Vijay looked at his wristwatch for the umpteenth time. 20 minutes to 8 p.m. Time was just not moving at all. He wished he could move the hands of his watch 20 minutes ahead, so that it would be 8 and she would come. Then he smiled at his own childish thought. ‘It happens, Vijay. Cool it. You are early. The time was fixed at 8. She will be here at 8. Sujata has always been punctual,” he told himself.
His mind went back to that fateful day two months ago when they had ‘met’ for the first time and all the circumstances that had led to the ‘meeting’. His mother’s constant reminders that she would like a daughter-in-law in the house, now that his sister was married and well settled in USA, not-so-subtle hints from relatives that he was 27 years old, ‘just the right age for marriage’, and reasonably well-settled in his career, had led him to the creation of his profile in Bharatmatrimony.com. Matrimonial sites such as these had been the savior of many young Indian guys like him, caught up in the conflict between their traditional family values and their own modern values. It had seemed like a chance to select the partner of his own choice, and satisfy his parents too. That was where he had found Sujata.
Sujata’s profile had struck him as perfect at first glance. Just the kind of girl whom he could share his life with and who his parents would readily accept. Well-educated, cultured and decent, and, most importantly, belonging to the same caste as himself. Just the right age for him too. She had chosen to password-protect her photograph, though. He had decided to drop her a mail, to which she had responded a couple of days later, in the positive. That had led to a series of chat conversations and mails. Initially, she had expressed hesitation in sharing her photograph, saying that they should get acquainted first. She had felt kind of strange in sharing her photograph with a complete stranger, he had gathered. And he had respected her wishes. They had grown to become close friends over the two-month period. They had discovered shared passions and trust had easily built up. The unspoken promise of a deeper relationship between them was almost palpable as they discussed things ranging from mundane office politics to the society and its customs and their desire to make a difference in the world.
In the course of one such conversation, Sujata had informed him that she would be coming down from Chennai to Bangalore to meet him. He had been overjoyed. Finally, his imagination would get a face and he would get a chance to meet the person who had gradually made a place in his heart. He was so excited, his head was almost in the clouds for a few days afterwards. They had fixed a time and place to meet up. His parents, who had had a vague idea of the proceedings in his life, had been overjoyed at this.
Finally the much-awaited day had come. Vijay was waiting for Sujata in Hotel Pinnacle, wearing a blue checked shirt and blue jeans as planned. He glanced at his wrist watch with a smile as he came back to the present. It was almost 8. She would be there at any moment now.
“Vijay Madhavan?,” a girl’s voice queried, and he looked up.
“Hi. I am Sujata,” the girl, clad in a yellow salwar kameez standing before him said, in a shy, but sweet voice.
It was at that moment that it struck Vijay. He remembered why Sujata’s face seemed vaguely familiar. He remembered the day about a year ago when his mother had shown him a photograph of a girl one of their relatives had sent for the purpose of an alliance. He had taken one look at the snap and told his mother that somehow it didn’t seem to click for him. She did not quite meet the picture of the life partner he had in mind. He had told his mother that he was not interested, without even asking about the girl’s particulars. His parents had tried to convince him to at least meet her once, but he had refused quite stubbornly.
Suddenly the world began spinning before his eyes.