After-youth wasn’t as much fun as Suraj had thought it would be. The pangs of that bulky EMI payment at the beginning of the month for a 650 square foot house in suburban Mumbai, checking BharatMatrimonial.com every night, hoping for some visits on his profile, the tension of his pending H1B visa application. Gone were the days when he could sit in front of the idiot box on a last Sunday afternoon, watching Friends re-runs, when he could jog for 5 minutes at a stretch without breaking a sweat, when he did not have to worry about his receding hairline and increasing waist line. After-youth sucked.
Suraj was a run of the mill IT engineer, whose only goal in life was to ensure that his CTC increased every consecutive financial year. Hailing from a middle class family in Bhopal, Suraj’s dream was to work in the Silicon Valley, drive a swanky car, and provide for his retired father and mother who was a home maker and to marry a girl, just like his mother, demure, non-ambitious. Utopia for every other Indian male.
His Silicon Valley dream was a work in progress, having applied for his H1B through a consultant. He had also bought a decent enough 2-BHK apartment in Mumbai, hoping he would be able to convince his parents to move from Bhopal to Mumbai. The EMI’s were a killer but his recent move to an MNC had somewhat eased his monthly woes with a fatter paycheck being credited to his savings account each month end and the daily auto fares being limited to a manageable extent since his new office was somewhat closer to his home.
Having taken care of most of his dreams and aspirations, Suraj had started work on his last and most important project- marriage. Though his mother had been after him for a couple of years now, but Suraj kept postponing the inevitable citing more pressing tasks at hand. But now the time was right, after-youth was fast progressing into middle age, the threshold of 30 was a year away, all hopes of getting a girl friend had been finally dumped, and one way love affairs just weren’t doing it for him any more.
One night, after having seen Hum Aapke Hain Kaun for the nth time on his laptop, Suraj finally decided to do it. He never thought he would have to but it was now or never. He logged onto the internet, opened a browser and registered himself on BharatMatrimonial.com
It had been three weeks since that fateful night and Suraj had received numerous enquiries. He had informed his parents about his intentions and they had given him a go-ahead. All they wanted was their only son to be settled in life. They wanted him to be happy, and oh yes, preferably to a kaisthya girl from the same community, not shorter than 5’3”, fair, and a graduate. That is all Suraj’s parents wanted.
These online matrimonial sites were such a blessing for guys like Suraj. Without them a majority of the geek population in India would be restricted to eyeing all those guys with females beside them at multiplexes, indulging in self pity in all the liquor parties during weekends, downloading porn and indulging in 2-3 minutes (time might vary in this large demographic, depending on a truck load of parameters, which we will delve into maybe in a different story) of arm strengthening activity at any point of the day.
Suraj had given his girl friend hunting aspirations an honest shot, but there was little hope in engineering college with 700 odd boys running after less than a dozen girl-like girls in campus. His five odd years in the IT industry had seen him falling in love a couple of times, but unfortunately before the fairer sex could know that this bespectacled geeky short stout guy was head over heels in love with them, they would either get married and pregnant or in one case become pregnant and get married.
It was the fourth week of Suraj’s momentous online activity; the most productive he had ever been on the internet other than his daily unmentionable download activities. Post lunch as Suraj decided to check his online profile, hoping for a profile visit, he found a mail; someone had visited his profile, found him interesting enough to have sent him a mail!!! He decided to visit the girl’s profile, to check out her snaps.
Interestingly, no matter how much guys talk about inner beauty, photographs are what drives them during arranged marriage initiatives probably it’s a secret convention to provide 3-D images of girls to prospective grooms.
Suraj’s search for “inner beauty” yielded satisfactory results and he immediately decided to take swift action. The plan of action would be to firstly inform his parents, provide them with the necessary details, so that the conventional exchange of dialogue could be initiated between the two households. Secondly he had to initiate contact with the girl and send a mail to her personal mail id.
Now this was the difficult task and beyond Suraj’s geeky skill-sets. Suraj decided to outsource this requirement to his good friend Banerjee. Banerjee was his close friend from his previous organization. A sweet and ex-frustrated geek like him. Suraj didn’t think too much of him till a year back Banerjee decided to drop the bomb shell. Apparently Banerjee had a girl friend in his hometown Kolkata, a college mate. Banerjee’s FOSLA club membership was invalid to start off with and was terminated with immediate effect. But this news had ensured that Banerjee’s stature had increased manifold in Suraj’s eyes.
