We will look for you, we will find you, and we will *cue shehnai music*

Attention, young persons of Yindia!

Yes, you right there, with the repository of Whatsapp forwards consisting mostly of heart-kiss-puppy permutations.

And you, in the corner, texting “muaaaaahs” so fast you just caused a cyclone in Jakarta.

And YOU, dejected young man, with fantasies involving a getaway car, a registrar office and a bank loan.

Are you in love?

Would your parents suffer an aneurysm if they found out?

Clearly, you kooky kids are intercaste! Or interreligion. Or interregional. Or inter-societalstatus. Or inter-our-ancestors-preferred-different-pajama-naada-sizes.

Or maybe you’re one of those silly New-Gen ninnies who feel horrified at the idea that one wedding costs more money than three trips to Starbucks.

But fear not, my brave young dunderheads. Fear not!

This Valentine’s day, skip the flowers and the Dairy milks. Skip the theater back seats and the overpriced popcorn. Skip the awkwardness and her military dad’s hunting rifle. Grab your significant smushface and walk confidently up to the nearest Hindu Mahasabha representative, and watch as they effortlessly accomplish what you’ve been struggling to gather up the canards to do.

That’s right. They will MARRY. You. Two. The. Eff. Off.

This V-day, come and have justice served to you on a silver thaali! Your friendly neighborhood Mahasabha Man will frequent coffee shops and movie halls, and comes pre-armed with sindoor and mangalsutra combo packs. Just walk right up to him, (easily identifiable by the horns) or let his team find you, using cutting-edge technology that tracks disruptions in the parampara-sanskaar continuum.

When you do find one, make it easier for him to identify you by letting him know your intentions. Normally, a casual hug with your ladylove would do. But if you want to be extra cooperative and get this done with ASAP, channel your inner Hashmi, and just go for it my man.

Enjoy your wedded bliss!

Disclaimers:

  • Currently Mahasabha Man will be offering his marital-maker services only in UP. Based on its success, the program will be extended to more states.
  • Additional honeymoon planner package available at no extra charge! Just bring along photos of your Vaishno Devi trip or know all the steps to ‘Love Charger’.
  • For a paltry sum, you can get a mini team of Mahasabha Men to escort you over to your homes post marriage. Let’s see your parents oppose THAT. #HowYouLikethemAnaars

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/Couples-out-on-V-Day-will-be-married-off-Hindu-Mahasabha/articleshow/46112390.cms

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To cherish and to hold, until rights do us part.

Aah, the internet. A wild and wonderful place. From seedy troll lairs to shiny white collar business pages, the Internet has managed to wind it’s wily roots like a modern day mela..by offering something, for everyone.

But when Mr. Kahn and Vinton sat down with sharpies and whiteboards to sketch out the Interwebz blueprint, never in their wildest coffee-chugging dreams would they have anticipated that one day, Indian parents would be using their brainchild for exchanging horoscopes and scoping out personality traits from blurry photos of girls they wish to foist upon their sons, and vice-versa.

And once in a while, this strange process throws up gems like Mr. Iyer below. A precious snowflake so exquisitely amazing; one must switch off the computer, put down one’s pack of Cheetos and coke and reflect upon the meagerness of one’s existence.

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Image courtesy: Facebook (UPDATE: The Facebook post was later removed by the lady who uploaded this photo.)

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You may take a minute to pick whatever is left of your jaw from the floor.

Done?

Onwards then.

You see, Mr. Iyer and his kin have gotten to the down and dirty of it. They have surpassed all the tedious processes of tasteless CCD coffees, doodhpeda and mixture chai ceremonies, initial awkward conversations with zero eye contact, estimations of social status based on the brand of handwash in the home, etc. etc. Not for Mr. Iyer, this social circus of pre-matrimonial lollygagging, no thank you.

