Honey, he’s talented, sensitive, and he’s been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II herself,” Mom insisted. “Who wouldn’t want to have his kids?”
She was referring to Elton John, who was then—probably still is—at the top of her list of eligible bachelors for me. Our parish priest had been unsuspectingly drafted into the number two spot, in case I needed a “get out of hell free” card. Young Prince William, 8 years old at the time, was pencilled in at number three.
“I know he’s a little young for a wedding right now,” Mom admitted begrudgingly, “but he’s got great bone structure.”
Fifteen years have passed since my mother’s loving misguidance. Prince William has joined the British military and is groping Brazilian babes, my priest is in jail, and Elton John, recently turned 60, still prefers men.
As for me, I remain tragically unmarried at the practically geriatric (by Indian standards) age of 28.
Back home in the US, a quest for Mr. Right would incur endless frivolities such as parties, dates, and (for those inclined toward e-romance) Match.com.
But here in Delhi, the “better half of my life” is always just a two-rupee expenditure away… so last weekend, I splurged on the Sunday paper.
With chai in hand and a cucumber-and-paneer “age-defying potion” slathered over my face, I flipped impatiently past front-page cricket melodrama and filthy politics.
There, in living colour, was the section that would change my life: the matrimonials.
One perusal was enough to make even the most hard-hearted feminist swoon. Who knew that the Delhi area is a veritable smorgasbord of available young Adonis-types?
I nearly choked on my pakora in anticipation as I skimmed the candidates’ unfailingly enticing—if suspiciously similar— self-descriptions:
“Extremely handsome, tall, very fair, high-status, athletic 8-figure earner...”
Apparently, I had been unknowingly living amid a nationful of Brad Pitt clones.
Peering out through the greenish film on our window pane, I surveyed the street. As usual, there was a paan-chewing posse of sweepers, cows and rickshaw drivers kicking up dust and rotten watermelon rinds as they ogled passing women. At 5ft, 3 inches, I was at least a head taller than any of them.
I turned to Page 2.
Not surprisingly, all the grooms-by-number were seeking to marry the same professional model-cum-naive homemaker. “Wife wanted,” I read. “Must be very beautiful, completely fair, entirely virtuous, tall, slim, professional, and homely. Maximum age 22.” (No minimum age was mentioned, I noted.)
The only variation in the requirements was background. Matrimonial candidates, both male and female, were conveniently arranged by caste, religion, community, profession, and location…. The Sikhs had their section, as did the Vaishyas, the software programmers, the Agarwals, the scheduled castes, the green-card holders, the Faridabadis, and the doctors.
But where would a freckled, itinerant, wannabe-writer with an Episcopal upbringing and a Georgia accent fit in?
As an unapologetic carnivore who still confuses Vishnu and Shiva, the chances of my bagging a devout Hindu seem slim… and as long as G.W. Bush stays in power, it would probably be illegal for me to even have coffee with one of the eligible Muslims—after all, there could be chemical weapons in that cappuccino!
As for the “Christian” section, I’m pretty sure that Episcopalians have been excluded from that posse ever since we ordained a gay bishop and started holding wine tastings after mass.
Distraught, I was about to call Mrs Gupta’s 24-hour hotline for “fabulous but frustrated husband-seekers”, when I spotted the only category that I could possibly fit into.
I wasn’t sure if “Cosmopolitan” referred to the women’s magazine or the jetset lifestyle—and being neither a raging nymphomaniac nor a private plane owner, I probably didn’t qualify for either one. Nonetheless, “Cosmopolitan” seemed like the only heading I could possibly squeeze under. My hungry eyes settled on a fluorescent yellow ad with a large dollar sign adorning the corner. Subtle.
“Naïve divorcé (issueless), very handsome, tall (4’ 11”), fit (47kg). Age 59 (looks 57), extremely wealthy, lives with parents,” I read. “Seeking devoted, spiritual, convent- educated life partner. Caste no bar.”
Hmm. There was something vaguely dubious about a “naïve 59-year-old” who had been through an “issueless” divorce—and for my own part, I highly doubted that the American university system qualified as a convent education. More importantly, how would my potential soulmate carry me across the threshold of his parents’ home, when I outweighed him by a good 5kg—even on a one-samosa evening?
But old-maids-in-the-making can’t behave like capricious spring chickens. At least I had finally put my finger on someone who wasn’t seeking an 18-year-old Barbie meets (pre-incarceration) Martha Stewart. This man wanted a mature, spiritual life partner, not just some adolescent bimbo who could make a decent fish tikka.
Just as I was about to lift the receiver to phone my possible future spouse (or more likely, his mother), the fine print at the bottom of his advertisement caught my eye.
“All candidates must send notarized, post-1985 birth certificate, and 8-by-10 photo,” it read. “Full body shot preferred.”
On second thought, I decided to dial a more familiar number.
“Hi honey,” my mom said when she picked up.
In the background, I could hear Elton belting it out.
“Don’t let the sun go down on me…”
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