Will you be mine, Tarzan?

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on February 28, 2020

The Irish held that on Leap Day — February 29 — women could propose marriage to men. Here are author and cartoonist Manjula Padmanabhan’s five candidates for the ritual

Five fictional men I would propose to on February 29 (with copious asides). This is not an issue that I have ever considered. But it was fun, as speculation. And a bit sad. For instance, none of the fictional men are on my timeline.


First on my list: Tarzan of the Apes, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Why? Because he grew up in the company of a mythical species of Great Apes, living in the trees of a lush jungle somewhere along the West Coast of Africa. He was born in the late 19th century after his parents were ship-wrecked in a storm. Orphaned, he was raised by the Apes to be like them: Intelligent, strong and noble. Proposing to him would be really easy! He could read but hadn’t heard much human speech so he probably wouldn’t understand what I was saying. I’d say, “Will you marry me?” and he’d respond with, “Ook-ook-ook!” which I would interpret as “yes”. His life in the canopy always seemed the absolute epitome of Paradise. I think I’d really enjoy that.

(ASIDE: Obviously, I take a very dim view of The Marriage Proposal concept. It’s truly ridiculous for the entire burden of a giant life-changing decision to rest upon the shoulders of just one member of the couple-to-be.)


Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Do I even have to argue this case? I mean, who WOULDN’T like to tag along with a dashing warrior-archaeologist as he rampages through the world’s secret ancient sites, right? I’m not especially adventurous but finding the Holy Grail and meeting Sean Connery would be reason enough to want to be partnered with Jones.

(ASIDE: For most Indians, there’s no question of anyone choosing their own mate. Marriage is a corporate decision, made on behalf of the couple by their families. Indeed, it could be said that for Indian couples, it’s always February 29 — the bride’s side of a marriage is on the lookout for a groom from the moment of a girl’s birth.)


Han Solo from Star Wars. Okay, yes, I’m showing a certain bias in favour of Harrison Ford characters. Once again, it’s NOT because I am adventurous. It’s because I adore the idea of being a rebel’s rebel — Solo isn’t interested in fighting the Dark Side so much as he wants to save his own pelt. Plus, working alongside a Wookiee! Wow.

(ASIDE: The notion of a single day, once in four years, when women are “allowed” to propose has got to be the absolute nadir of gender-regressive customs.)


The Maharaj Kumar from Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold. My first choices involved my entering the lives of the partner-to-be. In the case of the Maharaj Kumar, I’d like to sweep him forward in time, from the 16th century into my life. I don’t suppose I could ever convince him to stop pining for his beloved, the one and only Mirabai. But I wouldn’t try either. I’ve always thought of him as the most likeable and aesthetically sophisticated literary character I’ve ever read about, male or female. He’s based on a historical person but I very much doubt that the real man was anything like the fictional character. He’s just too beautiful to ever be a real person. And that’s why I like him. He can be enjoyed at a purely abstract level, an exquisite work of art.

(ASIDE: The crux of the issue is that women are conditioned to believe that marriage is more crucial for them than for men. That’s what February 29 signals to me, the notion that women who live in the world of individual proposals are desperate to take control of their lives, yet they give themselves only one day in four years... sad, sad, SAD.)


Further to the theme of inviting a fictional man into MY life, rather than the other way around: Robinson Crusoe, from the 18th-century novel of that name, by Daniel Defoe. This would only work if I had my own beautiful island, to which I could invite Crusoe. Because look: He’s already gained all the skills to survive on an isolated uninhabited rock! He’d be the ideal companion for someone like myself, who enjoys living on her own. I’d propose, we’d move to my island, he’d help me set up a large airy home and then we’d live on opposite ends of the isle, minding our own business. Perfect.

(ASIDE: In my view, humans are terrible at living with other humans. Unfortunately, it’s equally stressful for us to live as singles. Marriage is a painfully inadequate institution for solving our complex social and emotional needs. But suggesting that women “need” marriage more than men do doesn’t help anyone, least of all women.)

So... yes. I deeply disapprove of the very idea of February 29. Get real, people. Let’s find a better way to be thoughtful, compassionate and happy whilst also living alongside other people, other cultures and other species.

Manjula Padmanabhan is a writer, artist, cartoonist and playwright

Published on February 27, 2020

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