Art of the Matter

Reflections of an Author at Work

Tag: Love

For Better Or For Worse

Better-Or-For-WorseIs there no way one can find an ideal life partner these days by being simply being themselves?

Irrespective of the mushrooming matrimonial sites, singlehood like motherhood and fatherhood seems to be eluding the upwardly mobile men and women. We may have become too educated for our own good, and that has changed the rules of the game.

It is no longer about a steady income (contributed by the man) and multi-tasking abilities (expected from the woman). Marriage by the rules of our forefathers is now extinct. Men are seeking women ten years older than themselves, and women are looking for men who have more than incomes. Strangely, during the search process, women come out looking stranger than fiction, because they dare to be honest about their goals and dreams. The fastest way to lose a prospective groom online is to tell him the true story. Perhaps women need to focus only on their culinary skills in the brief description of themselves that matrimonial sites encourage. Men on the other hand, downplay their affluence to test the women. “Ah, let us see if she’s after my money or she really likes me.” Seriously? Unfortunately, yes.

Imagine going through your whole life without finding that special someone – and then naively believing that ‘The One’ like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix (my favorite, really) is tucked in somewhere between the pages of a matrimonial site. Imagine believing that every word said and exchanged online with a complete stranger is all true, without having conversed or met the person in question. Also, while surfing through the ocean of so-called ‘great catches’ you are likely to find, profiles of men are blatantly claiming they are “separated” or “in the process of divorce”…which means…what? Are they emotionally available for another marriage when they haven’t even finished the first one? Well, your guess is as good as anyone else’s.

So, where does that leave the quest for that elusive soul mate via the tantalizing world of matrimonial sites? Increasingly, statistics displayed on matrimonial sites alarm prospects of either gender when it screams, “More than 10,000 new people register every day”. If only choosing a partner online could be as easy as shopping for a dress or an accessory on an online store where everything was clearly mandated: SX, S, M, L, XL, XXL? Black, red, green, white?

Agreed, that is wild thought and possibly not practical, but it is certainly not wilder than what happened to a friend of mine (let’s call her Gina). Some years ago, Gina wanted to marry an American-Indian-Citizen (let’s call him Robert), whom she had met on one of the matrimonial websites. The romance progressed well for several months – declarations of love and parcels between continents were exchanged.

Then Gina went to California on a paid holiday by Robert to meet with his family. Imagine her horror when Robert suggested she join the ‘family bath’ on the second day of her visit. A bit perplexed, Gina asked what he meant. Robert explained (without batting an eyelid) that his family members bathed together every day in a common bathroom ever since he could remember. Needless to say, Gina fled back to Mumbai.

Where does this leave the hopeful, unwed, millions then? Well, right at the beginning. Online or offline, the basis of an intended life-long relationship cannot be intrigue or politeness. The sooner the real truth is revealed, the better it is for both parties because the seekers do not have the time to assess and romance for years before they marry. Online technology could be used to speed up the process, but it can’t replace the ‘right to information’.

So, don’t give up yet. The key to finding your soul mate, irrespective of the mode of search, is awfully simple: Just keep it honest.

Kolkata, Kolkata!

Coffee House KolkataWhen you first breathed the Communist air of hope and brotherhood, you were in your mother’s womb. You made a pledge unto me then…that you would never forget my ideals nor stop trying to make them your own.  You would enjoy the revelries of Durga Puja and Diwali with equal fervor. You would continue to cherish the old world charms, including the fatherly Ambassador taxis. I am Kolkata.

Through the gullies of Burrabazaar and the posh lanes of Ballygunge Phari, my soul found its multitudinous Avatars just like you did during your childhood years, mingling with neighbors of various castes and communities from all over India.

Sometimes you played in the well-manicured parks of Auckland Square and Minto Park with children you didn’t know, sometimes you admired the sunset at Outram Ghat with friends. Every time your cousins visited from other countries, you brought them to see the Victoria Memorial or the Indian Museum – as if their tribute would have to be still paid to Her Majesty of England for 300 years of British Rule. I am Kolkata.

Sometimes the lethargy of the city got into your bones also, and you preferred to spend hours at the college canteen just like your uncles did at the Coffee House on College Street. At other times, you were content roaming in New Market with your mother, bargaining hard for great deals. Not a single day went by during your college days at St. Xavier’s without a visit to Park Street, dotted and knotted with bars and restaurants, now a bit tired and rusty. But your favorite stop was always Flury’s with its fifth generation of Butter Cream Pastries and Chicken Patties. I am Kolkata.

You loved me and I loved you – without any conditions or notions. But then you had to grow up, leaving your teens behind and eager to explore the other worlds. Even the candlelight dinners at Peter Cat or the charm of the Academy of Fine Arts hosting art exhibitions or the spicy Jhalmuri and pungent Phuchkas at Victoria Maidan couldn’t lure you back. Marxism, which was your favorite subject at the college canteen debates, took a backseat. You no longer understood the philosophy of the Naxalites and wondered why there wasn’t ever going to be any new jobs or industries here. I am Kolkata.

Our love affair ended on a bitter note. I didn’t want you to leave,  but you did anyway, and chose not to return for many years. My streets didn’t want to change nor the colors of my springs or winters. I still felt proud of the aged Bihari rickshaw puller, who earned hardly a couple of hundreds of rupees every day.

I still loved the dancing fountains with their newly installed colored halogen lights at t the Victoria Memorial. I still embraced the beautiful sunrise over the Howrah Bridge. I still liked that tiny earthen tumbler of chai being offered for just a rupee. True, now there are some new shopping malls and fancy public transportation, but I still wake up more relaxed than other cities. I am in no hurry. I am Kolkata.

Your return was a surprise to me – and how do you think I felt? With your fancy clothes, your foreign accent and new money, all of which is against the ideology of our combined destiny, you came to see me again, but no humility. Am I not your favorite love story then? Could there be another one like me?

Now you love New York City I hear, but does it have a rich heritage like mine or the precious memories of your childhood? Have you forgotten the best of the Raj that I shared with you and still hold dear…including the innumerable Clubs and horse-drawn carriages? I am Kolkata.

Where have you been all these years, my beloved? The soul which you have today belongs to me, you know, full of all the poetry and romance, love and passion, which people want from you today.  Your education went beyond Shelley and Keats, and your social acclimatization wasn’t all about Deen Mistry and Lillete Dubey’s famous English plays at Kala Mandir. You have as much of Tagore in your blood as I have a loving tendency to give sanctuary to Bangladeshis. I am Kolkata. Accept it. Your love affair with me can never end. Because I am YOU.