"He wants to meet you in a coffee shop", said my mother.
"No, let them come home", I said. It is bad enough that my parents are arranging a date with a guy for me, imagine meeting him in a coffee shop in maami's area! We all know how that would go.
Hailing from a typical Tam Bram family I was aware of the usual drill and kind of had an idea how this would end. At least I was prepared to make it end the way I wanted: make the guy say no. That was my whole idea.
"Ask them if they are free the day after tomorrow. I have an appointment tomorrow in the evening after work", I told her. She conveyed the message and I thought the guy's side would drop the whole idea as the girl was fixing the date. But that did not happen. He came home five minutes earlier than expected, with his parents of course. And there I was, meeting him comfortably in my house in my room.
He said, "Hi". Damn! I was going to open with that.
I said, "How is the US?". The first words out of my mouth were a disaster.
He was confused and said, "I work in Germany".
The problem with IT professionals is we are so influenced that our client's country is the only existing country outside of India. Anyway I quickly recovered from my face-palm moment and was simultaneously glad that no one was around to witness that. We talked about work for a while.
“People out there have a strong misbelief about India. They watch movies and TV shows and think that we sing and dance on the street for every occasion, there are elephants loitering around the streets and wonder why we speak English at all.”
“Oh! Does anyone ever ask you about Indian life style?”
“All the time. There are a bunch of guys in my office who think that we have elephants and camels crossing the road along with us in the signal.”
“Oh dear God! Did you tell them that is not so?”
“No, I just let them believe that. Now they have booked tickets to India to see the bedecked elephants and camels on the railway level crossing.”
I burst out laughing thinking of those poor souls wandering the streets searching for large wildlife.
“Can I have some water?” I looked at the fan and I looked at him. I was perfectly fine but he was sweating profusely and I thought it was because he was nervous about this sort of meeting. But it didn’t occur to me that he had been living in Europe for a long time and Chennai was too hot in summer. Then again, Chennai is always hot so it is not the first thing that pops up in your head when a guy is sweating at your first arranged date.
“Yeah sure. Just a moment.” I went out and brought him a glass of water. When I came back I noticed that he had moved his chair right under the fan. He didn’t want to move closer to me under the fan when I was in the room because that would look indecent. I smiled to myself.
We talked a little more and by this point I was getting warmed up to him. He sure seemed like a cool person. He was funny, sarcastic and smart. Well, handsome too. Check, check and check. But I had a mission to succeed. I had to make him say no to me. No, I am not gay. It is just that I find it very hard to accept that I have to marry a guy based on a 15 minute conversation. I didn't understand how this arranged marriage system worked. I mean, how do you marry a guy after talking about just elephants? That's insane.
"I don't know to cook and the reason I don't know is because I hate cooking and doing the dishes", I said with a hope that he would give a bewildered look and run away. Instead he said, "I hate doing the dishes too but I know to cook."
Shit. There goes my weapon. He was talking about how crappy he cooks there as he is alone.
“We cannot appoint a maid too because it is very expensive there so I have to do the dishes myself. As much as I hate it I have no choice.”
“Ahan.... Ahan...” I was hardly listening. I was musing over my first failed shot. But I am a meticulous planner. I always have a back up.
“I am planning to study further after marriage too. If I find a good course I will opt for it. If not, I will continue to work.” If anything this should chase him away.
But he said, “If you are sure of what you want to do, there are a lot of options in Germany for your course.”
Two down, one to go. Time to drop the bomb.
"You see, I am not a very religious person. In fact, I am not orthodox. And I am skeptic."
He had a confused look on his face with a not-so-sure-smile on his lips. “What’s skeptic? Are you people starting a new movement now?”
“No, its just that I am not an atheist and I am cynical about the belief system.”
“Aaaah....”, he was pondering over what I had just said. He didn't seem convinced. At least that’s what it looked like. Apparently, he had been thinking that all this was cute. Just to be clear, I am not cute. He thought this incident was.
“That is not a problem to me. I am an atheist. As long as you don’t have a problem with that I don’t mind your religious status. In fact I prefer skeptic to theist”, he grinned. Bomb defused. I never imagined that my religious status would change my relationship status forever.
“So.. Is there anything else you want to know about me”, I asked hoping that I am giving him one last chance. But he was too sweet to ask me anything pretentious.
“No, this is not an interview. I think we will get to know each other gradually.”
I liked the word “gradually”. “But if you want to know anything about me feel free to ask me.”
I am a straight shooter. “Are you a teetotaler?” Not that it bothered me, but I was required to ask this question.
He smiled again. Come to think of it now, he had been smiling the whole time I was speaking to him. He might have thought I was childish.
“Yes I am. Is there anything else?”
“No that’s about it. Come let’s go out. We have been in here for too long.”
So we got up and went to the living room. They had some sort of code word to find out if their son is okay with the girl or not. Probably, if the guy wasn’t running out of the room screaming, it was a good sign. His parents immediately said that they were okay with our alliance.
He asked for my phone number. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know how to react for a second. I panicked and gave my mom's number. Oh come on! I just said I am from a conservative Tam Bram family so don't judge me here. He left home thinking it was my number and messaged my mother. That’s another story for another day.