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Mera number kab aayega?
With band bajaa baraat season on in full swing, singles are tired of answering the perennial question...
In the last one month, Preeti Krishnan has attended five weddings. Each one made her feel like Uday Chopra from the film Dhoom 2. Like the dreamer, every time this 26-year-old spotted a fairly attractive member of the opposite sex, she would immediately picture herself standing with him, sporting heavy garlands and tilting for an embarrassed photographer. Mantras followed and, soon, their kids started populating the dream. Immediately, however, to prick this happy thought bubble, a smirking aunt would manifest, in the same fashion as Abhishek Bachchan's character, albeit with that unchanging question: "So, when are we getting your invitation?"
Krishnan, who once thought she had dismissed the dreaded enquiry effectively by citing an elder cousin who is yet to marry, felt an imaginary slap when the aunt quipped, "She's studying medicine so she's excused. " "I, on the other hand, work till 10 in the night but apparently, that's not good enough, " laments this Tamil graphics specialist, who has resolved to avoid attending marriages of relatives till she finds a fitting excuse or a fitting husband, whichever is earlier.
Put off by the onslaught of pesky relatives, their embarrassing enquiries about their love life or just the prospect of watching another friend hook up while they are left to sulk alone near the dessert counter, many painfully single women like Krishnan (and even some men) confess to having resorted to this covert 'boycott' movement. Often, during the cold wedding season, amid the warmth of couples holding hands and planning after-parties, they find themselves standing out, like extras in a Sooraj Barjatya movie who can be blissfully inconspicuous only if they come in twos.
As a result, during these winter months marked by the nausea of changed relationship statuses on Facebook and an inbox full of wedding invites, they feel the nip of singlehood the most. It's usually accompanied by an irrational increase in depression, jealousy, pessimism, desperation, weight and, according to some, even alcoholism, as parents threaten to go into an alliance-hunting overdrive. 'Don't send invitations home, ' 24-year-old HR professional Neha Kulkarni has warned all her soon-to-be-married friends. Kulkarni, who does not believe in arranged marriages and for whom the only incentive to attend weddings is the Chinese food counter, has been given a rather specific deadline of May 31 next year to find herself a suitable boy, failing which the parents will intervene.
Around this time, most parents of marriageable kids start behaving, as standup comedian Sorabh Pant puts it, "like cheetahs in a wildlife sanctuary desperately searching for prey". He is talking through his sister Meghana Pant's experience. Meghana, who is now happy in her love marriage, says she can't forget the sheer number of times her mother asked her to wear full-sleeve blouses and not the backless one, talk to all the aunties so one of them may spot her as their chosen daughter-in-law, not act or behave independent or ambitious, and when asked what her plans are, to say 'Waiting for Mr Right' instead of 'Waiting for Mr Raise'. "Something about the ambience and intent during weddings, " Pant says, "makes everyone a devout matchmaker. "
Twenty-six-year-old Neha Mavani, for instance, was approached by strangers at weddings more than a couple of times, asking, 'Tum kiski beti ho?'. "Each time I faked my name and even my parents', " confesses the marketing professional, whose folks are 'pretty cool' but can feel the pressure build up by default, thanks to others. Pune-based HR professional Amrita Shukla, on the other hand, recalls being cross when her own dad tried to set her up with a boy at a cousin's wedding in Bhilai. "I was looking for a job then, " says Shukla, "and my dad introduced me to this boy saying he can help you out. " When she discovered it was a setup, Shukla lost her cool. Though this HR professional is confidently single by choice, she tells of a cousin "who is unable to find a boy and gets depressed each time during this season". The cousin, who is shy, average-looking and traditional, has even changed her appearance in her bid for a successful arranged marriage, Shukla says.
Desperation, singles contend, reaches unbelievable peaks in this mating season. Mumbai's Vasanthi Nalawade, who has registered with a local marriage bureau, has, in her friends' circle, a 27-year-old boy who broke up with his girlfriend last year, went on to see many alliances following that, found all of them "childish and immature" and now has been driven by the intensity of the wedding atmosphere, to "patch up with the ex".
Then, they are afflicted with unsolicited advice from unlikely quarters. Nalawade's building friend, a girl, was recently intercepted by an astrologer at a function. "He told her that if she does not find a groom before December 6, she should only try after May next year. It's already past December 6, and she hasn't found a man, " says public relations professional Nalawade, who has overcome her personal feelings of awkwardness at weddings so much so that she can joke about her own meetings with prospective alliances, all of whom turned out to be misfits, socially. "They make for great train conversation, " she says.
However, not everyone is as lucky or brave. Some turn into cynics. Preeti Krishnan once refused the invitation of friends (all married couples) to a post-marriage dinner party, as she could hear someone in her mind screaming, 'Who the hell will drop me home?' Krishnan's evenings are now spent sifting through Tamil matrimony sites with her parents, who have asked her to change her music taste from 'Hip Hop' to 'Classical' to appear more acceptable. "Every time I like a boy's profile, his star sign turns out to
be mismatched, " cries Krishnan. Often unwittingly, these singles become objects of either curiosity or, as in most cases, pity.
Once Meghana Pant was attending the wedding of a friend who was 22. The friend's father looked at Pant, who was also 22 then, proudly announcing her plans to go on an MBA scholarship abroad, and shook his head. "It's too late for you now. You have missed the (marriage ) boat, " he had said. "Maybe I'll catch the limousine then, " Pant had shot back. Even men, despite all of Sorabh Pant's claims that "nobody bothers about the marital status of men in India until they turn 72", are not spared. Recently, Hyderabadbased Raam Diwakar's uncle walked into the conversation and asked the 34-year-old advertising agency director "to be frank about his discomfort with regards to getting married". "If there is any problem, let us know, we can try to solve it, " the uncle said. "What problem, there is no problem, I just am not interested right now, " Diwakar, who often jokingly calls his friend's wife his souten, replied. When his uncle persisted, the ad man quipped, "Kaka, I am straight and I do not have any natural deficiencies. " The uncle was taken aback. "I was not hinting at that at all. What I meant was if there is any girl and if she's from another religion. " The laughter that ensued was worth his singlehood.
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