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Arranged Love

ARRANGED LOVE - Excerpt reading by Parul A. Mittal at IBIBO.com BOOK READ

I was busy enjoying the moment, soaking in the vibrant colors of nature, while Jay gently rubbed the sides of my back with his thumbs. I took a large swig of the cool drink and let my head rest on his bare shoulders. I didn't realize when my eyes closed and I drifted off, with Jay lying by my side, until I heard the phone shrilling in my ears. I quickly picked the handset lying next to me on the side table, to get rid of the annoying noise. My dad's voice from across the Red sea and the Atlantic Ocean was clear enough to jolt me back to my senses. My mind quickly calculated that it must be early Monday morning in Delhi and suddenly a fear engulfed me. The weekly call from my parents was scheduled for Saturday mornings, their time. A series of random fears crossed my mind, in the fraction of a second that it took me to register what he was saying.

"Suhaani. You sound asleep Beta. Did I wake you up? Its only 8pm your time. I thought you would be awake." I heard my dad say.
"I am fine, but how come you are calling at this hour?" I asked hurriedly, lifting Jay's arm that lay circling around my waist. Jay tried telling me in sign language that my dad can't see him over the phone, but I shrugged him off.
"Did you check your email?" asked my Dad with equal eagerness.
My father typically sent me mails before he went to bed, so that I could check them during my daytime. I normally responded immediately as he hated to wait for my answers, but today I had been so absorbed in analyzing and tracing the male anatomy that I had forgotten to open my laptop. Even as I booted my laptop back to life and it loaded MS Windows, I asked, "What’s so important in the mail, Pa? Why don't you just tell me on phone?"
But all I heard was the disconnect tone. My father had already hung the phone.
"So much for the non push mechanism of email", commented Jay mockingly.
I could see the humour. It was like sending an SMS to someone and then calling and telling them to check their SMS. Yet, I didn't like the scorn in Jay's voice. Just because he doesn't get any calls from his parents, doesn't give him the right to ridicule others. Besides, his parents were only hours away in Chicago and could drop by anytime they wanted to. Not that they ever had, at least in the last year and half that I had known Jay. His interactions with his family were largely restricted to Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends.

Facebook opened up on my browser as my default home page. I briefly stole a glance to see the status updates in my FB friend circle. There was a picture of Neetu in a swim-suit, squeezed in the canoe with her boy-friend, his arms wound tightly under her breasts. I am sure she had set the privacy settings on this photo such that her parents back in Agra couldn't see it. A couple of funny one-liners caught my attention. The tall, blond guy from my Computer Architecture class had posted "Practice makes a man perfect! Now you know why I do it all the time." I clicked on "Like" bumping up the count to 25.

My Gmail had loaded in the next window by now, so I clicked on my dad's mail. I had ruled out robbery, earthquake, or death as the reason for his urgent call, and was back to my cheerful self. The mail had no content. There was only the subject line which said, "Check out the attachment". Must be some new family pictures or yet another cousin's wedding invitation. I quickly opened the attached file, and found a repulsive looking guy, falling on me, with a wide grin on his face. I impulsively moved my face back from the laptop screen.

"How do you like the guy?"popped the chat message from my dad on the Gmail chat window.
"Horrible", I said without hesitation. The guy in the picture was still grinning at me. I noticed that he was standing on a rock, at the top of some mountain, his hands outstretched perhaps to maintain his balance, as the cold, indifferent wind ruffled his neatly trimmed hair. The shot had been taken by someone lying low on the ground and so it looked like he was falling forward.
Jay prodded me from behind my back wondering if I had asked my old man to send pictures of Gorrilla type Indian male models. I asked him to keep shut and stay away as if my father could hear him over the chat. Unable to control his laughter, he wondered off to the kitchen to fix himself some salad.

Dad: "That’s a start!"
"Remember, you took three months before you started liking powdered milk?"
Me: "Pa! I was six months old then."
Dad: "And you still love the milk powder sachets that come with tea-makers in resorts."
Me: "Very funny!"
Dad: "I met him at my guitar class. The boy is perfect for you."
Me: "You joined guitar like only two months back!"
Dad: "Oh! but I started liking the food your mother cooks from the day we were married."
Me: "What's your point?"
Dad: "That I am quick when it comes to liking things while you take your time to develop the taste. But once you like something, you like it forever."
I was completely losing this battle of words and the speed of developing taste, so I decided to get aggressive.
Me: "You want me to marry a guy whom you just met at your guitar class?
Dad: "C'mon, you know me better. Of course, I did the background check. He is Tanu's junior's junior from IIT."
Me: "What the Fuck Dad! An IITian .... I typed, erased and then retyped. "You know I don't fancy these arrogant, self-important IIT types."
Dad: "This guy is different. I am confident he will slowly grow on you."
Me: "I am still studying Pa."
Dad: "Of course, we will wait for you to finish your studies. The boy's email address is there in his bio-data. Feel free to drop him a mail."
Me: "But, Pa ..."
Before I could type any further, I realized my father had logged off. In any case, what was I going to tell him. "Pa, I have found myself an American dude who is mind blowing in bed, but doesn't understand a word of Hindi."

