Sunday, October 07, 2007

Arrange Marriage Tribulations. The Beginning

(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.


usha said...

trust me lady, you aren't fighting a lone battle there! :)

gud post!

Kunal said...

lol !!! i been thru it... it was funny at times and v irritating most of the times :D

Nikki said...

I laughed reading ur post. But I do understand ur concern. I faced the ordeal of arranged marriage.I was a manglik still I had a long "must have" list . My parents searched my "yours truly" for 3 years. My " yours truly" is just 2 years elder to me and met all the criterion I had. Being senior to u in this ordeal I will give you one piece of advice and consolation. Advice is that never compromise ur "must have list". For u will get oppotunities to compromise in married life :) and it will avoid any regrets at later stage. Consolation is that everyone goes through same path and there is a perfect match for everyone. But have the patience and do not succumb to the pressure.

Arun Narayan. said...

I was actually wondering when you would come out with this topic!! ;)..Wow..things are bad aren't they? Tell Renu Aunty from my cool off a bit :). Loved the entry though!!

Ashwin said...

So if you do turn out to be manglik, will they marry you to a banana or peepal tree first? Have you started looking out for an eligible tree yet?

Ashwin said...


Preeti said...

aw smroo, it'll only get better! don't worry, though i know that's easier said than done :)

InfoMiner said...

That's one Pandora's box waiting to bust open. I would see it as enough content for series of post. Mr X, followed by Mr. Y and for some variety, I am sure there will be a few doctors.
Heck at least pick out a good restaurant to check these blokes out.
If nothing you get a good meal and hopefully chivalry won't be lost and the guy pays!

Sagar said...

to say the least nice put onto paper(so to say) about what goes on in the head and family of a "eligible" bachelorette. have a cousin who recently has been going through the same pains and at one such point i almost felt like beating up the people who were there to "see" her when she told me what they said.

liked the way you have gone through this made an interesting reading :)

Madan said...

sometimes, its scary when you think about the "matrimonial" landscape. and when you do think about it, it whams you like a blue line bus filled with all you relatives, and finally, if you do survive all this, they refer to that period as "matrimonial bliss".
truth be told - one should live in ulan bantor, or even tajakisthan. makes life easier. Lot easier.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

why did u change the template?
earlier was better...what say?

Garima Narera said...

Oh gosh!! Poor you! Thank God I didnt have to go through these trying trials as I wisely found my "yours truly" myself and didnt give others much of a chance to hunt..Ha ha.ha but I do see my younger cousins go through the ordeal.. All luck to you in dealing with this thorough examination and cross examination...

mathew said...

i loved this post..very balanced view..without overtly trying to project onself as some kinda hardcore feminist..sensible write up!!

Men have the same trouble--but more or less painful than for women i guess.

Nariyal Chutney said...

LOL. Marriage is the most important decision in life taken with teh least amount of information. It is projected as this wonderful union which ushers in a beautiful life of companionship , sharing sorrows and celebrating life with somebody from opposite sex(Please note this) but also involves washing clothes , cleaning diapers , buying vegetables and endlessly boring shopping trips on other side . As long as you know about both these sides , you dont have to worry . ATB . May you get the guy you want and may your mom get the son in law she wants. :)

Ok said...

:) I think you need to pick a guy asap. As you grow older the choices go down and your parents pressurize you more.

Using my extensive math skills let me help you with the optimal strategy to follow. This is a dynamic programming problem and a very similiar problem has been solved. You are interviewing candidates for a job sequentially. Every candidate has to be given a reject or accept immediately. Once you accept somebody the process stops. Each candidate has a rank and they come in arbitrary order of rank.

Solution to this is in this book

Only two differences.

1. You cant fire the guy if you think you have made a mistake.

2. We solve that for kicks. You better solve it else your life might be screwed;).

Anonymous said...

you my friend are truly amazing. i'm glad you wrote this. i hope it's been cathartic to some extent. it has for me. you verbally kicked some fellas' ass!! i love you!

Archana said...

you are truly amazing. i was hoping this would come outta u someday. i hope it's been somewhat cathartic for u as it has fer me. u verbally kicked some of em fellas' ass! i love ya!

Braveheart said...

Very Very smart write-up. i don't remember when I read something as well-written on a blog last. Long since I stopped reading others' blogs actually. I could get regular here.

-- Akshaya

Ammu said...

Hey Love ur posting on arranged marriage.......i agree with wat USHA says That u r fighting a lone battle!

Hey I have really started to admire ur writings ...very bold though ...:)

Sabarish Chandrasekharan said...

A good post.
Though a bit sarcastic, you still value your family's inputs. Apart from that, of all the 'n' points you family puts in front of you. The final call is still yours, so cant complain that part.