Egged on by a splendid article that a friend shared recently, I knew I had to spit out what was foaming at my mouth. India is a country teeming with child brides and incest and intramarital rape and a steeply rising rate of divorce cases in recent times. And yet, one finds a strangely lackadaisical approach when it comes to doing away with arranged marriages altogether! We live in the 21st century, not really a time when one has to make political alliances and kowtow to emperors and empires, sacrificing a princess/virgin bride daughter in the process (a particular Hrithik- Aishwarya starrer comes to mind, except in this case, there’s no real happily-ever-after). Oh well, no offence to those who are living the dream. Sympathies to those who aren’t.
Before the Great IIT/IIM Story, before the Great Entrance Examination Rush, even before the Great School Admissions and Reservation Issues thriller comes the Big Fat Indian Wedding. Starring The Great Indian Marriage Mafia…*drumroll*
The Prince, in contemporary India, is still influenced by his kingmakers (read parents) to go to University X and study Degree Y so that he can marry “a girl from a good, well- to- do family”. What in the world does that mean? Whom do the others generally marry? Apes of virgin birth?! He then lands himself a plush job and earns a nice sum which is enough to keep his progeny and progeny’s progeny in good health. But wait, that’s never enough now, is it? He is then displayed on the Marriage Market shelf like a prime steak of beef trying to attract flies. When a similarly hapless, educated, employed woman who has been displayed on a similar rack appeals to (wait for it, not the guy) his parents she is picked up for further scrutiny and a rendezvous of both families is arranged. At these meetings- cum- reality shows the judges..err..the guy’s parents take their High Inquisitors’ seats and the Games begin. A few of the questions and their true meanings :
1. “How are your working hours?” (Do you have enough time to work your ass off, earn fat cash AND cook and clean for our son AND look after the kids?)
2. “Is all your hard work worth it?” (Euphemism for “how much do you earn?”)
3. “Do you drive?” (Can you commute by yourself without troubling our son who has a high and mighty career to look after?)
4. “Do you cook?” (Can you whip up Asian, Continental, Mediterannean delicacies so that our darling baby boy remains well fed and obese? Also, can you entertain the million friends and guests that he’ll bring home as and when he pleases?)
5. *As an aside to the parents of the girl* “What do you plan to gift her?” (What’s the fat dowry you’ll pay us to take her off your hands? Additional gold? Car? Audi or BMW preferred thankyouverymuch! Land? A waterfront villa? Snazzy apartment in the heart of the city? Can’t she pay for the groceries and other ‘minor’ expenses with her salary?)
6. “Oh we just like you a lot! What’s your phone number?!” (Let us interfere and keep track of you and give you no privacy at all)
When all this is said and done the parents of the prospective groom start the “adult talk” with the parents of the prospective bride. Both sets of parents participate only too eagerly. As the word dowry is chee chee and distasteful , there is a long winding session about the so called ‘investments’ that the girl shall inherit. If the monetary benefit is satisfactory the talk turns to arranging and setting dates.
In the meantime the lady and the man in question are left alone. Strangers. With about half an hour to talk and accept each other as their life(long) partners. Compatibility? Who cares. Age? Oh, isn’t that just a number? Chemistry and sparks? Happen only in a lab. Personal opinions? Don’t matter. Virginity? Of course! The girl MUST be a virgin. And the guy? Haha! Boys will be boys! *wink wink*
On the day of the wedding the bride generally wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and is harried off by her overbearing cousins and aunts to the beauty parlor- that horrifying palace of makeovers that turn the aforementioned bride into an unrecognizable mask of thick foundation and garish lipstick. She is then greeted by a flurry of photographers vying to capture her every smile, frown, wink, sneeze and dilation of nostrils while she breathes. It must all go into the Great Wedding Album where everyone, from Chintu and Mintu to Bobby’s doggie’s babysitter’s neighbor’s dhobi is clicked and airbrushed to perfection. When the shutterbugs have had their fill of contorting the bride’s face into a painful mask that is permanently frozen into a smile, the bride proceeds to her wedding. That is, after the fancy schmancy rich uncles and fat aunties have passed their fair share of judgement and criticism about the poor girl’s dowry, costume, make up, jewellery, hair do, car, venue and decor- in that order if you please.
And then they live happily ever after!…
*Terms & conditions apply*
*Offer valid in select households only*
Yours truly also wonders why no one really gives solid reasons as to why one should marry. Everyone seems to be more occupied with the macabre, gruesome stories of what shall befall women who act all independent and strong. Everyone tells me in hush- hush tones that people are going to start talking behind my back and gossip if I don’t marry in a traditionally arranged manner (sprout a tail and horns? So be it). They tell me it’ll be too late to have kids if I put off marriage (poor folks haven’t realized that sex and not marriage brings about little human beings. Tch, illiteracy these days). If I dont opt for a typical arranged marriage a lot of people in this part of the country are going to have a field day speculating about the how and when and why. And if they’re really bored I might even be lucky enough to have my name besmirched and soiled. Promiscuous, morally inept trollop! Broke her parents’ hearts! (Because they’re the ones who are going to marry some guy and live with him the rest of their lives, arent they?).
Most people tell me how life within marriage isn’t going to be as easy as how it is now and how I shall have to make compromises (as I am a woman in a patriarchal, chauvinistic society and I am a disease that has to be wiped out of my home and into the life of Mr. XYZ who has a hot profile with 100 requests a day on some camp matrimonial site). They speak of how I shouldn’t be so outspoken and uncouth (your mother- in- law will think you’ve been raised wrong! God forbid that happen! *gasp*). They tell me I should learn to manage my time more efficiently because very soon I will not be living a life of my own but one where I have to look after the Husband and his household and the garden and the kids and a job. In short they tell me how things aren’t going to be rosy at all. That enigmatic sigh and “You’re too young. You’ll understand later”. Ugh! That attitude drives me up the wall!
Because, apparently, I’m old enough to marry, bear kids and manage a family. But just too young to understand logic of course.
So my countrymen. Tell me this? Why the hell would I marry at all, then?! Give me one good reason. And if I do, why wouldn’t I marry for love? This constant pressure. The relentless barrage of questions ranging from “Any good prospects recently?” (I’m not a coal miner, if you please) to “WHAT?! UNMARRIED?? YOU’RE GROWING OLD! ABSOLUTE NONSENSE! THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO THE DOGS! I SHALL PERSONALLY LOOK OUT FOR WEDDING PROPOSALS FOR YOU! NO! NO EXCUSES YOUNG LADY! ENOUGH OF THIS FEMINIST WHATEVER!” (Feminist?? I’m just a pessimistic narcissistic opportunist. Pfft). More capital letters. More drama. More bullshit.
Everyone who reads this might not agree. But I’m sure everyone can relate. Or you’ve atleast read of it. Being Indian inevitably means witnessing the Great Indian Marriage Mafia and it’s evil proceedings. For those pink eared ones who haven’t…
The Mafia is watching.