Matrimony-pushing parents are better armed than you’d think
Last week, I met the guy who makes my life complete. Every self-respecting girl who has grown up in a big city has one of these: the gay best friend. I met mine when I was 16. We’re relics from each other’s past. When we met, he was of fluid sexuality and I was planning my life and babies with my 17-year-old boyfriend. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen each other through moving across continents (him), unfulfilled Harvard dreams (mine), disturbing profiles and scarring details on PlanetRomeo and Manjam (obviously his), pregnancy scares (obviously mine), lectures on safe sex (mostly to him), lectures on fitness (exclusively to me) and cheating boyfriends (both of us). He is one of those people who I truly believe was put on this planet to make me feel better about myself. He hasn’t lived in the country for nearly five years now; but once every year, just before the summer heat addles my otherwise somewhat functional brain, he flies down from whatever part of the world he’s in, and asks me to marry him. He even promises that, if I’d only say ‘yes’, he’ll go back to his life of fluid sexuality. The man loves me so much, he’s willing to go against nature and have sex with me. If that doesn’t make you gasp in awe and turn green with envy, you obviously haven’t found your gay best friend yet.
This year too, it worked like clockwork. He took me to a fancy place for lunch. For the few minutes it took us to choose between a la carte and an eat-all- you-can buffet, it almost felt like a real date. As we headed to the buffet table and piled our plates with food we didn’t even like, it felt like the years had melted away. As expected, he popped the question as we were digging into our second round of desserts: “Seriously, will you please just marry me and make both our lives infinitely simpler?”
And for some reason, this time, I didn’t say ‘no’. For once, I’m seeing his proposal as more than our annual joke.
Maybe it had something to do with the nasty fight I’d had with my parents the night before, but when he told me that pressure to get married was ruining his relationship with his parents, I could understand it only too well. It’s happening to me and all around me. And we’re all reacting to it in spectacularly strange ways. The last time I was forced to meet one of my parents’ friends’ sons, I ended up moving out of their house and getting a place of my own. An artist friend thought that putting up nude charcoal self-portraits on her Facebook wall would be a good way of scaring away the potential suitors her parents were lining up for her. Yet another friend has quit her job, decided to give Project Groom Hunt six months of her life, and started travelling overseas because she’s convinced she has met every ‘eligible bachelor’ India and her parents have to offer. Radical? Yes. Understandable? Oh, yes. A third friend gave in and married her gay best friend.
When I was a kid, Grandma K used to make me watch televised versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Perhaps she, in all her wisdom, knew even then that I was going to need divine intervention in the morality department later in life. I used to love the war episodes, particularly the ones where fire, water and wind storms could be created with one solitary arrow. Superior still was the Brahmastra—the nuclear weapon of all mythologies that could annihilate everything in its way. Parents are the emotional equivalents of this Brahmastra. The moment they bring up their sacrifices, the trips they could have taken if you hadn’t fallen sick, devoting what were arguably the best years of their lives to your upbringing, you’re done for. If, heaven forbid, they weren’t wealthy while doing all these things, you’re done for twice over. How can anything as mundane as not being ready or an alternate sexual orientation outweigh all those sacrifices? They’re just minor technicalities in the bigger picture of matrimonial bliss.
Sometimes I wonder if I’d be happier now if my parents had been a little more selfish while I was growing up. I wish they’d left me with Grandma K instead of cancelling their trips. Maybe there would have been fewer hot meals and a whole lot more ironing of our own school uniforms and packing our own bags; but then I’d be free to make my own unashamedly selfish choices. Because a la carte or buffet, a hastily cobbled marriage with a double side order of guilt is not what I asked for.