In that small town in Northeast India, I was struggling to find a network on my Nokia phone. Shunting to and from the gate of the house in search of any tiny bit of the phone signal, I was enjoying my quiet stay far away from home.
It had been two days since I'd spoken to my parents, and that must have sent chills down their spines. Being an obedient Indian middle-class girl, it was my duty to call my parents every day, and I gladly fulfilled it, never faltering once, even though I was now 27. I still called them every morning or evening.
That day, I was frantically trying to call them, but the call was not going through. I thought of putting the phone to rest while grabbing a cup of black masala tea. But as soon as I held that colorful ceramic cup in my left hand, the phone in my right hand beeped, causing a minor spillage.
This mild tea overflow was nothing compared to what my dad had to divulge to me from the other side of the phone.
"He might call you anytime. So keep your phone on. Pick up his call even if you are in a meeting, OK?"
There was no way I could disobey him or even dare to ask him questions. He is my dad. He is Mr. Surendra, the one person who has given me my surname, thus making my name unique in the whole world.
I didn't reveal that I was not at work but instead on a vacation with my friend to her native place.
I just had one wish now: that my phone should not catch any network, not even the teeny weeny bit I was hoping for previously.
My wish was granted, but two days later when I reported back at work, my phone beeped.
It was him.
"I sent you an email last night, but you didn’t reply to it," he complained.
"Umm... I replied. I did send a long reply," I defended myself.
"No. You sent an email to me this morning, but it was not a reply to my email," he complained again.
"What do you mean? I clicked on the reply button while sending it to you," I played.
"Maybe, but your email did not have answers to my questions," he whined.
How could I send a reply to an email like the one that he had written to me?
An arranged marriage proposal.
Guy writes to girl. Guy writes email that mentions all the possible contradictions that can exist between an introvert guy and an extrovert girl. Guy then asks girl if she would accept him as her friend. If yes, then what changes would she like to see in him?
I had never read an email like this ever before. Not even in my four-year-long career in the IT industry where people send some awkward emails quite often.
We hung up after he said, "I am waiting for your reply."
That email from him was now like an albatross around my neck. But I didn’t care about it, nor did I send any email after the first one.
A week later, my phone beeped and it was him again.
With his name splashing across the screen, I was dreading more conversation about the same email and its forsaken reply.
I picked up only with the pledge that if the word reply was uttered from the other end, I was going to press the "end call" button.
"Hi. Good you have now moved to New Delhi. It is closer to your home," he said politely.
"Yeah. But I am not very excited. I liked living in Hyderabad," I said gently.
"I know. I also like Hyderabad more than New Delhi," he agreed.
We agreed! It was time to celebrate! Despite the enormous contradictions mentioned in the emails from him and Papa, we could agree on something.
The phone call lasted for over an hour. Thankfully, the word reply was not uttered by him in any way. Perhaps he finally understood that such emails can not be replied to — not by a sane person, at least.
My phone began beeping often, slowly and steadily becoming a regular practice. One-hour phone calls were now extended to several hours in a day.
We were full of contradictions. He only loved the movie Pyasa, while I went ga-ga over every Shahrukh and Salman film. He once crossed Taj Mahal but did not care to turn behind to have a look at the majestic fort, while I was adding world heritage sites to my never-ending bucket list. He could live for years without smiling once, while my habit of giggling, even without a reason, had got me in trouble so many times.
Birds of different feathers also flock together. Here we were — two young, naive love birds trying to find a way to build a nest together.
One late night he whispered on the phone, "I want to marry you."
The next morning, I screamed to Papa on the phone, "I want to marry him!"
Papa was calm and demanded, "I need to hear it from him."
"Thank you for sending Surabhi into my life. We need your blessings," he finally conveyed to Papa.
All were happy. All was well. Except one small hitch.
I had not seen him. Not even his picture. I expressed my concern to Papa, but he was unfazed.
"He looks good. Do not worry. Trust me. I want the best for you," Papa tried to reassure me.
I loved Papa. I love him immensely, but would I let him decide my life partner? Maybe yes, because I trust him, and everyone else in my family has had arranged marriages and because when I tried at finding a life partner for myself, I failed. I had failed miserably.
But would I marry somebody without knowing how he looked?
We fixed a meeting with him. The whole night, I experienced butterflies in my stomach. I finally decided to sleep, but that would happen only after I saw him or his picture.
In Hindi there is a saying: jahan na paunch ravi, vahan paunch kavi — a poet reaches where even the sun can’t reach. In today’s world, this poet is Google. After trying hooks and crooks to find a photo of his (without letting anyone know), I tried Google.
And there he was! In a black, kind-of-formal suit. With plain glasses resting on his thin, sharp nose. He looked decent, but more of a geek.
Eeeek, I shouldn’t have trusted Papa, screamed my heart.
It was 2 a.m., and I put my phone to rest while resting my destiny to God. I consoled my heart, believing that many people look better in photos while some look worse. I hoped he was in the latter category.
The next morning, we traveled to his training centre, where he was undergoing a rigorous training for his job. My heart thumped and pumped at his sight. He looked just like what I had imagined him to be: kind, gentle and full of love. He looked a lot better than his picture, and though he still looked geeky, I didn’t find anything to complain about.
We went for a stroll. Nervous, anxious and shy, both of us slowly got comfortable with each other in minutes, believing that maybe ours was a magical love with divine intervention.
Otherwise how does a ridiculously rigid man fall for an outrageously outgoing woman?
An arranged marriage proposal was now becoming a love marriage.
Today, we are married and happily so, settled in our small nest in New Delhi, sorting out our contradictions one by one, day by day.