Mr. Iyer knows what he wants and he goes after it with all the finesse and subtlety of a Rhino on Redbull. And his demands seem quite fair. Young men reading this, take note:

  • Tattoo = Hippie. Don’t you just hate it when you’re honeymooning in Bali and your wife suddenly sticks a flower in her hair, tie-dyes all her dresses, croons to The Doors and gets the urge to drive a VW like a female version of Shaggy? While you’re sobbing alone with your pina colada, you will wish you’d listened to Mr. Iyer and ran from this marriage the moment you saw her butterfly back tattoo.
  • Feminist woman = Raging man-killer. Pssh, like this is even a question. We all know feminists bathe in male tears, sacrifice religious books to Satan, enjoy kicking babies and old ladies in their free time and will most certainly not make you Idli-Sambar even if you were dying. Lighting the lamp?? More like lighting your sanskaar on fire. Have fun wiping the floor with your tears, says Mr. Iyer.
  • She shouldn’t push western world deep, deep into Eastern world. (Cue “that’s what she said” joke about that foreigner guy dating Aishwarya Rai in crossover movies). No, an ideal woman will use besan flour for facepacks, hand-ground spices, charcoal ironboxes, read only Grihalakshmi, chulha for rotis and flip it with her fingers like a boss…and any world she pushes in will be home-grown Eastern, IYKWIM. (*nudge**nudge* Mr. Iyer)
  • Keep all previous friends at bay. As all of India knows, a woman post-marriage is naught but her husband’s property; like he could even misplace her deed papers one day and it will be all haha LOL. So of course, she must say bye to anyone she knows at the wedding hall itself. Preferably before the two get into the car. And then no Facebook and Whatsapp and all that jazz. God forbid another soul pollutes this holy union with their well-wishing and socializing and newfangled notions of friendship!
  • Manage a family. Young man, have you forgotten why you’re getting into this whole headache of matrimony and paying for..um…Ok, not paying for, but putting yourself through this wedding? All these Western ideas about soulmates/life partner/equal players; Mr. Iyer is here to put them at rest. This is no equal game, fool. You need a budgeter-babymachine-investment banker-life manager. She’s a JAVA programmer, you’re the CEO. She’s a canteen clerk, you’re the CEO. She’s the delivery girl, you’re the..you get it. And since she has no friends anymore, more time to manage the marriage! Win-win, says Mr. Iyer.
  • NGO type lady. Good Lord in heaven, you should rather marry the rabid sewer rat from the Municipal corporation dumping ground than a woman who *shudder* works to alleviate some societal issue or *cringe* fights for anyone’s rights. What’s next?? Women who rescue orphans?? Women who rehabilitate prostitutes?? Is there no end to this madness??? Where will the Iyers of the Bharatmatrimony world find marriage-managers??!

I can almost imagine little Iyer cowering in a corner as his paatti goes “Eat your avarakkkai, or the Big bad tattooed rights-fighting NGA woman will come for you.”

As with all things, this isn’t a generalization. But having traversed the murky swamplands of matrimonial sites myself, I can vouch, however, for the majority leaning towards an Iyer-esque mindset. That’s what makes this process fun, no? The treasure-hunt like exercise, the sifting aside of countless such snowflakes to find the right set of HTML script that might one day end up in an awkward framed photograph beside you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go update my side-profile photo.

To Infinity and beyond….but first, quick stop over.

Today, I had an MTR Masala Dosa for breakfast, my kitten learnt how to climb all the way up to my neck by clawing on my jeans, and I learnt how to operate my leaky washing machine without recreating the Tsunami in my kitchen.

Oh, and some really smart scientists in India successfully completed the cheapest ever Mars Mission in the world.

