It is 8 a.m. on a September Sunday in New Delhi. The garden below is still fresh and green before the heat of the day, and pigeons bill and coo on the air-conditioning unit outside the bedroom window. There is a discreet knock at the door, and a tray of ‘bed tea’ is silently placed beside us, accompanied by the morning papers. As I sip (tea with hot milk – an unfamiliar taste), I turn to my favourite section of the Hindustan Times, the ten pages of ‘Matrimonials’:
Alliance invited from Handsome & Well Educated Boy, High Status Industrialist/Business Class, Highly Placed Professional for 24/164 V B’ful, fair, slim, convented Engineer Daughter from High Status Affluent South Delhi Based Punjabi Family . . .
Handsome Boy, Gursikh, Teetotaler, Non-Trimmer, B. Com 2 5/183 running family business with high income residing in own bungalow seeks proposal from really beautiful sober cultured homely educated girl from respectable high status family with religious values. Please send Bio-Data and photo if possible . . .
For some reason I find these urgent wants ads compulsive reading. But this is our first visit to India, and though I can read the words, I can’t read between the lines, as I could at home. The matrimonial world they hint at is fascinating and mysterious. So what a treat it was, back in England, to come across The Uncoupling, a touching yet wickedly funny portrait of a mature Indian marriage that had started out in just this way.
Balu and Janaki are visiting their precious only son Ram and his wife, a modern young couple who have left Madras to settle in Norwich. And Ram, wanting his parents to make the most of their
stay (and perhaps also hoping for a bit of a breather), has arranged a trip for them, a ‘European Kaleidoscope’ coach tour, which whisks them bewilderingly from Amsterdam along the Rhine and the Danube to Switzerland and back.
The Allsights tour, with its relentles
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