“No, mummy!” Esha hissed, fighting to keep herself from screaming. “No. No. No. A hundred times NO! I am not going to have an arranged marriage!”
“Who asked you to get married?” snapped Mrs. Mehta. “His parents are old friends of Sheila Aunty. They only want to come meet us once. That’s all. Will we force you to marry him if you don’t like him? Are we that kind of parents?”
“Mummy, I saw his Facebook page, OK? I would rather die a spinster than marry someone who goes to a corporate event with at least 10 days’ stubble. And a weird black coat! So please…”
By this time, Mrs. Mehta had laid down her trump card. Tears, quivering lips and a reminder of that 72-hour labor.
And as always, Esha found herself giving in. She braced herself to go through this ordeal with a tight lip, determined to hate this “scarecrow” as she had nicknamed him in her mind. The thought of having a good laugh later with her girlfriends at his expense was the one thing that gave her the strength to dress up and be civil to this intolerable intrusion into her life.
She froze with the tea-tray in her hand as the handsome man rose gracefully to his feet, a touch of smile playing on his lips showing off cute dimples in his smooth, clean-shaven face, his well-tailored suit complimenting a beautifully toned body.
“It was not your picture on Facebook!” Esha remarked incredulously when they were sent off to the balcony to “talk in private”.
“Ahh, you saw it. It was me, actually. Umm, it was a costume party. I went as Thorin Oakenshield. You know… from the Hobbit. You probably saw only the photo I was tagged in, so it was a little out of context…”
“What?! Oh my God”, Esha exclaimed, relieved and ecstatic, chuckling and gasping for breath at the same time. “I love Thorin Oakenshield.”
Ah-oh. She blushed.
“I am so glad he didn’t go as Smaug the Dragon, though,” Esha joked at the end of the story at their third anniversary party, told for the umpteenth time at the special request of one of us who hadn’t heard it before. “I would have jumped out of the bathroom window before he turned up, and then I wouldn’t know what I would have missed”. And she squeezed Pranjal’s hand and smiled into his eyes, as a collective sigh rose from the little group of friends.
Well, isn’t that a love story literally out of the fairy tales?