As is the norm, the good folks behind Mangalyaan whose brains I imagine are an indigenous aviyal of Complex Fourier transforms and Indian housewife budgeting tricks, were promptly felicitated and rewarded for their outstanding efforts, by everyone who matters across the country…and by that I mean jobless people who took two seconds from scrolling through their newsfeed to type “I AM PROUD INDIAN ACCHE DIN AA GAYE HAI JAI MATA DI”. Not to mention the ten people who cribbed about how statistically “we could feed 49.3% of India’s poor with that much money this is outrage Ok now let’s go to Starbucks”, to those buggers who recycled the “When Mangalyaan was built, Sardar asked ‘Lekin Mileage kitna dega? LOLOLOL”

But a few facts floating around the cesspool did warm the cockles of my cold cynical heart – which included the obvious – how we shot off a shuttle at less than $74 million, a whopping $600 mil less than what cost NASA and less than a movie about space. But seriously, are any of us surprised? It’s not for nothing that we are the land of Jugaad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Curiosity makes a friendly visit to Mangalyaan (Yes, smartass, I know we’re not landing, just go with it) and discovers a machine held together with Scotch tape, Birla white wall putty, Fevicol and genes from that MDH masala guy.

Jokes apart, this unapologetically Lol-worthy article from WSJ made me love these folks even more. (http://on.wsj.com/1qspnUC ) To quote:

Ajey Lele, a researcher at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, a New Delhi think-tank said cost-saving innovations “came out of sheer necessity.”  It was also said that “other countries refused to share their technical know-how, limiting India’s access to sophisticated technology”.

Essentially, India is that kid who wasn’t included at the gully cricket match and promptly setup his own in a backyard with rubber-band balls and a tree stump bat. It’s oddly gratifying.

Another tidbit is about how “Comparatively low salaries in India also helped reduce the outlay for the voyage, which was mounted at a lower cost than missions undertaken by Russia, the European Space Agency and Japan, which each spent more than $100 million on their attempts.”

I can almost imagine ISRO scientists approaching their bosses for appraisals and hikes.

“Yes, Pillai, what makes you believe you have the necessary justification for a pay hike?”

“Sir, this month I finished the engine that launched a rocket into Mars orbit.”

“……..Agreed Pillai, but have you worked to the best of your potential?”

“…..Sir, the rocket is IN MARS ORBIT.”

“Yes, yes, of course, but why did it stop at Mars? Why not Jupiter? Why not to Infinity and beyond? You see at our company, we believe in cutting to the chase,exceeding expectations and merely working at the allotted task just does not cut it. I’m sure these are no deterrent to a smart young man like you.”

“I’m 58….”

“Oh did I mention that there is an onsite opportunity on the works? I am sure you would be the best man for the job. How does that sound?”

“Never mind Sir, I’ll just sit inside the next Mars shuttle.”

Our beloved Dear Leader also pitched in with his classic rhetoric and did not mince words when he announced…”MOM ka Mangal se milan hua”. It sounds more like something a dying Bollywood maa would say with her last breath when her prodigal son returns to the khandaan, but I guess it’s the sentiment that matters.

But the cutest thing that happened was when Curiosity tweeted out a Namaste to our Mangalyaan machan, who promptly responded with a FaceBook friend request, liked all of its statuses from 2001 and tagged Curiosity in photos that said “I lyk 2 wALk in RaIn bcoz nO0ne cn c ma TeArs share iF u aGrEeeee ❤ ❤ ”.

Jokes apart, this is historic. I can imagine that more people will wet their virtual pants when one of our own actually lands on Mars and through indigenous technology and exceptional intelligence will beam across breathtaking photographs of red dust and rocks, which we as a nation will then collectively tweet and like and share…after applying Instagram filters of course.

Two can play that game.

The air, thick with electrifying power play.

He knew it. I knew it. It was only a matter of time – but neither would give in, neither would give up. Like the slow dance of a Samba couple before the lightning quick beat, the lazy, confident circling of cheetahs before the final charge.

His flickering eyes belied his outwardly unruffled exterior, as he skilfully used the crowded space as a fortress against my persistent gaze. All I needed was one quick glance, just one, in my general direction.

Look at me just once, you slippery man.

Just once.

He pretends. Over-animated gestures, attempts to blend in, unusually loud conversations with the woman next to him. Distance, putting as much distance between him and the unflinching, ever watchful me.

