“Have you seen Baabul ki Bidaai ka Naam Hai Bandhan?” asked the auntie, eyes suddenly blazing with all the enthusiasm lacking from our previous forty minutes of painstakingly stilted conversation.
“Um, no,” I said cautiously. “Is it any good?”
“What, you don’t see Baa Baa Black Sheep Dulhan ka Aangan Pati Parmeshwar?” she asked, shocked. “But you just said you watch a lot of TV?”
“Er, I must have missed it.”
There was no way in hell I was going to tell this woman I didn’t watch Indian soaps. She gave off that vibe that said it wasn’t so much that she thought I was a coconut, it was just that she was waiting to check the level of my coconut-pan. As it was, sheer boredom had teased that admission of watching too much TV out of me. Admitting to my taste for firangi TV shows was sure to get me a mega lecture on Cheap Betrayal of Indian Values by Ignorant Youngsters of Today. Or worse, earn me The Auntie Look of Condemnation for the rest of my miserable wedding-attending life.
“What was the name of that show again?” I asked.
“Mohabbat Kar Li Majnun – Maa, Main Aur Mera Pati,” she said. “You must have seen the ads for it. It airs right after Kabootar Kkahe Kkkab Kkkkahan Kkkkkhoj Kkkkkkarein. It is my favorite show.”
I nodded and made vague sounds of recognition. “Oh! Ah! Yes! Of course! that one! So it’s good, is it?”
“Well, it is not as good as Tutti Frutti Ki Kurbani Ki Kahani but I like the boy very much. These boys today are very cute, no?”
“Erm, yes, I suppose so.”
“Who is your favorite?” she pounced.
“Er, ah, the cute one? I don’t remember the name of the show but there’s this girl he wants to marry but her mother is dead and her, um, aunt has manipulated her entire family into hating her and wants her to marry this horrible man. But then it turns out her mother isn’t dead, just insane and locked up in the attic of the guesthouse for the past 20 years and when this boy shows her a picture of her daughter, she becomes all right -”
“Dil Diya Daddy Dhoonda Doo Dah Doo Dah!” she squealed. “That’s my other favorite show. Yes, he’s very cute!”
“Yes,” I said, grateful to the soap-Gods for not changing the formula on me. The insane mother lost for 20 years schtick is always good for something. “That’s the show.”
“You have very good taste. But my favorite is the boy from Raksha Reth aur Rakshas ki Rekha – Life in a Hospital. So naughty! He makes me smile just by showing up on screen.”
“Ah yes! Him! He reminds me of someone else -?”
“No, no, you’re thinking of that boy from Chandini Chamke Cham Cham Choomkar – everyone says that. But I think that’s nonsense.”
“Really?” I murmured.
“But he does look like the younger brother of that boy from Singh is King Ming is Vase Waterford is Plate.”
“I wonder what happened to him?” I said, allowing myself to relax at last.
Remember kids – the trick to a successful conversation in auntie conditions is to first establish a topic of interest, then find a steady supply of noncommital leading questions, and then go with the flow. Phormoola will work with uncles also.