Bend it like Baba: Look who’s really flexible, Sima aunty

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9am In this bleak, virus-filled world, the one thing that livens up my day is sharing this planet with creatures of all shapes and sizes and no, I am not talking about matchmaker Sima aunty’s database. I am referring to the rat who brushed his furry body against my bare leg, the snake that crawled through our garden, the birds and the butterflies that flutter across our compound, and even the red-faced rhesus macaques who attacked a lab assistant near Meerut Medical College and ran away with Covid-19 test samples.

Today, as I sit at my desk, wanting to bang my head on the wall so that I can get creative ideas to infiltrate through brute force, the drama in my otherwise mundane day comes from a goat. According to news reports, an unnamed goat (in order to protect his identity perhaps) has been arrested in Kanpur for not putting on a mask. After jibes directed their way, the local police denied this, though one member from the arresting team confessed, “People are now making their dogs wear a mask so why not a goat?’

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: CHAD CROWE

Wondering if there are even masks available for animals, I scour the corridors of e-commerce and all I can find are muzzles. I am almost tempted to buy a whole load, not for our four-legged creatures, but for the two-legged ones who seem to be barking online and all over our news channels these days.

12pm On our office Zoom call, there is as much jubilation as if India has become Atmanirbhar by finding a cure and slightly less than if we had won a cricket match against Pakistan. Apparently, we have managed to get interviews with the protagonists from the show, Indian Matchmaking.

As evident from the start of this column, I am clearly obsessed with Sima. While the world sat watching A Suitable Boy, I binged on A Suitable Girl, the documentary that marked Sima’s first foray into the spotlight. The colour of her hair and the way she spelled her name were different then. So, from good old Seema in the first documentary, she became Indian Matchmaking’s ‘Sima Taparia from Mumbai’ as she likes to introduce herself. If her favourite astrologer suggested both, the highlights as well as the numerological alterations, then hats off to him, as it has clearly worked.

There is also a solution to another one of Sima Aunty’s recurring problems. She should quickly add Baba Ramdev to her database. At least no one will reject him because he is not ‘flexible’ as that seems to be an important consideration in choosing a life partner.

But Sima aunty is not the villain here. She is just giving her customers what they demand. She is not a shrink who can go around telling her client Akshay that wanting a girl exactly like his mother Preeti is what Freud would deem Oedipal. She also can’t afford to dispense advice on how being fair only counts in how you deal with people and not your complexion. She is a matchmaker. It’s a service industry, and she must either give them what they ask for or quit her job.

If I have clients that want to increase the bar pressure in their bathroom jet spray, I have to say, ‘Yes sir, sending a plumber right away,’  and refrain from telling them what common sense dictates — washing your bottom with water at the same pressure as a fire hydrant may lead to a precariously painful situation.

5pm Talking about flexibility and the kind that is important for students and not daughters-in-law, the Modi government has come up with a progressive solution to a previously rigid education system. The new National Education Policy has multiple entry and exit points, significantly blurring the divide between vocational and non-vocational subjects. However, the policy also lays emphasis on students learning in their mother tongue initially, which is turning out to be a contentious issue and needs to be re-examined. But what is extremely encouraging for students, especially at higher levels, is the fluidity between streams of education. If implemented correctly, the term mugging might be relegated to just accosting people and taking their wallets, and not to the most common method of learning employed by Indians. As my late chemistry teacher once said, ‘Parrots are best seen flying across the sky and not inside classrooms.’

7pm Mummy ji and I are playing rummy. She can’t have people over and I enjoy the game, so this is a decent compromise. Indian Matchmaking’s Akshay may keep wanting a wife like his mother, but his movie star namesake, accidentally managed to pull this feat off, as my mother-in-law and I are both independent, outspoken women. This has led to many situations where the man of the house has confessed, ‘I feel sandwiched between you two.’ I have comforted him by saying, ‘Well,then you get to be the fancy avocado filling, while mummy and I are just the boring slices of bread.’

But over the years, Mummy ji and I have grown to appreciate and respect each other. I can state this with some certainty because she often says, ‘Hun you have become very good.’ Considering that the word ‘Hun’ in Punjabi means ‘now,’ and she has been saying this for the last ten years, I am not sure exactly at what point I went from Geeta to Seeta. Nor am I certain when her status changed from ‘Aunty’ to ‘Mummy’ in my head.

Despite all the outrage, Indian Matchmaking is right about the fact that in our country, irrespective of whether the alliance is love or arranged, we don’t just marry the individual, but the whole family.
A flickering screen can be many things — a telescope that lets you into distant worlds, a kaleidoscope that uses light and mirrors to create beautiful, fascinating patterns, or like in the case of this documentary, a magnifying glass which, if angled right, can set things ablaze.

Meanwhile, Mummy ji wins the hand, and I lose both money and my pride. I must admit, we may have our differences, we may also be very similar in nature, but in certain areas, I am clearly outmatched.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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