You owe me. You know you do.

The crowd has increased by now. The moment of truth. The milling crowd slowly pushes him towards my direction. He struggles, I see the resignation and defiance in his eyes.

Come here, come here you tease.

He shuffles, he moves, but the rhythm of our surroundings pushes him closer and I see resentment and within seconds he is next to me.

We look into each other’s eyes, me brimming with ill-disguised glee and he seething with unbridled annoyance. I stretch out my hand.

 

 

“Bhaiiya, ticket ka waapas 12 Rs dena tha na?”

Short.

Absentmindedly brushing my hair near the window, an imperceptible flutter near the dusty sill.

A tiny dragonfly.

Tangled in silvery strands of spider web.

Released from its exquisite deathbed I held it in my palm like a fragile piece of blown glass.

It looked at me with what I imagine must be throes of agony, multiplied manifold in its compound eyes.

Or perhaps the quiet slipping away of a wisp of a dragonfly soul.

What was the point, I ask, of all that minuscule beauty? Those airy wondrous wings? That myriad melee of colour and splendor and perfection?

An ignominious, ordinary death in the palm of an IT employee.

What a shame.

The Great Indian Mall-scapades.

So recently, I went to the mall.

Alone.

You can stop rolling your eyes now.

For someone who’s currently entrenched in a quaint, archaic sort of land with 1920’s architecture (No, not Goa doofus, Kolkata..what were you thinking?), with weekends spent trying to decide between the YouTube video of an orang-utan juggling peanut-studded poo or getting off bed to make Maggi before my internal organs go on a Rath-yatra, this was kind of a big step.

I mean, you men-folk can just thrown on a pair of boxers (um..you do wear those right? Right?? NO??!) and jeans and do the whole Axe-waala-X on your chest thing and bounce out. But a woman?? Noooo…She, cannot step out of her homestead without transforming from a ganji-clad gauche goat who would attract flies if she stood in one place for 5 seconds or more, into something that just walked out of Vogue. Or at least, tried her damnedest to look so.

So yeah, after 2 auto rides that would give Skywalker chronic nightmares, I find myself in a prominent mall lovingly nick-named ‘The Square’. They might as well have called it ‘Enormous Quadrilparallelmazeogram’.

Dear Reader, have you ever noticed that when mall-hopping with your lunatic friend-gang, you don’t give a makkhi’s ass where you’re going? On more than one occasion I saw pimply teenage BFFs do a whole pradakshina of the place only to find themselves end up where they began, do the whole fake-laugh-so-loud-they-wet-themselves “So silly Yaaaaaaaaaar, phir se yahaan pahunch gaye LOL ROFL” and happily proceed to do the whole thing all over again. But yours truly got hopelessly lost so many damn times I wouldn’t survive 2 minutes into the ‘Wrong Turn’.

And for the sake of Satan’s Holy Bananas, there should be SOME sort of education given to dingbats who believe a girl strolling around a mall alone is like a menu board advertising ‘Chicken Kathi Rolls at half-price!’. Or maybe we could pass a law on the maximum duration a stare can last. (More than 8 seconds and you earn a stuck-out-tounge. More than 15 and it’s a knee-to-the-groin. Yo, this might just work.)

So since you’ve successfully read this far (How jobless ARE you, anyway?) allow me to present the ‘Complete Snapshot of Solitary Mall-walking’ based on my day.

