Author's note: Though I narrate this story with the pomp of a Shakespeare presenting an immortal love tale, I must warn readers that this is the account of a regular arranged match which, while containing a few incidents which might make you smirk or even raise your eyebrows, is not the stuff that ballads are made of.
My aunt was down in Bombay on vacation, and conferring on weighty topics with Mom in the kitchen. The wonderful fragrances emerging therefrom had magically dragged my feet and I was quite surprised to find myself between the grinder and the fridge, trying to sample the okra and bamboo shoot "huggi", a concoction spicy enough to make Genghis Khan cry, yet as alluring as a nymph.
"Thinks only about food all day. Nirmala, you should start looking for a girl for him." my aunt said, in a sharp tone.
"I know I should, but he keeps saying he wants to settle down first." Mom
"I think he must have been snared by someone already." said the aunt, in an even sharper tone.
A footnote is in order here. The whole world agrees, and here Shias bury their differences with Sunnis and Tibetans with the Chinese to accord this question unanimously their answer in the affirmative, that N. Shenoy has the sex appeal of a cat who has been dining in a trash can. But if you asked my mom or my aunt then (or even now, for that matter) they would have unhesitatingly told you that I am the most desirable boy in this hemisphere.
"Our Naren is such a charming boy, I am always worried..." my mom and aunt would both go. Their worry of course being that some Jezebel would bring me down in a sort of football tackle, put a burlap bag over my head, present me in that condition before a priest and hold a gun to my head till I said yes to matrimony. An ever present danger of course, for H. Roshan or one of the S. Khans, but my general looks and personality made the possibility extremely remote. Try explaining that to mom and my aunt, though.
My apologies for going on a bit in this vein. You see, one of my pet peeves with the creator is this strange parsimony on his part when it came to distributing good looks and it was my turn in the queue. He will have to think of some very good answers when I eventually pass the veil and line up a meeting with him. Hmmm. Morbid thoughts, and fruitless. Let us pigeonhole them for the moment and get on with the tale.
The mom and aunt therefore came up with a deeply thought up strategy to mold my thinking, namely "lets nag the hell out of him". My every waking hour, in accordance with this strategy, was to be filled with subtle and not so subtle hints that I should get married and to utilize all kinds of moral suasion. I was told that I was growing old and that soon, no girls would be available for marriage (I was 25 at the time). I was told that my horoscope was "weak" and that unless I found one with an even "weaker" horoscope, she would dominate me completely, which made my choices even slimmer. "And look at Hareesh (our neighbor's nephew) who is three months younger than you but has a kid already". "Oh shut up! Whatever am I going to do"? This last because of my wisecrack that I was willing to have kids myself, it was marriage I was objecting to. My mom, who takes statements most literally, is a great target for this kind of tomfoolery. My younger son now torments her in this fashion.
Eventually, however, the strategy succeeded and I agreed to get married. I was getting a bit worried myself and I had too realistic an idea of my personal charm and sex appeal to dream of going out into the wide world and winning myself a bride. "Bring on the girls!" I told the old mater bravely and reclined in the high backed chair to receive the list of young sylphs dying to fling themselves on me. To my great horror, not only were there none, there were no arrivals in several months thereafter.
Eventually, a few hardy souls turned up and asked for copies of my horoscope, only to report that they were not matching.
Then one day the bell rang and as luck would have it I opened the door to find a tall, impeccably dressed and stern looking gentleman accompanied by an affable old man who reminded me of the actor Utpal Dutt. I was in some really pathetic state with my hair standing on end like quills on the fretful porpentine and clothes which made me look like I had mugged the actor Govinda.
I invited them in and offered them water, tea and miscellaneous fried stuff, as trained by mom and hope she came back from whatever spiritual meeting she had gone to. For these people had the unmistakable stamp of matrimonial proposers on them. No gentlemen this dignified had ever bothered to even look at me before (or after, for that) and here were these practically royal looking gents being actually polite and deferential to me. I chatted on about this and that - the Indian stock market and the Indian political situation were my great favorites back then - and they hung upon my every word like I was Confucius and they a couple of Chinese novices.
Soon, the mystery was solved. The tall distinguished gent was my future father-in-law and the affable gent his brother in law who, being based in Bombay, was piloting the ship. They had a daughter, future C-in-C of ship Shenoy, who had a "weak" horoscope herself and needed to find one equally weak, lest she be eaten up.
My mother was delighted and after a quick check with the astrologers, waved the green flag. And before I knew it, mom and dad were solemnly telling me to wear a clean shirt and lug my ass to Utpal Dutt's house. We were going to See the Girl!