Jagadambal is concerned. Her son is 28 and still single. Her heart sinks at the thought of a grown Iyer man having to make his own meals. Having to sort out his own laundry. He went there at the tender age of 21. Studied, and found a job. Yes, it was time he got married.
She’s worried that he might decide to ruin his character by associating with a white woman. Or a black woman. Or even a brown woman with the wrong lineage. She was his mother. It was her duty to find him a nice Iyer girl. Someone with a BTech, a job and hands that cooked like hers. On the phone, she tells him to send her some good photographs. They will be touched with a spot of turmeric, and bundled with his horoscope. On second thoughts, only the photographs would be sent, she decides. These days, scheming parents often tailor their children’s horoscopes to cheat guileless prospective brides and grooms.
He sends her some photographs. Being thin was more a sign of prosperity, than being plump. She drops the winter photographs, and combs through the summer ones. There’s one of him near an old crumbling ruin. He looks smart. Even outgoing. But in the corner of the photograph, she notices the milky white arm of a young girl. She doesn’t want his future in-laws to think he has anything to do with women. The photograph is rejected. In the next one, he’s sitting in an open air café. The food she decides, doesn’t look South Indian enough. What if people think that he’s started eating non vegetarian food? She knows he’s still strictly a pure vegetarian. But the food on his plate looks red and squishy. It could give people ideas.
She moves onto the next photograph. Her last hope for this batch. He’s wearing a clean pair of jeans, but he has a full sleeve shirt on. He looks like a wonderful mix of traditional and modern. He has the beginnings of a smile on his face. Very fetching.
She finishes her dinner. Goes back to the photograph. This time however, she spots something. A can of beer, about six feet away from him. She knows he doesn’t consume alcohol. But who will believe that a boy who has been abroad for seven years hasn’t touched the forbidden drink. It doesn’t even look like it’s his. But she cannot risk it. One such photograph has ruined many a matrimonial career. With a heavy heart, she opens the cupboard, and picks out the photograph taken in Ranganatha Studio for his visa application. He doesn’t look too smart. But at least there are no stray female arms, no discarded beer cans and no sign of non vegetarian habits. Yes, this photograph will have to do.