A Near Match
A Near Match6 mins 296 6 mins 296
As a budding teenager in the seventies era, Mitali was advised by her father to build a habit of reading newspaper. It was supposed to improve her vocabulary, grasp over language and general knowledge. She was even told to read the editorial occasionally to learn how to express independent views on any current socio-political issue.
Mitali obeyed but only partially. She found the newspaper interesting for other reasons. For example, she did find the matrimony advertisements super funny and amusing. Every aspiring bride seemed to be extremely fair, slim, beautiful, convent educated and had the right mix of modern and traditional values. But where were they? She did not see too many of them despite staying in the heart of a metro city. At fourteen, she would take an occasional quick glance of herself in the mirror. Did she qualify as extremely fair and beautiful? She was not very sure. One day she thought of asking her mother.
“Mom, when you put a matrimony ad for me, what will you write? “, asked Mitali to her mother without much context or introduction.
“Why don't you just go and finish your homework for now? We will see what to write when time comes.”.
Mitali was not really interested in marriage then, but she just wanted to check if her mother thinks she is fair and beautiful. Somehow she could not gather the confidence or courage to ask directly.
Twenty five years have gone by. Mitali is still single and she has a decent government job. As for being married just after completing ones college graduation… well, it was tried but did not quite work out. Her parents had responded to almost each and every matrimony ad which got published, had registered in different marriage bureaus but nothing really worked out. While there was different reasons being cited by different suitors, the dominant one she heard was that they did not find her pretty enough to match their boy.
Mitali had well accepted and adjusted herself in her single life, picked up hobbies and while her father was no more, she still loved to read newspaper and specifically classifieds. Browsing through the classifieds section, she one day came across a column on pen friends. One advertisement read - “I am a single man in my late forties, based out of Calcutta, running my own business and looking for a pen friend. If interested, please drop me a line on PO Box number…”.
“This may not be too bad an idea to explore”, thought Mitali. “There can be some companionship, some exchange of thoughts, emotions, anecdotes and the best part is there will be no need to meet face to face. Thus in no way my questionable looks will be a part of the equation. I can freely share whatever I want to share and can simply stop responding to the letters the very day I think so”. Frankly, she had faced enough rejections in her life and while this was nowhere close to even a marriage proposal she still was extremely cautious.
She found a ten paisa post card in her drawer and wrote a few lines merely indicating that she was interested and along with her address for him to reply back.
The man's name was Suresh and he did reply back within a couple of days. From the tonality of the letter he sounded to be friendly. The first letter was more of a questionnaire asking a lot of stuff and all ending with a courteous “you may skip this if you are not comfortable”. But Mitali obliged. She answered most of the questions with reasonable details and posted back on the following day morning.
Days passed and open postcards graduated to closed envelops, to floral watermarked writing pads to dried rose petals in the envelope or sometimes a dash of a light fragrance from some premium perfume sprayed on the letter. In hot summer afternoons, Mitali would stand in the balcony so that she could spot the postman and pick up the letter as soon as it lands in her letterbox.
In one of the recent letters Suresh had asked for a photo of her. Apparently, searching through the family album she could not find anything good. So she finally settled for an old black and white photo taken on her thirteenth birthday. Mitali was super excited to read “you look super cute, but are there no recent photographs ? “. There were not too many, moreover she had a phobia in this regard. The long and failed groom hunt in her life had mostly impressed a very deep negative effect.
A letter arrived from Suresh on yet another sultry summer afternoon. It read “ let us please meet at College Street ICH this Saturday 4th April, at 3 PM. We have known each other for quite sometime now. Do you not think we should meet and take it forward? I will be waiting for you at the book stall downstairs. Please do not disappoint me”.
Mitali looked through the balcony. Dark clouds had accumulated across the sky and a cold wind was blowing. A typical summer evening Norwester in Calcutta. It was about to rain soon. She stood there and felt like getting drenched for a while. At thirty-nine years of age, someone asked her out.
Saturday 4th April, 3 PM. Mitali dressed up in a regular office attire. She was too shy to ask any of her colleagues or friends and seek any tips. So she just did whatever she thought was the best and took a taxi to College Street.
Suresh seemed to spot her immediately in front of the book stall. “Hello, Mitali”, he said with a wide smile. “Shall we go up please?”.
They went upstairs and sat in a four seater table. She was feeling grossly uncomfortable to even give an eye contact. Most of the pleasantries and chat continued with Mitali looking at the table.
“Have you been here before ?”, enquired Suresh to just keep the conversation going.
“Yes, I used to come here regularly in my college days with my friends”, replied Mitali.
While Mitali was feeling shy and a bit uncomfortable, she was however very much present to the situation. Once she thought, Suresh is not sounding as warm he used to sound in his letters. May be he is also taking his time to warm up.
Few minutes passed, when Suresh said, “let me just quickly get a pack of cigarettes from downstairs. I will be back in a minute. Why don't you choose something to eat in the meantime ?”.
“Sure”, said Mitali.
Almost fifteen minutes passed, Suresh did not return back. “Where did he go? may be he bumped into some acquaintance on the road and got stuck there?”, thought Mitali.
Another ten minutes passed, Mitali got curious and went down to see if he can find Suresh downstairs. No one was around. There was a cigarette shop right across and it is possible that Suresh went there to buy his cigarette. She once thought of asking the shopkeeper, but felt shy and pointless.
Did Suresh leave because he did not find Mitali beautiful enough? Her old teenage photo was surely a misleading one. Mitali was feeling lost and disintegrated. She no longer felt it was important to postmortem why Suresh left suddenly. She gathered all her strength and hailed a taxi. Just as she was boarding, through her corner eye vision she thought seeing someone at a distance vaguely looking like Suresh. But she could not even turn her head. It seemed way too overwhelming.