‘I can’t believe my folks are looking for a rishta!’ Manasi declared at lunch hour.

‘Really? Wow, thats great!’ I was already imagining Manu in wedding splendour next to a faceless bejewelled man on some red podium. Hmm…now what would I wear?

‘What’s so great? I’m only 26!’

‘So? Better early than never. Besides, 26 is not  that early-you keep on talking about getting married anyway!’ I needed two solid outfits. Atleast. I mean even South Indian weddings had a sangeet and a reception nowadays. Oooooh, what if it was a destination wedding?

‘Yes, but not to a stranger! Not without love!’

‘That’s your problem,’ wacko Shweta took a disinterested swig at her beer and declared. I dont know why we were friends with her.

‘What?’ Manu looked disturbed.

‘That you believe in this concept of love’

‘Lets not start,’ I frowned, their bickering drawing me away from visions of a Bahama-Beach white wedding. Of course, I would be the bridesmaid, so what if Manasi was a Hindu? ‘Anyway, what’s so bad about an Arranged Marriage? Remember, Arranged Marriages are successful marriages.’

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‘And thats your problem,’ Shwets told me as she took another swig (for the record, she was allowed to drink beer at office lunch only because we still hadn’t discovered a non-alcholic way to get her to start her day).  ‘You think there is such a thing as a ‘successful marriage”.

I made angry eyes at her and cut across to Manu, ‘So who’s the guy?’

“An IIT-IIM banker. Tam-Bram of course.’

‘Oooooh! Sounds perfect!’ Shwets drooled sarcily.

I ignored her. ‘When are his folks coming to your place?’

Manu stared at me.  ‘Folks? What do you think this is? 1995? Oh My God! Do you expect me to wear a Kanjeevaram silk and bring out a tray of tea and samosas?’ She burst out into peals. Even Shwets was looking dumbstruck (for once). I felt myself turning red and dug deeper into my tiffin.

When she was done, Manu said kindly and slowly (or did I just imagine that?), ‘Sweetie, I’m only going to meet him. That is,  I’m supposed to meet him today at a coffee shop. At 7pm. Only I’m not going,’ she declared defiantly.

I tried to shake the ‘silk-sari-and-curious-extended-family’ image  from my head. ‘You mean, your parents wont see him? And vice-versa?’

‘No, dummy. My bhabhi knew his family, so she gave him my id and he sent me an email asking if we could have a coffee today. And ”we’ll see how it goes from there.”’ She made quotation marks in the air.

‘Wow! Sounds like a blind date. Not that I’ve ever been on one,’ I looked across at Shwets for confirmation.

‘Yes. Thats how Arun and I met-on a blind date in a coffee shop.’ Contrary to logic, wacko Shwets had a totally normal, rich and very handsome husband five years younger than her. And their relationship was so MFEO (made-for-each-other). And no, no matter what Shwets says, I dont think every relationship except mine is MFEO.

 ‘Ok, let me get this straight,’ I wanted to clarify, ‘your family has  arranged a ‘Blind date’ for you because they’re getting worried. You hate the idea. Wow! That doesnt sound like an Arranged Marriage at all. It sounds like the script of a typical Hollywood chick flick.’ 

‘Yeah Sandy, welcome to 2011,’ Shwets remarked drily.

Manu was chewing her lip thoughfully. From long experience of working with her, I knew she was going to arrive at a (rather obvious) momentous conclusion. ‘Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad.  I suppose there’s no harm in going. For all you know he could be ‘the one.”

We relaxed. And Manu went on, ‘I mean, sure, there wont be this thrill of running away and getting married against your parent’s wishes in some mandir, but hey, who does that nowadays?’

‘Who did that ever?’ Shwets muttered. We ignored her.

‘And he does sound nice. You know he signed off with ‘Cheers’ in his email. I like people who sign off with ‘Cheers’-its informal and confident. A ‘thank you’ is so subservient, na?’

Ok, now she was going too far with this. What is it with tough women and love? At work. Manu was tough-as-nails, Group-manager-at-26, but at the very mention of possible love, she melted like a forlorn teen.

I hated to burst her bubble, but I had to try to save her from getting hurt. ‘Hey, careful! Let’s not expect too much.’

Manu woke up and retorted, ‘Of couse not. He’s probably a freak show. We’ll just have coffee and see where it goes,’ she shrugged and walked off, but couldn’t escape that faraway look in her eyes.

‘You have to kiss many a useless prince before you find a good frog,’ Shwets muttered as we watched her go.