The ManHunt by Tara Kaushal

June 2007: My experience of being single in my twenties.

So I’ve just recently become single again after many years of being committed in some form or another. And my hormones are driving me up the wall. I am on the ManHunt. Capital M, capital H. I’m in the ‘All is fair in love and lust’ Zone. I’m pulling out all the stops. The make-up kit is back out, dusted and ready-to-use. The pub-visiting and party-hopping days, abandoned when I was about 20, are here again. Contact lenses, long forsaken for the ease-of-use of spectacles, are being worn again. My two cute doggesses and one gorgeous dog are being paraded everywhere, as showstoppers and conversations starters. I’ve been walking into the Versova Barista (for reasons apparent only to me!) and walking out after sashaying to the counter and back, a dramatic flick of the head thrown in for good measure. The weight-loss-and-dermatologist beauty plan is in full swing. Relationships put you in a complacent, relaxed zone that I’m now officially out of: I’ve taken to wearing uncomfortable and pinchy frilly lace underwear, hiding my comfortable cottons in my cupboard—relics of a different lifestyle.

I have been ruthless in my quest. My MSN ‘Personal Message’ reads—‘Beautiful. Brilliant. 24. Single. Why?’, in the hope that someone on my list of contacts will bite the bait or sense the pain and set me up. I’ve been badgering my friends to go through their phone books and locate suitable boys. Besides the beauty and brains and all that, they are to inform every guy who shows potential of my USP—I am a cheap date. I don’t drink and barely eat. Now, you would think I’d be flooded with calls and numbers. No. My friends say that I have too many criteria—each presents one or two measly names after much thought and soul-searching. My friend Sahil, on hearing my demands, said they were so elaborate and exacting that I’d never find a guy to fuck, let alone live Happily-Ever-After with. Which is a really unfair thing to say—I’m not being choosey. At all.

I’ve even considered getting myself a profile on Now, wouldn’t that be fun: 24-year-old bohemian dilettante who writes for a living seeks a non-matrimonial alliance with a man who must fulfill all the following criteria. The guy must—

a)      Be taller than I am in heels—so over 6 feet
b)      Be clean-shaven
c)      Smell beautiful
d)      Be dark-skinned
e)      Be right-brained: very, very creative
f)       Not live with parents
g)      Not be an engineer, doctor, MBA, CA or any other corporate type
h)      Not be a wannabe model/actor type
i)       Love dogs
j)       Love dancing
k)      Love music
l)       Love reading
m)     Love the sea
n)      Be feminist and unconventional
o)      Be good in bed (this bit I’m willing to find out for myself, thank you)
Religion, caste (what’s that?), income, family and social standing (and all that shit) no bar.

Now tell me, logically, whether these basics are too much to ask for? This can hardly be called 'expecting too much'. Anyway, I’ve been on a few dates over the last few weeks. A few stray men—none of whom would have got even 50% on the criteria test above. What were my friends thinking? What was I thinking? For alliterative purposes, I’ve classified them as the following—

Mr Date: There have been two ‘Mr Dates’. The perfect gentlemen. Came to pick me up on time, with flowers and all. Took me out. To a ‘right’ restaurant. Opened the door. Made polite, non-sexual, non-flirtatious conversation at the table. Discussed the weather, President (dimwit) Bush and all the right things. Thoroughly disapproved of my wrestling for the cheque or suggesting that we go Dutch (this part I didn’t mind so much)! Dropped me home. Walked me to the door. At a decent time. Must have taken a cue from my incessant yawning.

You may have even forgotten that I’ve been talking about two different men with whom I went on two separate dates. I could almost hear them flipping the pages of date-etiquette books in their respective heads. Thank you, good night, bye-bye. All you get is a peck on the cheek.

Mr Hate: The other extreme was this angst-ridden man I went out with once. Just once. And I lived at my shrink’s for a whole week after. Took many steps back in therapy. A creative-type—a wannabe film director. Decent looking. Intelligent. Lovely long hair. Goatee. But the conversation—that was another thing entirely. Talked 19 to the dozen. Which is great. But think whine and vinegar. As acerbic as acerbic gets. I listened to his rant against the world for two whole hours. My eyes were trying to decide whether to be glazed-over or teary.

Thank you, nice to meet you. I value my sanity too much to be with you. And there is good in the world. Go smell some flowers. Get some spirituality or something.

Mr Late: Being late is my prerogative. Fuck feminism and equality. I’ve gleaned my ideas of romance from the romance genre and The Archies! I remember one story in particular. Betty Cooper has been waiting all day for Archie to call. And when he does call, she tells her mother that she won’t pick up immediately so he doesn’t know she’s been waiting. And there’s this other time where Veronica gives Betty advice on how to play hard-to-get. Being late and making the guy wait topped the list. So when the guy arrives late, it disorients me and disrupts my well-laid-out plan of action.

Mr Late was to meet me at 8. At 7.50, I got a message informing me that he was leaving home. Which is in Bandra. I stay in Versova. Even those of you who own a helicopter (which he didn’t) know that 10 minutes doesn’t get you from Bandra to Versova, no matter what. When he finally arrived at 9, I was in bed. Thank you and goodnight. No, sorry, I’ve changed my mind. Yes, I am a real bitch.

Mr Fate: My parents met on a road. On Breach Candy. The dog my dad was walking jumped on my mom and dropped the apples she’d been carrying. And I’ve lived burdened with those bizarrely unrealistic expectations of romance since I was a little girl. So when something romantic and filmy happens between a guy and me, I have violins going off in my head. I imagine Happily-Ever-After. The words, 'This was meant to be and 'Janam-janam ka saath' and all that.

So imagine what must have run through my head when I met a guy I’d had a crush on when I was 12, and had been thinking about recently, at an obscure bookstore in Bandra on a Tuesday afternoon. And imagine what must have run through my head when, over coffee half-an-hour later, he showed me pictures of his wife and newborn daughter. 

Mr Rate: Mr Rate is rich. That’s all I knew about him when I agreed to go on this blind date. Though money is not part of my criteria, it works in the absence of many other things on the list. This rich man lived and breathed money. All he did was discuss money, ask for rates and analyse costs. I saw it, I sensed it. On our date, I was so acutely aware of his value-for-money policy that I couldn’t get myself to waste anything that was served to us—not even the toothpick.

As I recover from the havoc the toothpick has caused going down my digestive track, I’m fairly certain Mr Rate won’t foot or even share my hospital bill.

Mr Mate: So there was the ‘model-type’. A type I’d specifically put an embargo on. I cannot imagine myself with a man whose t-shirts are tighter than mine are, who is more narcissistic than I am. And I’m fairly convinced that male models are as daft as their female counterparts are portrayed as being.

Within 30 seconds of our set-up phone conversation, I’d realised that there was really no point going on the date. All I’d do was get bored. Attempting to understand the Jat-accented English. Attempting to find some brain in all that brawn. So when he showed up, I just cut out the preliminaries. It was fun. Yes baby, yesss, yessss…

So I’ve done Mr Date, Mr Hate, Mr Late, Mr Fate, Mr Rate and Mr Mate. Now all I’m really waiting for is Mr Great. Any leads?

An edited version of this article appeared in Man's World in June 2007. 

I LOLed when I read it again to upload—the friend Sahil who I mention in the article was Mr Great all along. We got together 15-or-so months after this article was published, and have been together since.