The email task had to be executed by Banerjee and after some convincing Banerjee agreed.
Suraj’s multi-pronged strategy soon reaped benefits. The girls family was impressed by the fact that their daughter wouldn’t have to put up with prying sister-in-laws, the boy already had a house in Mumbai and the parents being in Bhopal, there would be no saas-bahu dramas. The boy seemed ambitious enough with a US visa pending approval, the time seemed ripe to reel him in. Convincing Suraj about keeping his parents in Bhopal didn’t take long. After all for the first time in Suraj’s life, he had found someone who would accompany him to multiplexes without 3-4 more guys hanging around, he wouldn’t have to fight to sit next to her, calling her at any time of the day wouldn’t warrant a second thought. Suraj’s dreams of a life partner seemed to be coming true, seemed like another unfulfilled task off his checklist.
The families soon decided to get the two budding live birds married later mid of next year, a date about 8 months away. Suraj had already started preparing, booking the marriage hall in Bhopal, evaluating honeymoon destinations, fitting things into his tight budget and preparing himself to see his 5 years savings getting hit to an unimaginable extent. But he hadn’t planned for Valentines Day. As soon as Banerjee heard of that, he bombarded Suraj with expletives, explaining how important V-Day was prior to the wedding, it could make or break his chances. Banerjee asked Suraj to keep his ears and eyes open, he couldn’t afford to slip up so close to his target. The Valentines Day gift had to be apt and perfect.
Following a brain storming session over a Sunday afternoon lunch at Banerjee’s place with Banerjee, Banerjee’s wife and Suraj, Banerjee’s wife struck gold. The best gift would obviously be a girl’s best friend (this wasn’t just a suggestion for Suraj) and a customized gift suggesting hard work and effort put into the process.
Banerjee’s wife was a worldly woman, keeping herself abreast with the recent happenings in tinsel town. She had read in one of the dailies that a tinsel town actor and gifted his actress girlfriend a cd of songs with his own commentary before the song, linking the song to some moment in their relationship. But Mrs.Banerjee suggested Suraj take it to another level, requesting him to gift his fiancée a DVD of popular bollywood love songs with his voice over before his song, talking about how the song was apt for them. Suraj cringed at the idea, he knew it was too cheesy but he kept his mouth shut and decided to do what he was told to, his DNA was programmed to be a robot since birth.
The diamond shopping was a walk in the park and he even managed to save on it because Banerjee bought a duplicate as well, for the idea giver. The DVD was more work than he thought it would be, but the final product was worth the effort he had put into it.
Prior to V-Day, Suraj couldn’t control his excitement and blurted out the surprise gift details over the phone to Ruchi. Ruchi was equally excited, a tad humored with the cheesy idea but decided to keep that to herself. She invited Suraj to come over to their place in Thane next day along with the DVD, they would watch it together, what better way to spend their first valentines day.
The next day Suraj, got onto the bus from Borivali, happy with his effort, happy that his V-Day drought had finally ended and he had someone who he could spend the day with rather than support the saffron party tirade against V-Day enthusiasts, gaining sadistic pleasure at seeing other peoples happiness being interrupted when he himself could not be a part of it.
A year later, as Suraj sat in his swanky cubicle in a start-up in California, he felt happy and sad. Professionally he was where he wanted to be but his bharatmatrimony profile was still active and on the eve of another V-Day, Suraj had nobody. Whenever Banerjee quizzed him about Ruchi in their frequest mail conversations and why the marriage did not see the light of day, Suraj decided to keep mum. Never had Suraj thought that not labeling his DVD’s would cost him so dear, especially with a Jenna Jameson unlabelled DVD lying next to the DVD meant for your fiancée’s. That V-Day afternoon in Ruchi’s house, with Ruchi and her parents sitting on the sofa looking with horror at the television screen expecting bollywood love songs, was the most embarrassing moment in Suraj’s life and one he wouldn’t forget in a hurry.