Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Little Halo Around The Horns

(All characters in this story are based on the writer’s ever so imaginary and idle mind. Any resemblance to any characters is purely your own over-worked imagination. The language and the content too have been suitably modified for readers of all ages).

Someone in Tandrima’s family needed convincing. She was tired of her monologues. So she chose the next best and most available—her parents!

It was time for her, as the elder of their children to pump some sense into them for what they were doing. Behaving like the typical middle class Bengalis they had become to be in their own home in Jamshedpur around the quiet serenes of the Dalma hills. Subliminally cut off from the fast paced, into-an-MNC-in-the-morning and out-of-the-gym-in-the-evening lives their two daughters were leading in a world outside of their own.

Just to set the background right- it has been effectively three years now that Tandrima’s kid sister has been going around with one of the lads she went to B-school with. Much to the horror of their parents, this news was broken to them only as a confirmation to some of Tandrima’s growing suspicions on her sister’s activities. She observed the lil’s sista getting doubtfully fishy over the weekends after Tandrima’s three-year hiatus stay in Bangalore and come back to Delhi “to be with her baby sista”!

Romance had bloomed to its full in the last one and a half years that Tandrima had seen them together now. Nothing got the young sister into dumping a Punjabi boy from a posh South Delhi locality in spite of all the emotional blackmailing that their parents resorted to during one of their trips back home during their 32rd wedding anniversary!

The mother making the last ditch efforts of being grouchy about the fact that the Punjabi “jamai” would never enjoy or in the least even ask for a double serving of her maach bhaja, chorchori, bhapa iilish and all those mouth watering stuff her Mum makes. What a shame Mama Mitra!

One last soul searching look from Mum at their lil’ Tanima did not change the not-that-you-ever-brought-me-up-like-a-maach-eating-Bengali-so-why-this-fuss-now look!

But then those were not the exact worries the 50ish Mitras had! Each time they looked at their 31 year old elder daughter, the thought of marrying off their 26 year old seemed almost SINFUL. They would go straight to Hell- hand in hand. So their concentration remained where ‘twas meant to be. To find the perfect Bong match to their Tandrima; all about 5.5” tall with her four inch stilettos and that pug nose pointing high up in the sky. She definitely needed the best for some nose treatment! Even with a perfectly normal nose, she sometimes felt like Pinocchio, not for her lies of course but her standards in life in general pointing real high…

Most people thought she was rather cute, with an intelligent mind and a cuter-than-a-Koala ass which she never did deliberately sway in her pencil-fit skirts she wore at work (they appeared to sway only because she was trying to find some balance with a laptop, her feet precariously tip-toed on high wedge/pencil/stiletto heels), driving her red hatchback and swearing chaste, downright Hindi profanities, each time some moron was in kissing closeness of her red cherry (no pun intended)!!! But outside that four-wheeler (and the four walls of her inner self), she was known to be quite a silver-tongue smoothie with a successful career in a multi-million corporate. Her parents did bring her up well, a convent school and college and later a respectable B-school education. But something happened on the way…the pedigree suffered immensely much unknown to her parents and work colleagues. And some of her close friends, who could see through her, saw that the horns on her head were just to keep that halo straight and sometimes the werewolves away. After close to ten years in the big, bad city, she still managed to maintain that small-city girl charm. Just that she was probably better groomed, more presentable in her French manicures, perfectly well perfumed in her Calvin Klein’s and Hugo Boss’, and that corporate striking look! And did I forget to mention the GSOH? (Great Sense of Humor for the uninitiated).

Maybe that was the reason each time Tandrima was made to meet a prospective groom, things wouldn’t work out the way her parents had planned. She had had her share of male attention but something told her to get hitched the traditional Indian way- the arranged marriage circus; only to become a trapeze artist herself- swaying from meeting one clown to another. One even interviewed her on cricket- only because she had mentioned that she was a keen armchair cricketer and knew the Chinaman from the Doosra…

Coming back to Tanima and the Mitra parents. Tanima still unfettered by family pressure continued dating the Punjabi Business Analyst from South Delhi. Bringing him presents and perfumes each time she went on to England, Chicago or any parts of Europe for work. Making her elder sister cringe at the way what would have rightfully been Papa Mitra’s gifts, were now being cartoned off to Punjoo boy! Thank God he did not touch booze, else he would even lay claim to my daddy’s JD’s and bourbons. GROW UP, she flinched at her own lowliness.

