Srinivasan was getting worried. It was 9.30 and there was no sign of the boy's family nor a phone call nor a message. They said they would be there by nine. A bridal inspection is not an event one is late to attend.
"Most boys look forward to these kind of things", he thought to himself.
"On the other hand being the boy's side they might not want to look too eager. It would look cheap. Right, right" asserted another part of him.
"Did they meet with an accident, did they forget something, did they drive by this house and deem it inferior, or did they not find the house at all- how can someone not find an address in Jayanagar, all mains and crosses are so well marked, or did they have any last minute reversal, God forbid", his speculations continued.
Already four boys had come for the bridal inspection. Some rejected Gita and others where rejected by her. With the current trend finding a suitable boy itself was a task in itself. It was now three years since he first started looking for a son-in-law.
He went in and had another look at the arrangements. The cool drink was in the fridge, the glasses were arranged on a plate, there was sufficient milk for coffee, enough snacks and his sister was standing by, ready to make hot vadai. It was her speciality. She made it on all previous occasions and every family complimented her. The chairs were well cushioned, fresh covers were laid on them( they were reserved for such occasions, packed neatly into the cupboard there after). The rest of the furniture in the living room was well dusted. A few paintings which Gita had done hung on wall, he show-cased them to every family much to the embarrassment of Gita.
He went out again, the dog was chained in the backyard and it was silent. "Even it has got used to this ceremony once in a while. Good dog", he thought and smiled.
A car appeared. Another followed. Srinivasan looked on eagerly. They slowed down and halted in front of his gate. Srinivasan went out to greet them. His brother-in-law having heard the cars came out and joined the welcome wagon.
"My son forgot his passport", began a lady, Srinivasan assumed she might be the boy's mother, "We had to go back to get it, we didn't think it would cause this much delay".
"Oh! No problem, its okay", responded Srinivasan politely. "What an excuse ?!", he thought to himself, "A man who supposedly travels regularly by plane doesn't forget something as important as his passport. They just want to assert their superiority as the boy's side". But he didn't mind, he was used to such behaviour. After all, this was not the first marriage that he had to see through. He had experienced such situations during his sister's marriage.
"Raghu is leaving by the evening flight, so he will be leaving for the airport directly from here", continued the lady.
"More show off", Srinivasan thought, "Very well, very well, good thing that we were able to fit this conveniently", he said.
He led them inside and seated them. A special chair was reserved for the boy and he was duely seated in it. The lady seemed to be rather pleased by this. She beamed intently at the boy and he in reply sunk his head into his shoulders.
After the introductions, general enquires where carried about. Srinivasan asked if they had any trouble finding the house to which the boy's father replied that he had none. "How can some one not find an address in Jayanagar?" said he, a comment which Srinivasan found very much agreeable, "I used to live here some ten years back and then we bought our own house in Whitefield and so left, but excellent area", the man nodded to himself, not requiring any ones assent. Srinivasan however could not refrain from saying a word or two about his beloved colony and replied "True, true, every thing is so close by and convenient".
Another round of enquires resumed, this time about the ancestry of each other's family. The lady went on to say how they were a very recognised family in their native town of Kumbakonam. Supposedly, the boy's grandfather was a priest in one of the temples there and that sealed the matter. Everyone agreed how great it was to be a temple priest in Kumbakonam. Srinivasan's brother-in-law, a more religious man than Srinivasan, enquired what this priest was called. It was something of the nature of Govindan Iyengar or Ramanujam Iyengar, Srinivasan was not bothered much, but his brother-in-law immediately said that he recognised him and went on to explain in detail how he did so. The boy's father was very much pleased. He seemed to a rather content man. The very fact that his possible daughter-in-law could be from Jayanagar filled him with great enthusiasm.
As his brother-in-law went on about his story, Srinivasan quickly saw how many people accompanied the boy. This was a very important matter. He had theorized that if the boy's family were accompanied by many relatives it clearly meant that the boy's parents were not so sure about their choice and so they brought in as many of their relatives to get a second (third or even fourth) opinion. On the other hand, if only his immediate siblings or aunt/uncle came along, it meant that the parents had pretty much made up their mind and brought the said aunt/uncle just in case they missed some fine detail.
In the current gathering, he found that it was the latter case and was very much relieved. Only the boy's elder brother and his wife, a rather stout woman, and his aunt and come along. "Right, they are pretty much sure then. Good thing. Now if only Gita likes the boy".
The boy in question was typical of his generation. Spectacles decorated his face, a sign of intensive coaching during his +2 days for various entrance exams; He wore a stripped full sleeved shirt, most probably his Monday wear to the Software company where he worked; In his hand was a rather large mobile phone, with all features squeezed in so that he could work even without his laptop; The sides of his head, where there should have been some hair, was as smooth as a cricket ball just before the match started. And he felt rather lost, now that he was not in a cubicle. "Well, if Gita likes him, I will also learn to like him", thought Srinivasan.
Presently, his sister came out with the snacks and as he had already smelt, the delectable vadai too. She was known in her whole family for the vadai and coconut chutney.
Srinivasan and his brother-in-law helped in serving them. The boy's family immediately realised that these were the work of a master chef and the mother asked promptly
"Has your daughter made these ?", to which the aunt said "No, no, these, I have made. But don't worry, Gita is a very good cook, but she generally makes North-Indian type dishes. By the time she is married I would have taught her everything about our cooking". Gita who was just at the threshold of the kitchen made it a point to give her aunt a nice shout once this inspection was over. The ladies made enquires about the formula of the batter for the vadai and Srinivasan's sister was very much obliging.
Srinivasan, not with standing the suspense, interrupted-"Laxmi, go and see if Gita is ready, will you". His sister having got the hint slipped out.
"Gita, they have almost finished, is the coffee ready ?",asked Laxmi as she went into the kitchen. "Yes", replied Gita, as she poured in the last portion of the beverage into the cups.
Now this, is what Srinivasan looked forward to. He noticed that his daugther had a very convenient, simple and sure-shot way of conveying her approval or disapproval of the boy. In his theory, which he formed after the third bridal inspection, if the coffee was cold, his daugther's decision was "I don't like him, let him drink this as fast as possible and get out of here", if it was hot, it meant "Let him be, he seems alright. Let me not hurry".
Presently, Gita came out with the tray.
"This the my girl. Her name is Sulochana. We call her Gita at home", said Srinivasan. Gita served coffee, starting from whom she thought was eldest. When she came to the boy, he whispered a gentle, "Hello". Gita gave a polite smile and said "Hello". The lady seemed very pleased with this effort of her son. It was as if she half-expected him to shy away and wet his forehead with sweat at the sign of the girl.
After having served the boy and his family, Gita turned to her folk. Her uncle got his coffee, her aunt got hers and at last, she served the remaining cup to her father.
With nervous hands, Srinvasan grabbed his cup. He took a sip. He got the verdict. He could have gulped the entire contents of the cup in one shot as if it were lukewarm water, such was its temperature.
Srinivasan's shoulders dropped and he slouched into his chair.
Gita went in without looking back.
"Well, atleast you got to eat the vadai", said a voice from inside him.
It cheered him up and made him sit up straight again.
"Onward Gentlemen! The hunt resumes".