Shaukat Ajmeri

Looking for a suitable match – part 1

12-minute read

It’s instructive how a few phrases can reveal a mindset of a people. Have you read a matrimonial ad lately? A generic ad will go on to describe qualifications, profession, height, weight etc. And if the ad is for a girl then “simple”, “respect for elders” and “fair complexion” are mandatory requirements. And if it is for a boy, he of course must be well-settled, family-oriented and loving. Invariably every ad will have a punchline: he/she must be well balanced between religion (deen) and worldly affairs (duniya).

Every time I read this I cannot help smirking. What the hell is it supposed to mean – a balance between deen and duniya? Here’s a typical ad from a girl seeking a suitable boy:

Looking for a smart, good looking boy between the age of 23 and 27 years. He should be from a respectable family, well-settled with a stable job/business and should be understanding, fun-loving and family-oriented and must have life-long commitment to relationship. I’m a simple, beautiful and fair-complexioned girl with a BCom degree and am looking for a partner who is well balanced in deen and duniya.

And here is a not-so-typical response to the ad:

Dear would-be wife,

I’m responding to your ad very simply because you are a simple girl. In fact I too always wanted to be simple but I just can’t help being smart. I know this is not a good thing to say. My mother always says it is bad manners to praise oneself. But I’m not praising myself, just telling you the facts because you must know everything before you make your decision about me.

If you asked me why I wanted to be simple, I’ll tell you this: When you are simple people leave you alone, they think you are a fool. But with smart people, people have a lot of expectations. Even when you don’t have a clue about something you’ve to pretend as if you know everything. In my honest opinion, it is better to appear like a fool and do smart things than appear smart and do dumb things. Being smart all the time causes me too much stress. I’ve had nervous breakdowns so many times, still I’m not afraid to be smart. I hope this is acceptable to you.

I must confess that I’m not very good looking. I find this requirement very insulting. Men are never supposed to be good looking only women are. It is good to know that you’re beautiful. And I’m ugly. So see, it balances out. I’m an expert at balancing things. You’ll know what I mean, just keep reading. I’m 24 years old, and my family is very respectable. In our town we respect everyone who is richer than us. My father taught me to laugh at the joke of the rich people even when they are not funny. He says, it is only polite. He also says that it makes rich people feel important, and keeps us in their good books. You cannot have a better win-win situation, he says. Now you know where my smartness comes from!

Also, you’ll know how respectable our family is when I tell you how we treat people who are poorer than us. We treat them like dirt. Father says social ladder was invented for a reason. You move up by climbing on top of the people below you. That’s what respectable people do. My elder brother says that people below you should always be kept in their place. If you try to be nice to them, they would one day climb on your head. That’s why they deserve to be where they are, he says.

In our family women must also be kept in their place. For example, my mother does not agree with all this rich/poor stuff but she is always told to shut up. Women’s place is in the kitchen and the bedroom – two places where man’s happiness comes from. All the thinking and talking must be left to the men, that’s our family tradition. I hope you find my family respectable enough.

I’m also happy to tell you that I’m very well settled. When I settle down to eat or sleep or watch TV it is very difficult to get me to do anything else. I believe in remaining settled. You will see how smart I’m when I tell you that I easily settle for anything that requires least amount of work or effort or even thinking. I know thinking is a man’s job. But I leave that to my father and brother. Why bother when others can think for you. See, that’s smart. Anyways, where was I? Yea, I’m also well settled in my mind about work. I find this whole idea of making a living very unsettling. Work is for losers. Why work when you can cheat and con people? Someday I want to start a religion. That is my long-term business plan.

But for now I do have a stable job. I work in a stable, it belongs to my father. He learned horse-trading from his politician friends. When he couldn’t become a politician he started dealing in real horses. I hate horses, I think they are dumb and produce so much horseshit. God, it stinks to the heavens. The only good thing about them is their 360° vision, which we humans don’t like so we destroy it by putting what they call, yes, barnacles, on their dumb faces.

But I love horsing around, but not with the horses of course. You are mad or what! With the girls in our stable. All innocent fun though, that’s what makes me fun-loving. You see my philosophy is that unless I’ve fun now how can I be loving to my future wife. Just learning a few tricks so that I can make you happy. You see I take my fun-loving very seriously, for you.

What is next? Yes, understanding. Oh, how can I tell you how understanding I’m. I understand everything, and in my family everybody has a good understanding. My brother often visits one auntie next door whose husband lives in Dubai. She is alone and lonely and brother goes there to give her company. He’s very kind and understanding. There is a place in our town where there are a lot of lonely ladies, brother also goes there to give them company and also gives them money. He’s so kind. And understanding. He has got these qualities from father. But father doesn’t go there anymore, he’s too old to show such kindness and is also slowly losing his understanding.

Long back when I was a teenager my mother found out about father’s visit to the lonely ladies. She was mad and fought with father for showing understanding to those women. Father slapped her and yelled, “you women are the worst enemy of women”. After that mother did not say anything and I guess became very understanding. At some point I too will have to show understanding to the lonely ladies. I’ve no choice. You see it is in my jeans.