The former classmates now a couple had a less complicated Saturday life together, watching all Bollywood masala movies released the day before, eating butter chicken literally every time they went out, overall they were having quite an abridged relationship to get any more mention in this Tandrima-centric story. (And just in case you were thinking, No, the writer is not biased towards the elder, smarter, and wiser sister; she is just suffering from the attention-to-be-paid-to-the-protagonist syndrome).

Mrs and Mr Mitra on the other hand were quite disdainful about the fact that the younger was bringing in a lot of shame to the rooted-in-Bengali-culture family by zipping around with a rajma-eating fellow in his jalapeno! At one time, Mommy Mitra even laid a rule out for Tanima- Never come to our house expecting me to cook rajma – chhole for you. We will not accommodate Punjabi food habits in our rich culinary heritage! And she continued passing her gastronomic skills to Tandrima- now the apple of her eyes who was abiding by the whole arrangement of marrying a Bengali guy chosen by her parents. What more could the parents want? And Tanima was soon to become the worm in the apple! Eating on the very family prestige the Mitras made a boast of at all social gatherings.

Her way up this whole arranged marriage drama, Tandrima met some interesting and others who need no mention here kind of guys. But each time, something which was meant to work, never did.

From Ivy League grads (they are no guarantee of a good match by the way), a British Bengali doctor, to heady smoothies from the IIT-IIMs, to getting to know-long-distance a cute-looking, oh-so-sexy-voiced lawyer from Calcutta (who imagined he was Count Drac every time he donned his lawyer’s coat, but then what’s the difference between them anyway- bloodsuckers!), Tandrima had spurts of male attention from quite a few. Including a certain, full of life top-shot of some retail company who she thought was THE ONE, to another who faked his name, his job, his car, and probably his platinum card, but definitely not his feelings for her. A couple of them became her “friends” while some frizzled over the distances and over time. Others, she kept tabs on thanks to social networking sites. She was EVIL but HONEST! The remaining, she thought were closet gays.

It hit her on the face then that it was because of her, that a sister she had grown up with, had to wait till the snooty, big sister decided to drop anchor. Each time she said no, or things did not work out between her and the “prospect”, Tanima’s heart sank. Almost making her hate her sister for keeping her in the wait long enough to settle down herself. She was indeed a horrible sister to be so inconsiderate. What was she, Cinderella’s step sister? But she WAS Cinderella. It will serve her well, when even her biological clock starts giving her the finger; she thought, and shocked her own senses for thinking evil for her only sibling. May the Anger of the Angels befall her!

It was through these vibes that big sista thought of having a man to man chat with Papa Mitra. Some amount of coaxing, emotional blackmail and a lot of tears later, the Mitra patriarch finally did dislodge from his middle class sensitivities and agree to the younger daughter getting hitched first at the cost of his social, emotional and rather cultural reputation. At least an engagement to seal things, cried Tandrima. Niagara Falls had some competition from Tandrima Falls. Bit of bonhomie, but anything for a good cause.

And why on earth was she doing this, she was still clueless herself. Was it some kind of catharsis she was craving for? To live a life she wanted to…through her younger sister? Her eyes drooped at the answer she got from inside her. No, silly. She just wanted her baby sista to be happy and do the right things at the right time. Save her sister from the loneliness and care that she craved for and deserved. And can’t she as the elder sibling have a little virtue in her? With that she pulled her hatchback in fourth gear to reach the D’damas store at The Mall to pick that stunner pair of Marquise she was eyeing for herself as an engagement present for Tanima.

Diamonds can make up for anything including the wait she had made sister go through. They always help when words fail you. And anyway, with that somewhere in between lump in your throat (because of tonsillitis only) she couldn’t talk much anyhow…