“Buy me a bottle of poison! You want to marry an atheist?”

Samvit G Menon

Those were tough times; hard, grueling, and mentally exhausting. I was single for almost 2 years after coming out of a 6-year-long relationship.

Being cheated on does take a toll on your psyche and it’s not easy getting to trust someone again. But then, even when I felt I was ready, being out of the flirting, dating, and courting game for so long, I was rusty.

I tried hitting a few clichéd spots in pursuit of love. But love seemed to be on vacation.

The gym didn’t work, the jogger’s park didn’t work, the club didn’t work, my workplace was a desert and the ones I clicked with were already taken.

Well, there’s always the Internet, I thought. So, I went online and made myself an amazing profile on one of the several matrimonial sites that have infested the Internet.

As I kept browsing, my conviction of dying alone grew stronger with every profile I flipped through.

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And then one day, just when I was to give up all hope and call my Grandma for help, I got a call from a Malayalee girl based in Bangalore.

She spoke fluent English with no accent, loved reading, dogs, Bruce Wayne, was working for a tech giant, loved classic rock and Manchester United!

“Are you seriously real?” I asked her. This had to be a dream.

She laughed the most beautiful laugh and replied, “Of course, potta! I’m real!”

If this was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up.

She told me she was born Catholic but wasn’t particularly religious, which worked for me. I am an atheist, but didn’t mind others practicing their faith as long as they left me alone.

She knew my deal and she was fine with how I was.

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We courted for 6 months, decided it was time to meet her parents in Kerala and drove down to meet them over the weekend.

So there I was, sitting in her living room with her parents with a giant Jesus on a cross hung on the wall with a candle, flowers, a rosary, and the Old and New Testament on a small shelf just below the Cross bang opposite where I’m sitting.

Shit, I thought, this doesn’t look good.

After the usual pleasantries, we dove straight into uncomfortable details about salary and investments and future plans. From there, we shifted to religion. I decided to choose my words carefully.

“Aunty,” I said. “I was born Hindu.”

Aunty shifted uncomfortably. “A Hindu? We can’t let a Hindu marry our daughter.” She looked towards her husband, who acknowledged her with a little nod. “We don’t want to ruin our family reputation and get people talking. It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone.”

I saw this coming a mile away, and smiled. “Well, Aunty, you’ll be happy to know that I’m an atheist.”

“You’re a what?” Aunty asked, squinting a little. I wasn’t sure she knew who an atheist was.

“He doesn’t believe in God,” my girlfriend clarified.

Aunty gasped aloud. “Jesus! He doesn’t?” Clutching her chest she continued,

“How can he come here and ask for your hand when he doesn’t believe in God?”

“Aunty, I have no problems with you being religious. I’m not and that’s my choice,” I replied smiling.

“No…no…no! This won’t do!” Uncle snapped. He was clearly agitated. “I mean, being Hindu is fine. But you’re an atheist? So you what, worship Satan?”

I coughed to suppress a laugh. “No, Uncle, I don’t believe in God or religion. I’m a man of science. I’m a realist.”

Uncle and Aunty looked at each other in utter disbelief. They kept stealing glances at the cross!

My smile didn’t take long to disappear. The air was tense.

Maybe I should say something. “Uncle, realists are —–“

“Oh God! Have you thought about the kids?” Aunty asked, cutting me off midway.

“Well, your daughter says that she wants to bring them up the Catholic way, which is fine by me. But once they reach an age of understanding, I would like them to choose their religion,” I replied. Every word of it was true.

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Uncle shook his head in disbelief. He looked at his daughter, “Don’t tell me you’re okay with this crap?”

“Yes, I am! And he’s right,” my girlfriend replied. “I want the kids to decide when they’re old enough.”

Atta girl!

“If you’re going to marry him, buy me a bottle of poison first. You will first have to bury me and then you can marry him,” Aunty croaked, her voice shaking. I wasn’t sure if it was panic or despair. Perhaps, a little bit of both. But she diddraw a cross across her torso.
That did it for me.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer and let all that pent-up laughter rip right through from deep within. I exploded like dynamite, clutching my cramped-up stomach as I positively howled, involuntarily slapping the sofa with my other hand.

Oh man, the drama!!

Well, neither of us wanted to bury her before getting married and that was the end of that!

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