin, nails, hair and of course, her pearly smile,
she practiced all the angles of her profile in front of the mirror, looking critically to see whether she looked better from right, left or frontal view. Life is so tough for the beautiful. To look pretty all the time is not easy, mulled Pinky. Pinky loved being a prima donna at social gatherings, teasing the poor adolescent victims infatuated with her; the young men, with faint traces of hair on their upper lip, their voice-a curly mix of hoarseness and shrill twang: Pinky, like a female Pied Piper, would lead the procession, followed by these love-sick lads when she made umpteen trips to the buffet table, espresso coffee booth , ice cream corner or the spicy chaat stall. Their immediate neighbours, the Varshneys, were to have a big fat wedding that summer. They were a very prosperous business family, being the fifth generation involved in selling utensils and brass ware of all kinds. They had fixed their only daughter’s match to another well to do business family but their prospective son-in law was an engineer from the prestigious I.I.T, Kharagpur. The delirious Varshneys were bent upon making the event so lavish that the grand affair would be remembered for a long time. Mrs. Bhatia hadn’t recovered from her daughter's refusal. She didn’t dare to face the thronging inquisitive crowds at the marriage venue, all asking the same question, “Mrs.Bhatia, ho gayi twaddi Pinki di kudmai ?”(Has your Pinki got engaged?) She wrapped the dohar (light blanket) around her tightly, battling inner demons and decided against attending the wedding. Better to sulk inside the air conditioned room at home then to be bombarded with awkward probes which would spike her blood pressure. Mr. Bhatia, Pinki and Bablu, each having their own agenda, left Mrs. Bhatia to nurse her grief alone.
The brother, Bablu, was a carnivore. He knew that all the best non-vegetarian dishes would be served as his friend's father was the caterer. Without his mother freaking out, he could gorge on unlimited kebabs, tandoori chicken and biryani. The father was drooling about the single malt since the invite had come, a definite nono when his wife was around. The daughter was planning to wreck adolescent hearts, which she couldn't have for her mother cum bodyguard’s keen antenna would have scrutinised her moves so closely that her amorous adventures wouldn’t have dared to germinate. Having dressed with usual care, in a peach flowing lehenga-dupatta, with intricate zardozi work, Pinky was restless. The seating arrangement, with women on one side of the canopy and the menfolk on the other, was stifling her. Missing her usual fix of attention, Pinky decided to glide over to Bablu's friends. Ah!so refreshing to feel the appreciative glances of males.
There He was! Her hero in flesh and blood! The man in front of her was a perfect chiseled creation of God. She met his eyes. Pinky felt her hair rise; her scalp stiffened. She felt her blood draining from all parts of her body and rushing straight to her heart in a violent gush. She suddenly felt cold and clammy when she saw him looking at her. Dressed in tight fitting stylish black bund-gala and cream jodhpurs, her dream man looked like a male model from a sleek fashion magazine. Boom! Boom! Suddenly there were fireworks and loud music or was it Pinky's heartbeat going berserk? The baraat
(marriage procession) had come. Everyone was rushing to the gate to have a glimpse of the dulha (groom) but Pinky stood transfixed.
She came to senses only when there was a burst of cheer and the jaimal (the exchange of garlands) was taking place. Where was he?
Her hero was on the stage lifting the groom, not allowing the bride put the garland around the groom's neck. How strong he was! Those rippling muscles under his coat! Ooh! Pinky went to find her father so she could show him her choice in life and blood. Her father was in a cheerful mood, having downed his fifth Patiala-peg. The timing was perfect, thought Pinky. In his tipsy mood, Papa would generously agree to whatever she asked for.
"Papa, can you see that guy. Papa, that man on the stage with the groom!" "Yes, Yes. I am not so drunk. What about him?"
"Oh Papa, isn’t he good looking!"
"Bah! A man should be earning well. What are good looks if he doesn't have a decent job?”
"Then, Papa, why don’t you find out about his job?
Papa, please!" Pinky's Papa melted at his beautiful daughter’s plea and quickly downed another peg, happy that his fastidious daughter had finally liked someone. These fussy children should find their own match. If parents interfere in arranging marriage for them then the blame falls on them life-long. The handsome one was also making inquiry regarding Pinky; this news was conveyed to Mrs. Bhatia by Mrs. Varshney with a wink and a warm hug. The responsibility fell on Bablu to find out the details and he took his task seriously. Bablu found out that the handsome one was serving as a mechanical engineer in the Digboi refinery, Assam. It was a government job, well paid and safe, with pension and very good perks. Indeed, for the first time, Cupid had thrown its darts on both sides and the aim had been bang on target!
Everyone was ecstatic. The handsome one was approached through Mrs. Varshney, to meet Pinky and her family formally. The handsome one was clear that he would like to see the girl without fanfare .He will be accompanied with his widowed mother at Varshneys’ home; neither in some fancy five star hotel lobby nor in Pinky’s home: Pinky’s future should not be in jeopardy in case things didn’t work out amicably. The guy sounded grounded and mature. Pinky's family approved of his wish for a low key affair. Giddy headed Pinky would have loved to meet her Prince Charming at a fancy place, with a loud DJ and a psychedelic dance floor but she was too excited to feel upset about the ordinariness of the arrangement. A cheerful Pinky sought an appointment with the leading hair stylist and beautician. Her entire being was tingling. The man of her dreams was to come in the evening with his family. She kept pinching her to make sure it was not a fantasy.
By late afternoon, the entire family of Bhatias’ was at the Varshneys’ mansion. A restless Pinky could not concentrate on anything. Every now and then she glanced at the clock, the time would not budge .Why was the clock so slow? It was getting dark. Maybe they will not come! Maybe they had an accident! Maybe he balked at the last moment.
Just when Pinky's fertile imagination was going haywire, she heard a car screech to a halt in front of the gate, the doors slamming. She heard them coming in, her father's delighted guffaw and her mother's nasal high pitched nervous laughter fanned her panic. The Handsome one was coming in flanked by her father and mother.
Following them were Mr. and Mrs. Varshney, Bablu and a feminine silhouette trudging cautiously behind in the dim light. Pinky peered from inside but it was too dark outside to see the guests clearly.
The company moved into the lighted patio. The gait of the female figure looked too familiar.
It was the match maker!
“Is ssshe the mother of the bbboy???” A visibly shaken Pinky whispered; stuttering into her mother’s ear.
“Yes!” said her unfazed mother. Nothing mattered to her, as long as her stuck up daughter was getting married. “Oh no! Not her! Never!” shouted Pinky. “Hey Bhagwan! Yeh kya kiya,Beta?” (Oh God! what did you do?) wailed the matchmaker.
“Oh Yes!” shouted Karma with glee. No one messes with Karma, the powerful, the potent, the ultimate matchmaker.
Mamta Joshi did her Masters in History from Allahabad University. Her poems, reflective essays, prose pieces and short stories have appeared in national dailies and international emagazines. A free spirit ,she works with equal ease in Hindi and English.