The other day I got a call from a long-lost friend of mine from college. And, as I always do when old college friends call me, I quickly asked him if he had seen a pair of burgundy and orange swimming trunks. I had lost them in 3rd year and have never seen them since except for a chance encounter in Bombay airport. Alas he had not and all he wanted was to check if I knew someone called Boris (not actual name) from Kanpur (not actual place) who may have studied with me in business school (not an actual school). He was apparently carrying out a secret background check on Boris for matrimonial purposes.
Let me assure you these are some of the most awkward phone calls you can ever receive. Even the most fun-loving (meaning mildly criminal) of people turn into massively self-rightesous zombies when they need to verify a person's marriageability. Now my friend, who we will call Friend, had miraculously turned into this malicious Jesuit from the Inquisitions. Every aspect of Boris's personality was ripped apart for the merest trace of moral weakness. The conversation was terse and highly unpleasant.
"So does Boris drink?"
"A little bit..."
"Good god..." said Friend. (Flashback to college when Friend routinely downed 7 bottles of beer and a couple of bottles of a whisky at a sitting. He even opened them sometimes.)
"But not too much, he was just a social drinker..."
"Thats how they all start. A few drinks in college, then a couple on the weekends at work. And before you know he is a wife-beating criminal..." (Friend conveniently forgot the time when he had one too many screwdrivers, picked up a cricket bat and beat the living daylights out of a goalpost. They later settled out of court.)
"And does he smoke? Tobacco? any of those other unspeakable plants?..." (To this day in Trichy they talk of the Great Smog of 1999, which was traced to Friend's room. He had smoked his way through a whole 4-kilo sack of premium fresh, run out, and was imbibing, out of desperation, the vapours of unwashed bed linen when we found him.)
"Nope nothing I knew of..."
'Hmm... I will need better sources. Sources who have more concern than you do for a poor girl's future..." (Friend holds the record for maximum arrests for eve-teasing in Thuvakudi police station history. A women's college was out on a "March for Literacy" and he was arrested for 43 violations in the space of 37 minutes. A plaque in the station commemorates the event and is a popular tourist attraction)
"But Boris is a nice guy. You have nothing to worry..."
"I will be the judge of that. And finally for 25 points did he have any affairs, romances and intimate interludes in college I should be aware of?"
"No da just the usual fooling around with the juniors..."
"Good god!! Sidin how can you speak of this so lightly??!! Wake up man!! Boris is a blackguard and a vagabond!!"
"No no he is a wonderful guy. Absolutely brilliant guy. If I could I would have married him!!!"
"What? Now you say he goes the other way?"
"No what I meant was any woman would want to marry him. He is a highly eligible bachelor..."
"Are you saying my little petunia is ANY woman for you?..." (Petunia was Friend's nickname for his sister. In turn she called him Tinku)
"No no sorry sorry..."
"Hmm... fine... and please dont tell me he is one of those porn junkies..." (Sometime in second year the college was moving to bring down an illegal construction adjacent to my hostel. Only to discover that it was Friend's bound collection of debs and playboys.)
"ENOOUGH!! No I think calling you was a big mistake... I know other people from your business school too you know..."
"No I have heard enough..."
"Ok I am sorry yaar.."
"And just so that you know... I DO HAVE YOUR BURGUNDY SWIMMING TRUNKS..."