Ananthalakshmi was born in an auspicious hour. Under the right star. When she was in school, she learnt the pop-palmistry of teenage years. If you fold your palm, the small squiggles between the base of your smallest finger and your heart line would tell you the exact number of children you were going to have. She was going to have two. A girl and a boy. Or as the more professional palmist explained, a girl and a lesbian. It was hard to tell these days.
The conspiracy of the universe ensured that Ananthalakshmi had the perfect horoscope. If a boy’s horoscope didn’t match with hers, he was probably doomed to leading a life of loneliness anyway. But for some reason, she was being rejected. It wasn’t her complexion. Like her character, it was practically flawless. It wasn’t her height. She was a safe five feet and three inches. Shorter than most men, but tall enough to produce healthy looking babies. Slim, but blessed with the sort of hips that promised an easy delivery. With the rising costs of gynaecologists and hospital care, future mothers-in-law look for wide pelvic bones.
But she was losing out in Round 8. Round 8 was a new device.
On the advice of a rather cosmopolitan and experienced mother-in-law, (four sons. One in Chicago, one in New York, one in a hamlet of California and one in London) Round 8 required prospective brides to clear a test. Called the IBCT or the Iyer Bride Competency Test, it was administered by the Royapettah Omapodi Industries, who had entered new businesses after going bankrupt.
The IBCT had 121 questions. To be finished in 90 minutes. All of them were multiple choice questions. Depending on the industry of the boy’s employment, the IBCT had various versions. IBCT-e for Engineering Grooms. IBCT-i for Investment Bankers.
They tested the delicate balance required for a cosmopolitan bride. Our Ananthalakshmi kept failing the test. She joined one of the many mushrooming (and mushrooms, by the way, must be marked as Non-Iyer food but Vegetarian in question number 92) IBCT tutorial centres that had started in various corners of Mylapore. As she mugged the answers, the shortcuts, the trigonometric solutions to the quant section, she still struggled. She failed yet another mock test. And her guide taunted her. He showed her a question, “What does the perfect wife do when her husband comes home drunk?“. There were five options
a) Call his mother
b) Make kashayam number 234 to get rid of possible hangover
c) Talk to him
d) Start drinking alcohol
e) None of the above.
“Anantha.. Anantha..”, said her guide, “you marked the wrong option ma. You shouldn’t talk to him. You had to mark option e. None of the above“.
Confused, Ananthalakshmi looked up. Her doe eyes questioning and pleading. Should she merely watch on her as her husband transformed into a drunkard? The guide instead let a deep sigh out and said, “The correct answer is none of the above, because Iyer boys never drink. So it is an impossible situation.”
Our Ananthalakshmi smiled. Yes, Iyer boys are very pure. Her marital life was going to be perfect after all.