Between you and me I can be completely frank, and I know you will not take it the wrong way. Will you be surprised if I told you that I have a laptop? Yea. There is this girl in my stable who always comes and sits on top of my lap. She only lets me play Solitaire. I want to play Tomb Raider but she says I can only play that after marriage. When I ask her why, she smiles at me and says “you’re so cheeeewt”. I hate it when girls say that. One reason I want to marry is that I want to play Tomb Raider bad.

I’m sorry if I’m rambling on but it is important that I tell you everything about me. Maybe I’m writing without thinking, but as I told you I don’t waste time thinking. I just do it, as Nike people always tell us. Anyways, the next on your list is “family-oriented”. I don’t know what you mean by this but I must make it clear that our family is not oriental. We are Indians, you know desi. Can you please tell me why you want marry into a Chinese family? Although I’ve nothing against the Chinese but they speak funny and have chinky eyes. Just want to warn you that Hindi-Chini are supposed to be bhai-bhai (brother-brother) or bhai-behen (brother-sister) and not miya-biwi (husband-wife). It would be so wrong if you married a Chinese – it would be like marrying your own brother. I’m hoping you’ll change your mind about family-orientation.

If you do, I promise to bring life-long commitment to our relationship – although I never knew commitment came in life-long size. I’ll try to find it on eBay. But don’t worry too much about commitment, my understanding is more than enough for our relationship. The long and short of it is that I’m already beginning to love you, just by writing this. And all the cockles of my heart are erect to know that you are fair-complexioned. I hope you did not get this by using Fair & Lovely cream because I know it does not work. My sister used it for years, the more she used the more unlovely she became. Some would say that the people who make Fair & Lovely are very unfair because they promise people something that can never happen. But in my opinion “false promise” is a good business strategy. There is always a market for it. Promise people what they can never have and they will go crazy about it. That is why religion is so popular. I want to start a religion so bad.

It is also good to know that you’re a BCom although I would have preferred if you were an ACom. Anyway it would be great to boast to my friends that my wife has a degree. They say that there is not much use for it but it does make a nice wall decoration. We’ll hang it in our living room, so when people visit us our importance can rise by a degree. When I get my degree, am in final year, we’ll hang mine too there, then our importance will rise by two degrees. That would be something. What do you say?

Finally we come to balancing deen and duniya. Oh, how I love to play this game. My favourite you know, better than cricket shriket. Actually everybody plays deen-duniya but very few understand the objective of the game. The objective is to find a balance between deen-duniya, between good and bad. Rohinton Mistry wrote a fine book explaining this game, and called it A Fine Balance. What the majority of people do is that they either do a lot of deen or a lot of duniya or as they say in Indian philosophy, a lot of dharma or a lot of samsara. They get so involved in doing just the one thing they are doing that they forget about the “balance”. If you ask me that is dumb, it defeats the whole purpose of the game.

I’ll tell you a secret which my father taught me. See you’ve to learn these things in the real world, you don’t learn it in your mother’s stomach. Okay, the secret is this. Life forces you to do bad things. It starts with our birth, we are born in sin. You may ask why. Because we are the result of bad things our parents have done. No matter what we do in life we cannot balance out this sin in our lifetime, it can only find balance in our death.

Putting that aside, this balancing game is real fun. It always start with a bad thing, like you’re tempted to tell a lie. For example, if you don’t like a girl, say Maria, you tell a lie about her, like “you know Maria has a boyfriend”. Now lying is a bad thing, don’t ask me why, I did not make the rules. So you must balance out the bad thing you’ve done by telling a truth which is a good thing. So what you do is say, “you know Maria’s brother is Sam”, which is a truth. See, this is how you balance a lie with a truth, bad with good.

And like this it goes on. My father slaps my mother – bad thing. Then he kisses her – good thing. My father does not pay enough salary to the workers in our stable and also cheats on income tax but then he balances out by praying five times a day. My brother drinks beer every day but regularly prays Juma namaz to balance it out. The factory owner next to our stable puts out a lot of chemicals in the ground which spoils the water that makes a lot of people sick, but he balances it out by going to the temple every morning and distributing prasad to the same sick people. They really know how to play the balancing game.

And I’m learning from them, the best I can. My laptop says playing Solitaire is not a good thing, so I try to balance it out by playing it every alternate day. I also like to drink beer. After every glass of beer I drink a glass of water. Perfect balance. I’m really getting good at this game. But I must tell you another secret. It is not necessary that every bad thing should be followed by a good thing. Some people play it differently. Like they do all bad things in the first half of their life and they then do good things in the second half. Remember the objective is to achieve a balance. But people generally don’t like this way of playing the game. There is a cat-call for such people: “sau chuhe kha ke billi Haj ko chali” (meaning the cat is going on Haj after eating 100 rats). But I fail to understand what the cat has got to do with all this and why she has to go on Haj.

Anyways, I hope you’re impressed with my skills at balancing deen and duniya. I’ve explained to you point by point in great detail about all the requirements you are looking for in your future husband. I know I’m Mr. Right for you. I sincerely hope you will overlook my lack of “family-orientation”. There is no way in hell my family can become Chinese. Also, please do not insist on life-long commitment, if I don’t find that size will you settle for any other size? Please let me know.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Already loving you so much,

Your would-be husband.