“How will you know when it is for real?” my best friend asked, her voice tinged with frustration.
She was frustrated because I had just fallen in love for the thirty-sixth time.
We were house doctors in our alma mater. She had followed my love lives through four-and-a-half years of medical college, through internship, and she was still there, sympathetic but frustrated, through house job number two.
“I will know,” I said, confident as only a dyed-in-the-wool romantic can be. Had any of the heroines in my beloved Mills and Boons ever not known true love when it hit them in the face? I would know.
“You are such a scaredy cat!” Ranj hadn’t given up. She was determined to get me to admit that I was a flibberty-gibbet! “You only moon over unattainable men! Your love affairs are always one-sided! They are not even love affairs; they are just ….” she shook her head trying to find the right word. “They are just crushes! You are not really looking for commitment.”
I was crushed! To have my thirty-six great loves reduced to the level of crushes was heartbreaking, yet something held me back from making a scathing retort. Instinctively, I knew Ranj was right. She knew me as well as I knew myself. My epic love life was just time-pass. I would moon over a guy because he played great basketball, or taught us amazing surgical concepts. The tell-tale sign was that there were common factors to all my loves, and Ranj had hit the nail on the head; they invariably had to be shorter than me, and they had to ignore me completely! Gosh! I thought. I don’t really want to be in love. I am just in love with the drama of unrequited love!
I examined the evidence: I never, ever made calf-eyes at men taller than me. I always promptly fell out of love when the object of my affection turned around and gave me a second glance.
I was just not ready to make a commitment, I realised, shocked. I was a scaredy-cat! I glared balefully at my best friend for removing the shades from my eyes! My thirty-sixth love affair turned to ashes minutes after it started!
Then my sister, Tin, older by fifteen months, succumbed to the charms of a ‘suitable boy’ in the Indian Army, and got married. Immediately, I began to feel the pressure of family expectations. The search began. It was a tough call. He would have to be taller than me (I am five-feet ten in my bare feet); a doctor (my wish) and of my faith (my family’s wish). And he would have to not be from the Defence services (I had them all of my growing years, I did not want any more wheels on my feet!)
This was scary business. I remembered Ranj’s words, “How will you know?”
What if I didn’t know? What if I made a ghastly mistake?
The first potential spouse I was scheduled to meet was a doctor born and bred in America. That was easy! I didn’t want to settle abroad. He was eye-candy but I felt no tingle.
The next one was eye-candy too; a doctor, tall (obviously!), and nerdy. The flip side? He was thirty-two to my twenty-three years, and a ‘feet-firmly-planted-on-the-earth’ Virgo to my ‘flighty’ Sagittarius. Nevertheless, I tingled and my heart sang; but I was thirty-six times bitten, so I decided not to jump in both feet first. We met again, we chatted medicalese, I still felt the electricity.
So far so good, I thought. Let’s see if I turn tail and run, like I always do.
And then he said the words that were to change my life for ever.
“There is something you need to know,” he said, looking fearlessly into my eyes. “I have a hole in the heart, a small one, but nevertheless something you should know about before you make up your mind.”
Whoosh! In the time it took him to catch his breath I had made up my mind. The man was precious. Not only did he make the blood sing in my veins, but he was as intrepid and honest as any Army man. If he was honest about potentially incriminating data before I said yes, what talents was I going to discover after we were married?
As far as I was concerned, the deal was clinched. But I wasn’t about to make it easy for him. I racked my brains for something that I could use to scare him off.
“Well, er…” I said, not to be outdone, “I have stretch marks on my back. And that’s a chickenpox scar on my forehead.”
He smiled. “I guess you grew tall so fast, your cellulite couldn’t keep up. And that round mark on your forehead? I can barely see it!”
A handsome hunk with a sense of humour?
“So when do we get married?” I asked, impatient as only a Sagittarian can be.
“Take your time,” the Virgo said. “Why don’t you let your parents decide?”
Would wonders never cease? A patient handsome hunk with a respect for family and a sense of humour! Just what the doctor ordered. Thirty happily married years later, as I sit writing this, I realise that you can tell when the real thing stares you in the face.