Quest for the Perfect brow – Narayani Das, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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Simran’s phone rings. Without bothering to see who it is, she answers, “Yes, Ma”.
Her mom without wasting time in inanities says, “What are you doing tomorrow evening?”
“Not again.Not here.” she sighs rolling her eyes.
Simran is on a month-long official trip to London. She had looked it as a respite from the relentless trials her mom made her undergo. Her mom was known to be an adept matchmaker. She escaped the claws of her mom’s expertise till she hit her 30’s. Then her mom summoned up all her past experience. First, on convincing her that it was time she settled down in matrimonial bliss. The message reached her subtly at first which she overlooked deliberately. Then some her friends were taken into confidence by her mom for this purpose. When that failed, her mom resorted to threatening calls and blackmails. Who said violence is the last refuge of only the incompetent. Simran surrendered. As competent as her mother was, overnight she and her expansive network went on an overdrive. Every day began with bombardment of prospective candidates. Weekend or no weekend, her free time was swallowed up. But somehow nothing worked out.
But her mom is certainly not the one who gives up so easily.She is in no mood to listen. “I have mailed you the details. Got to go…” She hangs up.
Had she been in Pluto or Mars, her mother would have conjured up profiles. Perhaps of aliens.To think of it, the slimy green creatures would be been less slimier than some she had been subjected to endure. She put them into five categories. First: the highbrow, the crème da la crème from Ivy League institutions whose brows twitch at the sight of unsightly beings – those who don’t belong to the similar background. The jholla-carrying activist types from the other end of spectrum also belong to this group. They disdain those who don’t share their views especially on social or environmental causes. Second: the middlebrow, the men from non-descript colleges but who have moved up the corporate ladder swiftly. They tend to camouflage their deep-down insecurity by boasting about their work, holiday trips abroad and swanky cars. Third: the lowbrow, who every 10 minutes excuse themselves to spit out the tobacco or have a smoke. And also in it are the perpetually hair-flicking, protein shake-carrying men with gym-trained bodies in age inappropriate outfits. When they fiddle with their phones, you know they are admiring their own images on the front camera. Fourth: the unibrow, the mushy species straight out of Yash Chopra films looking for soul mates swearing by love for seven lives.Fifth: the furrowedbrow – the forever worry kinds with apocalypse, catastrophe, calamity etc. astheir favorite words in the dictionary. And Simran’s quest for that perfect one continues.
She heads to office for a meeting. In her spare time, she checks the mail from her mother. Sandeep’sbio seems interesting. She decides to give it a go and sends a mail to him asking him to meet at an Indian restaurant near her office. To which, she gets a quick response saying a yes.
The next morning the phone rings. “Yes, Ma.”
“Meeting him today? Take care and don’t jump to conclusions about his personality or judge him before introspecting. Got to go…”

Simran thinks of taking a little extra care of her appearance while picking a dress from her wardrobe. But later drops the idea. No pretentions, she resolves. She was quite attractive and always been happy in her body which was slightly on the plumper side.
The day goes busyas usual. And at the end of the day, she goes to meet him.There were not many people in the eatery and she tries to find a suitable table for two. She is a bit early and assumes Sandeep wouldn’t have arrived. Just then she notices him approaching her. It was not difficult recognizing him. Fit and good-looking just as he did in the photograph. He is particular about time, I already like him, she thinks to herself.
“Sandeep? I hope I didn’t keep you waiting. “
“Not at all. In fact I was early,” he says as he pulls the chair for her.
And gets a 10/10 on manners, she thinks.
After a few exchanges on the day and work, she finds herself dropping her formal tone. “I am famished. Should we order?”
She orders a beer and kababs. “And you?”
“I don’t drink. Just plain water for me. “He continues. “And I am on a fast. “
Simran stares at him with a gaped mouth.
He quickly gauges her reaction and explains,” No religious reasons. I do these intermittent fasting for detoxification. As it is I strictly follow a gluten-free diet. And I doubt the menu has any to offer.”
“A ..what diet…?” she fumbles.
“As in found in wheat, many grains and so on…” He stops again after looking at her.” Never mind”
Simran visualizes her day which begins with ghee laden alooparathas with a dollop of pickle in the morning. She normally picks up a burger for lunch and her day invariably ends with butter chicken. Those friends who winced at her dietary choices got discarded rather unconsciously. Her intimate friends have similar appetite and preferences.
“No 1: mismatch point. And already trying to make me feel inferior”, she thinks to herself and says squinting her eyes,” any past illnesses or allergies which led you to it”.
“No, a conscious decision to prevent those. Moreover, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been my priority.”
Fitness and she share an oxymoronic relationship. A change of topic is what she desires at this point but to her own surprise ends up saying,” But you are quite fit.”
“ Yes, an hour of yoga and weight training for physical fitness and couple of minutes of meditation. ““No2: mismatch point. Humble-bragger? Eh? Already indicating at my weight issue,” she thinks warily of her occasional strolls in the park and says,” I don’t have that luxury of time. You see.”
The discussion shifts to hobbies. Adventure sports were his and she had none to speak about. And the talk gears towards their childhood and academics. The number of mismatches seems to be increasing exponentially.
She can’t take it any further and excuses herself to the washroom where she calls her mom. “From where on the earth do you unearth such specimens? Selfish, narcissistic, oh-so pretending to be this uber-sexual…The conversation is going nowhere…not a single point where we meet…I am leaving, mom.”
“Wait. Calm down. I told you earlier don’t be hasty. If I am not mistaken, he also loves to read…from what I remember from his profile,” her mom says.
“Ok! One last attempt…” she says and hangs up.
She goes back, finding him seated at ease and thinks,” perhaps meditating on the tall glass of water in front.”
“So you’re also fond of books…so what have you been reading lately… fiction or non-fiction”, she asks drily expecting him to answer,” I read only motivational books on self-development.”
“Sapiens”, he replied.
Now she is wide-eyed with interest. That was precisely what she was reading at the moment. Quite unwillingly in her mind, she nevertheless gives a ‘no 1: match point’.
“Am actually rereading it savoring each page of it”, he says.
“Exactly the same here.”
The discussion on books leads them to talk about their world views. They agree on many things, disagree on many. They go on talking for hours.

As they leave, it’s dark outside. Simran misses a step and twists her ankle.
“Give me a hand. Don’t worry. I will drop you home.”
He supports her to the door as they reach her place. “So we meet again?”
“What are doing this Friday?” she says.
“Perhaps the sixth category: the perfectbrow”, she mulls.

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