This is a work of f(r)iction, and should not be confused with the author’s intentions of documenting her subdued desires of getting hitched, or claiming that she is 27, when she is long past that age.
"27 and unmarried? Hai Raaam !!! Are you romantically challenged? Kuch gadbad hai kya? Aren’t most girls your age already married?"
You know what shaped my romantic conditioning while growing up. The fantasy world I created from reading hundreds of Mills & Boon (MB) romantic novels, and Harlequin romances. Crumpled yellow pages, a cover best hidden in a newspaper jacket. No matter how much I tried to look indifferent, the size of the book and the fervent way I skimmed through the yellow pages always gave away what I read. Yeah yeah we all know about “the lack of variety in plotlines and their inevitable happy endings”. So what?
The problem is- my imaginary world of romantic hunks sauntering half naked in towels became more real than my real world and the men I met there. In school and college when my friends were mate hunting, I drowned myself in books with these fantastic men, vicariously deriving my romantic stimulus from them. A decade later when my friends have found their mates, I have woken up to the realization that I am perhaps running a good 10 years behind schedule. I haven’t been able to find someone on my own, and the random men I talk to every weekend as a routine of this arranged marriage drill, barely live up to my expectations.
My Indian forefathers had turned in their graves when at 14 I was convinced I was marrying an Italian. To my understanding, all my fantasy men resided in Italy, Greece, and France. Brought up with middle class values and dozens of Mills & Boons hidden between my text books, I have always wondered why the fantasy men I read about were so different from the real men around me - lovers, non-lovers, ex-lovers, buddies, colleagues and the ones I talk to these days, hoping that I would end up marrying one of them. Why was it that the Kamal Kishores, the Venkat Rajans and the Obhrokanti Kumars never stood a chance to these Jakes, Lukes, and Nicks?
No prizes for guessing that the fiction writers had transported me to this imaginary world of men who didn’t exist in reality. But it didn’t make the fantasy men any less appealing. You know why? Because they are self made. Born with a silver spoon, yet a go-getter. Exceptionally tall, always towering and above 6 feet (something which Bengali men rarely are). My mother never really understood my need to tiptoe to the man I marry, and still makes me talk to these short men with the notion that “a good character and a secure job is more important than height”.
My MB men are always dark. Brooding. Broad chested. Very angry with life. It seems every woman wants to chain him down, though frankly, I don’t know why none of his flings ever made it to the altar. His charm and virility increases as an exponential function with age. Very devoted to his huge family of 4 generations residing somewhere in Italy. Usually Greek or Italian (but never Indian). He travels all around the world and he owns a chain of art galleries or Victoria’s secret stores. Drives Porsches and Ferraris. Sleeps in boxer shorts. Doesn’t snore or fart or scratch himself like a hairy porcupine. Well toned. No hanging pot bellies or a receding hairline. Never found shopping in Walmart, IKEA or Target. Unparalleled sartorial elegance. He doesn’t do menial jobs like – coding, writing software, or cloning animals in the lab.
I grew up firmly believing that the man I marry would be like one of these characters. The ones who would pin me down against the wall to initiate the first kiss. Not the ones who describe how pancreatic cancers are cured. My world of romantic fantasy came crashing down with every relationship gone haywire. Tainted are those, marred by the gory wrath of society, who are unable to sail through the trials and tribulations of a socially acceptable relationship. I saw this train filled with potential grooms leaving the station while someone pushed me frantically to run after the train. I thought of my MB men and my make-believe world in Italy and how happy I was there. I wondered why I didn’t find the Indian version of my MB man. While the world eagerly awaits Mr. Right’s arrival to put an end to my miseries of singlehood for life, Mr. Right is a split personality, who in his other personality, is a mama’s boy brought up with good values who only listens to mama.
My conflicting worlds confuse me – the one with the Jakes and Lukes, the one with people pushing me to get married to whoever was smart enough to make it to the US, and the world of these prospective grooms sitting in a train, one of which might be kind enough to marry me someday. While these worlds of mine collide, I bear a heavy burden on my chest, traumatized at the thought of dying an old spinster. My feelings remain unresolved so far- call it tragedy or consider it comical. Like my friend says, “27 and unmarried? Hai Raaam !!! Aren’t most girls your age already married?”