Over the term of his mostly uneventful natural life, a pure-blooded, rice gobbling, siesta loving Bangali gentleman is mostly consigned to his disappointing life at his desk, while his mind wanders among the hills of Darjeeling, or pretending to hide behind his morning daily while his fiercely independent wife tears him a new one, and his children laugh at his haplessness. Between his boss’s rants about how his productivity at work closely rivals that of the wall he has been staring at, and the long, miserable hours spent witnessing his mother and his loving companion bring the house down on a regular basis – there isn’t much that can ruffle his feathers.
Unless of course, if he is unmarried and that long list of prying, judgemental relatives he has been successfully dodging over the last few Durga Pujos, have conspired to set him up once and for all.
A room full of whispering, nudging relatives – well past their prime – sneering every time he manages an awkward smile at the poor bride to be, can be a harrowing experience for anyone. Meanwhile the cheery, happy-go-lucky girl is brought crashing down to the glum reality of married life. She is forced to don absurdly irrelevant outfits and adhere to nauseating precepts that can leave Raja Ram Mohan Roy turning in his grave – while forty odd eyes size her up for the fantastic deal that she is. Her academic qualifications take a backseat as they are weighed against her skills in the kitchen; meanwhile the poor guy is left wondering about the relevance of her alluring dance or song in their imminent union. Unless of course, foreplay takes on a completely different meaning for him. Trust me on this though – as far as Bengali gentlemen go, we are a docile, predictable bunch when it comes to our exploits in the bedroom.
Luckily, my darling girlfriend and I had trained for months to sidestep such calamities. We had made it a point to acclimatise her parents to my bumbling presence for years (which, now that I look back at it, was quite a daunting task for them.) Once their initial apprehension was swept aside, it was more of a cakewalk for me. My girlfriend dismisses their affection for me as Stockholm syndrome, although I like to imagine they have, over time, grown fond of me. On the other hand, my parents were notorious for their pig-headedness. My mother, who loved dismissing my preferences like she swatted away flies at our lunch table – incredibly, had thawed over Mishti being a double Masters and gold medallist in Statistics and Marketing. My father, who had singlehandedly nipped my adolescent fling in the bud, showed signs of budging as my stuttering academic and professional careers finally took off. As such, there wasn’t going to be a better time than this. “Let’s do this while we still have our jobs,” we agreed.
As is with most things personal to me, I have a tendency to say the most irrelevant things at the most crucial of times. (For instance, the time when I had interrupted my beautiful, half-drunk, dreamy eyed date while she was busy kissing me, with a question on Logical Reasoning.) The instructions were clear. “Not a word about Park Street, or college. None of your quips. In fact, why don’t you keep your mouth shut? I’ll do the talking.” I began to laugh, but stopped mid-laughter; judging by her glare – this probably wasn’t a good time.
Now, as is with the most important things in life, morning shows the day. As Mishti strutted into our living room, adorned in the brightest of colours possible – in the midst of all the salutations and smiles that were exchanged – I dug deep into my literary reserves, determined to impress her in front of the parents. “You look very red,” I beamed.
She looked at me for a long time, rolled her eyes and sighed.