Marriage, Chapter 23 of Boy, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo Extended
Copyright(c) Soumya Mukherjee
Whenever a boy gets out of hand, the first solution that Indian parents think of is,
“Let’s get him married. That will settle him down”
The hero of our story, Boy, is in a way my offspring, and had been getting troublesome of late. So I too, am planning the time honoured solution of getting him married off.
Boy met her in a dirty dingy government office, surrounded by mountains of dusty files, peering out from behind huge ledgers, to the background music of clattering typewriters. This was the pre computer Stone Age of snail mail, manual computing, adding machines, and files bound in tape holding typed letters. Finding this difficult to believe? And no, there were no dinosaurs then, and the world wasn’t black and white.
Hearing rumours that the presence of a young lady is about to improve the tone of the accounts department infinitely, Boy had gone to investigate.
He returned crestfallen, as the petite lady had actually
made an appearance, and was to head the department, but Boy’s breezy intrusion met with a dead pan visage, and his attempts at witticism with a freezing ‘oh really, how interesting. ‘
Boy learnt later that he was just the kind of smooth talking long haired unreliable boys her mother had warned her about.
However, as they were the only two non geriatric beings in that vast dungeon, they sort of started to hang around together at lunch. It looked like other than being new recruits in this maze, they had nothing in common. Then one day, when Boy found her solving a crossword puzzle, he was elated. Pitching in, unasked, to help, Boy completed it to her mild irritation, but his skill with words must have impressed her a bit, as she seemed to thaw a few degrees. Finding at last that they had some common interest, Boy jumped in, and discovered that they shared a common passion for books, art house cinema and although of drastically different genre, music.
They began to relieve the tedium of work by exchanging books and cassettes, (remember those?) and news of exciting new writers, bargain prices for old books, or views on world cinema. Remember this was the pre net, Google, Wikipedia and download world, when knowledge and information were at a premium and the exclusive purview of the ‘in’ set.
Boy was introduced to the melodious world of Hindi music, and he in turn exposed her to the disruptive world of Rock, and the mystical realms of Rabindra Sangeet.
They progressed to visiting bookshops, Mandi House- the Mecca of theatre, and Shakuntalam- the auditorium for offbeat cinema. Next step, they become each other’s confidants. Boy shared the woes of his latest unsuccessful attempt at long time relationship, while she confided her problems in getting her dad to accept her unacceptable boyfriend.
Thus Boy learnt that she was of that rare species that was thought to exist only in Bollywood or Hollywood, one who was willing to do the unheard of naïve act of actually marrying for love, with no concern for Economics, History or Geography of the groom. Armed with this revelation Boy took the only logical course, that of scheming to replace this undeservedly lucky guy.
At first she thought it was an attempt at comedy, and Boy’s absolute inability to be serious about anything didn’t help. However, Boy launched a marketing strategy of perseverance, irreverence, and proximity. Brand promotion by his friends, and scientific product promotion helped by market feedback from her friends started wearing down her resistance, helped along by jealous tantrums of Boy’s predecessor. Finally, persuasion in the form of Psmith, who gets his Eve by telling her that the plus side of marrying a mad man is that you never get bored, swung the scales, to Boy’s eternal gratitude to P G Wodehouse.
Now, in true filmy style, politics played spoilsport. Members of her community were being targeted in communal riots by people of Boy’s religion. Her NRI dad planned her wedding with some suitable boy of their clan on the next available date. Her protests that she had other plans were peremptorily dismissed, especially when she produced a new candidate; this time, Boy.
Next logical step was elopement. While her dad was busy making arrangements for her quick disposal, they decided to close the deal. The registrar requiring some notice period, the Arya Samaj Mandir agreed to play cupid. They were assured that it was quite legal. Having no time to inform anyone or make any arrangements, they planned to meet at the venue next day, get the certificate and promptly leave for Boy’s hometown.
Now more hitches started developing. Those were the days of long distance calls being made from post offices where you had to shout out your messages in front of a waiting crowd, that too after waiting for an hour for the expensive ‘lightning’ call to materialize. After going through this trauma, Boy learnt that his father was abroad on work, his mother having accompanied him, and his school going brother’s assurances that dad was returning the next day, and that Boy was not to worry but catch the train, little brother will take care of all issues, did not boost Boy’s confidence.
By now, the jungle drums had spread the news, and there were a bunch of Boy’s friends waiting with him at the temple, doing their best to add to his nervousness. Her delay was explained as second thoughts on her part, late realization of her blunder, or her father having imprisoned her or worse.
Boy’s worry was that a Wodehousian story shouldn’t have a similar complication, where Boy waits by the Arya Samaj Mandir on Hanuman road, while she waits at the Hanuman Mandir on Arya Samaj Road.
Another helpful explanation offered was that she gave me a subliminal message in gifting a Talat Mahmood album, which speaks only of lost love.
In between there is a subplot of a bunch of Boy’s other friends, the girls from his college, having organized the wedding at another venue, which message did not reach him .As Boy had no telephone and was seldom home, this wasn’t surprising. Remember, this was the pre sms watsap, facebook and email era. Thinking that Boy had changed his mind without informing them, they refused to speak to him for years afterwards.
Finally she arrived explaining that she had to balance the books or some such office exigency, ignoring the fact that Boy had aged a decade in the meanwhile.
Quick ceremony over, certificate in hand, they proceeded to Boy’s ‘Barsati’, a rooftop shelter that he shared with his friends, a typical bachelor pad of those days, familiar to all who have seen Chasme Baddoor. The plan was that Boy’s bachelor day’s roommates would move out, and she would move in. As Boy was completely broke, and she was leaving home with only the clothes she was wearing, his friends contributed to get them the basic furnishings and kitchenware to start a home.
Boy had warned his friends that he had neither the money nor the time to organize a party, so they volunteered to bring provisions. When Boy took stock, he found that everyone had brought liquid refreshments of various degrees of potency, and many had brought other aids for expanding the consciousness, but none had thought of getting food. A helpful neighbour produced eggs, sausages and bread, and a riotous party ensued.
Leaving behind various comatose bodies, a few relatively sober friends managed to load them on to the train. En route, at every station Boy wanted to jump off and head back.
At the station Boy’s kid brother was there to receive them, but refused to disclose situation at home beyond the enigmatic message that they would soon find out.
A complete nervous wreck by the time he reached home, there was a sight waiting for Boy that he will never forget. The house was decorated in the traditional way to welcome the new bride and relatives had gathered over for the ceremony.
Boy’s brother explained later, that after his father’s return and receipt of the news, dad had initially broken the world record for sitting high jump. But his next reaction was that the poor girl whom his idiot son had got into the mess had to be made to feel welcomed, and a traditional ceremony was organized overnight, with a diktat issued to all relatives that everyone was to be present to receive the new bride. The patriarch’s wishes were followed and a warm welcome was given to the girl from an alien culture.
Boy wished that he could be half the man his dad was, in showing love and support to his children when they really need him.
So, finally Boy is married off. But does this make him a man? Does our story end here? No dear reader, you don’t escape so soon, for Boy has this Peter Pan complex, and refuses to grow up. You have to suffer another five chapters or so, so that the original target of thirty chapters is met. Happy reading
Marriage, Chapter 23 of Boy, a Novella