  • Young couples dotted over the landscape gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes over Momos and Jaljeera, which is waaaaaay tougher for the poor bastard who also has to struggle to ignore Ms. Mini-skirt-and-stilettos that just breezed past. I feel for you, dude.
  • You see that Adonis at the table across? The one sitting there with two Cokes and an inviting smile?  Yep, he’s waiting for his girlfriend. She will sweep in, sit her Cosmo-worthy- figure down, lay perfectly manicured fingers on his shoulder and simultaneously throw a monkey wrench into your reverie of two kids and a house in Indiranagar. (I kept within the 8-second rule, mothergodpromise.)
  • Aunty-ji, go ahead, be my guest, grab a chair. You are perfectly entitled to share a Food court table with a girl who’s eating alone. But if you come back with shopping bags that could house Dharavi’s population, 2 horrified kids, one harassed husband, one asthmatic saasu-maa and 3 cocker-spaniels and arrange them all in a circle around me to stare embarrassingly until I leave, I must inform you that I, am also perfectly entitled to order a samosa and nibble it for 15 minutes.
  • Speaking of nibbles..tell me Good folk of the world, is there a rule that states girls are not allowed to eat more than the width of their palm? Must we carry around little weighing scales to balance our food and derive calorie-equations before we order? Is there a dictum in the Scripture that states that “Thou shalt not consume an entire Sizzler if thou doth not own a pee-pee, and if thou shalt lay eyes on a woman that doth, ‘tis thy duty to pelt the harlot with disapproving glances until she repenteth and orders a Caesar Salad.’ ??
  • And sincerely, supermarket-owners, if one more of your staff tails one inch behind me with a creepy plastic smile for more than 5 mins while I try to discreetly compare prices of deodorants and/or pick out canned food, so help me God, I will throttle her with trip-wire and leave a note beside explaining why she hated her job due to employer harassment.

But the whole harrowing experience taught me one truth of life that I have seen from Kashmir to Kanyakmari (I can say this since I have actually been to both places, holymotherofBatman :O) You want to place a finger on the pulse of a city in a day?? Forget the whole “Walk the streets and eat roadside food” drivel you’ve heard all your life.

Go to the nearest mall. It is a glorious cross-section of every quirk, every namoona, every item that inhabits the city all packed into ‘2 lakh sq.ft. with fully aircondition’.  Plus, you get Sizzlers.

Gene pool deterioration.

My grandma huffed in home one day, visibly distressed. Well, as distressed as a blindingly-fair, jet-black haired, 60 something year old with a figure to die for and a propensity to wear the most un-grandmotherly colours, and is generally considered the epitome of malayali oldie beauty, could be.

Mom and aunt were home, as was her long suffering granddaughter with an inferiority complex larger than the collective angst of an emo party.

“Those guys at the junction called me something when I passed by!! I’m older than their mothers! Alavalathikal!

(Malayalam translations will NOT be provided. You get the gist.)

My mom’s snide *cough*”Maybe if you wore more subtle colours….”*cough* was lost on the poor lady who was by then visibly shaking with righteous indignation at the ignominy..the HORROR!….of being publicly hit on by a bunch of young dudes on motorbikes.

(Or so I thought. It would be years before I would realize she was putting on a great show of disgust. )

My 13 year old freckled and myopic self could only choke at the utter unfairness of it all. Dammit, wasn’t I the one supposed to be getting whistled at?

Aunt by then had swung into action.

Aunt: “Charakku??”

Grams: “NO!”

Aunt: Piece??”

Grams: “NOOO!! Something else!”

By then mom and me had pitched in too with our entire scanty arsenal of mallu hoodlum vocab. The perpetrators appeared to be of a breed quite removed from the usual fare of bisyllabic-comments-limited crowd.

It was only once we’d exhausted all the possible native expressions of endearment did my aunt, an M.A. in English Lit., switch to alternatives in Queen’s English.

Aunt: “Sexy?”

Mom poked her in her ribs and the two of them stifled laughter for 5 minutes.

Aunt: “Glamorous?”

Grams (shaking with emotion) : “EGGACTLY!!!”

While her daughters guffawed and tried not to reveal their badly disguised jealousy, I contemplated throwing myself off a high-rise. (I gave up in light of the fact that in my locality, that would be max 3 stories high). Grandma in turn gave up trying to get the meaning of the word from her highly unhelpful daughters and went home with a slightly suspicious spring in her step.

I weep for my female offspring.