The piquant aroma of methi-malai-mutter wafted through my senses and I almost brazenly drooled. The creamy dish placed next to Jeera-rice was followed by the daal-fry’s cluster gusto, complete with raita and phulkas, augmenting my hunger further. The elaborate spread by my super-cook-aunt was a welcome break from my mundane hostel dinner.
I had rushed to my aunt’s home, from my hostel after an SOS call from my recently arrived melodramatic amma. Amma’s sole aim in life was to marry off her 22-year-old overaged daughter. I had to stuff my bulk into my next-in-line plump friend’s salwar-kameez and bear with the horrid humid Mumbai evening and pollution to travel across the city ends.
All this, for a prospective alliance.
I was however glad for a respite from my prosaic hostel even if that meant going through this farcical ritual.
“Ayyo Nita…” Amma fumed as I stood flinching in my borrowed attire. All of us and amma the consummate complainer waited arduously for the prospective groom and his folks. They were late by over an hour.
Finally, they arrived but the America-returned guy chose to play hooky and only the father and the sister made it. The father with a burst of hearty laughter embraced my uncle and greeted us before seating himself at the head of the table.
Why was I here when the guy had a choice? I hated the archaic philosophies plaguing my folks.
The quintessential sister with her auburn mane of lustrous hair adjusted her slimy outfit, much to amma’s utmost chagrin.
The clock chimed 9 PM a while ago, and I had surpassed my habitual dinner time. I was peeved and annoyed. But instead, the talks began. I was prepared to answer anything they asked about me; my studies, future professional plans, etcetera.
“So, Nita, what do you think constitutes a healthy body…?” the man asked, stunning even amma into silence. Seemingly pleased, he continued. “…you see, regular exercise and adequate nutrition are important. My Shilpi here swims twenty laps every morning after her run….” For the next five minutes, he cruised along his anecdotal slices of fitness nostalgia.
His voice faded away and I only saw the unconsumed supper.
“…Nita…?” He called, rousing me from my reverie. “…do you exercise?”
Couldn’t he look at me and deduce?
Amma quickly asked. “What kind of a girl does your Rahul desire?”
Shilpi quipped. “Rahul wants a girl with a curvy figure, good looks…” She described Aishwarya Rai to the T minus the greenish orbs.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam had just released and was a craze…
By then even methi-malai-mutter lost its appeal.
“Can I see Rahul’s picture?”
All eyes centered on me as if I had asked for the Kohinoor.
Shilpi showed one from her purse.
“Shilpi, if Rahul wants an Aishwarya Rai, he has to be a Salman Khan too… and not skinny-bones. He is too thin for my taste.” I went guns blazing in hunger.
The two left without touching a morsel.
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