The Great Indian Bride Hunt: Chat Files


“How are things?”

“Hm… Getting on.”



“I guess things must be hectic at work for you.”

“Yes. I have so much to do.”

“You better get back then.”

What was that now? That was a sample from our initial conversations over phone. I always used to marvel at couples in love both in movies as well as in real life. They would talk and talk and talk. For hours on end. I wondered what they spoke about so much.  I reckoned I would find out once I too got there. But now that I was here, I was still as clueless as I was before. So was she. At least we had found common ground in our mutual cluelessness. Maybe we were making some progress after all.

But you see we humans have the inventiveness to eventually put anything we had at our disposal to good use. What do you do, I pondered, when you gain access to a pair of sympathetic feminine ears. Then suddenly it struck me. Of course. Pour all your woes into them. The marriage was already a done deal, and I had no need to impress her anymore. So, I could whine away to her to my heart’s content. Yes. That was it. 

She bore it all with great equanimity. She even showed the grace to keep adding a sympathetic “Aha!”, “Is that so!”, “What a pity”, “So sad” and so on every now and then to let me know she still hasn’t put the phone on mute and gone back to her work desk. That further emboldened me to up the ante – I started out with existential angst and moved on to doomsday prophesies.

“The big recession is around the corner. This will be bigger than even the great depression. We will have World War 3 and there will be a new world order. So, we should forget all our petty concerns such as jobs and professions and focus on preparing ourselves for the new world order. That is if we are the select few who survive World War 3.”

If she probably thought I was a nut case, she did not say so. But since there was no sign of the marriage being called off as my mother feared, I assumed things were still hunky dory and I moved on to my third phase – crazy humor. This is the side of me I keep reserved for the select few. But once I got started, I could really drive people mad. This was the phase my mother really feared most about. She had wanted me safely married and bundled away to the care of an unsuspecting girl before this side of me began to manifest. But no! It was not to be. I was already beginning to assume my Mad Hatter avatar.

To give an example, on one occasion she had been visiting some scenic place on vacation with her parents. She described the resort where they were staying to me so happily – one of the rare instances where she could get a word in for a change. Immediately I started off on my idea of a dream resort.
“I want to stay in a Bungalow in the middle of a jungle. A real large one with lots of rooms with guns and trophies hanging on the mantelpieces. Really ancient beds filled with dust and very a old caretaker bent with age but with strange bulging out eyes. And maybe a supernatural being or two to spice up things as well.“

She was totally creeped out and apparently divulged the details of the conversation to her parents as well. This probably was the first time she had mentioned about my weird proclivities to them. I later came to know this had bewildered them so much that they had asked her if she may not like to reconsider her choice of bridegroom.

But no! She happened to belong to that old school – you know like those women they made back in the ancient times who once having set their cap at someone, come rain or storm or even the God of death himself astride his mighty buffalo,  would hang in there and weather it out. My mother had been unduly worried.

But I was still not done yet. One of the days I had been to watch this movie "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi". I am not much of a movie goer. But a college senior working in the company where I worked had been transferred to my office. He happened to be a total foodie and movie buff who had endowed himself with a cool bike but no girlfriend to take around on the same. Consequently he had to make do with whatever he found to take around as pillion rider on his jaunts to restaurants and cinema houses - yours truly. And thus it transpired that I ended up watching newly released Bollywood movies.

Now what does all this have to do with my bride hunt or for the matters its aftermath? Patience! Patience, my friend! Patience.  I am getting there. I was just giving some background information to set the context. So coming back, in the mentioned movie the heroine marries the hero under compulsion to satisfy her father’s last wish. So, she tells her new husband that she would be a dutiful wife but may never fall in love with him. That dialogue somehow struck with me and I thought I would try it out on my fiancee. Not for the same reasons as that heroine of course though like her dad, my mom was the driving force steering me towards the deep cesspits of matrimony. The problem with me was that  I had never really got my head around this whole concept of falling in love. But in the modern times, the term love got bandied around a lot in association with matrimony. So, I needed to clear the air to avoid any misaligned expectations.

If anything, this had to be that proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. However she responded rather stoically. I guess she had gained a certain amount of immunity against my caprices

 “If that is how it is to be, so be it,” 

Incidentally, that was exactly how the hero in the movie had also responded. But that was only on the surface. However behind the heroine's back, he had taken it all to heart and had decided to disguise himself and indulge in all kinds of buffoonery to win her over. I was trying to imagine this calm no-nonsense woman I was going to marry indulging in feminine version of the same to win me over. The whole idea itself seemed so ludicrous, more so the idea of someone wanting to win me over.  But then the character of the hero in the movie was also kind of no nonsense. The film makers had even stuck a mustache on to the actor’s upper lip to belie his usual clownish image and give him an air of seriousness.

Thus things had gone on for months. And surprisingly my impending marriage actually managed to survived all those months of telephonic chatter fraught with perils, despite my mother’s apprehensions. Not for the lack of trying on my part to wreck it though. 