Heartbreaks & Dreams - Life of Girls @ IIT

Today, the entire Convocation hall was packed with boys. A slim line of girls unobtrusively occupied the few vacant seats in a row at the back. IIT was known for its skewed sex ratio. Where else would you find a batch that had 12 girls and 325 boys? I overheard some
boys bet on Kapil Dev in an ongoing cricket match series. Some of them seemed to know each other, and chatted about movies and music. The girls, however, seemed quiet.

As we waited for each fresher to be assigned a roll number, I basked in the glory of the moment till, …. it suddenly struck me that each individual here had cleared the IIT entrance exam and was in fact nothing short of a super genius. From being the best student in school, I was now just another geek among hundreds that thronged the hall. I was still grappling with my insignificance but suddenly my future looked bleak. Had I slogged the past two years of my life for this?
Had I made the right choice?

I came out of my reverie when my name was called out. I went up to the stage to get my tag. On the way back, I saw the dark demon, seated in a corner, like a tigress waiting to pounce on her prey.
“Go and propose to that guy in the red t shirt.” She stopped me and pointed her finger towards a 5 ft, 7", fat, fair guy in a red t shirt, standing four rows ahead. “Convince him to marry you, and don’t come back rejected.”

Approach, propose, and return. A simple task. But not for me as I was sweating profusely. In all my fourteen years at an all girl’s school in Delhi I had been terribly inhibited about boys. The two years of co education in Vadodara were no different with boys and girls sitting on separate benches. In short, my comfort level with the opposite sex was like my Gujarati – pathetic, and this sea of seventeen year old boys made me weak kneed.

But I was not alone. I saw other freshers being made to do similar stuff. There was no escaping this so I walked up to the boy in the red t shirt. “Deepika has sent a scapegoat “, said a husky voice from behind. “Wait till Piya sends someone to tail you”, retorted Red t shirt. “Piya won’t. I had made it very clear to her last semester that I wasn’t interested in her, and she seemed to take the rejection sportingly,” clarified the deep, throaty voice.

I sneaked a glance to put a face to the voice and found a bespectacled Surd in color coordinated shirt and turban. Going by their conversation, this Piya, whoever she was, had confirmed a fact that, IIT girls were certainly not in demand. I felt uneasy. What was I expected to do? Go
down on my knees or was that only restricted to the men?

“I have to propose to you.” I said sounding like I needed to pee. “That would indeed be lovely.” He emphasized each word, and looked directly into my eyes. Now did this mean that he had accepted my proposal? Or was waiting for my next move? I was not sure but going by his stance, I decided it was the latter.

“Will you marry me?” I asked emboldened.
“Give me one good reason.” He played along looking quite friendly.
Before I got here, I was the haughty state topper, but now that I was just one among the many at IIT, I was suddenly feeling worthless.

“I am JEE 212.” I highlighted my sole achievement, feeling rather stupid. His friends gathered around me and started evaluating the proposal jointly. He had come across as a decent guy so far, but the others looked slimy. I started fidgeting with my pigtails.

“Everyone here, the Tinas, Minas, and Rinas in IIT are JEE rank holders. I can’t marry them all.” He stood straight with legs apart, hiding the slight bulge around his belly.
“I am straight forward, honest, intelligent, and a go getter.” I enumerated as much for his sake as my own.
“And he is The Champ”, remarked his turbaned friend in his hoarse voice, wiping his spectacles carefully with a clean cloth. The Surd went by the name Sukhi, as I came to know later.

What did Sukhi mean by that? Perhaps Red T shirt had won some championship recently. I could find nothing else to brag about as I had been singularly focused on cracking the IIT entrance exam, with little time for personal grooming. “I have long hair. I can embroider, paint, and dance, and cook yummy food.” I felt cheap and horrible.
Sukhi wanted to interview me further, when Champ intervened.
“That will do”, he said. Something in my sales pitch had caught his fancy.

I was about to leave when Champ added, “But there is a condition.”
I waited apprehensively hoping he wouldn’t notice my unshapely eyebrows or the bulging thighs.
“You will have to wait till I come of age”, he said as he winked at me.

Parul Mittal (maiden name Parul Agarwal) is the author of a national bestseller novel “Heartbreaks & Dreams! – The Girls @ IIT”. Arranged Love is her second novel and promises to be a humorous and fun light read.

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