- Interesting fact: None of the couples featured in Season 1 were still together by the time the series aired in July 2020.
Last night I dreamt of S Aunty. Of course, it was a nightmare, what else could it be?
“Adjust, beta,” she said, pacing up and down my bedroom, waving her arms like a manic traffic cop. “Girls cannot be so pi-ck-y…”
I replied to her politely, only because it was a dream. I don’t see myself saying please and thank you to S Aunty if she corners me in real life and starts recycling a centuries-old patriarchal game plan from the Manusmriti in accented 21st-century English.
“Thank you for visiting, aunty,” I mumbled. “Can I go back to sleep now?”
She was in no mood to leave. The night was young and we had miles to go.
“Lovely cat. So cute!” she said, darting towards my nightstand. She was cooing at Major’s photo. Major, the magnificent. Major, my faithful, loving, supersmart Golden Retriever. His framed photograph beamed at us from the nightstand. Many had complimented Major before. But no one had accused him of being a cat, ever.
“That’s my dog!” I informed aunty in no uncertain terms.
She smiled. And gifted me some pearls of advice for free. Women who split hairs are considered difficult women in matchmaking circles. Dog, cat, donkey—a pet is a pet, no? Why this need to correct people? Adjust, beta. Be flexible. Let it be.
“I know just what you need to sort out your life,” Aunty’s face had started glowing with godlike omniscience by now.
“Uninterrupted sleep?” I offered a helpful hint.
Ignoring me as if I was a pawn in a great game over which I had zero control, Aunty scrolled through her iPad and started reciting the details of a prospective groom. Just the right fit for me, she said.
Very progressive boy.
You two have matching educational qualifications.
Very nice family. Well-off. Owns two duplexes.
Very progressive family. Very few demands. The girl only needs to be flexible.
“Flexible how?” I asked, visions of BKS Iyengar pulling off convoluted yoga poses flitting past me.
Aunty clicked her tongue. She did not approve of this line of questioning. Indian girls, whether they live in India or America or Timbuktu, had to know the meaning of this word. This great all-encompassing term drilled into any respectable Indian girl’s head from the day she takes her first steps. ‘Flexible’ is as vast as the sky and endless as the ocean. And it covers so much ground. And yet, here I was, asking her to explain the obvious to me.
Anyway, in spite of her reluctance, Aunty agreed to give me a working definition of flexible. Say, for example, if the boy wants the girl to quit her job and take care of his family, she should be flexible, and not pick a fight with him and start posting rude comments about his regressive ancestors on Twitter and Facebook. Jobs come and go. Marriage is forever, no? If the boy’s parents expect their son and daughter-in-law to live with them, say yes to it with a smile. Adjust. Be one big happy family. When the babies arrive, if the prospect of childcare freaks out the boy and he is MIA, the girl must carry on without expecting any help from him. No arguments, please. Babies are the mother’s job. Motherhood is the best job a woman can dream of. Flexible could be applied to many such other instances too. But surely, I must have got the gist by now?
I nodded, hoping this nightmare would end and aunty would vanish in a puff of smoke.
“So, when do you two want to meet?” Aunty asked, brisk, business-like.
“I’m not interested”
“Nonsense!” Aunty smirked, switching gears, suddenly channeling Jane Austin. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman living a drama-free life is secretly dying for a matchmaker to fix her up with Mister Right or Wrong.”
“No, seriously,” I persisted. “No interest in meeting the man. Nada.”
“Being stubborn is not the answer,” Aunty wagged a warning finger under my nose.
“No market for stubborn women?”
“How will you go on the show with this kind of attitude? Doesn’t look good on TV, na?” Aunty’s eyes narrowed.
“But I don’t want to be on the show. I’m not a fan”
“It’s ok to have likes and dislikes,” Aunty smiled a smile that did not reach her eyes. “A modern woman knows her own mind…But you know what else she knows?”
I knew the answer was coming whether I asked for it or not.
“She knows how to take a matchmaker’s advice”
“Your show makes me think we are still living in Victorian times. The Victorians were big fans of arranged marriages. Matchmaking was a cottage industry. Life was all about matchmaking. Morning, noon, and night they worked to get people hitched. Families married families. Class and money were the thing—the heart be damned!”
“Perfect! Why wasn’t I born in Victorian times?” Aunty pouted.
“I can send you a reading list if you want to know more about the Victorians”
Aunty’s matchmaker antennae were on alert, as always. “Reading is a hobby of yours?” she asked, tap-tapping her iPad. “What else, beta? What other hobbies you have?”
“Sleeping, but I never get enough time to do that. There’s always a deadline breathing down my neck…Or a nosy matchmaker barging into my dreams”
“Cooking?” Aunty asked. “Interior decoration?”
“Bungee jumping. Deep-sea diving”
“Anything more feminine? Like crocheting? Knitting?”
I was so sleepy by now my eyes refused to stay open. Why were we having this inane conversation? How come this apparition refused to vanish? Didn’t nightmares come with an expiry date?
“My motto is never say never,” Aunty said.
“Like James Bond?”
Aunty did not crack a smile. “Come on my show,” she said. “And I’ll fix you up with the perfect man”
Maybe the only way to end the nightmare was to say yes to her offer. A promise made in a dream is no promise.
I nodded my head. And waited for her to vacate my dream.
Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection, “A Happy Place and Other Stories” (HarperCollins). Her fiction has appeared in the Santa Fe Writers Project Journal, Gravel, Barren magazine, Asian Cha, and in the anthology, “The Best Asian Short Stories 2018.” She is currently based in New Delhi.