They have been connected on a popular social media network for five years but neither of them had spoken to each other before. Fast forward five years, they were potential matches for each other as bride and groom.
The groom was 'established' in the traditional sense - resonating with being economically sound, with a middle class remuneration while the bride was a potential careerist struggling with her second master's at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The potential groom texted the potential bride first, and a virtual tête-à-tête set to work.
Him: Hello there!
Him: Are you an Erasmus Mundus awardee?
Her: No, but people used to make the same mistake seeing the name of my university on my profile.
Him: Oh, I'm really sorry. Two of my ex-colleagues have been awarded with Erasmus Mundus Scholarship this year. I thought you are one of the 78 awardees from Bangladesh.
Her: It's perfectly fine. It's a common confusion. Let me clarify. Erasmus Mundus is a two-year full-time master's programme of four semesters at four different universities in Europe, while Erasmus+ is an exchange programme between two universities within the Erasmus+ framework. My university, although named Erasmus, is an individual one. I'm here for the one year master's degree under an OFID scholarship.
Him: Oh, my God! I was really confused. Thanks for saving me from making a fool out of myself.
After bidding goodbye, this discussion did not resume for at least the next three months. Meanwhile, the potential groom kept following her activities online. The Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown in the Netherlands and Bangladesh may have opened a new window for them to resume the conversation, and this time it was through a voice call.
What began with exchanging updates on the pandemic quickly turned into a vantage point, as it was supposed to be. They shared their ideologies, likes, dislikes, hobbies and family issues with each other and found many things in common to talk about.
The would-be bride, one day, told the would-be-groom about her ex-boyfriend of how he deserted her. She spoke to him about the three psychiatrists she had to visit in order to put the mental trauma to rest.
She also spoke to him about resorting to keeping company of other men to curb the trauma. She received proposals from more men who were more or less of similar socioeconomic background as her.
This potential groom intently listened to stories of all her relationships and tried to justify his candidacy. He was also trying to determine what her family's requirements in a groom might be. She had the mind to settle in her home country with a future goal of pursuing a PhD degree and dreamt to have a loyal husband.
Although coming from a middle class family, her fair complexion with the added bonus of holding an European degree influenced her parents to be more selective in terms of their daughter' future husband's profession and family status. Their selective attitude caused the number of interested families in the rejection list to pile up. But he still did not lose hope as she is more concerned about her choices in a future husband and she had assured him of it several times.
Intimacy between the two was gradually intensifying over the quarantined days. Not a single day passed without the two texting or talking to each other. They got accustomed to calling each other in the morning after waking up.
The girl would barely forget to share with him the photos she took of sunlight pouring through her windows and curtains, the several species of tulip in her collection and all the tourist destinations she visited.
In the meantime, he also talked to her about the girls he used to see before and filed her in about his family status. Being assured by her that she does not object to any of the past happenings, he had made up his mind to make her his life partner.
From that point on, a big part of their everyday discussion would occupy her requirements and his notes of assurances to fulfill them. As time passed, both of them confided in about the relationship with their close ones and got substantial reaffirmation from them as well.
Her repetitive fantasizing about the future with him and a continuous craving for a conjugal life sometimes made her want to return home without completing her master's. This would induce him to feel a different emotion for her which resulted in the following hard lined conversation.
Him: Can you remember our first day conversation?
Her: Yes, I do.
Him: We started with the confusion about 'Erasmus.'
Her: Do you know what the word 'Erasmus' literally means?
Him: No, I don't.
Her: In Greek, Erasmus is a name which means desired or beloved, someone who is worthy of love.
Him: Really? Oh, my God, it's really interesting.
Her: This is very coincidental. I wonder how it resembles my thoughts this way. I have something to share with you.
Him: Please do. Why are you seeking permission?
Her: I think it's time we settle the issue between us. I never want to hurt you in any way. We developed a wonderful friendship during the last two months, and I never ever want to ruin it.
Him: Why will you ruin it? I consider our relation to be more than friendship.
Her: More than friendship! What do you mean?
Him: Are you pretending?
By now, he confessed his feelings to her and the staunch conversation continued with a lot of logic, justification and excuses. He soon began to lose control of his emotions and became extremely sentimental. To make sense of the situation, she resorted to explain to him that she developed a feeling for one of his close friends who gave her company immediately after she had been jilted.
So their conversation came to an end with these few words, "I did not develop any real feelings for you. But if you can convince my parents, I'll have no dissent."
From then on, the would-be groom never called the prospective bride again and their probable relationship ceased to exist.
The writer is Publication Officer at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and National Consultant at UNDP Bangladesh.