My grandmother announced one day that my aunt’s photograph was needed as part of groom-hunting for her. My aunt got excited. She had seen the photographs of her friend in the bridal dress and thought she wouldn’t look too bad in that. Also since conservative family values had not allowed her to look at boys, she believed she would get a husband and boyfriend all rolled into one. She was influenced by romantic movie “Ek Duje Ke Liye” and its handsome lead actor, Kamal Haasan, was the man of her dreams.
The photograph we had was pretty but grandmother said with disapproval that my aunt’s neck looked too long in it, much like a giraffe’s. Grandfather, however, didn’t want to go to the city and wait for long hours at the photographer’s. We had to settle for the long-neck shot. My aunt grew anxious on learning that a family would be coming over to meet her. The romance vanished when she saw the fellow. While Kamal Haasan, her idol, was lithe and handsome, this one was squat and ugly. The old woman with him, his mother presumably, wanted to see my aunt’s feet. Now that was annoying! They were not there to pick her for the races and find out whether she was flat-footed or not!
The short, thick man asked her whether she liked the mountains or the sea. My aunt, though in love with the sea for its connection with “Ek Duje Ke Liye”, said the opposite. The next question was even more perplexing. He asked her if she could climb trees. Disgusted, aunt did not care to even glance at the next fellow who came calling. But approval came quickly from his side, and the family grew excited. Relatives were invited to the wedding and informed to book their tickets. A wedding hall was booked for a hefty advance. Then they dropped the bombshell that the marriage was off — no reason assigned. Everyone had to be informed and the marriage hall owner refused to give back the advance.
The search resumed. Poor aunt! She travelled to Kolkata in peak summer to meet another family. By now, she knew the answers to all probable questions. Surprisingly, there was just one, about whether or not she liked Kolkata. She answered in the affirmative. Even though she hated that city, it saved her the hassle of assigning reasons. She had to even sing to show her prowess in music. Surprisingly, the boy sang, too. Everyone said he wanted to impress her.
My aunt made the long and uncomfortable journey home the day the weather department said would be the hottest in a decade. The discomfort and repeated mental agony forced her take a big, hot-headed decision and announce it to the family — she wanted to become a nun. If you are wondering what became of that decision, well, she met her Kamal Haasan that hot summer day in Kolkata. Cupid had struck¸ finally.