If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, why on earth is my Aditi still single?
Aayi had asked the question a million times in the last 10 years and at least a dozen times this morning.. Not once did she see Aditi wince, which she did each time.
Aayi almost made her regret the deft magic she could spin in the kitchen. The kind that left people scraping the bottoms of serving dishes and licking their fingers at the end of each meal.
Aditi tuned off and turned to scrubbing away the small but thick and gooey mess left behind by the pakora batter that she had just finished putting together for this evening’s visitors. The drops of besan, prettily specked with red chili powder and green methi, clung stubbornly to the black soapstone kitchen platform.
Another Sunday about to go down the drain, she thought silently, pulling the loose end of her sari around her waist to tuck it in and out of the way. Another day of cooking one dish after another to lure some stranger and his family.
They would praise the food, smile politely, ask her a couple of questions, and then take off never to be seen again. Weeks later they would send word through Nadkarni, the matchmaker, that the girl was okay but it wouldn’t work...she was too dark.
Or too short. Or too tall.
Someone had even turned her down because, they said, she looked too intelligent.
“You should never have gotten that master’s degree,” Aayi would say after each missive rejecting the daughter she adored. “Who’s going to marry you if you’re more educated than the groom is? You even make more money than most of these men do! They have their pride, you know.”
Aditi could think of a million things to say to that, but she swallowed them all. Arguing with Aayi usually ended with the older woman crying a bucket, and that was too much for Aditi to deal with right now. She still had to put together the rest of the meal.
These matchmaking events, usually so momentous for a young woman, had turned for Aditi into routines that arrived with certain and unwelcome regularity. They had started 10 years ago, right after she turned 21. Each episode began with Nadkarni bustling unctuously through the door, smiling ear to ear. Panting visibly like a dog with even her tongue hanging out a little, except there was nothing cute about the square, eager face. Oil would have seeped out from her hair and onto her forehead, and over it the heat would have formed perfectly round beads of perspiration