(This one’s got several parts. Watch this space)
Apart from the complete mortification of admitting that you haven’t met someone by yourself and letting your folks find a guy for you, there is so much more to arranged marriages. More mortification. One of the subjects they should teach in school is how to nab someone and hold on to him. I'm sure this will save much trauma and therapy in later years. For the age old tradition of arranged marriage is seriously one of the most humiliating experiences in the world.
People you know and love end up making you feel incomplete, like you were born without a nose or half a brain. The family you adore looks at you with pity and compassion. The guys THEY pick out look at you like you’re a side of beef. The boy’s relatives look down laundry lists of dos and don'ts that the girl absolutely must posses. You look in the mirror and seriously wonder if there is something wrong with you that your loved ones have politely overlooked for so many years. In my opinion, the Indian woman who has braved the arranged marriage is a brave species. Nothing but nothing can surpass this intense misery. I wish I’m kidding.
For the uninitiated, here’s some background. I come from conservative south Indian stock. I have lived all over the world, I read, I write I travel, I watch movies, I don’t party much, I’m learning to dance, I’m into content management and I’m a aspiring writer. I have Masters in English Literature; I hope to attain a PhD and an MBA eventually. I have a business Diploma in German and I hope to learn other languages. I work in a fairly decent position in a very fancy company. I enjoy long walks, beaches, foreign movies, learning languages and food.
It all started when I turned 24. A good age generally, a bad age if you aren’t seeing someone seriously. I wasn’t.
Before they stared looking, we had a family conference. They asked me what I'd like in a guy. My needs were simple. I wanted someone presentable with not too much of an age difference, who had a nice job, was emotionally mature and financially secure, from a metropolitan, with whom I had at least one interest in common. Love for traveling is mandatory. I wanted someone who wouldn’t suffocate or restrict me. I didn’t want anyone with dietary or lifestyle restrictions. They carefully wrote all of this down and promptly disregard it to date.
Then it was my turn. They then told me what my shortcomings were.
A)I wasn’t professionally qualified, I wasn’t a lawyer, doctor, engineer or even an MBA (This coming from the people who REFUSED to let me do an MBA because it was time to get married) therefore I shouldn’t expect a fancy job or a moneyed someone.
B)I have all the trappings of someone who lived in Mumbai and abroad so I shouldn’t expect a looker, I have a sharp tongue and a sharper pen so I shouldnt expect somene kind or patient.
C)Not anyone rich as we're not rich. (My dad has enough stowed away to put three generations through Harvard and still live but thats another story)
D)I am a girl therefore I shouldnt have too many interests. If I don’t have interests then I can cultivate the interests that my husband already has.
E)People don’t have the time to read these days so nobody intellectual. So let’s just see what we end up with.
F) Also i may or may not be a manglik, which is another booboo.
One complacent step at a time, the beloved family meticulously the quarter of a century that i have lived. Sobering thought.
Then, the entire looking process happens. Quite a difficult task but my mom manages just fine. I think my mom actually enjoys looking for guys for me. After breakfast is done, my mom perches her glasses on her nose and starts looking. She enthusiastically sifts through thousands of photographs of “eligible” men and short list several hundreds a day. Online matrimonial sites, bureaus, references, you name it. Every evening come, I’m promptly given a list of encrypted codes and photographs. Photographs of all the people she has shortlisted on the basis of horoscope, family background, educational qualification and looks, in that order.
Now see, there is a huge problem right there. My mom’s idea of good looks is my idea of a hairy scary troll. In true Malayalee style, the man needs to sport a mustache, which for me is highly avoidable. Of course, looks aren’t the only thing to life. There are others.
Sure, he may have a fancy job but speaks really badly. He may speak well but will only want vegetarians. He may have everything i look for but will want someone who will sit in a remote village in kerala and take care of the family business while he works on another continent. (This actually happened) He wants someone below the age of 26 while he is running his mid forties. Another one wants to be "friends". (on a matrimonial site?)They all want beautiful", working, fair, and homely. Everyone but everyone"of them is committment phobic. If I complain about the attitudes of their profiles, I'm given a line that came right out of an 80's Hindi flick, that im a girl and shouldnt expect anything.
Like i said, we're a hardy lot.
Read on. More soon.