Return of the Great Indian Bride Hunt

I heard they are reviving the Matrix series after all these years. So I thought why not I too revive my Great Bride Hunt Series. Now what the hell is this Bride Hunt thingy and what has that got to do with Matrix? Well, making a choice whether to marry or not to marry is like deciding between the red and blue pill, isn't it? But if I was looking for a bride, I had already made my choice, hadn't I? Not necessarily. And that was what that whole series that kicked off my writer journey was all about - my unsuccessful attempts to find a bride through the traditional Indian arranged marriage system. But then that still does not mean I did not make a choice, does it? It would be more like choosing one of the pills and choking over it. Talking of which I wonder what would have happened if Neo had done that in the Matrix movie. That would be an interesting theme for a new Matrix movie. And a new Great Indian Bride Hunt Post? Or more like Sherlock Holmes returning alive from Reichenbach Falls and resuming his career as sleuth, am I going to return to being a bachelor all over again and once again resume the great India bride hunt all over again. Heavens! No. That one Great Indian Bride Hunt itself was an experience of a life time.  It never ceases to amaze me how I survived through the whole ordeal. No, Ma'am, no. Not for all the riches of this world would I go through that ever again.

I ended that old series thus - "And so my most popular bride hunt series winds down to a tame end, unless I begin to invent more stories. But you know, in Indian arrange marriage system, finding a bride is just the beginning." So I start with that as the beginning and recount how things fanned out over the next few months till the marriage actually got solemnized. 

I guess many would have heard in India, not only do the guy and girl have to agree to marry each other, but their respective families also have to agree as well. Actually a generation earlier, there was one step lesser - the guy and girl did not need to agree. If the families agreed that was more than enough. Then all kinds of newfangled ideas from the West began to seep in and they added this additional step of the guy and girl having to agree as well. Anybody in operational excellence would tell you, increasing the number of steps in a process is a sure shot recipe for disaster. But then Indian family traditions are not designed by Lean Six Sigma Black Belts. They just evolve chaotically as  a reaction to the changes in socioeconomic conditions. But regardless of the origin, this view of Indian marriages is missing a very crucial step - the astrological review. Usually the astrologer's sign off is the first step in such processes. But in my case somehow the sequence of the steps had got jumbled up. So it turned out that the astrologer's desk was placed later on in the process.

One day passed. No communication. Two days. Nothing. Parents told me not to call the girl and check. It would sound too desperate, they said. Now the thing was I wanted an answer either way. Even a no was fine. But the suspense was killing me. I was in half mind to call the girl and tell her I wanted to call off the wedding rather than endure this suspense. But I knew my parents would half kill me if I did something of that sort. Still worse they may decide to start the whole bride hunt process all over again. No. I had to wait. Five days passed. And then six. By then I had decided, the call would never come. Well, anyways I mused there was a positive side to this I had missed. This suspense was just the thing to get me off the hook. Till the girl's side called, my parents could not resume the hunt. And if they did not call for eternity, I was as good as off the hook. And if my parents wanted to call and check, I would fling the dialogue on not sounding desperate back at them. Yes. See- the equivalent of choking on the pill. As I was getting ready to do a victory dance within my mind, the mobile phone rang.

It was she. She who was to become she who must be obeyed as our good friend Rumpole of the Bailey would have said. The astrologer had given the green signal. That is the irony of life. I remembered this story I had read in school about a fellow who tries his utmost to get arrested so that he can spend the winter in the warm comfort of the jailhouse. After numerous failed attempts, he arrives at the churchyard and suddenly epiphany strikes him and he decides to turn a new leaf and take up gainful employment. Right at the moment cops appear from nowhere and arrests him for loitering around with no purpose and drags him away ignoring his protests of innocence. 

Well, so that was two steps cleared. There was still the third step - due diligence.Though it was not called as such. For all external appearances, it seemed it was all a done deal. But I was subtly warned by my parents not to engage my would be bride in conversation till the engagement date was finalized. As part of the engagement date discussions (Yes. That's how dating works in our families - engagement date, marriage date, baby shower date, house warming date and so on), the girl's parent's visited our home with the most astute of their relatives. Then my parents reciprocated. There were broad based discussions on a wide range of topics covering almost everything under the sun except of course the matter of the engagement date itself. The purpose of this exercise I came to know later, was to identify suitable persons for a reference check. The gentleman the girl's parents had identified had apparently given  a really glorious testimonial regarding my character and temperament. Which was not surprising given the fact that he had absolutely no clue who I was. Human psychology 101, you know. No one likes to admit ignorance when their expert opinion is being sought on a topic. And it was not as if they could sue him if after the wedding, I was found to be a character of ill repute or mean temperament.

Eventually they did come around to the matter of the engagement date. A date was finalized and the embargo was lifted. But my parents were still not too sure. 

"Such things are not done in our families. I have shared my opinion. Afterwards it is your choice."

That was my father who generally tended to take a conservative view of things. My mother, who had a more liberal outlook had a different viewpoint.

"With great difficulty, we have found a girl willing to marry you. If you talk too much to her, you may say something stupid and screw it all up yet again."

My mother's view kind of decided things for me. In my heart of hearts I had somehow never really believed that anything would come of the great Indian bride hunt. Now things were suddenly becoming real. In few months from now, I would be a married man - a condition I had never thought I would find myself in. I was suddenly feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. Did I really want to fully embrace the wheel of life? My mother's words seemed to suggest there might still be an escape route somewhere. Was there some ray of hope in her words. I must definitely talk to the girl and find out I decided.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces