Lend me your ears, my Thatha loves to say. Quoting literature and witticisms that are attributed to dead people is his favourite past-time.
When I would dawdle and not spend my time studying, he would tell to nobody in particular, in youth I wasted time and now time wastes me, as he would walk past.
If character is lost, everything is lost, he said with a flourish when yet another boy with suspect credentials had to be dropped from my matrimonial race.
A cliché to dismiss my ticking biological clock doesn’t seem to reassure Appa.
Our ATP turns twenty five in another fifteen days, Appa announces mournfully.
The last month has been a bit of a respite, the Aadi month is not just the best time to pick up saris, veshtis and towels for the whole year, but it also helps to stop the assault on my self worth. Albeit temporarily.
Did Nano Boy write to you, Appa asks me suddenly?
I cringe and do my bumbling routine. Nano Boy is the newest boy to be included in the race. No, he doesn’t work for an evil car enterprise; his work is in the area of the more noble Carbon Nanotubes.
When Nano Boy’s reference was provided by Warren Road Pattu Maami, Thatha beamed. He even made some DuPont reference and said, better living through chemistry for our ATP.
I wasn’t sure. Carbon Nanotubes? Hello, I am ATP from Madras and my husband is a Carbon Nanotubist?
When his parents came to check me out, to do a preliminary screening, they gushed on and on about their son. He is very bright, Nano Appa said. HE IS VERY BRIGHT, Nano Amma added.
Appa and Thatha nodded appreciatively.
In the absence of Amma, Periamma took on the role of belling the cat and asking the uncomfortable questions.
Nano Boy will be thirty two this year, she started.
Nano Amma and Nano Appa squirmed. Only after the Aadi Maasam (last year) did we take his jadagam out, Nano Amma said snootily. He was only interested in doing his PhD in *insert something that none of us understood*, Nano Appa offered in manner of explanation.
Age is just a number, Thatha reassured them sounding a bit like a breezy socialite. Periamma rolled her eyes and I began to wonder what Thatha had been smoking lately.
After some incomprehensible conversation and that the adults had on nanotechnology, they turned their attention to me. Nano Amma stared at me moodily and was looking at my head. She was probably counting the number of slides (clips?) that Periamma had brutally inserted into my hair to keep it in place.
My son is also very interested in music, Nano Amma began. I had to remind myself that the letter attached to my horoscope spoke in great detail about my love for and prowess in Carnatic music.
Only science and music interests him. You will need to woo him, she added conspirationally.
An email id was given and they left
A wedding before the age of twenty five, Appa beamed.
Thatha offered some advice from Shakespeare, you should be wooed and not made to woo.
I wrote my first email in October. Not flamboyantly. Not timidly. But honestly. Or at any rate, as honest as I could be. He wrote back soon enough, a wordy email. Sounding high-brow and nerdy, clearly designed to knock me out.
I was totally knocked out. I ought to have put an end to it after the very first email, but a vulgar curiosity and large quantities of boredom kept me going.
My favourite raagam is Vivahapriya, he said once.
What kind of person would like Vivahapriya? How many songs exist in this raagam? Isaiyil Thodanguthamma, from the highly pretentious Hey Ram? Why can’t I meet an ordinary sort of boy, you know someone who likes the more mundane (and very lovely) Reethi Gowla?
After every email that he sent me, I had to Google for stuff. His choice of literature, his desire to link mundane events and occurrences to science in general and Carbon Nanotubes in particular. His initial horoscope had failed to mention his middle name – Pedantic.
The only good thing that came out of all of this was, Amma and Appa put their hunt on a hold for a bit. Then one day, Nano Boy emailed me saying that he had met his to-be-wife and she worked in the area of Nanotoxicology. We must keep in touch and you ought to come for my wedding, he insisted.
Sure, I said and blocked him on my chat list. I decided that Amma and Appa didn’t need to know.
That the world’s dullest boy didn’t want to marry me, was a cross that I didn’t wish to bear.
But, since I began to sleep and live India time and not that of some strange country, Appa had probably caught on and the hunt resumed.
As I helped Thatha with tallying his expenses of July ’08 he said, ATP! You must accept finite disappointment but not lose infinite hope.
Clearly I needed to have whatever Thatha was having. Thatha then asked me to call up all our relatives and remind them about this.
Really! Who cares Thatha? And our family is large, but I am sure this will be a highly insignificant contribution, I tell him.
Be the change that you want to see, he begins. I hastily reach for the phone. I cannot handle any more pop philosophy. And besides, a black-out is comforting at some level.
I hop over to Periamma’s house and tell her about our family’s contribution to society. She has been a little sad lately, her elder daughter A Akka, who turned twenty eight sometime back, has decided to marry a Bengali boy.
They are Brahmins, but they eat fish, she told Paati.
Periamma is upset. I will not go for the wedding, she told me. Okay, but don’t forget the black-out, I remind her.
As I am leaving, she expresses her commiserations about the loss of Nano Boy. Our Tamizh Boys are no good, why don’t you marry some North Indian fellow from your Journalism School, she asks?
Be the change you want to see, I think
Sure. I will think about it, I say instead.
Back home, Appa wants me to book our tickets to go to Calcutta. We are representing the family at A Akka’s wedding.
Appa tells Chitappa, what is there? We need to be modern and change with the times.
The time is always right to do what is right, Thatha added.
And sometimes, that could be all of eight minutes.